Tripods come in many sizes, it's important you choose the right model to suit your needs,

When it comes to taking sharp pictures, especially of landscapes or at night, a tripod is an essential accessory.  If you look in the photography magazines, then they reccomend spending at least £100.00 on a tripod. Yet there are many excelent models available for under £20.00, whilst the most the average user needs to spend is around £35.00 - £40.00. For this you will get an excellent, sturdy tripod with the latest features.

In this article, I'll tell you what the best budget models are, and where to get them at the best prices. As with cameras, there are a small number of 'Major'  manufacturers that get all the reviews whilst charging exhorbitant prices, The best known of these is Manfrotto, but Vangauard, Velbon, Gitzo, Giottos and Benro are all  respected brands with a premium price tag. Of these, only Velbon manufacture sub £30.00 tripods suitable for all camera types (sadly DSLR's included). But there's a whole host of budget manufacturers featuring models with the features of the £100.00+ models for a fraction of cost, from Hama, Konig, Ex-pro, Hahnel, Fancier, Vivitar, visionary and others  that will give you considerably more whallop for your wonga.

I'll also show you how to choose the right tripod for you, how to set it up and how to use your tripod like the pros. All you need to know about tripods to get you started is on this page.

Before you buy a tripod, there are five main questions you need to ask. The first is 'How tall am I?', the second 'What will I be putting on it?', the third 'What will I be using it for?', the fourth is 'What type of head do I want?', and the fifth 'How much do I want to spend?'  To answer the first question, you take your height and then measure the distance from your eyes to the top of your head. I'm 5'6" (168cm), and the distance from my crown to my eyes is 3" (7cm), so I need a tripod that's at least 161cm tall. A 6' man would have a distance of about 4" (10cm) between his eyes and his crown and would need a tripod that extends to 182cm. This is important because we need to be able to stand upright without having to stoop.

The second question is easy enough to answer. You might only have a small point 'n' shoot camera, in which case a table top model can be bought for no more than a couple of pounds, often being found in pound shops. They are usually only suitable for lightweight cameras, as a bridge camera's weight distribution might cause them to fall forwards if you extend the lens too far forward. Or you might have a bridge camera that weighs half a kilogramme. Or you might have a DSLR and large lenses weighing several Kilo like I do. You need a tripod that will hold the weight of your camera/lenses, You`ll find the relevant information on the sellers or manufactures website for your chosen model. You'll find your cameras weight in the manual. You'll need to add the weight of the batteries as well.

The next question to consider is what for and how we'll be using it for. If it's just for self portraits with the family, then a cheap table top model may well suffice. If you want to use it for outdoor photography then you'll need a tall model that has leg feet that swivel to help level it on uneven surfaces. If it's macro (close up) photography, especially flowers, then you'll need a tripod that will allow you to reverse the centre pole and use your camera upside down, or one where the legs aren't joined andcan splay outwards. If you want to use it for video, then you'll need a tripod you can pan. If you're going to be using on outdoor trips, you'll need one that will fold small. If you want to use it abroad, you'll need one that will fold small into either hand luggage or a suitcase. And the big consideration for every user is to ensure that with your camera attached, it's sturdy.

Moving on to the fourth question, I can add that there are two main head types: Tilt & Pan heads and Ball heads. Both allow 360 degree rotation, but tilt & pan heads are not as flexible, only alowing you to move the camera through 90 degrees to portrait orientation, and a slightly smaller degree of tilt downwards going forwards. Tilt & pan heads are oftem more precise to set up, but this takes longer as you have two knobs to adjust. Ball heads are quicker, with often only a single knob, but cheaper ones are prone to tipping ever so slightly, and in order to achieve perfect stability, this means you can't pan, and are unususable for video work. You can get Pistol Grip ballheads, but these are often more expensive. Expensive tripods come with removeable heads, and heads can be bought seperately.

