Sharp pictures require a steady camera, but with tripods, monopods, clamps and beanbags to choose from, there’s more than one way to keep everything on the level. Tracy Calder looks at some of the options
What to look for in a tripod or support
Whether you buy a ball-and-socket or a pan-and-tilt head for your tripod or monopod, make sure it’s easy to use and flexible.
Make sure your chosen support can bear the combined weight of your heaviest camera and lens.
If space is an issue, check the folded length of your support, or remove the filling from a beanbag and refill it at your destination.
Tripods and monopods can slip on unstable ground; if you’re likely to be shooting on sand, mud or gravel look for a model with spiked feet.
Wildlife Watching Supplies C14.3 Standard Double Beanbag (inc. liners)
Price: £30 (unfilled)
When you’re shooting at ground level and don’t have the time, or perhaps the ability, to reverse the centre column on your tripod, a beanbag can be indispensable. These cushions are perfect for supporting cameras and spotting scopes, and can even dampen the vibration caused by the internal workings of your device. The C14.3 Standard Double Beanbag is a particularly fine example with two main compartments that can be filled with beans, rice, corn, bird food or, for an ultra-light option, polyester. It’s designed to support lenses up to 600mm and has been made to last, being constructed using extra-strong thread and double stitching.
Manfrotto 055 kit (055XPRO3 3-section aluminium tripod and XPRO ball head)
The 055 tripod series is celebrated for its adaptability but anyone looking to save a few pounds would do well to consider the 055XPRO3 kit.
The main selling point is the centre column which can be extended vertically or horizontally, without the need to disassemble the tripod. You simply loosen a wing nut, extend the column, press a button at the bottom and
rotate it 90°.
The tripod can take loads up to 8kg, extend to 183cm and has a closed length of 74cm. It can get as close to the ground as 9cm. The XPRO3 ball head has a triple-locking system to ensure your camera stays put, too.
MeFOTO SideKick360 Smartphone Adapter
A camera phone is no longer a poor substitute for a compact. These smart devices can shoot 16MP files, and employ a raft of automatic and semi-auto features, so it makes sense to support these capable computers with hi-spec accessories, such as the MeFOTO SideKick360 Smartphone Adapter.
The SideKick360 can be mounted on almost any tripod with an Arca Swiss-style quick-release clamp (as well as many monopods), and the phone is held in place via a dual-clamp system. A 360° rotating ball joint allows your phone to be positioned horizontally, vertically or anywhere in between.
The SideKick360 can also stand alone on a flat surface for tabletop shooting. There are a variety of sizes available and a range of colours. The device can support 500g and weighs a modest 900g.
Giottos: Memoire 100 Professional Trekking Pole and Selfie Stick
Price: $120 (£81 plus shipping)
Outdoor enthusiasts can now kill two birds with one stone (not literally) with the Giottos Memoire 100 Professional Trekking Pole and Selfie Stick. The shaft of this pole is made of aerospace aluminium alloy, which means it’s incredibly light (350g) yet super strong (it’ll take loads up to 60kg). The pole has four sections and measures 150cm extended and 62cm retracted. The length can be adjusted via a flick-lock system (with built-in suspension).
The Memoire 100 is more than just a weight-bearing stick; it also has a compass, Bluetooth 3.0 remote shutter (and space for batteries), a tungsten alloy tip and three types of rubber ends for different types of surfaces.
Its wow factor, though, lies in the pole’s ability to transform into a basic tripod or selfie stick. Using a retractable cell phone clamp, screens up to 6in can be attached and angled. Meanwhile, the other end of the Memoire 100 can be fitted with tripod legs, making it a truly versatile product.
Vanguard VEO AM-264TR Aluminium Monopod
A MONOPOD, typically, means one leg, and one leg, typically, means limited stability. The VEO AM-264TR Aluminium Monopod, however, is an exception to this rule. This versatile pole has three retractable legs (forming a tri-form platform) at the bottom, finished with anti-slip rubber feet. Where the platform meets the pole there is a ball joint to enable smooth panning and tilting. The pole can be extended to a height of 163cm via four sections and a series of flip locks, and reduced to 56.5cm.
The VEO AM-264TR deserves serious consideration as a tripod alternative. It can support 6kg and weighs 900g, acceptable when you consider its height when extended, and it has a diameter of 26mm, which is good for strength and stability.
