If you want to improve your overall image quality and try new techniques, a decent tripod should be at the top of your shopping list. Take a look at our round up of the best carbon-fibre tripods for under £300.
While aluminium tripods have been around longer and are generally a bit cheaper, carbon-fibre tripods have also fallen in price in recent years, making them much more affordable than they once were.
The main advantage of a carbon-fibre tripod over an aluminium one is that it will weigh less, making it easier to carry for long distances. Also, carbon fibre is inherently stiffer and better at smoothing out vibrations than aluminium is, which can result in sharper images in certain conditions.
We’ve gathered together five of the best carbon-fibre tripods on the market – all of which can be purchased for under £300.
Key points of a tripod
The number of individual leg sections varies between models, however three tends to be the most common. Four-section tripods aren’t quite as stable but do pack down smaller, which makes them easier to carry around.
Leg locks hold the individual leg sections in place and come in two primary designs: lever-style locks and twist-action locks. There’s no real right or wrong here, so choose whichever you feel most comfortable working with.
This is the bit that the legs attach to at the top of the tripod, so it needs to be strong. Materials used vary, although aluminium and magnesium alloy are both popular on account of being stiff but also light in weight.
The pole that sits in the middle of the tripod is called the centre column. All tripods allow you to extend this to raise the overall height, while more advanced models also allow you to rotate it by 90°.
The best carbon-fibre tripods under £300
3 Legged Thing Evolution 3 Punks Rick
Max load: 20kg
Max height: 140.6cm
Min height: 19.5cm
Closed length: 34cm
- Superb value
- Excellent build quality
- Supplied with tripod head
- Colour scheme may not appeal to all
Three Legged Thing (3LT) is a UK manufacturer that specialises in tripods and accessories.
Despite being a relatively new venture, the company has already gained a reputation for innovative design, backed up by bright colour schemes and quirky naming conventions.
If you’re looking for a tripod that isn’t just a set of featureless black legs with an instantly forgettable technical-sounding name, then 3LT could well be the brand for you.
3LT currently offers two distinct tripod ranges: the Evolution 3 Pro series and the Evolution 3 Punks series. The former contains all their their award-winning, professional-grade tripods, while the Punks range is presented as a more budget-orientated, entry-level range. That’s not to say that the 3LT Punks Rick feels in any way low-end or cheap. Build quality is actually very good indeed, especially given the highly competitive price.
It’s also worth noting that the 3LT Punks Rick is the only tripod within our selection that comes supplied with a tripod head, in this case the rather excellent and versatile 3LT Airhed Mohawk ball-head. This makes the whole package especially good value.
The Rick is best described as a lightweight carbon-fibre travel tripod that’s designed primarily for mid-range DSLRs and CSCs. Each leg is built from four individual leg sections that employ twist-type leg locks to hold them in place. These locks only require a quarter of a turn to lock and unlock, which speeds up the process of extending the tripod or closing it back down. When fully extended a little bit of flex is noticeable under serious force, but as long as all the leg locks are fully tightened, there is no great danger of the legs slipping under the load.
One of the most impressive things about the Punks Rick is that it closes down to an extremely portable 34cm, which makes it easier to attach and carry on the back of a camera bag.
While overall construction is undoubtedly solid, we suspect that not everyone will be keen on the blue, orange and copper colour scheme. An equal number will probably quite like the idea of a colourful tripod with a quirky name, though. Either way, the 3LT Punks Rick delivers pretty much unbeatable value for money.
Just ask yourself, where else can you find a well-made carbon fibre tripod and ball-head package for under £200?
Benro Adventure TAD18C
Max load: 8kg
Max height: 143.5cm
Min height: 29.5cm
Closed length: 49cm
- Great combination of sturdiness and light weight
- Hardly any
Established in 1996, Benro is a Chinese tripod manufacturer that produces a wide range of tripods to suit all budgets.
The Adventure series is its mid-range ‘classic design’ range that sits above the entry-level Active series, but below the more advanced Combination and Mach3 ranges.
The legs of the Adventure TAD18C are constructed from eight layers (8x) of carbon fibre to produce a set of legs that are strong yet not overly heavy. Each leg is comprised of three leg sections, with each section locking into place via a reinforced flip-lock mechanism. These locks can be adjusted to your preference so as to make undoing them harder or easier. Which setting is right for you will, of course, depend on the weight of your gear and the frequency with which you need to adjust the tripod. Either way, once secured, each section locks tight to prevent further movement while the tripod is under load.
