If you’re looking for the best tripods on the market, you’ve come to the right place for all the information you need. Tripods can be a vital part of any photographer’s inventory and are crucial for long-exposure photography, including astro.
Partner one of these tripods with the best cameras for astrophotography, and there will be no stopping you. Get the angle you want, keep the camera perfectly still to shoot the cosmos, and get those awe-inspiring images you’ve dreamed of taking.
Best tripods in 2023
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Despite its chunky look and feel, the Benro Mach3 9X CF TMA37C is a surprisingly light tripod. It has been built for durability, reliability and to cope well in all weathers. While this is no travel tripod, it has certainly been designed with the portability and flexibility needs of serious landscape photographers, making it an ideal choice for dedicated astrophotographers too.
The Mach3 series of tripods feature a range of configuration options and come in both carbon fiber and aluminum. At this size it makes the difference in weight between the carbon fiber and the aluminum quite significant though it also makes quite a significantly deeper dent in your wallet if you opt for the carbon fiber model.
Unfortunately, you will need to purchase the head separately which will add to the already sizable cost, but you can then tailor the tripod to your own specific preferences and needs. There are a few added extras that you get for your money however, a set of spiked feet and a shorter center column are included which come in handy when you need to get low to the ground.
$384.95 means there’s no hiding that this tripod is an investment, but you do get quality for your money. Its durable build and attention to detail mean it’s designed to last, so you’ll get years and years of use out of it.
The Peak Design Travel Tripod is as compact a travel tripod as you’re likely to find and it’s ideal for anyone considering all types of landscape photography, not least wide-field astrophotography. It has been cleverly designed into a super-sleek, neat and compact package with no wasted space. Its three legs and ball-head collapse to meet with no gaps, making it ideal for fitting into your daypack or your luggage.
Despite clearly being designed for travel, it isn’t the lightest travel tripod on the market. The construction comes in both aluminum and carbon fiber versions but the reduction in weight with the carbon fiber one is accompanied by a higher price. We think the aluminum option at 3.4lbs is a better option when it comes to value for money as the carbon fiber model is only a tiny bit lighter a 2.8lbs and not really worth the extra cash.
As we discussed in the functionality section of our Peak Design Travel Tripod review, the height of this tripod might be a bit of an issue for taller users as, despite having five leg sections, it’s about ten inches shorter than similar models on the market.
The Arca-Swiss quick-release tripod plate is incredibly stable and can carry loads of up to 20lbs but it does require a hex key to affix the camera in place which isn’t so easy to do in the dark. Another neat travel feature the model incorporates is a swivel lever to rotate the ball head and it means there’s nothing protruding and getting 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 star attraction of the Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB is its sheer flexibility and the various multiple positions it can be put into. Besides the standard tripod configuration, you can splay the legs from upright at 25º all the way to almost 90º to the center column. Additionally, the center column comes out and can be angled at 90º from the now-splayed legs and means the camera can be as low as ten inches from the ground. This gives it much greater stability when capturing star trails with very long exposures.
With only three leg sections on each leg, there are only two clips to fix when setting up the tripod, which we found sturdy enough to keep the camera still in light to moderate breeze during long exposures. It was easy enough to put up and take down in the dark. The same can’t be said for the connector plate which requires a hex key, though given that two plates are provided with the tripod, the idea is likely that you simply leave it on your camera full time rather than remove it at the end of a shoot.
As we concluded in our Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB tripod review, this tripod is a brilliant all-rounder. If you enjoy different styles of photography, this could be the option for you. However, it may not be best suited for astrophotography as it’s size and weight may make you think twice about lugging it around at night. Despite this, it’s a great, versatile tripod for the price you pay.
The Brian tripod by 3 Legged Thing is a highly portable travel tripod that incorporates some pretty solid engineering design. As we established in our 3 Legged Thing PUNKS Brian Tripod review, it’s simultaneously one of the tallest tripods when fully erect yet also one of the most compact once folded down.
While it’s not the lightest of the travel tripods available, at 3.1lbs, it’s certainly something that isn’t too cumbersome to carry around for a day or night. It has a premium feel to it but it also has a more premium price tag than its nearest competitors though, overall, we think it’s worth it.
This tripod is 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 with a hex key as opposed to a D-ring which can be a little annoying, but a tool is provided for it and it attaches to the body of the tripod with a carabiner.
The Brian tripod by 3 Legged Thing can carry weights of up to 30lbs and although we discovered instances of the camera ‘falling into place’ once affixed in its compositions with a very long lens we think it’s more about weight distribution than the weight itself, it seemed to happily take the weight of a DSLR with a shorter zoom lens attached. But this is really the only small criticism for a piece kit that otherwise meets the needs of an enthusiastic astrophotographer.
Small carbon fiber tripods may be the lightest around, but being mid-size and made from aluminum, the Manfrotto BeFree Advanced Travel Tripod keeps to a reasonable height and price tag. Photographers after the perfect tripod to take out at night require three things: a lightweight tripod that is easy to carry, fixings that make it quick to set up and take down, and solidity and rigidity that can be relied upon to keep your camera steady even in windy conditions. The Manfrotto Befree Advanced Travel Tripod has all of that, being one of the lightest aluminum travel tripods we’ve tried, though perhaps it is not the most efficiently designed for transit as it takes up a lot of space in luggage. But its exceptional build quality and reliability in the field make it a sound 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. Though we found it fiddly to begin with, it’s easy to do in the dark once you’ve got the knack.
