As a travel photographer and blogger, I photograph a wide range of subjects from people to landscapes, wildlife to architecture. A tripod is an essential item but lugging a large, heavy one around a city or packing it on a plane isn’t really an option.
There is a bewildering choice of tripods available but it is worth taking your time and finding the right one for you. For me it needs to be light, yet sturdy and compact when folded down.
Although I don’t do a great deal of wildlife photography that is something I’d like to do more of, which means I need a tripod that will take my relatively heavy camera, a Nikon D700, and my longest lens. Together they weigh around 3kg. A tripod made of carbon fiber which is lighter and sturdier than aluminum is the obvious choice. But which one?
This carbon fiber tripod from Manfrotto’s 290 range is my tripod of choice. It has a safety payload of 5kg, so I know it’s sturdy enough for my camera and heaviest lens. It folds down to 62 cm and weighs 1540g. It’s great value at less than £200. Hundreds of pounds less than other carbon fiber tripods. While more expensive tripods may have a larger safety payload, I really don’t need that, and of course they weigh more. One thing this tripod doesn’t have though is a bubble spirit level so that’s a must for the tripod head, if your camera doesn’t have a built-in electronic level.
Tripod Head – XPRO Ball Head in magnesium with 200PL plate
I love the flexibility of ball head designs and this XPRO Ball Head has a magnesium body giving me the necessary payload performance and lightness I require. It has that essential bubble spirit level, 2 in fact, and it has a quick release plate allowing me to remove or attach the camera from the tripod quickly – another absolute essential for me.
This tripod and head combination is the perfect fit for me for almost all my travel photography needs. Whether I’m shooting a luxurious hotel interior or capturing a beautiful sunset.
Monopod – 290 CARBON MONOPOD
Sometimes, however, a monopod is a better option, such as when I was photographing grizzly bears in the great Bear Rainforest in Canada from a boat. I had my longest lens on the camera and trying to hold that for hours on end is no joke but using a tripod isn’t possible in the little boats we were in. My monopod, on the other hand, was perfect.
The model I have is an MM294C4 but it has now been replaced with the MM290C4. A little beauty. This is what I would buy now for sure.
Made up of 4 sections of carbon fiber tubes, it folds up small and is lightweight (just 500g), yet stable. With a payload of 5kg it’s more than enough for my needs. It also has a rubber grip around the top perfect for chilly days when the touch of metal would not be good.
There are times though when all you want for support is a bean bag. Ideal for lying flat on the ground to get eye level with nature.
My advice, and this applies no matter what type of photography you do, is to do your homework and think ahead. How do you expect your photography to develop? These tripods last for many years. Having said that, my first Manfrotto tripod, which I had for over 25 years, is sadly no longer with me, having had a close encounter with a fork lift truck while on one of the islands of Cape Verde.
Having originally graduated with a Joint Honours Degree in Zoology and Psychology from Bristol University (where I also studied Botany), I later went back to college as a mature student to study graphic design. This led me to working in the travel industry and my work now also includes writing, photography and social media for Serenity Holidays Ltd. In addition to this I also work freelance and blog here at ‘Travel With Kat’.