Many photographers are amazed to discover that it's possible to buy an enthusiast-level DSLR for the same price as some top of the line tripods, but you don't have to bankrupt yourself to get a good quality tripod.
There are a number of great tripods in the under-$100 range, which is perfect for the occasional user or for photographers who want to get a taste of what tripod shooting is like.
Here are a few of the best camera tripods available for under $100
Spending your money carefully when it comes to buying camera equipment is a good habit to get into as early as possible, so here's what you need to know about tripods in order to get the most value for your money.
The best tripods have leg sections made out of cutting-edge carbon fibre composite materials, but those are usually in the $500+ price range.
In our price range you can find tripods made out of aircraft-grade aluminium alloys that still provide a great blend of weight, stability, and affordability, and in many cases they are just about as portable as their carbon fibres cousins.
Just try to avoid a tripod made entirely out of plastic, unless you're only planning to use it occasionally in the studio - and even then, they can be more trouble than they're worth!
When it comes to the rest of the construction, try to avoid choosing a tripod that uses plastic on the locking mechanisms or the tripod head and go for metal instead.
Plastic is lightweight and cheap, which is helpful if you're going to be traveling a lot with your tripod, but it is very susceptible to wear and tear from regular use.
Over time, the tripod legs might not lock quite as firmly, and the tripod head might not lock into position as effectively as you need.
A good tripod needs to be able to cover a range of shooting heights effectively, which usually means from somewhere around 12" at the minimum height and 50-60" at the maximum.
Modern tripods have quick-locking telescoping legs that allow you to quickly adjust this height, as well as a central post that can be extended to reach the full height.
Some also allow you to fold the legs in a unique way to get extremely low to the ground, sometimes as low as 4", but that's not common in the under-$100 price range.
Of course, the downside to having a larger maximum height means that you're carrying around more metal on your back, and after a day's worth of walking around shooting, you'll be glad for every ounce of weight you can avoid carrying.
If you have an assistant to do your carrying for you, or if you're an experienced hiker who doesn't mind carrying a heavy load then go for the biggest height.
Stability is obviously the most important part of any tripod, but it's so influenced by the height, weight and construction material that it was worth mentioning those first.
Every section where the tripod has moving parts increases the chance of causing slight vibrations in your shot.
Making sure that the tripod head and leg locks are made of solid metal is the best way to maximize your stability.
Additionally, having strong, rotating feet at the end of each leg allows your tripod to adapt fully to the shooting conditions.
In some landscape shooting situations the wind can start to play tricks with your tripod, so it's useful to have the option to add a bit of extra weight for additional stability.
Some tripod models have a hook at the bottom of the central mounting post, allowing you to hang a weight (such as your camera bag) in order to keep your tripod firmly planted.
Last but not least, having the ability to swap out the tripod feet to match the type of ground you're shooting on can be a huge help.
Sharp spikes don't get much traction on paved surfaces or other built environments and shooting with soft flexible rubber feet isn't always the best idea when you're out in the wilderness, so the ability to adjust them gives you that little extra edge of stability in any situation.
In the under-$100 price range, you're probably not going to be mounting a heavy medium-format camera or an extra-long telephoto lens on your tripod, but it's still important to know just how much weight it's able to support safely.
Most tripods in this range will support weights between 5 and 10 lbs, although some can handle a bit more.
That's perfect for any kind of mirrorless camera with any but the largest telephoto lenses, or an entry to mid-level DSLR with an average lens - but when in doubt, weigh your gear first!
There are several helpful extras that some manufacturers add into their tripods, even at the under-$100 price point:
Now that you know what your options are, let's take a closer look at some of our favourite tripods.
In the end, the Rangers tripod wins out thanks to its excellent blend of size and portability.
The Ravelli is too heavy to make for convenient carrying, despite being an excellent tripod, so it isn't the best choice for landscape photographers or anyone else who has to travel with all their gear on their back.
The Rangers tripod has all the important features that you need in a tripod while keeping it all lightweight, so you won't have to dread the weight of your gear!
Hi, I am Luca, founder and editor in chief at photographyambition.com. I am crazy about photography and I always have a camera with me. When I am not busy with my day job, enjoying my family or taking photos, I am on Photography Ambition to share what I have learnt so far.
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