As with many tripods, one of the legs is covered in soft-touch foam to make carrying and handling the tripod much more comfortable on cold days.
In addition to its carbon-fibre construction, the TAD18C benefits from predominantly magnesium castings in order to keep weight to the absolute minimum. To this end, the Benro TAD18C tips the scales at just 1.16kg (without a tripod head attached), yet is able to carry a load of up to 8kg – which should be ample for all but the biggest telephoto lenses and full-frame DSLR combinations.
A hook on the bottom of the centre column can be used to hang heavy items or bags from, adding extra stability. Each leg section is finished off with a rubberised, pointed cap that should grip well on most surfaces.
The TAD18C extends to a maximum height of 124cm with the centre column retracted, or 143.5cm when it is extended.
The Benro TAD18C offers very good value for money, combining a set of 8x carbon fibre tripod legs with magnesium castings to produce a tripod that is both sturdy and relatively light in weight.
The tripod also comes supplied with its own protective tripod bag that includes a padded shoulder strap for easy carrying.
Overall, it’s hard to find much fault with the TAD18C.
Gitzo GT0532 Mountaineer Series 0 Carbon eXac
Max load: 8kg
Max height: 132cm
Min height: 15cm
Closed length: 53cm
- A great price point for equipment that isn’t too heavy
- A good tripod head will cost extra
Gitzo is owned by the same parent company (Vitec Group) as Manfrotto and specialises in high-end tripods. The GT0532 hails from the company’s all-purpose Mountaineer range of carbon-fibre tripods.
The original Gitzo Mountaineer, which came out in 1994, was the first mass-produced tripod to employ carbon-fibre legs. Twenty-two years later, the range is still going strong.
There are currently four models in the line-up, graded according to their size and strength: Series 0 models are the smallest and lightest, while Series 4 models are the tallest and heaviest (and most expensive).
The GT0532 Series 1 comprises three leg sections, which are constructed from Gitzo’s proprietary Carbon eXact tubing. Launched in 2014 this benefits from High Modulus carbon fibre composition (finer fibres that are more densely packed) and thicker tubes to increase the overall stiffness of each leg.
Each leg can be set at one of three angles – 24°, 55° or 82° – with each of the leg sections locked into place via Gitzo’s G-lock Ultra twist-style leg locks. These locks are sealed against moisture and grit, and are designed to be smooth and quick to operate. Once locked in place, the individual leg sections will not budge or creep.
The GT0532 Series 0 is designed to hold a maximum load of 8kg. If you need a tripod that can take a bit more weight then the GT1532 Series 1 (£540) is designed to hold 10kg, while the GT2532 Series 2 (£660) is designed to hold up to 18kg.
Like the GT0532, both are also three-section tripods. The centre column of the GT0532 Series 1 features a hook for weighting purposes and can also be removed and inserted upside-down to allow for ground-level shooting. Alternatively, with the column removed and the legs splayed to 82° the tripod can be set to a minimum height of just 15cm.
Gitzo is considered by many photographers to be the Rolls Royce of the tripod world. While many of its models are prohibitively expensive, the GT0532 Series 0 actually comes in at a pretty decent price.
You’ll need to pair it with a tripod head which will cost you extra of course, but if your equipment isn’t too heavy and you’d like to own a high-end carbon fibre tripod, then the GT0532 Series 0 certainly ticks all the right boxes.
Vanguard Alta Pro 283CT
Max load: 8kg
Max height: 170cm
Min height: approx 20cm
Closed length: 64cm
- Centre column can be set for overhead shooting – ideal for macro
- Very few
Founded in 1986, Vanguard is a Chinese manufacturer that produces a comprehensive range of tripods and tripod heads to suit all budgets.
The Alta Pro 283CT is the company’s multi award-winning lightweight carbon fibre tripod and comes with a wealth of useful features.
Chief among these is its innovative Multi-Angle Central Column system that allows you to remove and then adjust the angle of the centre column. This is made possible by a clever hinged locking mechanism (something Vanguard calls ‘Instant Swivel Stop-n-Lock’) that’s located directly above the crown and which holds the central column in place. Simply remove the central column, unlock the hinge via the bright orange button on the side and then re-insert the central column. You can now adjust the angle of the column from 0-130° and then lock it in place using the orange button.
