As videographers, an essential tool in any arsenal for smooth and cinematic work is a tripod and fluid head. And it’s a must-have accessory for smooth video, as even the best-stabilized sensors aren’t stable enough to get perfectly steady pans or tilts. Tripods also free your hands, so you can comfortably adjust the lens or accessories and focus on the composition. While you can technically use any stills oriented tripod as a video tripod, you” quickly realize they’re not ideal for smooth movements.
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Thankfully, there’s plenty of options on today’s market, many of which are compact and ideal for traveling creators. Even so, considering, there are plenty of knock-off brands, many of which aren’t durable, which options are the best for videographers? With that, we’ve created a complete guide on what to look for when shopping around. And we’ve also compiled a list of the top ten best video tripods in today’s market.
Manfrotto 190X Kit
Manfrotto’s 190X kit aims to bridge the gap between traditional photography and video tripods. Released in 2014, they offer this tripod in a single aluminum variant.
When collapsed, it measures 27.2 in (69 cm) with a minimum height of 3.54 in (9 cm) and a maximum height of 66.9 in (170 cm) with the center column extended. This tripod weighs only 6.06 lbs (2.75 kg) and supports an 8.82 lb (4 kg) payload, making it a solid option for backpackers. It uses 3-section legs with Quick Power locks and four locking angles. And combined with the ground level adapter and 88º leg spread, it’s also the ideal solution for ultra-low angle shots. Manfrotto ships this tripod with the XPRO fluid head, which has separate pan and tilt locks and variable tilt drag. It also features their Easy Link attachment system to attach accessories such as LED lights or monitors. Other bonuses include two cushioned grips, a bubble level, a quick-release plate, and a six-month warranty.
Overall, Manfrotto’s 190X kit offers a portable design that’s ideal for traveling videographers or backpackers. And it provides substantial improvements over traditional tripods.
Benro S7 Video Tripod Kit
Benro’s S7 tripod kit jam packs the features you need for HDSLR setups. Released in 2015, Benro offers this tripod in either aluminum or carbon fiber constructions.
When collapsed, the aluminum variant measures 30.3 in (77 cm) with a minimum height of 11.6 in (29.5 cm) and a maximum height of 63.2 in (160.5 cm). The tripod uses 3-section legs with Flip Locks and three locking angles. It weighs only 8.5 lb (3.8 kg) but provides outstanding payload support of 15.4 lb (7 kg). Benro ships this tripod with the S7 fluid head, which has a flat base and 3/8″ thread to mount it separately on sliders or jibs. And the head also offers dedicated pan & tilt locks, and continuous pan & tilt drags. Plus, it uses a 4-step counterbalance for more effortless movements, and a ball joint for quick leveling. It even has two 3/8″ threads to mount monitors or recorders. Other bonuses include an illuminated bubble level, a center column hook, a quick-release plate, spiked replacement feet, a detachable handle, a three-year warranty, and a carrying case.
Overall, Benro’s S7 is an excellent choice for traveling videographers looking to mount larger setups. With a payload of 15.4 lb, it can support virtually any camera setup. But at only 8.5 lbs, it’s small enough to take anywhere. And it’s the right blend of features, functionality, and value.
Benro S Pro Tandem Kit
Benro’s S Pro Tandem tripod kit aims to be the ideal choice for working pros. Released in 2019, Benro offers this tripod in two sizes both with aluminum constructions.
When collapsed, the S8 variant measures 27.9 in (71 cm) with a minimum height of 28.3 in (72 cm) and a maximum height of 63 in (160 cm). This kit is large at 14.6 lb (6.63 kg). However, it supports a maximum payload of a whopping 17.6 lb (8 kg), making it ideal for cinema rigs. The tripod uses 3-section legs with twisting locks and an adjustable mid-level spreader, further increasing stability and support. Benro ships this tripod with the S8 Pro head, which has dedicated pan or tilt locks and continuous pan and tilt drags. It also has an 8-step counterbalance and two 3/8″ accessory mounts to attach monitor arms or audio recorders. The head also has a flat base and a 3/8″ thread for separate mounting on sliders, jibs, or monopods. Other bonuses include an illuminated bubble level, a quick-release plate, spiked retractable feet, a detachable handle, a three-year warranty, and a carrying case.
Overall, Benro’s S Pro Tandem kit is the ideal choice for working professionals. And it delivers all of the strength and precision needed, with the versatility you want.
Manfrotto 055XPRO3 Hybrid Kit
Manfrotto’s XPRO3 Hybrid Kit combines their acclaimed 055 tripod with an excellent fluid head, giving hybrid shooters and videographers quite a unique package. Released in 2016, they offer this tripod in five variants and either aluminum or carbon fiber constructions.
