In looking at tripods I have noticed that there seem to be no objective quantitative measures on their performance. I do understand that heads are a personal preference, but I would expect there to be some sort of stability measure for the legs. Even for the heads I would have expected some sort of measures like smoothness, fluidity(?).

The only numerical measure I have seen so far is that in general more money is supposed to be better. I do not like this measure because it is trivially gamed.

So my question is: Do there exist objective measures of tripods?

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Seems like a lot of this is already covered here: What should I pay attention to when choosing a tripod? and here What should one consider when choosing a style of tripod head?. Could you explain what specifically you are looking for that isn't already covered in those? \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Feb 16, 2017 at 3:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ @dpollitt: The questions you referenced are not what I am looking for. I am not looking for how to buy a tripod, but for objective measures of tripod performance. An analog of what I am looking for might be something like MTF curves for lenses or signal-to-noise ratios for sensors. \$\endgroup\$
    – John Smith
    Feb 16, 2017 at 4:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm pretty sure when you note "In looking at tripods" you actually mean "looking to buy a tripod", so yeah I think those questions are highly related. Not many (if any) people look at tripods with no intention of purchasing one. \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Feb 16, 2017 at 4:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ Height and weight and number of leg sections and clamp technology and material construction are all objective measures of a tripod. \$\endgroup\$
    – user50888
    Feb 16, 2017 at 4:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @benrudgers: Yes, those things you mentioned are objective measures, do contribute to the stability of a tripod, and are used in pruchasing decisions. However, they are not the core purpose of the tripod. In lenses there are also corresponding objective measures such as number of lenses, color of the lens etc but they are not (direct) measures of the image formation capability of the lens. \$\endgroup\$
    – John Smith
    Feb 16, 2017 at 13:45

1 Answer 1


Unfortunately, no, there isn't an industry standard test to objectively quantify / rate tripods or heads.

Generally, tripod testing will usually boil down to measuring vibrational modes, i.e., maximum deflection of a laser beam at a reference distance to a measurement target. That is the one that should really matter to photographers.

Other tests could include maximum weight before slippage of joints or axes; maximum drift or deflection of a certain off-center test mass; etc. However, again, there is no common/standard test for these effects.

Manufacturers often list their "maximum weight rating" for tripods or heads. In general, these "ratings" are suspect at best. Related questions and answers:

Some quick Googling produced an interesting report comparing certain Induro, Manfrotto, and Gitzo tripods. This report is hosted on Induro's website, and was ostensibly performed by a (hopefully independent) third party. The test methodology and criteria are clearly laid out. However, this doesn't represent any industry standard testing method.


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