The best tripods for astrophotography are absolutely essential to get sharp images but they are also valuable for any kind of long-exposure photography, or other scenarios where cameras must remain stationary such as shooting video.
The best camera tripods will be easy to use, lightweight, fold up small and give enough height when fully extended to aid with composition. They should also remain rock solid throughout shooting stills or video.
We have thoroughly tested, rated and reviewed the top camera tripods currently on the market. Our comprehensive list includes options for every price range and level of photography expertise, providing you with a range of choices to suit your specific needs. If any of the tripods in this list catches your eye, make sure you check back during Prime Day in July, as we’ll be covering all the best deals and discounts available.
Partner one of these tripods with the best cameras for astrophotography, best cameras overall or the best lenses for astrophotography, and the sky’s the limit. Get the angle you want, keep the camera perfectly still to shoot the cosmos, and get those out-of-this-world astro images you’ve always dreamed of. Then, edit them with one of the best photo editing apps and you’ll see them with maximum wow factor.
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The Benro Mach3 9X CF TMA37C tripod is surprisingly lightweight, despite its chunky appearance. While it’s not specifically designed for travel, it caters to the flexibility and portability needs of landscape photographers and astrophotography enthusiasts. This tripod is built to withstand tough conditions and deliver reliable performance in any weather. Its durability, reliability, and impressive capabilities make it a fantastic choice for photographers who are serious about their craft.
The Mach3 series of tripods feature a range of different configuration options and come in both carbon fiber and aluminum variants. At this size, the weight difference between the carbon fiber and aluminum models is quite apparent but as expected, the carbon fiber model is going to set you back more money than the aluminum model.
Although adding the head separately will increase the tripod’s already high cost, you can then customize it to suit your own preferences and requirements. However, there are a few extras you get for your money, like a set of spikey feet and a shorter central column, which are helpful when you are shooting low to the ground.
The carbon fiber version of this tripod does come with a higher price tag, and it’s important to acknowledge that it may be a significant investment for some photographers. However, it’s worth noting that the price reflects the exceptional quality you’ll receive. With its durable construction and meticulous attention to detail, this tripod is built to last for many years. Your investment will pay off in the long run, as you’ll be able to rely on this tripod’s enduring performance and enjoy its impeccable craftsmanship for countless photography pursuits.
The Peak Design Travel Tripod is an impressively compact tripod that caters to photographers of all genres, not just wide-field astrophotography enthusiasts. Its sleek and clever design maximizes space efficiency, leaving no wasted room. This tripod’s super-sleek and compact package allows it to effortlessly fit into a daypack or your luggage, making it a great choice when space is limited. It’s a versatile solution that ensures convenience and ease of transport.
While the Peak Design Travel Tripod is undeniably geared toward travel, it may not be the lightest option available in that category. It comes in both aluminum and carbon fiber variants, with the latter being significantly pricier and lighter, as anticipated. However, the carbon fiber model only offers a marginal weight reduction at 2.8 lbs, and in our opinion, it doesn’t really justify the extra cost. We think the aluminum option, weighing 3.4 lbs, provides better value for money.
As we discussed in our Peak Design Travel Tripod review, the height of this tripod might be a bit of an issue for taller users. Despite having five leg sections, it is around ten inches shorter than comparable models available on the market. But, if you’re using it with a camera that has a fully articulating screen, this shouldn’t be an issue.
Although the Arca-Swiss quick-release tripod plate is incredibly stable and capable of supporting loads of up to 20 lbs, it does require a hex key to lock the camera in place, which is a bit tricky to do in the dark. Another neat travel feature is a swivel lever to rotate the ball head, meaning nothing protrudes and gets in the way.
The Peak Design Travel Tripod will prove a smash hit for astrophotographers, especially those wanting something easy to transport and quick to set up. It’s compact when packed up and proves great for outdoor performance.
The Brian tripod by 3 Legged Thing is a highly portable travel tripod that incorporates some pretty solid engineering design. As we noted in our 3 Legged Thing PUNKS Brian Tripod review, it’s simultaneously one of the tallest tripods when fully extended yet also one of the most compact when folded down, which is no mean feat.
Although it may not be the absolute lightest tripod available, weighing in at 3.1 lbs, it remains comfortably portable for day or night use. While it comes at a higher price point compared to its closest competitors, we believe that it justifies the investment due to its exceptional build quality and premium feel.