When collapsed, the aluminum variant folds to 29.3 in (74.5 cm) with a minimum height of 27.6 in (70 cm) and a maximum height of 72.2 in (183.5 cm) with the center column extended. This kit weighs 9.24 lbs and supports a payload of 15.4 lbs (7 kg). The tripod itself uses 3-section legs with Flip Locks and four locking angles. And Manfrotto ships this tripod with the MH02AH fluid head, which has dedicated pan and tilt locks. But, interestingly, it also has both pan and tilt drags, which are continuously adjustable. The head also has a counterbalance weight, flips 90º for portraits, and has their Easy Link 3/8” connection system to attach accessories such as lights or monitors. Other bonuses include two cushioned grips, a detachable handle, a quick-release plate, and a built-in level.
Overall, Manfrotto’s XPRO3 Hybrid Kit offers professional features and high-performance fluidity. For the price, it’s an excellent product that combines a wealth of high-end features within reach of even beginners. And it’s a bargain as a package considering the price of each component alone.
Libec TH-X Tripod
Libec’s TH-X Tripod System is their best release in the range to date. Released in 2016, they offer this entry-level tripod in a single aluminum variant.
It offers a minimum working height of 29.7 in (75.5 cm) and a maximum height of 62.6 in (159cm). However, the tripod’s quite light at only 6.9 lbs (3.1 kg) with support of 9.0 lb (4kg) payloads, making it the lightest tripod in their lineup. While it still uses the twisting locks and a mid-level spreader, they’ve redesigned the 3-section legs improving stability and rigidity over the earlier TH-650 model. Libec also includes the TH-X8 dual head, with dedicated pan and lock controls and a fixed counterbalance. And the head uses a snapping quick release plate and has a flat base with a 3/8″ screw for easy mounting on tripods, sliders, and more. Other bonuses include a detachable handle, built-in level, a 3-year warranty, and a carrying case.
Overall, Libec’s TH-X is a substantial upgrade over the earlier TH-650HD. And it’s an excellent entry-level tripod for those looking for a lightweight and robust option.
Ikan E-Image EG01A2
Ikan’s EG01A2 aims to be the ideal choice for beginners. Released in 2016, they offer this tripod in a single aluminum variant.
When collapsed, it measures 33 in (83.8 cm) with a minimum height of 31.5 in (80 cm) and a maximum height of 63.3 in (160.8 cm). The tripod is quite large at 10.5 lbs (4.7 kg) but supports 11 lbs (5kg) payloads. But, this added weight helps when filming outdoors. The tripod itself uses 3-section legs with twisting locks, a mid-level spreader, and retractable spiked feet. And Ikan includes the GH01 fluid head, which offers dedicated pan and lock controls, a ball joint, and a counterbalance system. But, unlike most options in this category, it also provides a variable tilt drag, adding more precision to tilting. And it uses a release plate with a Quick-Snap design, which snaps into the base plate for touch and go camera swapping. Other bonuses include a built-in level, detachable handle, and a carrying case.
Overall, Ikan’s EG01A2 is an excellent entry-level video tripod that provides excellent value for money. It couples a superior build quality and strength in an easy to use package. And it’s a versatile tripod kit at an economical price.
Cayer BV30 Tripod
Cayer’s BV30 is a heavy-duty tripod aimed as an entry-level option for larger setups. Released in 2017, they offer this tripod in two sizes and either aluminum or carbon fiber construction.
When collapsed, the 64″ aluminum variant folds to 32 in (81.3 cm) with the same minimum height and a maximum height of 64 in (162.6 cm). While heavier than travel options, it remains quite lightweight at 8.75 lb (3.97 kg). And it supports a maximum payload of 13.2 lb (6 kg). The tripod itself uses 3-section legs with a mid-level spreader for enhanced stability. And Cayer ships this tripod with the K3 Video Head, which has separate pan and tilt controls, and a fixed counterbalance. And it also has an integrated 3/8″ thread to connect the head to sliders or jibs. The ball adapter also allows you to level it without readjusting the legs. And the head has a 3/8″ accessory screw, to attach video lights, monitors, and more. Other bonuses include a quick-release plate, detachable handle, a built-in level, and a carrying case.
Overall, Cayer’s BV30 combines a professional fluid head and robust build quality at an incredible price. And it’s easily sturdy enough to support heavy camcorders and full DSLR setups. With its compelling combination of stability, control, and ease of use, it’s ideal choice for enthusiasts and beginners looking to get started.
