The Best Tripods and Tripod Systems for Video Professionals in 2020
GorillaPods, floating heads, Hi-Hats — there’s more to a tripod than three legs. Let’s look at the best tripods and tripod systems you can get in 2020.
A tripod is a thing of beauty. With cameras, you’ve got constant updates, software issues, new releases, and the ever-looming risk of sudden technological irrelevance. Plus, just like with lenses and memory cards, there’s always a bit of side-eyed skepticism — why does this cost that much? And what am I actually paying for? And am I going to have to pay again or pay more in a couple of years? For this?
Indeed, a tripod is a thing of beauty, because a tripod never goes out of style, and it is immune to obsolescence. A tripod will forever stay true to its promise of “I have three legs, and I will hold your camera. I will always have three legs, because even one more leg makes me a table. I am, and shall remain, a trusty tripod.”
Still, filmmaking is a game of smart investments, and buying a tripod is no different. What’s different is the fact that a smart tripod investment is one you won’t have to make again for a very long time, no matter the fickle winds of industry trends. Let’s look at some options for a piece of gear that can outlast every other piece you own — because it will if you choose wisely.
How to Choose Your Tripod
There are two different ways you can buy tripods — in a complete set or as individual parts. So, before we dig into the list, let’s talk about how your tripod needs relate to what you’re shooting.
If you need something lightweight and relatively inexpensive that requires zero set up time, you’re definitely going to want a built-out tripod kit. That means the legs and head are included in the package.
If you’re primarily using mirrorless or DSLR-sized cameras, you don’t need a massive tripod setup. If you’re working on bigger projects that involve heavier cameras and their accompanying accessories, you’ll want to choose your tripod by individual pieces that fit your exact needs.
Now, let’s look at the best options for each type of filmmaker.
Manfrotto 502AH Video Head and MT055XPRO3 Aluminum Tripod Kit
This is your safest bet for a quality, all-in-one tripod system. The plate used on the tripod head (what the camera attaches to) is a long quick-release plate. DSLR? Cinema camera? This can handle it all. (Of course, if you are using a cinema camera, keep your build-out modest — this tripod’s weight capacity tops out at 7kg/15 lbs.)
With a maximum height of just under six feet, the tripod is perfect for hiking (it’s a bit on the heavy side, but it can take the wear and tear), stationary studio shots, interviews, or anything else that might benefit from a quick set up. I actually keep one of these in the back of my car just in case I’m ever in a situation where I need a shot.
Magnus VT-4000 Tripod System with Fluid Head
A perfect companion for those prone to packing lightly. Easy to carry around and easy on the wallet.
Now, it says it can handle up to eight pounds, so this will be for your minimal setups. If you’re using a mirrorless or DSLR, maybe just stick with the camera and lens, and leave the external monitor and mic attachment in your bag. While this tripod is best for gear-light shoots, it’s certainly reliable for time-lapses, B-cam coverage, interviews, YouTube-friendly content, and other situations where you just need a fast, clean, static shot.
Benro A673TM Dual Stage 75mm Bowl AL Tripod
(Also recommended: Benro A674TM Aluminum-Leg Tripod with 100mm bowl: $409.95)
This set of legs is available in two builds — aluminum and carbon fiber. The carbon fiber set is double the price, but the aluminum set is just as durable and worth your time and dollars.
With a 75mm bowl, the A673TM is weighty and tough-as-nails — just what you want from a video tripod. It’s got spiked feet for soft surfaces and slip-over pads for retaining grip on slick surfaces. This kind of versatility ensures you won’t waste time switching setups during your shoot. If you’re working on prolonged video shoots, professional commercial sets, and documentaries, this is your tripod.
Benro A373T Aluminum 75mm Bowl
A simple, no-fuss setup, this Benro is affordable and exactly what you need it to be — a strong, supportive set of legs that won’t give out, slide, or slip mid-shot. Because there’s no tandem leg set up, it excels on uneven surfaces.
It supports a 75mm bowl for your tripod head (we’ll get to some good ones shortly) and can withstand fifty-five pounds, making it friendly to any type of big cinema setup. Perfect for all of your documentary, photography, and corporate video needs.
Manfrotto 645 Fast Twin Leg Video Tripod with Ultra-Lock Mechanism — Carbon Fiber
(Cheaper Alternative: Manfrotto 645 Fast Twin Leg: Aluminum: $699.99)
This is, hands down, the most costly tripod on this list. This thing is expensive. Coming in at just under a grand ($1,000 USD), there are two reasons I’m including this Manfrotto beast — versatility and durability. Yes, I’ve said that about every tripod on this list so far, but with this one? You truly get the best of everything.
Made of carbon fiber, it’s light and virtually indestructible. On top of this, you have the option to switch from a 75mm head to a 100mm head. These facts mean one thing: This tripod will be with you throughout your entire career as you grow and build your camera rig with each new job. This is your forever tripod.
Robus RC-5558 Vantage Series 3 Carbon Fiber
Price: $499 – $750
If you need a tripod that’s friendly to customization, here you go. This thing is open to the possibilities. You can choose the exact size and height you need. If you’re not into ball tripod heads, it offers an interchangeable 75mm bowl.
If you’re a solo shooter, take note — these legs keep things simple with an intuitive build designed for rapid set up. Plus, this model is made from carbon fiber, so it’s going to last. Like, forever. Best for documentaries, video journalism, music videos, and quick setups for high-end camera equipment.
Manfrotto 502A Pro Video Head — 75mm Half Ball
Sometimes, it’s okay to play it safe with a tried-and-true piece of equipment that’s popular for a reason. I’ve used the 502A on countless shoots and it’s always performed exactly as I needed it to. No stress, no strain, no problem. I’ve never had an issue when panning, tilting, or locking off a shot. I’ve also never had a problem with unintended panning and tilting caused by a janky build.
If you’re looking for a head for your Canon, Blackmagic, or Sony cinema camera, this probably isn’t the best option, as it’s meant for lighter loads like a built-out mirrorless or DSLR setup. This one will do you right for interviews, corporate work, documentaries, weddings, and music videos.
Manfrotto Nitrotech N12 Video Head
I was going to include the Benro BV10H or the Benro S6Pro until this bad boy popped up. Now, I should admit that I’ve never used this head. But, when I noticed it was the top seller on numerous sites, I did some research, and, well, here we are. People love this thing.
This head looks solid. It can hold up to twenty-six pounds. If you need something heavy-duty for your more built-out rigs, this will do the job. I’ve included a review (above) by Still Moving. It’s a pretty comprehensive look at what to expect and explains exactly why this tripod head is worth its hefty price tag.
Ultimately, I just felt like, if such an option exists, I couldn’t not include it, you know?
Check out the articles below for more insight into lenses, cameras, and other video gear.
- 2020’s Best Prime Lenses Under $1,000
- Why the Best Camera is NOT the One You Already Have
- 5 Affordable Fisheye Lenses for Shooting in Small Rooms
- The Best Inexpensive Lenses for The BMPCC 6K
- What I’ve Learned From Starting a YouTube Channel in 2020
- The Creative Motivation Behind Deep vs. Shallow Depth of Field
Cover Image via Omariam.