The last question is arguably going to be your main consideration. As I said at the start of the article, why pay £100.00 upwards? There are literally hundreds of tripods under the £40.00 mark, and even respected manufacturers Velbon, Sony and Manfrotto produce budget tripods within this price point (you can pick up two manfrotto models under £40.00 and a Velbon for under £25.00 on Amazon). There are also a couple of what some enthusiasts call 'copies' (Cheaper chinese imitations of more expensive versions that are usually just as good) such as Fancier, along with many models from lesser known firms such as Ex-Pro and Konig. Hama make lots of tripods, many which can be bought for under £15.00 on amazon or Ebay. I bought the top of the Hama Star range tripod the Star 63 for just £14.00 from Amazon (now £19.00, but currently an incredible £10.50 from Tesco Direct with an RRP of £49.00). Ball heads are usually more expensive than the budget Pan & Tilt models, though not always. My current reccomendations are listed below. With Prices from just £7.00, there's a tripod to suit everyones pocket.

When choosing a tripod, there's another two considerations to take into account as well: Build quality and stability. However, if you wish to take advantage of the big savings by buying from the internet, then this provides a problem. Fortunately there's two ways around this. Amazon, Tesco, and most other sites feature customer reviews. Alternatively, head over to You Tube but try and avoid any 'Unboxing' reviews as they're so boring. Also, remember, many of these are from people who have already bought these and will show a kind of 'Look how good the tripod I've just bought is' bias.Find a 'This is utter rubbish, it's going straight back.....' review and there's a good chance it's honest. Should you wish to see the buld quality and stability for yourself, I suggest you do your online reasearch and then go to a shop that physically sells the tripod (or vice versa) and see for yourself both the build quality and stability/rigidity of several models in your budget. Take a print out of the product(s) your thinking of buying. Ask the shop to mount a camera similar to yours, or take yours with you. Open and close the legs of the tripod, make sure the catches are sturdy and won't easilly snap off. Panning should be smooth, and when a camera is attached the head shouldn't droop or slip. Raising and lowering the centre column should be a smooth action without excessive friction. You should be able to set up and collapse the tripod easilly as well. 

Now comes the best bit. You've checked your preffered model and decided you want to buy it,  and you've got your printouts with you showing the best price which is obviously a lot cheaper than what the store you are currently in is selling it for. Most high street stores will price match, some will match the price plus 10%, but some high street stores will only price match with other high street stores or within a certain radius of the store. Some will price price match internet prices or attempt to come close. Rember with a bricks and mortar store you have somewhere you can return faulty items in person as opposed to having to post it off or wait for a courier to collect your item. As a rule, if you add the postage cost onto the online price, if a store matches that combined price it's a good deal and you should take it. However, if the store won't budge or only reduce it by a small amount leave. Just because a store will reduce the price by a tiny amount isn't a reaon to buy from them. Also, the reverse can also be true: Just because it's being sold by an online retailler doesn't mean it's the cheapest possible price.

Suggested Models.

Konig Traveller.

For lightweight point 'n' shoot cameras, small bridge models and Mini DV/DVD/SD card camcorders you can't get a decent quality model cheaper than this at £6.64 (30th Mar 2013). Although it's only just over a metre tall, it's rated for a 1.5 KG load. Whilst I wouldn't put a DSLR or high end bridge model on it. I got a similar model free with a telephoto converter I bought for my HS20 which was too heavy, but the GE X5 fitted nicely. I sold it with the X5. Plenty of four and 5 star reviews on Amazon, with just a handful of bad ones. Don't expect a super sturdy model, but one that's excellent value for it's price. Konig manufacture tripods up to over £300.00 and a quick search will throw up many more models.

Konig Aluminium Camera Camcorder Tripod

With a ball head and a 3 KG load for under £15.00, this represents good value. There's free delivery from the Amazom Marketplacce seller too. The only drawbacks are it's 135 cm height and the omission of a panning grip or lever, meaning if you want to pan you need to keep your camera loose enough to pan with both hands holding it, making it unsuitable for video work.

