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I'm looking for a portable tripod with a budget of < $100. I would appreciate some recommendations in this price range, especially from people who have used a product personally.

These are the requirements:

  • Maximum load I'll use it with: a Nikon 70-300 mm lens, total weight with camera: 1.5 kg. (This'll put high torque on the tripod head because the lens doesn't have a tripod mount.)

  • Reasonable portability is key. If I can't carry it using a bicycle or on a hike, I won't carry it most of the time. It should fold down to no more than 40-45 cm and weigh less than 1.5 kg.

I'm willing to compromise on maximum height to gain portability. Also I realise that this price won't get me the smallest and lightest one (note that I tried to keep the requirements reasonable): I'm looking for one of the better alternatives in this price range, and for opinions from people who have actually used one of these.

The other tripod related questions I found on this site did not address this particular situation.

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The answer is, no decent option exists, surely none that anyone would recommend. Your requirements are simply not practical. You said in another comment "There do exist options that meet the requirements I posted", so what are they? Why don't you post them as examples in the question? This question is along the lines of, "I would like a 18-400mm f/2 lens for $500, what would you recommend?". –  dpollitt Sep 2 '13 at 20:06
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@Szabolcs - I can almost guarantee that every user here with an opinion on tripods has owned and discarded multiple inexpensive(<$100USD) tripods. Do you think we are only giving opinions based on what ByThom suggested or some forum? No. If you are so skeptical head over to the skeptics.stackexchange.com . –  dpollitt Sep 2 '13 at 20:46
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@Szabolcs I always recommend Thom's Serious Support article. Not because I want someone to spend significant cash but because I want them to understand the progression of skill and equipment, where it leads, the pitfalls of less expensive equipment, and how one clearly experienced photographer solved it all. Your requirements don't need to match his to see value in that article and understand what it's telling you. In short, $100 doesn't buy much worth talking about. –  Dan Wolfgang Sep 2 '13 at 23:39
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@Szabolcs - If your budget extends to $150, and you have that for each component(legs and head), this question is very answerable. $100 for both components is just not enough. –  dpollitt Sep 4 '13 at 1:16
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@Szabolcs - Those legs are quite nice for your needs. The head leaves something to be desired though. You could start with that kit and upgrade to a nicer head if you find it limiting. Good luck! –  dpollitt Sep 4 '13 at 1:37
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marked as duplicate by mattdm, Itai, AJ Henderson, dpollitt, Dan Wolfgang Sep 2 '13 at 23:39

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

4 Answers

The basic fact is that you're not going to get a good traditional tripod for $100, and most of the small, portable options are tabletop tripods for point and shoot cameras. That pretty much leaves the Gorillapod as recommended in the several existing similar questions, like http://photo.stackexchange.com/a/8963/1943 and http://photo.stackexchange.com/a/3755/1943

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There do exist options that meet the requirements I posted, but I'm not sure what exactly I'm compromising on with them. I didn't post particular links because I wasn't sure people here would have experience with those exact models, and what I'm primarily looking for is first hand experience. I'll post some links after I get home from work. –  Szabolcs Sep 2 '13 at 15:03
    
(The gorillapod is a good idea though, I saw it mentioned, and it's my fallback option.) –  Szabolcs Sep 2 '13 at 15:18
    
Everything I'd experienced and read backs up @mattdm See strobist.blogspot.com/2010/03/… for more details on why you'll end up spending more than $100 if you actually use the tripod. –  Pat Farrell Sep 3 '13 at 0:33
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Buy USED equipment

For your budget, look for used equipment at garage sales and even online sources such as Craig's list. Bring your heaviest anticipated camera-long lens at maximum length and take a shot of something with fine linear detail. How does it look? Good? Buy it.

Occasionally, steadying your tripod is a problem. Fix that, or minimize the problem, by increasing the mass of the tripod. Hang your camera bag or the spare dumbbell weight you carry around from the tripod to add weight. Your jacket could actually make things worse by catching breezes so the weight should be compact, too. This trick could extend the use of a marginal piece of equipment.

Ignore brands. Look for value.

Good luck.

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This isn't what you asked; but, my favourite and most portable device is a 6' length of light nylon cord tied to a 1/4" - 20 thread machine screw. I soldered a washer to the machine screw slot to easily attach the cord. In use, I use the tripod mount on the bottom of the camera for the machine screw. I drop the cord on the ground and step on the end. Pulling against the cord gives me enough tension to steady myself considerably. Weight is practically negligible. Portability is optimal as it fits into a shirt pocket. –  Stan Sep 9 '13 at 15:30
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The tripod head itself is going to be your main problem in that price range. A good photographic head alone costs more than $100. The disadvantage of using cheaper is that they are not going to hold the camera steady. Cheap tripod heads don't move smoothly, don't lock in place well and can't support the weight of most DSLRs well.

The legs of a good tripod also aren't particularly cheap if you want them made of sturdy and light materials, though if you are willing to go with heavier materials, the cost comes down a lot to the point you could get a reliable pair of legs for under $100, but then it isn't really portable and getting the head would still be a problem.

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Benro T-800 or may be Benro T-600

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4  
Why these in particular? –  mattdm Sep 2 '13 at 16:29
    
Do you have one of these two, and if yes, can you give an opinion? According to the specs, folded it's 47 cm, so it's still quite large. I'd compromise on weight sooner than folded length. –  Szabolcs Sep 2 '13 at 19:50
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