Calumet CK8106 Series 5 Section 8x Carbon Monopod
Despite being made of eight layers of carbon fibre, the CK8106 5 Section Monopod from Calumet weighs a mere 450g, making it a great support for long excursions. Fortunately, light weight doesn’t mean low strength since this monopod can support camera and lens combinations up to 6.4kg.
The pole’s most impressive feature, however, is its fully extended length of 187cm. It’s a great monopod for shooting over crowds. When fully retracted, the pole measures 52cm. The length is secured via four chunky twist-locks.
Another plus point is the spring-loaded platform thread on the top. It features both 3/8in and 1/4in screw-thread options, and magnesium-alloy tooling. The monopod comes with a soft fabric wrist strap and has a rubber foot.
Takeway T1 Clampod
THE T1 can support any camera, camcorder, iPad and smartphone or, indeed, any electronic device that weighs less than 3kg, despite weighing less than 200g itself. Rather handily, it can also be used as a flashgun or microphone stand.
The top section of the T1 consists of a ball head and quick-release plate but if its 3kg rating isn’t enough for you, the head can be substituted for a heavier duty one. The bottom section features a wonderfully engineered, if slightly odd-looking, clamp, which allows the T1 to grip on to almost anything: tree branches, shelves, fence posts, you name it. It can also stand alone, which is great for time-lapse photography. Regardless of the position you put the clamp in, it is strong and stable.
3 Legged Thing Equinox Winston Carbon Fibre Tripod System
Made from eight layers of tightly woven carbon, the Equinox Winston tripod is as tough and sure-footed as its famous namesake. The legs are designed to carry payloads up to 30kg, which is enough for even the weightiest DSLR and lens combination. Despite its impressive strength, the Winston weighs just under 2kg (1.75kg to be precise) and has a folded length of 60cm, which is pretty good considering. It has three leg sections, each secured via the company’s Paralock system – twist-locks made of aircraft-grade magnesium alloy.
Perhaps more impressive is the diameter of the thinnest leg section (generally the weakest tube on a tripod). Measuring a generous 2.3cm, it gives a good indication as to the strength of the overall product. In terms of height, the Equinox Winston can be extended to 185cm, and has a minimum height of 17cm. What’s more, the legs can be set at 23°, 55° and 80°, which helps to speed things up. The company that makes it is British and prides itself on being quirky, so the Equinox Winston features bronze sections that give it a smartly regal finish.
Manfrotto PIXI EVO 2-Section Mini Tripod
With a closed length of 23cm, and weighing 260g, the Manfrotto PIXI EVO 2-Section Tripod is just about pocketable. Unlike the simpler, cheaper PIXI model, which is intended for compacts and CSCs, the EVO is a tough little tool that can accommodate entry-level DSLRs and lenses up to 200mm. In fact, the combined weight it can bear is 2.5kg.
More than just a tabletop tripod, the PIXI EVO has 2-section legs that can be set to one of five steps, so holding everything steady on uneven terrain. The legs can also be positioned at two different angles (via a slide selector), giving the tripod a minimum height of 6cm – perfect for shooting at ground level.
The PIXI EVO features a ball head that enables the camera to be rotated 90°, facilitating shots in portrait format. This clever design detail makes the tripod a genuinely useful addition to the kit bag.
It’s not been forgotten in the style stakes, either. The item is available in three colours: standard black, white and red-anthracite.
MeFOTO: RoadTrip Travel Tripod Kit
Adding colour to tripods seems to be all the rage and MeFOTO is among those companies leading the way. Thankfully, the design team behind the RoadTrip tripod range had more than just colour on its mind when it designed the Travel Tripod Kits.
Available in aluminium or carbon fibre, the tripods can be extended to 156cm, while the legs can be inverted and folded back to produce a collapsed package measuring 39cm. The legs can be set to two different angles, and the length is secured via a twist-lock system.
The tripod weighs 1.6kg and can support up to 7kg, enough to satisfy users of entry-level DSLRs, CSCs and bridge cameras. The legs are topped with a Q Series ball head, featuring separate ball and pan locks and an Arca Swiss type quick-release plate. The head also has a spirit level.
Last but not least, the tripod can also be converted into a monopod by removing one of the legs and combining it with the centre column.