We found it to be easy to put up and take down in low-light conditions thanks to the tactile bubble grips on the knobs and leg extenders. However, the camera connects using a hex key rather than a D-ring, which can be a little difficult, especially in the dark, but they do include a tool for it that attaches to the tripod’s body with a carabiner.
The Brian tripod from 3 Legged Thing can support up to 30 lbs, and it did so with no complaints when a heavy DSLR with a short zoom lens was attached. Even though we did find instances of the camera “falling into place” after being fixed in its compositions with a very long lens, we think it has more to do with weight distribution than the actual weight. But this is really the only small criticism for a piece kit that otherwise meets the needs of an enthusiastic astrophotographer.
While carbon fiber tripods are known for their lightweight nature, they do come with a higher price tag compared to their aluminum counterparts. However, the Manfrotto BeFree Advanced Travel Tripod takes a practical approach by offering a reasonable height and price point, achieved through its mid-size construction using aluminum materials.
The perfect tripod to use at night needs to be three things: a lightweight tripod that is portable, has quick-setup and quick-takedown fittings, and rigidity and solidity that can be trusted to hold your camera steady even in windy weather. The Manfrotto Befree Advanced Travel Tripod ticks all of those boxes. It’s one of the lightest aluminum travel tripods we’ve tried, but it’s not the most travel-friendly design because it takes up a lot of room in luggage. However, its exceptional build quality and reliability in the field still make it a solid choice.
As we found in our Manfrotto Befree Advanced Travel Tripod review, it has an unusual fold-down configuration whereby the three legs fold through 180º to meet the ball head. Even though we initially found it fiddly, it’s simple to do in the dark once you get the hang of it.
The four-section legs are fixed with soft twists and can be erected to a full height of 59 inches. The camera connects to the plate with a D-ring and is compatible with the RC2 and Arca-Swiss plate attachment. The same model is available in carbon fiber which is more expensive but weighs a little bit less at 2.75 lbs.
The Manfrotto Element MII tripod is a mixture of stylish design with practicality and ease of use. It would be a fantastic choice for any hobbyist or beginner photographer on a slightly tighter budget, and it is sure to last you through plenty of shoots.
In our review of the Manfrotto Element MII, we liked how easy it was to set up and take down, with the rubber twist locks and compact size — which even made it easy to set up and take down in the dark. It is strong but lightweight, and it can bear weights of up to 8 kg, which is sufficient for the majority of photographers. It has four leg sections and extends to a height of 160cm, which should be ample for most shooters.
While testing the tripod, we noticed a slight dip when fully extending and spreading the legs, although this shouldn’t pose a significant problem since such a setup isn’t commonly required. Additionally, with heavier equipment, there might be a slight adjustment needed. Nevertheless, if you’re seeking a reliable and affordable option that gets the job done, this tripod is an excellent choice. It delivers on its promises and provides dependable performance for your photography needs.
Advanced photographers and enthusiasts who need a portable, reliable base for their camera continue to appreciate the Manfrotto 190 Go! tripod series— even though it was launched almost five years ago. The price has only dropped slightly since our hands-on Manfrotto 190 Go! review of the carbon fiber version, which shows it’s still a desirable product that will stand the test of time.
There are multiple variants available; you can choose from carbon fiber or aluminum construction, different heads, and leg sections, but the speed with which each 190 Go! tripod can be operated is what sets them apart. For amateurs or casual photographers, the highest-end model is probably too pricey, but the aluminum variant, which is more affordable, might be a better fit.
Thanks to the “M-lock” mechanism, assembling the tripod is a breeze. With a quick twist, you can unlock the legs and adjust the height within seconds. The tripod also offers handy features like a versatile 90-degree central column that can swing out horizontally and a Link attachment for attaching additional accessories. You can adjust the leg positions to 25, 46, 66 or 88 degrees. Weighing in at just 4.1 lbs, it’s relatively lightweight, yet it can support an impressive maximum load of 14.3 lbs.
These discreet M-locks not only enable quick setup but also result in streamlined legs without any protruding parts that could get caught on a suitcase during packing. The rubber grips on the locks themselves are easy to get hold of even in the dark.
The Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB truly shines with its exceptional flexibility and versatile positioning options. Apart from the standard tripod setup, the legs can be extended from an upright position at a 25-degree angle all the way to nearly 90 degrees from the center column. The center column is also removable and can be tilted 90 degrees from the fully splayed legs, allowing the camera to be positioned as low as ten inches from the ground. This feature proves invaluable when you need stability for capturing star trails or astrophotography, as the ability to get closer to the ground enhances the overall stability and quality of your shots.
