Tripod Hunt

Hello, I am on the hunt for a tripod and looking for some guidance in terms of what I should look for and if you have any that I should consider. I am looking to spend 500-600 dollars. Initially I had purchased one that was on backorder from a company, after 4 months without a word I reached out and they informed me they had been too busy making another product and would have a hard time filling my order soon…frustrating.


Hi Dave: Recommendations will depend on what your using it for and with. What’s the maximum wight of your gear and the maximum lens focal length you’ll be using? Are you looking for something to take only a short distance from a vehicle, or do you do backpacking with it? There are a lot of relatively new players in the market now with some pretty good prices, so you should be able to find something adequate for most purposes in your price range.

Hey @Dennis_Plank , good questions. Most of what I do involves shorter hikes, not like back country backpacking. More in the few miles range so weight isn’t a huge concern. I shoot landscapes pretty exclusively, not really birding or anything like that. I have a mirrorless system so it isn’t very heavy right now I don’t have anything past 70mm but hope to get a 100-400 soonish.

I bought this tripod: FLM CP30-L4 II 10X Carbon Fiber Series II Tripod.

Since I have a reticuling screen on my camera I wanted a tripod which I can raise higher than eye level and shoot down (or even over brush). The other reason I went for this tripod is because I wanted to reach my desired height without using a telescoping head. My experience has been that if you raise the head you can get small shakiness that appears to be due to poor focusing. A long tripod also allows you to extend that front leg and still have the head at eye level. You seldom shoot on level ground. The drawback with a non telescoping tripod is that you have to adjust all 3 legs to the desired heigh instead of just raising the tripod post. This tripod does not have that post.

That’s a good call on the center column. I’ve tried really hard to stop using mine but sometimes it’s so easy! I think if I didn’t have it at all I would adapt and all would be ok. Thanks for the suggestion. I like the idea of having something that can go pretty tall like that, above my head would be great.

I just looked at the one Igor recommended. It looks like a good deal. I don’t use a center column on my main tripod, though I keep an old one with a center column that I use mostly for Macro and Landscape. On that one, the center column has a removable section that just leaves a couple of inches sticking out the bottom and I usually operate it that way with the column all the way down. Every once in a great while if I want to get really low, I’ll reverse the center column so I can get the camera to ground level. However, I’d never buy one with a center column again-they’re much sturdier without it. Since I do mostly birds, I’m usually at 600 mm and up, so the kind of tripod I use would be overkill for your purposes. I’d look for something with about the same specs as the one Igor is using.

When I used to get a paper catalog from B&H they had a spreadsheet of all the tripods they carry with all the specs listed. You might check their website to see if they have it on line.

I looked at one that seems similar to the one @Igor_Doncov listed from Leofoto. One thing I liked about it is that it has a bubble level built into the top of the tripod which I think I’d like for those instances where I would shoot a pano. Is that something that could be added somehow?

Yes. Google leveling head for tripod. Check out the RRS version with a handle hanging down that lets you level with one hand, but it’s clumsy with a heavy lens. And it only works with some tripods. The three screw adjustments are more accurate.

Pretty sure I know who you’re talking about David, they’ve been frustrating me lately as well. I have a fairly comprehensive spreadsheet on specs that you can see here.

You can add a level to any tripod with something like this.

I must say Igor’s recommendation seems very promising, very tall, light, and priced right. I may just have to pick one up!

If haven’t already I’d definitely recommend looking here (


I am also using the FLM system and is very satisfied. It is a German company, the ball heads are still produced there but the tripods are made in China. I have an MFT mirrorless camera. My set-up is tripod CP30-M4 II and ball head CB-43 FT II. At least in Europe you buy each part of the system separately (tripod, ball head, clamp, plates etc.), so you could pick and choose to find a combination that fits your needs (as long as you do not need a center column).

Note that they have both a standard and a quick-release clamp. The quick-release clamp works very well, but it requires that you use the FLM plates. Since I use an L-bracket (from another company), I normally use the standard clamp.

Also note that you have to turn the knob locking the ball maybe more than for many other systems. It locks very well (no sliding), but it is a matter of personal taste if you like it or not.

I have also added a leveling part (LB-15) between the tripod and the ball head. It could be tilted up to 15 degrees, this comes in handy if you quickly want to get the base of the ball head horizontal (instead of trying to adjust the length of the tripod legs).

The FLM one for @Igor_Doncov is probably the best bet. These two were the others I was kind of considering. The second one I posted is interesting solely because of the leveling base. I’ve never had that and wondered if it is something others have found useful, or do you just level the base by using the legs (as I have done with my other tripod).

Thanks for this info @David_Kingham I’m not trying to blow them up at all, which is why I didn’t name them, but it is good to hear I’m not the only one with an issue :joy: ! Good for them as it seems they have a lot of demand right now but it almost sounded like they completely stopped producing the one I had purchased but never told me…and they don’t have intentions to make more for “many months”…Thanks for the link to the leveling addition, wondering now if that would be better or if having some sort of base like the ones linked in Leofoto #2 above would be a good idea. I would try to find one that is a bit taller as I don’t like the idea of it only being any less than 60 inches or buy a separate attachment, something like this

Hi David, I’m here to spend your money :grin:

The tripod Igor recommended, or the Leofoto one both seem sturdy enough for your intended use.