Vivitar VPT- 2457

Another pan head tripod sold by several stores. Asda online are one of the cheapest at just £13.05 (after a 10% discount added at checkout). Over twice the price at argos, this model extends to 145 cm, and can carry 1.2 Kg, so is suitable for bridge cameras. Reviews seem decent enough on this one.,default,pd.html?cm_vc=PPCXSLLF

Hama Star 61

With a height of 157 cm and a load of 3Kg, this camera can accomodate an entry level DSLR with lightweight lens.It's fitted with the same head as the Star 63 (see below). Hama have a great reputation for producing solid tripods at budget prices, and the Amazon reviews bear this out. Go for the one with the free bag (sold with or without the bag for £11.99).
Hama Star 63

This is my current tripod. I paid £14.00 from Amazon (now £19.00), but it's listed at an amazing £10.50 on Tesco Direct (though currently out of stock but they'll email you when back in stock. It's extremely sturdy and very tall, extending to 166 cm. It's maximum load is rated at 4 Kg. I've had my DSLR and a 300mm lense, weighing at around the 2kg mark without problem. I highly reccomend this tripod.

Hama Profil Duo II

The Profil Duo range is a step above the Star series. At £15.73, it's an excellent bargain. It can carry a 4 Kg load, and extends to 164 cm. An added bonus is that the centre column is detachable and becomes a monopod, which saves you the expense of buying one.

Hama Traveller Compact Pro

This is one of Hama's best models, having features of much more expensive models. It's a ballhead model, not a Pan & tilt one. Extending to 163 cms, and with a virtually all metal construction (except the leg clamps) it's a really solid tripod. The legs are only attached to the top of the centre column, not the top, and can be fixed at 3 different angles for low down shooting when splayed out. The head is removeable and can be attached to the bottom tor macro work. The quick release plate can bew locked in place to avoid accidental release.It can carry 4 Kg, though some sites wrongly state 10 Kg. It's best price is just £32,49 with free delivery Via with free delivery. The same seller is more expensive on Amazon. Asda and Tesco also stock trhgis model, and Asda have an Extra 10% off bringing rthe price to just under £32,00, but delivery adds another £2.50, making the play deal the best. Expect to pay no more than £36.00 for this at several retailers. There's also a mini version of the above, the Traveller Mini Pro

Velbon DF-51/ DF-60/DF-61.

If you fancy a tripod from one of the 'Major' tripod makers, then Velbon are the only major maker with tripods available for under £30.00. The DF-51 extends to a respectable 152 cm and is rated to carry 3 Kg, which is suitable for a DSLR and lightwieght lens. It's big brothers the DF-60/61 are both 10 cm taller, and with a maximum load of 4 Kg the DF-61 can carry an extra Kg than the other two.. All three models are traditional pan & tilt models. The reviews all seem positive for these three models, and for the price they are excwlent buys. The DF-51 can be bought from this link, £17.48,  whilst the DF-60 can be found at for £18.78. The DF-61 can be viewed at for £23.78

Fancier WF-531B/WF531-T.

These two tripods are chinese imitations of more expensive models from the major makers. They are not a clone of any one model, but incorporate the features of most of the best models. The legs can be splayed, and the centre columns reverse for macro shooting. Both are ball head models. The 531b is rated to carry 4 Kg and extends to 153 cm. The tripod weight of 1.4kg is heavy enough to provide good stability. It's price of £26.99 delivered is simply amazing. Find it on Ebay at  Fancier produce many different models to demanding pro standards. The 531T is more expensive at £34.99 with identical height and load capacities, but different heads.I imagine that this head will be better. is the link. As these are ball heads without a grip or pan handle, whilst you get the versatility of the ball lead, panning is more difficult.

