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Why are some (higher end?) tripods sold without a head?

I've been trying to find a nice (size, weight, weight-capacity) for my new 7D. The last tripod I bought in 1994 was an aluminum unit. It was massive, with wide-diameter tubes and a flat slab with a screw mount for the camera. It had two arms - one for up/down, and the other for left/right. Now, when I can find reviews or good info, most tripods are the legs and the upright, with the need to buy a head of some sort. What advances do this "2-piece" setup of a tripod + head have over my older type of an all-contained piece?

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    \$\begingroup\$ If the answer is simply "so you can choose the head you want that suits you best," please let me know and i'll delete the question. \$\endgroup\$
    – Seth
    Commented Jan 29, 2013 at 19:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ that's pretty much it, but let a moderator delete it, because someone else might have this question too. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 29, 2013 at 19:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ And with off-brands having a not-(easily)-user-replaceable head might even be the norm, as it is with my Digit@ll 00202 (OEM for Reporter-Fiab, a company which can be compared to Hama for "making" a wide array of 3rd party photo and computer accessories) \$\endgroup\$
    – Ryccardo
    Commented Mar 19, 2013 at 18:12

4 Answers 4


There is one more point to add: Because tripod manufacturers have agreed to use a 3/8" screw for the legs <-> head connection, one can switch as one pleases between heads and legs which allows for greater flexibility.

Some people like wooden tripods - others want aluminium or carbon fibre. Then again, often the head is the most important component, hence you could buy any sturdy reasonably cheap tripod and put a very expensive head on it (say for video) if you needed it.

Lastly, I don't think anybody does it, BUT you could take one tripod and two heads for different jobs with you when travelling with a luggage restriction.

Asking why tripod legs and heads are sold separately is a bit like asking why music players and headphones/speakers are sold separately ;) - to accommodate the most needs with the least effort.


High end tripods are sold without heads, because you can select the head you need based on the photography you'll be doing.

See Why are some (higher end?) tripods sold without a head?

Also, What should one consider when choosing a style of tripod head? has a good explanation of different styles of heads.


You can still buy complete tripods of course, but they are most often sold separately these days because of the large variety of heads available. There are heads more suited to video, pan-heads, ball-heads, pano-heads. Smaller heads for small cameras, larger heads for DSLRs and big lenses.

I imagine many people have a set of legs and multiple heads for different uses - one for macro work and another for landscapes or panoramas.


Why should they not offer customers the flexibility of choosing their own combination, when the alternative would be offering far more products as each conceivable combination would have to be offered as a complete product?
They can now offer customers added value at very little cost to themselves, and great benefit (as mentioned in other answers) to the customer.


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