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I'm looking to buy a tripod + head (for my Canon 40D), but am not sure if I want to spend more than $100 on it.

So can you suggest options for best tripods for $100 or less? Or, is it important to spend more than that on a tripod?

Extra props for options which might be available in India.

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    What lenses do you want it to support as well as the camera? What do you intend to use it for? Will you need to carry it? – Edd Oct 5 '10 at 11:04
  • ###Just a thought Tripods are simple things, so buying from eBay or similar may be a good option, allowing you to get more tripod for your money? – AJ Finch Oct 5 '10 at 13:27
  • Is it acceptable for me to request that we add monopods to the optional answers? I want a good answer to this question also, but I am also willing to consider monopods. If necessary, I am willing to open a new question on this. – BBischof Oct 6 '10 at 2:58
  • Indeed, I should have mentioned it. The largest lens I have is a 75-300 which is the most I think I'll go for. The others are the kit lens and a prime. I plan to purchase a wide angle sometime in the future, once I've saved enough. But I think that will not be too much of excessive load when compared to the 75-300 – AJ. Oct 6 '10 at 15:42
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    possible duplicate of What should I pay attention to when choosing a tripod? – mattdm Mar 23 '11 at 23:37
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Only you can say whether a $100 is enough - certainly there tripods that will take a 40D for less than this amount, but you are usually compromising build quality, reliability, usability etc. so it comes down to where you priorities lie. Maybe you only need the 'pod for really low light, and you'd rather save for lenses.

I will say this however, there's nothing like a good tripod. The confidence that when you step away from the camera it's not going to fall over and smash into pieces is not easy to put a price on. Tripods don't become obsolete, a good one will last for many years.

  • I'm accepting this as the answer because this is sensible knowledge. You're right, until I try a bit (perhaps by borrowing from friends) I'll never know which tripod is sufficient – AJ. Oct 9 '10 at 6:25
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I have a Slik Sprint Pro that is fine. I use it for a Nikon D90 with lightweight lenses. It's $95 at B&H right now; no idea about availability or cost in India.

That said, it is very easy to buy less tripod than you need, and inexpensive tripods tend to be truly awful. Many people go through several tripods before realizing they really do need nice, high-end support. Thom Hogan's Tripods 101 article is a good exposition on this.

That said, I am perfectly happy with the Slik. It meets my modest needs. I am looking around for other options, but that's only because I'm trying to find something lighter.

  • Exactly what I don't wish to do. Not buy /less/ tripod and then end up ruing it. Checking out Thom Hogan's article. Hopefully it'll help – AJ. Oct 6 '10 at 15:48
  • @Anant, You won't ruin it if it's less than you need; tripods at the $100 price point aren't that bad. The (potential) problem is that it won't be stiff enough and you'll still have more vibration blur than is acceptable. – Reid Oct 6 '10 at 22:40
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    I'm sure he meant ruing as in rue the day. – Mark Ransom Oct 9 '10 at 14:56
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You could look for something like the gorillapod from joby-- the $80 version can handle large video cameras, so should be able to accommodate your 40D. It's not a standard tripod, in the sense of height and the like, but it will wrap around nearby poles and can be placed on walls, etc.

Have a read of Thom's tripod guide; essentially, for new gear, you're looking at more money than you have budgeted. I took his low-end recommendation, with a heavier tripod and a 322rc2 ball head, and it's worked fine for me, but at more than you're willing to spend at ~$300.

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I bought a Velbon Sherpa 600R a while ago and am very pleased with it for my uses. It stabilises my 1Kg camera+lens very well. At 2Kg it's light enough that I don't find it uncomfortable to carry for short trips but heavy enough to be stable. It's very adjustable and holds solid once locked down.

With tripods you will definitely get more the more you are willing to spend up to around $1000 but for me this is the right compromise between cost and quality at this time. Currently showing at around $100/£100.

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I use Benro A-250EX with BH00 ball head. I paid 99€ for this one, and it was the lightest among those I can trust my camera to (and not give away a fortune).

