Alley in Pisa, Italy

by Lars Kotthoff

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Here is my dilemma and question:

I have a Nikon D5100 and I am looking to buy a tripod. However I commute by bus and walk a lot so I need a tripod that is sturdy yet can be portable and light enough that carrying it attached to my bag (or even better inside) would not be an issue.

I have considered a Gorillapod but I am not always close to something that I can prop it on or attach it to and need some height that the Gorillapod doesn't have.

One other consideration is price. I am looking in the 100-150 range but would prefer closer to the 100 dollar range but am flexible.

I have read a lot on here and on other sites and I am a bit lost. There are so many options and so many considerations. I have seen some good tripods but paying 500 dollars is a bit much. Also I would prefer a tripod that is bundled with a head (ball preferably)

I am open and welcome any information, help, and recommendations!

Update

After visitng a few local camera stores and looking online I bought a Vista Explorer Tripod and a Gorillapod SLR Zoom (with ballhead). The combo cost less than $100 (USD) total. The Vista is a decent quality tripod for $30 dollars. I was a bit skeptical when looking at the price but after seeing this in store and handling the tripod it was sturdy with overall decent quality. It holds my camera and largest lens that I currently have (NIKKOR 55-200mm f/4-5.6G). This is a decent tripod for entry level DSLRs and a great tripod for Point and Shoot cameras. There may be a few deal breakers for some users but this tripod combined with the Gorillapod handles majority of my situations.

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1  
Quality, portability and price. Choose 2. If you are choosing a tripod within US$150 and fits in your bag, then you know you need to compromise some quality. –  rockacola Apr 2 '12 at 4:07
    
@rockacola - Portability is my number 1, Price is number 2, and quality is number 3. For anyone answering feel free to answer the more expensive models for others looking and something I can look for when I upgrade. => –  Lynda Apr 2 '12 at 4:23
    
Because portability is such an important requirement I think it's important we know what the longest/heaviest lens you expect to use will be. no point making suggestions for lightweight options when you're shooting with heavyweight lenses, you know? –  Dan Wolfgang Apr 2 '12 at 14:53
    
@DanWolfgang I am just getting into DSLRs with a Nikon D5100. Basically I will not be using in large lenses in the near future and at the time will be using the standard kit lens and a 55-200mm lens. When I get to the point of heavyweight lenses I will be further along and will buy a heavy duty tripod. –  Lynda Apr 3 '12 at 16:06
    
I had the same problem as yours a while ago,I found this Dolica Tripod amazon.com/gp/product/B001D60LG8 fits my needs,I believe that yours will be the same as mine. So keep in your mind that these tripods won't stand wind.This is the only problem I had so far with my tripod, once I was at a top of a mountain and fixed my tripod on the sand (by pushing the metal screws at tripod's legs into the sand) and 2 seconds later the wind throw it away (thank god it didn't fill of the mountain and my camera wasn't on it).If you've wind,put a bag of sands in the hook so it holds still. –  akram May 7 '12 at 2:57

3 Answers 3

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Your combination of requirements is a tough one. You essentially want all of the following in a tripod kit (legs and ball head):

  • Lightweight;
  • Compact when folded;
  • Reasonably tall when extended;
  • Sturdy enough to bother with; and
  • Cheap

If you wanted to pick any two from that list, your options are wide open. Getting all five together is a lot more difficult. As usual, I'm going to recommend going to the B & H Photo and Video website and using their excellent search filter to narrow down the choices. This link will get you a list of tripods with heads for under $250 (the filter doesn't have a lower top price to select) that will fold down to between 15 and 20 inches (38-51cm).

I will personally vouch for both the Benro TravelAngel series and the Cullmann Magic tripod. I know they're at the top end of your range in terms of price, but they're certainly sturdy enough unless you're using a very heavy camera/lens combo, they fold down to a very compact and baggable package, are light enough to carry all of the time without feeling like you're being punished for something, and while they're not something a very tall person would want to use all day, every day, they do get tall enough to be useful.

Undoubtedly, there are equally good choices to be had from other makers. The higher-end Velbons, for instance, are worth it, as are the Vanguards. Induro is also reasonably good, but they don't have a model that is as compact and as inexpensive as you want at the same time (you can have either, but not both). I've never laid a hand on the Oben tripods, but they look okay on paper—perhaps somebody else can offer their experience with them?

Unless you are buying used or really on sale, though, I'd try to stick to the upper end of your price range. That $50 really makes a difference in the level of performance, and the next significant step up is another $100 or so on top of that. At the sub-$100 level, you're mostly looking at specialty equipment (like the Gorillapod and its kin) or spindly toys that sort of look like tripods.

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Thanks for the information. (BTW the B&H link isn't working.) –  Lynda Apr 2 '12 at 4:38
    
Sorry about that -- it seems to have session info in it (I get the same URL whenever I go there, but it errors out if I use the link directly). Go to bhphotovideo.com , then to Digital Cameras and Gear, Tripods and Support (under "Carry and Support"), then use the filters on the left-hand side to select Tripods with heads, your price range, and folded length (anything that folds down to less than 15" is going to be either too short or too spindly when extended). –  user2719 Apr 2 '12 at 4:47
    
Thanks => The Cullmann Magic looks like it would work, I will see if I can find one in a local store to mess with. => –  Lynda Apr 2 '12 at 5:01

I recently bought a Manfrotto 290 MK294, which is an aluminum tripod with a fairly nice ballhead. It was about $130 from B+H. I like it a lot, but I don't know if its light enough for a lot of walking/bus riding.

Obviously, the carbon fiber tripods are a lot lighter, and probably twice the price.

I think this a very personal choice, I'm not sure how well you can decide without actually touching a few. Are there any retail camera stores near you?

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There are and I plan to look more but advice here I find priceless. => –  Lynda Apr 2 '12 at 4:35
    
I made a trip to B+H's NYC store to see and handle them. I had an excuse, my daughter works in NYC, so it was only a subway ride and a half mile walk, but it still was a special trip. –  Pat Farrell Apr 2 '12 at 4:43
    
I would love to visit that store but it is a bit far from where I am. => –  Lynda Apr 2 '12 at 4:45

I always like this link when it comes to Tripod. Have a look at it, I hope it will help.

Tripod 101

enter image description here

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