Instead of a leveling base, I’d recommend that you prioritize having a good ballhead and an L Bracket first. If you are not using an L bracket, it will be a godsend. It makes flipping between horizontal and vertical shots a breeze. After you use an L Bracket, you will wonder why you didn’t get one before. I’d also strongly recommend getting a ballhead that uses an Arca Swiss style release, instead of a flip lever (they are prone to accidental release). With a good ballhead, and one of the hot shoe bubble levels or the gadget David Kingham showed, you are in business. The L Brackets come with Arca Swiss style plates that slide into the ballhead clamp. Sources for these would be Kirk Enterprises, Really Right Stuff, etc, or if you are on a budget there are knockoffs that are cheaper.

@Ed_McGuirk it’s funny, I actually bought both of those before I bought a good tripod. My first tripod was cheap and now I’m looking to upgrade. My prior one could be used for travel situations because it is small and light but I want something more sturdy for every day use.

Seconded. Thirded. Fourthed! Arca Swiss is also key. You really don’t want to get into a proprietary L-bracket situation. When I finally got a system like this my entire approach to photography changed. It was literally a game-changer. There is nothing so freeing like a great tripod and there is also nothing more miserable than one that drives you crazy.

I have one RRS ball head (the 30mm since I also shoot MFT mirrorless) that goes between a RRS tripod and a much larger Manfrotto. The RRS has twist locks which I prefer, the M has clamps which have pinched my fingers more than once. Both are carbon fiber. I don’t do long distance hiking with the M since it’s enormous and it doesn’t travel well, so the RRS is perfect for both of those since it’s a rather small one. It has a removable center column which is usually removed so I can get the thing flat on the ground. The Manfrotto has a 90-degree capable center column which is useful in certain situations (like hanging over moving water when the tripod is on the edge of a river).

But the head is the real joy. RRS does amazing work and I’ve had this one since 2013 and it’s been all over the world with me performing perfectly. While I am careful with my gear, I don’t baby anything and it’s taken some knocks. Nothing damaging though. It’ s a joy as is the L-bracket it was purchased with.

Then you are good to go. So by all means invest in a leveling head if panos are important to you. If you don’t do many panos, then the hot shoe bubble level is usually good enough for most regular landscapes.

The Leofoto seems sturdy, and to Igors point, high enough at 79". I often find myself shooting from the top of a slope or embankment where I have one leg in front fully extended and partway down the slope, and the two back legs shorter to get me at eye level. So a tripod that extends a lot is useful. And the Leofoto at 4 pounds is heavy enough that it will vibrate less in light wind.

Here’s another recommendation: Sirui W-2204.
I really like the Sirui W- series. (1) The center column splits in two, so you can extend high if you want, or remove the bottom section for almost no center column, which lets you position the camera just inches about the ground. (2) Leg collars are waterproof - no problem to stick the tripod in beach tidal areas or in a creek. (3) Comes with both rubber and metal spike feet. The W-1204 is smaller, and what I use for hiking with a mirrorless system and lenses up to 70-200mm.

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Ok, putting this thread to bed now…I went with this one: It is the tallest I could find without a center column and hit has the ability to add a leveling half head down the road if I feel it is necessary where it was not possible with the FLM. It is a little heavier and longer when collapsed, we will see how it goes. If I feel it is too onerous I will send it back and go with the FLM that was posted earlier most likely.

Thanks for you suggestions and help!


Haha, this thing showed up today…it’s massive lol. I’ve gotta figure out if I can handle it! Those of you with longer tripods, did it take a while to adjust? The one I had before this I’ve now realized was pretty small and actually intended for travel, which I will probably keep it for. @Igor_Doncov I know the one you have is longer, did it take a while to adjust? I’ve got to figure out how to even make it work with my pack.

My giant Manfrotto sounds about like what you just got. Folded it’s around 24 inches. My pack, luckily, has a pretty decent tripod pocket on the back with webbing and tie downs. I don’t put it there often, but I can. Mostly I carry it with the camera on it, usually over my shoulder, but sometimes just in hand. It’s not my hiking tripod or my travel, but its height has been fun.

Yes, it took time to adjust. The FLM wasn’t much heavier than the previous tripod but the ballhead is more massive. I no longer backpack and just carry the tripod on my shoulders. One thing I forgot to mention is that the legs will vibrate in a strong wind. I notice that prices go up with leg stiffness. I figured that I wouldn’t shoot in heavy wind because everything is moving but I may be wrong for coastal images. My biggest adjustment was having to shoot without the post which was so convenient for quickly reaching the proper height. The key to good photography is to slow down so maybe this is a benefit.