It's very well built. With the head unmounted, it fits even in my laptop bag, but it is high enough to take portraits sometimes. The tripod weights approx. 1 kg (2.2 lb). It can endure as much as 2.5 kg of load, which is enough for most consumer DSLRs and lenses unless you are using super-telephoto zooms.

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I have used a Slik 300DX tripod ($109) for many years and am very pleased with it. I don't have super-heavy lenses, but you only have to crouch a little if you want to use it with the center tube down for more support. The 3 things I like about this tripod are that its reasonably priced, not too heavy, and the legs will splay out and allow (with a short center column) the camera to be positioned right off the ground.

The only reason I would switch to a different tripod would be to get one that was a little taller with the center column down.

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I've been using a Sunpak 7500TM for years, and I found it for $65 at best buy. For the price, it's very stabile, and semi-portable. It's small enough to take as carry-on in the U.S. and the center support can be removed as a monopod.

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Good tripods typically come without a camera head, with 3/8" head attachment. Then you purchase a separate 1/4" camera head for it. The reason is that different tripod owners may prefer different types of heads, and it doesn't make sense to fix a head to a tripod so that they can't be changed. Interchangeable heads are better. If a tripod doesn't have an interchangeable head, it's a sign that it may not be as good as possible.

The lens, 75-300, is quite long. On a Canon 40D, it's 480mm equivalent at the long end. Not only is it heavy, but also it suffers from vibrations more than a wide angle lens due to magnifying the image more than a wide angle lens.

I have a Velbon M43, which is suitable in my opinion up to 50mm lens on a crop camera if used with 2 second self timer or remote release, but even photographing the moon with a lightweight 55-250mm lens at 250mm was too much for the tripod. The vibrations were huge when I magnified the image by 10x for manual focusing! A 300mm lens would be even more horrible with the M43. You get what you pay for.

The answer is that 100 USD will buy you a used quality tripod without head and without a carrying bag. I paid 70 EUR (79 USD) for a used very old Manfrotto 190 tripod without head (a new one would cost 220 EUR / 247 USD but then again the new model is better than my very old model). The 190 is much better than Velbon M43 at 250mm, I have already tested it and am very satisfied. It dampens the very minor vibrations very quickly. When the next full moon comes, I am ready for photographing it.

I paid 62 EUR (70 USD) for a new Manfrotto 496RC2 head, and am planning to purchase a 50 EUR (56 USD) carrying bag for the tripod. That makes the total price 182 EUR (205 USD).

Note that quality has a weight: you can't expect your tripod with head to be much lighter than 2 kilograms, because at this price point carbon fiber is not an option. For a long lens, it isn't overkill to look for a tripod with load rating of 4 times the weight of your equipment. Canon 40D with 70-300 is about 1.5 kg, so I would say 6 kg load rating would be good for little vibration at the long end. (My very old Manfrotto 190 has 5 kg rating, my camera with 55-250mm is 0.85kg, so there's nearly 6x margin in my use case.)

So, the answer is that 100 USD will buy you a used quality tripod, but not with all the other stuff you need. No way will 100 USD buy you a new tripod with head and carrying bag suitable for 300mm lens on a crop camera. The new tripods costing less than 100 USD are NOT suitable for a 300mm lens on a 1.6x crop camera.

If you're planning to use the 300mm end of the lens often, I would consider going a step up from Manfrotto 190 and look for a used Manfrotto 055, because 300mm is longer than the 250mm with which I tested the Manfrotto 190. Naturally, there are other brands worth considering as well.

If you're very lucky, you can find a used quality tripod with head for 100 USD. If you're even luckier, the head is of the type you want. Carrying bag is something optional, so if you're tight on budget, you can skip the carrying bag.

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    Just saying: I read very good things about Rollei and Sirui, too - I found several new Rolleis with at least 5kg load for ~80£. I'm not saying that they are good (or bad), but there are options. Also, typically, a tripod without a middle column (or at least with the column being completely retracted) will be sturdier - in case someone tries the 055 fully extended and finds it wobbly ;-) – flolilo Mar 31 at 19:42

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