Benro Aero S4 PRO
Benro’s S4 Pro is their latest release in the Aero family to replace the original Aero 4. Released in 2019, they offer this kit in a single aluminum variant.
When collapsed, it measures 21.8 in (55.5 cm) with the same minimum height and a maximum height of 65 in (166 cm) with the center column extended. It’s moderately lightweight at only 6.3 lb (2.86 kg) but supports 8.8 lb (4 kg) payloads. The tripod itself uses 4-section legs with Quick Flip locks and three locking angles. It also has a 2-section center column that detaches, converting the tripod into a 65-inch monopod, and adds versatility. Benro ships this tripod with the S4 PRO head, which has a counterbalance, a ball joint for leveling, and a 3/8″ thread for separate mounting on sliders or jibs. The head also includes dedicated pan and tilt locks, and two 1/4″-20 accessory mount to attach arms, monitors, or lights. Other bonuses include a foam grip, a quick-release plate, a center-column hook, retractable spiked feet, a built-in level, a five year extendable warranty, and a carrying case.
Overall, Benro Aero S4 PRO is an excellent option for on the go videographers looking for a lightweight and portable option. And as a tool, it provides impressive versatility without weighing you down.
Manfrotto Befree Live Video Tripod Kit
Manfrotto’s BeFree Live is the video flagship of the BeFree line of premium compact tripods. And it’s a tripod they’ve specifically designed to be the ideal traveling companion for videographers. Released in 2017, Manfrotto offers this tripod kit in two variants and aluminum or carbon fiber construction.
When collapsed, the aluminum variant folds to 15.75 in (40 cm) with the same minimum height and a maximum height of 59.1 in (23.3 cm) with the center column extended. This kit weighs only 3.6 lbs (1.63 kg) but supports an impressive 8.82 lbs (4 kg) payload. While heavier than traditional travel tripods, it’s exceptionally lightweight compared to video tripods in this price range, making it the ideal option for run and gun filmmakers. The tripod itself uses 4-section legs with twisting M-locks and three locking angles. And Manfrotto includes the MVH400 fluid head, which has a ball joint to level the base on uneven surfaces along with dedicated pan and tilt locks. It also has their Easy Link attachment system to add accessories such as arms or lights and a hook for added stabilization. Other bonuses include a cushioned grip, a quick-release plate, a built-in level, a 6-month warranty, and a carrying case.
Overall, Manfrotto’s BeFree Live is the ideal choice for backpackers, vloggers, or traveling creators looking for a robust take anywhere solution. It’s small enough to store in a carry-on bag and light enough for a long day’s tripod. As their most compact video kit, it’s an excellent option for those who want versatility and maximum performance.
Magnus VT-4000 Tripod
The Magnus VT 4000 is their follow-up to the earlier 3000 model with welcomed improvements. Released in 2012, they aim this aluminum tripod at amateur cinematographers looking to get started.
When collapsed, it folds to 30.3″ (77 cm) with a minimum height of 27.6″ (70.1 cm) and a maximum height of 59.0″ (150 cm). At 7.9 lbs (3.6 kg), it’s relatively lightweight for this class, but still manages payloads of 8.8 lb (4 kg). The tripod itself uses 3-section legs constructed of aluminum with flipping locks and a mid-level spreader. Magnus also ships the tripod with an included fluid head with dedicated pan and tilt locks. It also has a fixed counter-balance spring that supports 3.3 lb (1.5 kg) for smoother tilt movements. Plus, it has a ball-joint handle to quickly adjust and level the head when shooting on uneven surfaces. Other bonuses include retractable spiked feet, a built-in level, detachable handle, a quick-release plate, a one year warranty, and a carrying case.
Overall, the VT 4000 is an excellent choice for lightweight mid-range DSLR or mirrorless setups. And as an enthusiast aimed product, it’s an excellent choice in the entry-level segment for beginners. And at its current price, it’s the most affable option around.
How to choose the best video tripod?
Before we dive in, let’s cover some fundamentals about video tripods.
What is a video tripod?
A tripod, by definition, is a three-legged device used for stabilization. And it creates a stable supporting platform to prevent movement from downward and horizontal forces. Its sole purpose is to stabilize the camera, and the better the construction, the better its stabilization. But, when it comes to construction, you’ll want to look at the following factors while shopping around.
Today’s video tripods come in two constructions: aluminum or carbon fiber. Aluminum is generally less expensive but weighs more. Carbon fiber weighs less but is more expensive. Outside of cost, aluminum also ages quicker than carbon fiber, typically degrading after only five years of use. Carbon fiber, however, can last decades with proper maintenance.