Manfrotto 190 Go! Aluminium 4 Section Tripod
Manfrotto’s 190 range boasts many lightweight yet surprisingly compact tripods, but the 190 Go! Aluminium 4 Section Tripod is one of the finest. This capable support weighs 1.7kg and has a folded length of 45cm, making it the lightest in the aluminium range by some margin. It has twist-lock legs that can support a payload up to 7kg but the extended height of 146cm is disappointing.
The legs of the 190 Go! can lock at four different angles and, once teamed with the 90° tilting centre column, enable you to get as low as 9cm. Changing the column from vertical to horizontal is easy.
An Easy Link socket on the spider enables you to attach accessories. The 3/8in top screw is compatible with most tripod heads.
Gitzo GT1555T Traveler 5 Section Tripod
Gitzo Traveler tripods are lightweight, tall and strong, but they are also expensive. The GT1555T is the headless version of the Traveler Tripod Kit GK1555T-82TQD, and has plenty of features. Its legs are made of Carbon eXact tubes, which Gitzo claims makes them especially stiff and rigid. The tubes also have large diameters, which helps to improve stability. The Traveler range uses twist-lock rings (what Gitzo calls the G-lock system) that allow the GT1555T to pack down to 35.5cm and weigh 1.03kg.
The 180° leg folding system enables the centre column to fit between the folded legs, saving space. Fully extended, the tripod is 138cm. It can take loads up to 10kg. The top attachment has 3/8in and 1/4in screw thread options.
Benro TMA28A Mach3 Aluminium Tripod
Anyone keeping an eye on their cash will be delighted to learn that you can still buy a reliable tripod for just under £120. The TMA28A Mach3 has a maximum load of 14kg, extends to 155.5cm and folds down to 52.5cm. As you’d expect for the money, this tripod is made of aluminium (with durable magnesium castings), and is not the lightest on the market at 1.76kg without a head.
The legs use a twist-lock system that allows them to be released easily. One leg of the TMA28A Mach3 can be converted into a monopod. The leg angle locks have three different settings, one of which is notably wide, and the tripod comes with an additional short centre column for low shooting. The TMA28A Mach3 has a minimum height of 31.5cm, making it a good all-rounder at a keen price.
Vanguard VEO 204AB Aluminium Travel Tripod
The VEO 204AB prides itself on being super lightweight and super compact, and the specifications bear this out. The centre column can be inverted so it fits between the folded legs, giving the tripod a collapsed length of 39.5cm (with a fully extended height of 135cm). The combined weight of this leg and head kit is 1.27kg, which, considering it’s made of aluminium, is remarkable. It can hold just 4kg, however.
The legs comprise four sections, secured via lever locks, and can be set to one of three angles. To assist with low-angle shots, the VEO 204AB is also supplied with a special adapter. The basic kit includes a smooth ball head, which makes panning and tilting the camera a breeze. A rubber grip on one leg puts an end to icy fingers when you’re out and about.
Giottos Memoire 2-way Cell Phone Clamp with Mini Tripod
The Memoire 2-way Cell Phone Clamp is a robust aluminium stand that can withstand the odd bump and scratch. It can hold up to 30kg and weighs a pocketable 125g (without the mobile phone clip). The 1/4in screw thread enables it to support most DSLRs, while the three-point phone clamp will accept most phones 3.5-6in in diameter.
A spring-axle movement at the base of the clamp allows the holder to be rotated 45° to enable the phone to be positioned vertically or horizontally. The clamp also has a clutched gear that permits a certain amount of fine-tuning. Rubber feet, an anti-skid pad on the mounting plate, and leg-joint traction hold everything nice and steady.
Gitzo GT2532 Mountaineer Series 2 Carbon Fibre 3 Section Tripod
Gitzo has been making carbon-fibre tripods for more than two decades, and the first to roll off the production line was the Mountaineer. Despite being refined and refreshed over the years, this popular range has remained true to its roots. The Mountaineer Series 2 Carbon Fibre tripod offers exceptional rigidity in a package weighing 1.67kg, and measuring 65cm when folded. The legs can be raised in three sections, and feature screw-type twist locks (a locking system Gitzo calls G-lock Ultra) designed to stop dust from entering the system.
The legs can be set to one of three different angles, the widest being 23°, which allows you to position a camera as low as 16cm from the ground.
Meanwhile, the GT2532 can reach 166cm when fully extended, which should be enough for most photographic jobs.