With only three leg sections on each leg, there are only two clips to fix when setting up the tripod, and we found it to be sturdy enough to keep the camera still in a light-to-moderate breeze during long exposures. It was easy enough to put up and take down in the dark, though the same can’t be said for the connector plate which requires a hex key. However, considering that the tripod comes with two plates, the idea is probably that you just leave it attached to your camera at all times rather than taking it off at the end of a shoot.
As we stated in our Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB tripod review, this tripod is a brilliant all-rounder. If you enjoy shooting a variety of different styles of photography, this could be the option for you. It might not be the best option solely for astrophotography, though, as its size and weight might make you reluctant to haul a 5.38-lb tripod about at night. Despite this, it’s still a great, versatile tripod for the price you pay.
The Manfrotto MK055XPRO3 BHQ-2 is tailored to meet the needs of studio photographers who often travel outside the studio for on-location shoots. While it is primarily intended for mirrorless camera systems, tests have shown that it can comfortably accommodate a medium format setup as well. Made from aluminum, this tripod has the sturdiness and endurance reminiscent of studio tripods, yet it remains compact and lightweight, allowing for convenient packing and effortless portability during short trips.
One of the key innovative features of this model is the Easy Link connector which is designed to attach arms, holders, lamps and reflectors. The legs are extended and secured with a new power lock system that uses flip locks rather than leg twists. In our Manfrotto MK055XPRO3 BHQ-2 review, we found it to be much more useful to a studio photographer working outdoors than it would be to an astrophotographer, and could quite possibly be overkill for beginners. That said, if you’re planning on using lights creatively with the backdrop of the night sky, this could well be the tripod for you.
Unlike traditional tripods with extendable legs and intricate knobs, the Joby GorillaPod 5K Tripod takes a unique approach with its articulated ball joints. This distinctive design sets it apart from conventional tripods. Weighing a mere 2.09 lbs and measuring only 15 inches in length, it impresses with its remarkable lightweight, portability, and adaptability.
The design of the tripod allows it to be securely fastened by twisting and shaping it around various urban elements such as railings, trees, and other structures. It proves equally effective when utilized in natural landscapes with rocks and rugged terrain. It can also stand up by itself, but we found that it wasn’t as stable in this configuration.
It is made from aluminum, plastic and stainless steel, making it strong enough to carry the weight of a DSLR plus zoom lens as well as lighter equipment and smartphones. The major drawback, though, is that you have to rely on what you can attach it to in order to create your composition, which means you don’t have nearly as much creative freedom as you would with a conventional tripod. We noted in our Joby GorillaPod 5K Tripod review that it was made with content creators, vloggers and Instagrammers in mind due to its portability and ease of on-the-go use. If you’re using it for an astro shoot, it would be really difficult to level it, so if that’s your specialty, we’d say it’s probably not the best option.
It’s a great option if you’re just starting out with photography but for those who are more into it, it’s more of a bonus addition to your kit for those ‘just in case’ moments rather than a replacement for a full-sized tripod.
For those nights of trudging between vantage points or those days when you might need a tripod but don’t quite know what the day has in store, you can’t beat the Benro Slim travel tripod. This compact, well-constructed tripod was designed with portability and movement in mind and has everything that a beginner landscape or astrophotographer needs to get started in long-exposure photography.
While initially intended for mirrorless systems, the Benro Slim surpasses expectations by effortlessly supporting the weight of DSLRs and zoom lenses. Its impressive build quality, courtesy of a renowned manufacturer, comes at a reasonable price point, even for the carbon fiber variant. This tripod is a reliable companion, compact enough to fit in your camera bag and lightweight so that you always have it with you when you need it.
It’s available in both carbon fiber and aluminum versions which differ only in weight and price point, as you’d expect, the aluminum one is slightly weightier but also slightly cheaper. It’s very easy to put up and take down in the dark and features anodized aluminum leg twists that secure into place with half a twist. It uses a standard Arca-Swiss connector plate that slides in easily and is secure enough for a range of mirrorless and DSLR lenses.
Tripod Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best tripod for cameras?
We think the Benro Mach3 TMA37C is the best camera tripod overall. It ships with a short center column attachment for more flexibilty when shooting and also spiked feet for use on softer terrains. It’s intuitive to use and has sturdy leg locks which operate easily even when wearing gloves.
What is the best tripod for beginners?
What is the best budget tripod?
