1. MANFROTTO ALUMINIUM 294A3 + A0RC2 BALL HEAD, £105
The joint cheapest model here, this aluminium tripod and head kit has the benefit of a three-faced centre column to prevent rotation, and three-section legs which extend the tripod to a maximum height of 169cm (with the centre-column up). Each leg features two lever-style locks and all can be fixed to one of two angles away from the standard configuration, although there aren't any spikes within the rubber feet which some of the others here feature. The included ball head is simple in design, though, with one lever to release and lock the ball in place and another to increase ball friction.
Folded height: 72cm
Maximum height (with centre column up): 169cm
Leg sections: 3
Maximum load capacity: 4kg
2. BENBO 107C TREKKER MK 3 TRIPOD KIT, £135
Next to the others here the Trekker Mk 3 has a decidedly more minimal and somewhat unconventional design, although the tripod's centre column can still be handily rotated around a full
180° angle which makes it ideal for low-level work. The column is ended with a hook for hanging a weight, while the legs are spiked at their bases for better stability on softer surfaces. At 2kg and with a folded height of 84cm the tripod is not the smallest or lightest of the bunch, which makes it less suitable for travelling. Sadly, the ball head lacks both quick-release plate and bubble levels.
Folded height: 84cm
Maximum height (with centre column up): 172cm
Leg sections: 2
Maximum load capacity: 8KG
3. Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB 100 + SBH-100 Ball Head, £120
The Alta Pro 263AB 100 features three-section aluminium alloy legs with clasp locks and padded covers, as well as a hexagon-shaped centre column for extra stability. With the large release buttons at the top of each leg, the tripod can be quickly alternated between three heights, and on softer surfaces each leg end can be twisted to bring out a small metal spike. The smart SBH-100 head is built just as sturdily as the legs, with panoramic markings and a couple of bubble levels on top, as well as ribbed rubber cogs at its sides which are easy to turn in a hurry.
Material: Aluminium/magnesium die cast
Folded height: 71cm
Maximum height (with centre column up): 173cm
Leg sections: 3
Maximum load capacity: 7kg
4. Velbon Ultrek UT-43D Tripod + QHD-53D Head, £120
This tripod appears as something of an odd one out at first, on account of its much smaller folded length next to the others here; this is down to the six-section legs which can be folded towards the centre column. Once fully extended, however, the tripod offers a maximum height of 156.5cm which compares favourably with its rivals. The ball head supplied as part of the kit has a generously proportioned quick-release plate and three bubble levels for accurate positioning, and just one simple control which releases and locks the ball in place.
Folded height: 29cm
Maximum height (with centre column up): 156cm
Leg sections: 6
Maximum load capacity: 2kg
5. Giottos MTL9351B + MH5011 Head Tripod Kit, £110
Arguably, the MTL9351B's finest attribute is that its centre column can be removed and horizontally reinserted or even upturned, which makes it particularly appropriate for low-level macro or copy work. Each tripod leg comprises three sections which are set in position by a pair of lever locks, and each is also padded for comfortable carrying. Both legs and the pan-and-tilt head are constructed from aluminium, the latter equipped with a quick-release plate and three bubble levels to ensure levelness of both the head and legs. The feet can also be spiked if desired.
Folded height: 63cm
Maximum height (with centre column up): 165cm
Leg sections: 3
Maximum load capacity: 5kg
6. Slik Pro 340DX Complete Tripod KIT, £105
Despite a price tag just over £100, the Slik Pro 340DX aims to edge itself over its dearer rivals in a number of ways. Its construction, for example, blends titanium, magnesium and aluminium to create a rigid yet lightweight model, while the generously thick foam covers on each leg ensure that it may be carried around comfortably. Unlike most of the other models here the 340DX comes complete with a pan-and-tilt head, and if you look hard enough you can currently find it for around £85 online, which makes this very much the bargain buy of the six.
Folded height: 49cm
Maximum height (with centre column up): 147cm
Leg sections: 4
Maximum load capacity: 4kg (legs up to 8kg)