Nearly every photographer reaches a point in time where they consider adding a tripod to their camera toolkit. This isn't a bad thing, of course. It's nearly impossible to achieve certain shots without one. If you've ever tried to shoot a starry sky or get ultra-smooth motion blur on the surface of a creek, you've no doubt seen that sometimes you just need a little more stability than your human arms and hands can provide.
At KEH, we've got all different brands and types of tripods, but one of my personal favorite brands is Manfrotto. I've used their various tripods to park my cameras in place for travel videos, independent film production, family portraits and more. There are so many different models to choose from, how do you know which one is right for you? Here are four different Manfrotto tripods, perfect for four different types of camera users. Oh, and I also tossed in a few extra pieces at the end if you're looking to upgrade or customize your current tripod system.
Dedicated to hobbyist photographers, the easy-carrying 290 Light weighs only 3.59 pounds. This is a perfect tripod for beginners with its solid performance and low price point. With two flip locks on each leg, it's easy and quick to make height adjustments from 16.42 inches to 56.69 inches. The mini ball-type head on top features a Manfrotto-standard 200PL quick release plate so you can easily go from handheld to tripod and back without having to do a complicated reset.
Upgrading a bit from the 290 Light, you could go with a 190 Go! tripod. This one forgoes the two flip locks per leg for three twist-style locks. This comes down to personal preference, as flip locks are quicker to operate but twist locks don't need to be tightened over time like the flip locks may.
The 200PL quick-release plate on this model is the same as the 290 Light, so you could easily jump back and forth between tripods if you need it. That's where the similarities end. The 190GO! features 4 different leg angles allowing you to get super low to shoot macro or low-angle shots. In fact, you can position your camera as high as 62.2 inches or as low as 3.54 inches when using the uniquely-designed 90-degree center column. This adaptive tripod really allows for some artistic angles—including straight down!
Lastly, the tripod head comes with 3 locking handles which allow you to make adjustments on a per-axis basis. Pan, tilt and rotate to your heart's content. All these upgrades come with a slight weight gain, making the tripod 5.34 pounds to carry.
The BeFree, on the other hand, is an absolute breeze to carry. Light and compact, this tripod was made for backpacking or any other kind of travel. The lightest on our list, the BeFree weighs only 3.09 pounds but can hold up to 8.82 pounds. There's also a carbon fiber version that's even lighter at 2.42 pounds. It can also fold in upon itself to a compact 15.75 inches so it'll easily fit in a carry-on bag or large backpack.
Once again, you'll find a compact ball head on top, with that same 200PL quick release plate. 3-stage legs with flip locks allow camera positioning anywhere between 13.39 and 56.69 inches. Pretty impressive for a tripod this light and compact.
In fact, this light of a tripod may sound like a godsend for new photographers, but there is a drawback to having so little weight underneath your camera. While this is perfect for lighter mirrorless systems like the Fujifilm X-T2 or the Panasonic GH5, putting an extra-heavy DSLR on top like a Canon 1DX Mark II or Nikon D5 could create some unwanted wobble. Giant super-telephoto lenses are pretty much out of the question and would almost certainly cause stability issues due to their weight, so keep that in mind.
To really hanker down and completely eliminate tripod wiggle, you'll need some serious weight below your camera and lens. This combo will absolutely give you that, at 13.6 pounds. However, its sturdy legs and variable fluid resistance head will easily keep up to 26.46 pounds of camera and lens steady.
In case you haven't yet guessed, this tripod is designed for professional video use. I'm talking to you, budding videographers and future Roger Deakinses of the world. This design loses the sometimes-shaky center column, and as a result, the legs couldn't be easier to use. It's simple and lightning-fast to plant the tripod feet in location, flip open the locks and just pull the camera base up to the height you'd like, then re-lock the legs into position.
More impressive than the legs, though is the fluid resistance head. By turning a click knob, you can adjust the tripod to have a bit of push-back counterbalance so that your video or film camera can return back to starting position without too much work. It's also easy to dial in how much resistance you want when panning or tilting the camera so that your moves are buttery smooth.
The head is also fitted with a longer, slide-in quick release plate so that it's easier to correctly balance front-heavy lenses or back-heavy battery packs. All these features are parked above a 75mm half-ball so you can easily and quickly make sure your horizon is level and your pans are straight and steady.
If you aren't looking for a full tripod kit, maybe you're looking for a replacement set of legs. Who knows, maybe your previous tripod head got sand inside and now feels like a pepper grinder whenever it moves.
Remember: sand and tripods are not friends.
Here's a closer look at a few of the individual tripod elements we've got for you to upgrade, replace or build your own custom tripod kit.
Essentially, these are the same legs that come attached to the 190GO! kit, except that they come with the more-common flip-locks. With a flat 3.5-inch disc atop three strong legs, the 3/8" screw will hold many different types of ball-head or fluid-head tops.
There is a bubble spirit level atop the legs in case your desired topper doesn't feature one. This allows you to make sure that your camera is straight along the horizon.
Most impressive, though, is that 90-degree center column I mentioned earlier. In just seconds, you can go from a vertical setup to a horizontal one. The multiple angles of the legs allow you to get your camera just inches from the ground in addition to lifting it up over 5.5 feet high.
The 468MG ball head is designed to support big SLR or medium format cameras with heavy telephoto lenses attached. Crafted from magnesium to save weight while remaining ultra-strong, this guy can securely hold up to 22.05 pounds of camera setup in position without slipping.
With both standard 3/8 and 1/4" screw mounts, the 468MG will attach to a number of different tripod legs. It also features a friction control wheel so you can adjust how firm the grip is on your equipment. If you're looking to switch up the quick release plate, you can do that as well. This one comes equipped with that classic Manfrotto standard, the 200PL.
While not as strong as the 468MG, this ball head makes up for it with incredible ease of use and ergonomics. When this is on the top of your tripod, all you need to do in order to make an adjustment is squeeze the handle, reposition and release. No twisting or unscrewing required.
The payload weight of 11 pounds will hold most SLR and medium-format cameras with reasonably large lenses, although once again those heavy super-telephotos are out.