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 and weighs a little bit less at 2.75lbs.
The Manfrotto 190 Go! tripod series was launched almost five years ago, but it is ever popular with hobbyists and advanced photographers who need a lightweight, sturdy base for their camera. The price has only dropped slightly since our hands on Manfrotto 190 Go! review which shows it is still a desirable product.
The range includes several models: you can choose from either carbon fiber or magnesium construction, several different heads and leg sections but every 190 Go! tripod is defined by how quick it is to operate. The highest-end model is probably too expensive for amateurs or casual photographers but the aluminum version is cheaper.
The easy assembly is thanks to an ‘M-lock’ mechanism, a super speedy twist lock that allows you to unlock the leg and set the right height up in just a few seconds. Other key features include a versatile 90° central column that can swing out into a horizontal position, plus a Link attachment for adding extra accessories. The leg positions can be held at 25°,46°,66°, or 88°.
The whole combo weighs 4.1 lbs and supports a maximum load of 14.3 lbs.
As well as making for a speedy setup, these unobtrusive M-locks mean that the legs themselves are streamlined, with no protruding parts that might catch on a bag when you want to pack the tripod away. The rubber grips on the locks themselves are easy to get hold of even in the dark.
The Manfrotto MK055XPRO3 BHQ-2 is designed for studio photographers who often go out on shoots. Made from aluminum, it has the weight and sturdiness of a studio tripod but is portable enough to pack away neatly and carry for short periods. Although it’s primarily designed for mirrorless camera systems, tests suggest it can also happily carry a medium format rig.
The legs are extended and secured with a new power lock system that uses flip locks rather than leg twists. One of the key innovative features of this model is the Easy Link connector which is designed to attach arms, holders, lamps and reflectors. Again, things that are much more useful to a studio photographer working outdoors than an astrophotographer but if you’re planning on using lights creatively with the backdrop of the night sky, this could well be the tripod for you.
You can’t beat the Benro Slim travel 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 holds in store. This lightweight and well-crafted tripod has been designed with travel and movement in mind and has everything a beginner landscape or astro photographer needs to get started in long-exposure photography.
Although the Benro Slim was developed for the increasingly popular mirrorless systems, it can also handle the weight of a DSLR and zoom lens remarkably well too. Not only that, it offers the impeccable build quality from a trusted brand but at a price point that won’t break the bank. It’s stable, reliable, compact and, crucially, lightweight enough to just always have it with you in your camera pack.
It’s available in both carbon fiber and aluminum versions which differ only in weight and price point; the aluminum one is slightly weightier but slightly cheaper. It’s very easy to put up and take down 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.
The Joby GorrillaPod 5K Tripod is quite a different beast from most tripods because it’s made of articulated ball joints and doesn’t have extendable legs or the complicated knobs and levers of a bigger product. It’s small and compact at 20 inches in length and a total weight of 1.6lbs which makes it very portable and versatile
It’s designed to be fixed in place by twisting into shape around railings, trees, and just about anything in the urban landscape as well as rocks and craggy natural landscape features. It can also be free-standing but isn’t quite 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 main drawback, however, is that you’re dependent on what you can affix it to in order to create your composition so it doesn’t have quite the same level of versatility as a standard-designed tripod.
It’s a great option if you’re just starting out with long exposure 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.
How we test the best tripods for astrophotography
In order 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 fully test each product. Each tripod is reviewed based on a multitude of aspects, from its construction and design, to how well it functions and its performance in the field.
Each tripod is carefully tested by either our expert staff or knowledgeable freelance contributors who know their subject areas in depth. 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 make suggestions 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.
Best tripods 2023: What to look for
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. Most ‘travel tripods’ are made of one of two materials: aluminum or carbon fiber. The latter is much lighter and therefore easier to carry around, but typically more expensive. Aluminum, however, can get colder, affecting handling and functioning on colder nights.
Something else to consider is that tripods are usually made from between three and five leg sections. Generally, the fewer leg sections a tripod has, the more stable it is. However, a tripod with fewer leg sections doesn’t pack down as small as something with a higher number of leg sections. 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 legs and is something you can look at in more detail down below once you’ve settled on your favorites. In the meantime, you can also check out our guides for the best lenses for astrophotography, and the best camera backpacks. However, for the best tripods on the market, all you have to do is read our round-up below.
As you can see from our selection, there’s a lot to consider when investing in a tripod. But they’re essential if you’re combining them with any of the best cameras.
Some people argue that 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 star trail photography. Most of the models we’ve reviewed here have splayed legs that allow the camera to be set up quite close to the ground which is a far more stable spot for long-exposure night sky photos.
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.
Tripod legs 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 devised some particularly secure flip locks.
Along with this, you should keep in mind the weight, stability, portability and price of your tripod. If you’re prioritizing one of the features, you might have to sacrifice some of the others.