Tripods are an extremely useful addition to a photographer's arsenal. They help to prevent camera shake, and they allow for long exposures.
Buying a tripod can be a bewildering experience, as there are so many choices on the market. Unfortunately, the key factor to remember is that you get what you pay for with tripods. A cheap tripod is unlikely to support the weight of a DSLR, which could lead to horrible breakage! The more you pay for a tripod, the more features you will receive.
Some budget-priced options are available, too, though.
Here are some of the best tripods for DSLRs.
1. Velbon CX686
The Velbon CX686 tripod is the cheapest tripod I'd recommend, costing just under $80. It can support up to 14 pounds. It weighs 5.4 pounds, meaning it's not the lightest tripod on the market, but it is capable of supporting even the heaviest of DSLRs. It is made of aluminum, and has three-section legs with quick lever leg locks.
Most importantly, it has a quick release plate. This plate contains a tripod screw, which screws into the bottom of the camera. The plate then clicks into the tripod head, secured by an additional lock. This allows you to remove or attach the camera to the tripod quickly, with minimal fuss.
The head is attached to the tripod and can't be removed (as is the way with cheaper tripods). It is a three-way panning head.
Manfrotto is one of the biggest names in tripods, and the company's products are extremely sturdy. The Manfrotto 190XPROB tripod is the latest version of the model I use myself. It isn't cheap -- you'll pay at least $125 just for the legs, and then you'll need to buy a head on top of this! The tripod weighs 4 pounds and can support up to 11 pounds.
It has a host of features including three-section legs with flip-lever locks, a spirit level, and a hook for attaching sandbags in windy conditions. The center column can be flipped horizontally or removed completely for low-level work.
I'd recommend either a ball head or three-way standard head for use with all Manfrottos. The ball head works well for action, while the 3-way is more precise.
The Slik Sprint Pro II is another budget tripod, with a price tag of around $85 with a ball head, or $95 with a three-way pan and tilt head. It's extremely lightweight, weighing under 2 pounds, which makes it ideal for traveling. However, it can only support 4.5 pounds, which means it isn't suitable for use with heavier DSLRs and longer lenses.
The Slik has three-section legs, although the bottom extension is pretty flimsy. There's a quick release plate, and the center column can be shortened (it comes in two sections) to allow for low-level work. It's also made of aluminum, which makes it far more stable than its plastic rivals.
If money is no object, then you'll want to consider a Gitzo carbon fiber tripod (the Gitzo GT3541LS). Weighing only 3.5 pounds, it has a load capacity of nearly 40 pounds! It's highly unlikely that any photographic kit will weigh that much.
The tripod is a modular system which means that it can be quickly transformed to meet your shooting needs. It has four leg sections, and each leg can be positioned independently in one of three positions. The Gitzo tripod can be adapted for low-level shooting. You'll pay a premium for this quality, as tripod legs cost around $600, with another $200 for a head.
This is a tripod that will last you a lifetime, though, and it's suitable for all -- and I do mean all -- photographic genres.