The Manfrotto Element MII is the best affordable tripod for beginners with a maximum height of 63-inches (160cm) and a folded height of just 16.9-inches (43cm). It comes in both aluminum and carbon fiber variants and is best suited to beginner camera gear which is typically slightly lighter than professional cameras.
How many legs does a tripod have?
Tripods have three legs. The term ‘tri’ comes from the Latin ‘tres’ or Greek ‘trias’ which means ‘three.’ However, tripod legs can have multiple sections. There is no defined limit to how many leg sections a tripod can have, but they typically vary between one and five, with three and four leg sections being the commonest.
The Joby GorillaPod 5K has one leg section because its legs are flexible and don’t extend in the traditional sense. However, the Peak Design Travel Tripod has five leg sections.
Generally, the fewer leg sections a tripod has, the more stable it is. However, a tripod with fewer leg sections may not pack down as small as something with more leg sections. Note the size difference between the Benro Mach3 TMA37C (three leg sections, folded height: 24.6 inches) and the Peak Design Travel Tripod (five leg sections, folded height: 15.4 inches) to see how that works.
How does a tripod work?
A traditional camera tripod is used to stabilize a camera for photography or videography in order to keep compositions still. This is useful during longer exposures because camera movement during the exposure will blur an image. Often this is unwanted when taking stills photographs, however some photographers like to use Intentional Camera Movement (ICM) to deliberately blur an image in one direction for artistic affect.
ICM is typically done through the use of a tripod head which can be locked off to move in one direction only, like a three-way head, rather than a ball-head which can move in 360-degrees.
What makes a good tripod?
Aluminum vs carbon fiber tripods: Which are best?
Most tripods are made of either aluminum or carbon fiber. The latter is much lighter and therefore easier to carry around, but typically more expensive. Aluminum tripods are generally cheaper but slightly heavier and can get colder, affecting handling and functioning on colder nights when taking astrophotographs.
There are a few things to consider before you grab one of the best tripods to ensure it meets your requirements. These are namely stability, portability, weight and price.
You’ll have to weigh what you want to prioritize, especially if you’re using one of the large and heavy best zoom lenses for your night sky images.
Removable feet, in-built spirit levels, and tripod head compatibility are all things to consider when picking your tripod. You can also check out our guides for the best lenses for astrophotography, and the best camera backpacks.
As you can see from our selection above, there’s a lot to consider when investing in a tripod. But they’re essential if combined with any of the best cameras.
What does tripod payload mean?
The tripod payload is the maximum weight (in pounds or kilograms) that it can support. The payload would be the combined weight of the camera, lens and any camera accessories attached to the tripod. Add up the combined weight of all these items to see if a tripod will support the gear you’re planning on using.
Bear in mind that a tripod may support payloads greater than its stated maximum payload, but its sturdiness and resistance to wind may be compromised. So if a big gust of wind blows through and you’re over the payload, the tripod may fall over.
What height tripod do I need?
Some people argue that smaller travel tripods don’t always offer enough height for easy camera operation but that depends entirely on how tall you are and it’s not quite so important for astrophotography.
Most of the models we’ve reviewed here have legs that can be splayed wider to allow the camera to be set up quite close to the ground. The lower center of gravity can increase stability for long-exposure night sky photos, but flexion in the legs must be noted when doing this.
Tripod legs: Twist or flip locks?
Tripod leg sections are extended and secured with either flip or twist locks. The twist lock design tends to be more secure but some manufacturers, notably Manfrotto, have bucked the trend and devised some particularly secure flip locks.
Should I change my tripod feet?
Tripod feet are generally made from a thick rubber that has good traction on an array of surfaces and many — but not all — are designed with the option to unscrew them and attach either spiked or clawed feet for better purchase on rougher ground and sand.
How we test the best tripods for astrophotography
To guarantee you’re getting honest, up-to-date recommendations on the best tripods to buy here at Space.com, we make sure to put every tripod through a rigorous review to test each product fully. Each tripod is reviewed based on many aspects, from its construction and design, to how well it functions and performs in the field.
Each tripod is carefully tested by our expert staff or knowledgeable freelance contributors who thoroughly know their subject areas. This ensures fair reviewing is backed by personal, hands-on experience with each tripod and is judged based on its price point, class and destined use.
We look at how easy each tripod is to operate, whether it contains the latest up-to-date stabilizing technology and look at its weight and portability. We’ll also suggest if a particular tripod would benefit from any additional kit to give you the best photographing experience possible.
With complete editorial independence, Space.com are here to ensure you get the best buying advice on tripods, whether you should purchase one or not, making our buying guides and reviews reliable and transparent.