Fancier WT-3716/WT-3950

Two similar Pan & Tilt models are also offered from Fancier. The 3716 (

extends to 159 cm and can carry 3 Kg, whilst it's sibling 3950 ( has a slightly smaller height at 155 cm but can carry 4 Kg,

Manfrotto MCK3-P02/MCK3-H01

Manfrotto are probably the best known tripod manufacturer (They now own Gitzo as well). They have two budget tripods under £40.00 The MKC3-PO2 is a photo tripod with a ball head. Whilst it has a very tall height of 165 cm, it's maximum load is only 1.5 Kg. This will be suitable for a DSLR and lightweight lens or a large bridge camera. Some people might think the weightload is heavy enough, but according to the reviews, the stability of the tripod is unrivalled at this price point. is the link. There's no panning grip but the H01 with a slightly lower maximum height of 154 cm has a video ball head with a pistol grip for smooth video panning. surf to Priced at £39.95 and £39.22 respectively, both tripods come with a 2 year warranty with a free extension to 5 yrs if you register the product online.

Hahnel Triad 30

This is similar to the Fancier and Hama Traveller models. Rated at 4 Kg and with a height of 143 cm this ballhead tripod represents great value at £35.16.


There's 16 models listed above. None of them cost more than £40.00 ($61.00), proving that you don't have to spend the mega bucks that the major magazines and websites expect us to pay. Never has the old saying 'Why pay more?' been so true.

So you've bought a tripod, how do you use it? First you open the legs, if it's legs are attached to the bottom of the centre column by peices of metal, open it to full width, and lock the column by turning the large plastic ring just above where they join to lock the legs in place, If it doesn't the legs will have two or three angles that they lock into place at. There's usually a button or catch that you press to undo the locking mechanism. Next, unlock the leg clips. They either unclip open, or you twist them to open and lock them. When at the desired length, just lock them to secure the tripod. You don't have to fully extend the tripod. If you leave some sections locked then the tripod will be sturdier. To acheive the same effect as opening one leg out wider on a vati angle tripod, but wirh a fixed leg model, just  make one leg shorter. Usue the spirir levels to ensure the tripod is level.

 Budget ballhead models usually have one screw to rotate the head around. Loosen the screw and position the camera and then tighten it securely to lock the position. If it has a pistol grip use it looser for panning, if it doesn't, keep it looser and hold both sides of the camera to pan. Hold it steady whilst you take the shot to eliminate camera shake. If you intend to use a remote control whilst panning with a ballhead then hold the camera and ballhead steady with your left hand and aim the remote with your right as the shutter will be on the right of most cameras, and point the remote. If you intend to take a single still shot tighten the camera fully and use either the remote controll or the cameras 2 second timer as pressing the shutter can cause shake and blur your shots. As you have seen, using a tripod is easy.Long exposures and night landscapes nesscessitate the use of a tripod, so if you plan on taking a lot of these types of shot a tripod is essential. If you're going to shoot a lot of video then a tripod is needed for smooth video. Smooth panning also reduces the amount times the camera refocuses itself due to jerky movement, whicg gives small blurry bits in your video.

To adjust the height, use the cranking handle to lower or raise the head to the desired height. Remove the Quick Release (QR) plate from the head by moving the lever outwards and taking the plate off and then attach it to the camera.These screw into the cameras base. Some plates have a moving part you hold to help you screw the plate in, whilst others have a slot in which you insert a small coin and use it like a screwdriver.ensure it's screwed on tight but not too tight it damages the thread on your camera. The first type is generally easier to fit. Clip the head back in place, ensuring the lever has sprung back into place. Adjusting the head is different depending wether or not it's a ball or pan & tilt head. Pan & tilt heads have three screws to adjust. One for panning left to right, one for the up & down motion, and one that allows you to move the head vertically through 90 degrees This vertical movement screw should be very loose when you move it into position, but tightened very tight when in place. If you can only see two screws on the head, then the panning handle is the third one.The left and right & up and down screws should not be fully tightened, but tightened just enough to allow smooth panning in both directions. Do it too tightly and you risk damaging it. The movement should be fluid, whilst keeping the camera or camcorder steady without movement. Some professionals say tilt & pan heads are better in this respect.
blog comments powered by Disqus