The humble camera tripod has been around since the dawn of photography, making the difference between sharp images and a veritable blurry mess. In the golden olden days with large-format cameras, tripods were a necessity. Nowadays, tripods can be more of an optional extra, as cameras are far more lightweight and are helped out with facilities such as image stabilization.
However, to achieve the very sharpest images for the likes of landscape or night-time photography, a tripod is still the best way to go. For the occasional user, budget tripods can be the best option if you don’t want to spend big on the latest top-end versions.
As we are in the budget arena today, these tripods may not have the weight-bearing ability or fancy setups of more expensive units. They will suffice, though, for most general-purpose shooting scenarios and as handy travel companions.
1. JOBY GorillaPod 3K Kit
The GorillaPod 3K Kit may not be a full-sized tripod, but it is oh so handy in every other shooting scenario. The GorillaPod is available in a range of models. We have gone with the 3K kit, as this version is sturdy enough to hold a good-sized DSLR and lens. This means an overall weight-bearing ability of 3kg from a unit that only weighs 247g. This version also comes with a ball head for easy camera alignment and even has a built-in bubble level.
The unique aspect of this design is the bendy legs, which can wrap around anything from a chair leg to a nearby pole. The GorillaPod can also be used as an efficient tabletop tripod, always staying in place with its rubberized feet.
The great thing about this tripod solution is that it comes in at a budget price. Which means pros and amateurs alike can benefit from its extremely usable features.
You can read our GorillaPod review to find out more.
2. Manfrotto Compact Light Aluminum Tripod
For most photographers, a full-size, sturdy, and lightweight tripod is the ideal solution. Most would look for one which has been made by a reputable manufacturer and can stand the test of time. This is where the Manfrotto Compact Light Aluminum Tripod comes into play, having a load capacity of 1.5kg and a maximum height of 131cm.
This tripod is made from aluminum, weighing in at a reasonable 921g, with four section legs and flip lock attachments. A basic ball head also comes with the tripod, which doesn’t feature any fancy quick release plate but is sturdy enough for general use. The rubber feet make sure the thing stays in place and the aluminum frame gives a good amount of vibration resistance.
Considering the price point of this tripod, it’s a sturdy little solution that will be ideal for small mirrorless or compact cameras.
3. Vanguard VEO 2 S 204AB
Although the Vanguard VEO 2 S 204AB tripod costs more than the Manfrotto above, it also has a lot more useful features. The overall design is very slick and stylish, with the central column folding back to make it even more compact. This also allows a camera to be attached above or below the tripod and can also be removed for low shooting.
The whole unit is made from aluminum alloy, with a total load capacity of 4kg and a maximum height of 135cm. Rubber twist locks have been fitted to the three section legs, which some may prefer over the flip lock variety above. The ball head has a quick release plate and is reasonably solid in its workings for most applications.
This tripod would best serve those who want a lightweight set up and plan on shooting mostly in reasonable weather conditions. The Vanguard also comes with a nifty carry bag for easy transportation.
4. Benro Slim Tripod Kit
To give you all a taste of a carbon fiber tripod without breaking the bank, the Benro Slim is the most budget-friendly version around. This carbon fiber example doesn’t cost much more than the aluminum version, only weighing in at 1kg.
The Benro Slim has a maximum load capacity of 4kg, with an overall height of 146.3cm. The four sectional legs can be moved independently and lock in place with a half-turn of the solid-feeling twist locks. The central column on this version can also be reversed for low-angle shots and the Arca-type ball head with quick release plate is well made enough to not want for a more expensive unit.
Being a carbon fiber version, this tripod is good at soaking up vibrations, with plenty of scope for positioning in a cost-effective package.
Check out our in-depth review of the Benro Slim Travel Kit to see if it’s right for you.
5. Hama Traveller 117 Ball Tripod (Budget Winner)
The “Traveller” part of Hama’s name perfectly sums up this type of tripod. The Hama Traveller 117 Ball Tripod is lightweight enough to be carried around all day at only 820g, while also having a reasonable weight-bearing capability of 4kg and a height range of 35-117cm. Each leg on the tripod is fully adjustable, with individual flip locks for quick adjustments.
The central column can be inverted for low shooting and the rubberized feet provide the tripod with a very sturdy stance. Another nice touch is the addition of foam grips on each leg, which makes it easy to adjust the tripod in all weather conditions. The ball head on this unit may be quite basic, but it will suffice for general use.
In total, the Hama Traveller is a very adept tripod for the price, ideal for a mirrorless camera setup or lightweight DSLR.
The Best Budget Tripods: Which Will You Choose?
These days, budget tripods can offer a lot of the features of high-end units, just without some of the weight-bearing capabilities. Solutions such as the JOBY GorillaPod are great little devices for any type of photographer and can also be very useful for attaching flash units anywhere you please at a moment’s notice.
For those out there who want a more traditional tripod, the rest of the examples above will be a good fit, providing plenty of stability and facilities at reasonable prices. They are more adept at carrying a lightweight camera plus lens and as a travel solution. But if you need a tripod to support a heavyweight DSLR and a full-blown zoom lens, then you will have to move up into professional-level or backpacking tripod territory.