This clever system even allows you to set the column perpendicular to the tripod legs for overhead shooting – something macro enthusiasts will find especially useful. Obviously, you need to be careful that the weight of your camera doesn’t cause the tripod to keel over when using it like this.
Each tripod leg comprises three carbon fibre leg sections, each of which is held in place by Vanguard’s Quarter-twist leg locks. These locks are easy to use and allow you to set the tripod up or fold it back down with the minimum of fuss. A thin layer of foam padding also encircles the top of each leg in order to make carrying it easier and also to make the tripod more comfortable to work with in cold weather.
Each leg can be set to one of three angles: 25°, 50° and 80° with a locking mechanism at the top to hold them in place. At the other end, the bottom of each tripod leg is capped off with rubber feet. Twisting these rubber feet will reveal a small metal spike that can be called upon for extra grip in certain terrain.
The Alta Pro 283CT is a great all-round tripod that packs in plenty of useful features and yet comes in at a very competitive price.
The adjustable centre column is a really useful feature that greatly extends the overall flexibility of the tripod, while the tripod’s maximum height of 170cm (with the centre column extended) is a bit taller than many of its immediate rivals.
Overall, the Alta Pro 283CT is a really well designed and fully featured tripod.
Max load: 7kg
Max height: 160cm
Min height: 9cm
Closed length: 61cm
- Extremely stable
- Centre column can be set at 90° to legs
- Easy-operate locks
- No padded carrying case
- Not the most compact tripod
Manfrotto has been making tripods since the mid-1970s and is based in Cassola in northern Italy. Now part of the Vitec Group that also owns the Gitzo and Bogen brands, Manfrotto offers a huge range of tripods and monopods covering all price points and possible usage scenarios.
In recent years the company has broadened its product range to include LED lights and cameraphone accessories in addition to its core line-up of tripods, monopods and camera bags.
Much of Manfrotto’s success has been built on two key tripod lines: the 055 series and the 190 series, both of which have undergone numerous revisions over the years. The main difference between the two is that models within the 055 range tend to extend slightly higher and are able to bear more weight, whereas tripods in the 190 range are generally a bit lighter and smaller.
Released in 2013, the MT190CXPRO3 is a three-section tripod that utilises cross-woven layers of carbon fibre to achieve a lightweight design that provides an extremely stable platform.
The key feature of the MT190CXPRO3 is that the centre column can be set at 90° to the tripod legs, enabling you to position it parallel to the ground. This allows you to set your camera up for direct overhead shooting of small objects, which is especially useful for macro enthusiasts.
Unlike the Vanguard Alta Pro 283CT, which offers much the same feature, the centre column mechanism of the MT190CXPRO3 is inset within the tripod crown rather than placed on top of it, which helps to reduce the overall size of the tripod when folded down.
In addition, the centre column does not need to be fully removed and then re-inserted.
Overall, it’s a slightly cleaner and less convoluted way of achieving the same goal. That said, whereas the Alta Pro 283CT’s centre column can be set to any angle from 0-130°, the MT190CXPRO3 can only be set to 90°.
Each leg section is held in place via Manfrotto’s redesigned Quick Power lever-locks. These are now slightly longer than previous Manfrotto levers and are purposely designed to offer more for your fingers to get hold of, thereby making them easier to operate. Once locked shut, the legs remain firmly in place with no creep or give. The top of each leg is adorned with a large push-down leg angle lock that allows each leg to be set to one of four angles – 25°, 46°, 66° and 88° – with a reassuring click, audible as the spring-loaded locking mechanism passes through each of the four settings. At the other end, each leg is capped off with a durable rubber gripper.
One further feature worth mentioning is the new Easy Link connector, which is located on the magnesium crown and is designed to accommodate useful accessories such as LED lights and clamps. When not in use, this connector is protected by a rubber cap.
The MT190CXPRO3 combines excellent build quality and innovative functionality and offers them at a very competitive price. In fact, the only thing that the MT190CXPRO3 really lacks is a padded carry case.
Our only minor reservation is that, at 61cm it’s not the most compact carbon fibre tripod on the market. If this is likely to be an issue for you then the four-section MT190CXPRO4 (£235) might also be worth a look. Thanks to the extra section this offers a closed length of just 52cm, although the rest of its specifications remain identical to that of the MT190CXPRO3.