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I'm looking to purchase a new tripod, but I wanted to make sure that it is reasonably future proof (assuming that the largest lens I ever buy would be the Canon 70-200mm f2.8 IS II). Under the assumption that my hypothetical setup weighs around 7 pounds, what should be the rated strength of the tripod that I buy?

To be more precise, will I see an improvement in image quality if I buy the strongest available tripod from Really Right Stuff (rated for ~100 pounds) vs. a quality tripod from Manfrotto (rated for ~20 pounds), assuming I use a Canon 5D Mark III and 70-200 f2.8 IS II? I understand that such tripods are necessary for longer lenses, but for smaller lenses is there a point of diminishing returns as the rated tripod strength increases?

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A sturdier tripod is indeed more sturdy but you will reach a point of diminishing returns. Unfortunately, the load specified by manufacturers is not measured in a standard way, so you can only compare two tripods of the same brand by looking at the maximum load.

Normally, I recommend a tripod rated to about twice the actual intended load, just to be safe. This has proven to be sufficient stable for most cases but when it is very windy, I often add weight to keep the whole thing even more stable. So a tripod with a hook for adding weight is a good feature.

How much a tripod will hold is not purely dependent on weight. If your equipment is off-center it will be more stressful for the tripod. With a long lens for example, you can often attach it directly to the tripod which makes it more centered. Also consider your movements, if you shoot in portrait orientation or with the camera to one side, such as for taking shots towards the ground, I would recommend some tripod which is rated even higher, say 3 or 4X your intended load.

Dont forget that the same stress occurs to the ball-head, so make sure you get one which is rated similarly to the tripod you choose. Same thing if you add a levelling base.

  • I didn't know there wasn't standardization between manufacturers. Thank you for the information. – N Veilleux Feb 26 '16 at 0:37
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I agree with Itai, Over the years I have purchased 2 relatively cheap tripods and had to replace them for one reason or another. They were all around the 30-40 dollar range and this past summer I visited my local camera shop for a "good deal" Low and behold the owner had an assortment he wanted to discount and move so I chatted with him awhile and he got a feel for what I needed and the tripod I was looking at ( Manfroto ),didn't have a mount plate and I spotted the 3D mount on a lower shelf and was asking about it. He mounted it on the tripod for me and showed me how smooth and firm it worked. I liked it because it was not only smooth but you didn't need a pair of pliers to tighten it up. A simple twist and it locked everything up. He wanted 150.00 for the tripod and I told him that I would probably get divorced just for the tripod it was discounted to $150 ....he wound up adding the mount for free. I bet i wouldn't get a deal like this at Best Buy. Good luck. Manfroto was a good quality tripod. good luck in your search. Try seeking out the smaller camera stores. You can sometimes score a better deal there than the big box stores. Compare prices online and keep searching.

  • This answer is about negotiating during purchase. How does it answer the question regarding how to choose a tripod based on load capacity? Rather than choosing one based on price? – Michael C Feb 27 '16 at 6:33
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Tripod loads are meant to be used with refractive lenses, that means normal lenses.

If you have a mirror lens (MTO500, MTO1000, similar other ones) that gives you very long focal with little weight, you will have to buy way sturdier tripods than you would expect or use counterweights hanging from the tripod to dampen vibrations.

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