When choosing between materials, consider how long you’ll have the tripod. If it’s only a temporary investment, pickup an aluminum kit and save the money. Otherwise, carbon fiber is a better long-term investment.
Standard video tripod kits generally weigh between 6-10 lbs. But, lighter options do exist, which are typically considered “ultra-lightweight.” If you plan on traveling with the tripod, weight is a serious consideration before purchasing. Ideally, you want the lightest and most rugged tripod possible. However, lighter tripods reduce the maximum payload supported, so there’s a trade-off. “Maximum payload” refers to the amount of weight the tripod supports, ranging from 8-20 lbs.
It’s crucial to find a tripod that can adequately support your camera’s weight with the heaviest lens and accessories installed. A tripod that struggles under too much weight will shake, ruining footage and can fall over, destroying your equipment. In general, tripod kits that weigh 7-10 lbs, will typically support 8-16 lb payloads. And they’re usually quite stable and relatively lightweight when traveling. Typically, it’s better to choose a tripod that holds more weight, as, over time, your gear will likely become heavier. So it’ll save money long term to accommodate future setups.
For this, measure your typical setup, and make sure the tripod in question supports that weight. If you don’t need a kit rated for over 10 lbs, skip it and get a more compact lightweight option. Just be sure to consider your largest camera and lens combination to avoid purchasing the wrong kit.
Tripod Head Types
In most cases, the manufacturer includes a Fluid Head as a part of the video kit. A Fluid Head provides dampening to a traditional pan and tilt design. Some heads offer adjustments, called drag, to alter the dampening amount for more control over movements. Otherwise, manufacturers will fix the drag to a set value. Both work, but having adjustable drag control, is ideal long-term. The next consideration is how the head attaches to the legs, which occurs using a ball or flat-mount.
Generally, most heads are detachable so that you can mount them on jibs, sliders, or monopods. Though, this isn’t always the case. Large fluid heads also have counterbalance adjustments, which are usually fixed but sometimes are adjustable as well. The counterbalance lets you compensate for heavier loads towards the front or rear sections of the camera. And they’re useful when using larger rigs or long telephoto lenses. Some fluid heads also use ball joints, which are used for quick leveling without adjusting the legs. This is a necessary feature that’ll save time when shooting outdoors.
For this, look for detachable options if you plan on using the head on other accessories. And look for variable drag and counterbalance options, if you want more flexibility in those regards.
The tripod’s height is crucial if you’re tall. For the most part, however, video tripod tends to be somewhere around 60-70″ when fully erected. And this doesn’t include the height of your camera. However, video tripods come in all different sizes, and their heights vary. So, choosing the right one will depend on how you film and the working range you need.
Another aspect to consider is the tripod’s folded height, which is especially important if you plan on flying with it. Ideally, you’ll want something that folds to 24-32″, so it can easily store into a carry-on bag or suitcase.
For this, consider your height and how you plan on traveling with the tripod. And look for options that stand as tall as you are to avoid slouching during use.
The legs stabilize the entire unit. Most manufacturers use aluminum or carbon fiber to construct the legs, and each has pros and cons. The legs are then broken into 3 or 4 sections. The number of sections determines their strength and portability: the more sections, the more portable but usually, the less stable. So 4-section tripods are less stable than 3-section. But, the more sections the tripod has, the longer the setup times. So there’s a trade-off here. The next area to consider is how the sections lock in place, which occurs using either twist or lever locks. Levers are usually more reliable than twist, but twists are quicker than levers.
The tripod’s leg diameter also determines stability. And the tripod’s stability ultimately limits due to the narrowest leg diameter. So, larger diameter legs are more stable than narrow ones. But, if the tripod has a spreader that connects the legs, it’ll provide added stability, particularly when shooting uneven terrain.
For this, this comes down to preference. Choose a tripod that fits your style and offers the flexibility you want in setup/breakdown. And if you plan on shooting outdoors, get a tripod with a mid-level spreader and large 2 or 3 section legs. It’ll be a bit bulkier than other options, but far more stable during the wind.
If you plan on traveling and filming outdoors, this is important. Most manufacturers include rubber feet, but not include spiked feet, which add stability. If you plan on shooting on uneven terrain, spiked feet are essential.
Ideally, look for options that have exchangeable or retractable spikes, so you can deploy them when needed.
Some tripods have tilting center columns, counterweights, variable drags, and accessory ports. If these extras are important, consider them while shopping around.
Last Updated on September 22, 2023 by Photography PX Published August 17, 2020