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Original Series

Our Favorite Tripods! | Gear Talk Episode 1

By Joseph Cha on July 16th 2014

Tripods

Choosing a tripod to buy can be a daunting task. With so many on the market and at so many price points, it’s difficult to settle on a purchase. Pye and I have gone through many tripods for both stills and video, and we have finally found tripods that are not only durable and reliable, but also affordable. Check out our favorite tripods in the video below.

Our Favorite Tripods Video

Our Favorite Tripods For Stills

For the still side of SLRLounge (and our wedding studio Lin and Jirsa), we’re using the MeFOTO RoadTrip and Globetrotter tripods. With these tripods you have dozens of colors to choose from, and you can also choose between an aluminum and carbon fiber variant. All MeFOTO products are backed by a 5 year warranty so you can have confidence that you’re buying a tripod that will last.

Screen-Shot-2013-04-30-at-9.49.19-AM

MeFOTO RoadTrip

The MeFOTO RoadTrip is the smaller of the two MeFOTO tripods, and for smaller DSLR and mirrorless systems, it’s absolutely perfect (although it does support up to 17.6 lbs). There is a bit of a price difference between the aluminum and carbon fiber variant ($189 vs $329) and you’re only saving about half a pound in weight. You also don’t have nearly as many color choices with the carbon fiber models, so if you wanted to choose a great value tripod that comes in your favorite color, you would be best choosing the aluminum MeFOTO RoadTrip.

Aluminum – $189

  • When folded it is 15.4″
  • Extends up to 61.6″
  • Supports up to 17.6 lbs.
  • Weighs 3.6 lbs.
  • Comes in 12 different colors

Carbon Fiber – $329

  • When folded it is 15.4″
  • Extends up to 61.6″
  • Supports up to 17.6 lbs.
  • Weighs 3.1 lbs.
  • Comes in 2 different colors

MeFOTO GlobeTrotter

The MeFOTO GlobeTrotter is Pye’s favorite tripod, and it’s ideal for larger DSLR setups and lenses. The Globetrotter is appropriately named because you can literally take it anywhere with you. Pye has taken his Globetrotter to the beach, mountains, fields, Bahamas, and it will continue to travel with Pye wherever he goes.

Aluminum – $209

  • When folded it is 16.1″
  • Extends up to 64.2″
  • Supports up to 26.4 lbs.
  • Weighs 4.6 lbs.
  • Comes in 2 different colors

Carbon Fiber – $369

  • When folded it is 16.1″
  • Extends up to 64.2″
  • Supports up to 26.4 lbs.
  • Weighs 3.7 lbs.
  • Comes in 2 different colors

Perfect Travel Size

I’m not a huge fan of checking in my gear when flying, especially when I have to start shooting when I land. The Roadtrip and Globetrotter fit perfectly into a carry-on luggage sized case, with room to spare for your other camera equipment.

pelican with mefoto

Globetrotter Left. Roadtrop Right inside a Pelican 1510

Our Favorite Tripods For Video

For all of our video production here at SLRLounge, we’re using Benro Tripods. They’re sturdy, reliable, and they come in the variation we need for the different sized cameras we use. In order of smallest to largest head sizes, we’re using the S2, S4, S6, and S8. All of the S models are fluid heads, and the S6 and S8 have fluid drag controls, making them all great tripods for video.

variation of benro tripods

One thing to note is that the S2 tripod head uses a different plate size than the S4, S6 and S8 (which drives me crazy). Although the S2 is a fantastic tripod, it can be cumbersome in a multiple camera workflow (unless all your tripods are S2’s), so be sure to keep that in mind if you’re considering purchasing an S2.

benro tripod plates

At SLRLounge, we designated the S2 to our favorite portable continuous lighting solution, the Lowel GL-1. We use the S4 and S6 tripods the most on our production shoots, holding anything from our mirrorless cameras to heavy DSLR setups. The S8 we use for our heaviest and most expensive cameras, like our Sony FS700.

cameras on benro tripods

So that’s it! Those are our favorite tripods for both Stills and Video. If you enjoyed this episode of Gear Talk then subscribe to our Youtube Channel for all the updates. If you want us to cover any gear in a Gear Talk episode, be sure to let us know in the comments!

About

I’m a photographer and cinematographer based in Southern California. When I don’t have a camera in my face I enjoy going to the movies and dissecting the story telling and visual aesthetics.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Aaron Cheney

    Manfrotto make a quality product!

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  2. Michael Moe

    thanks for sharing! after watching this episode of gear talk i was confident enough to buy the mefoto roadtrip. and after a while of using it, i don’t regret it! it is a great tripod. i love it!

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    • Cha

      Fantastic! I’m glad we were able to provide sound consumer advice!

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  3. Derek Schwartz

    I own a Globetrotter, and it’s been used pretty hard so far – with no issues. I’ve even stuck my all-metal-like-a-hammer 70’s vintage Pentacon SixTL medium format camera without any trace of the head giving up. One thing: I’ve found that “universal” Arca-Swiss plates are too narrow for the ballhead, allowing the camera to slide right off. After a little homework, I’ve found that ensuring the plate is 37mm wide to be the ticket.

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  4. Eder Novacki

    Awesome review guys! Some very useful info that helped me decide :] I just have a tiny question for which I could not find a proper answer: is it possible to change the s4 video head for a ballhead? Thanks if you can answer that :]

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  5. David Pickering

    Eventually found a supplier of the MeFOTO tripods here in Norway, they only have a limited selection but I did manage to buy a MeFOTO BackPacker which was on sale so am looking forward to collecting it tomorrow after work.

    http://interfoto.no/english

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  6. André Guerreiro

    i own a meFoto globetropper and i so so so happy with it, i shoot mainly landscape and it’s outstanding

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  7. Kevin DeLorey

    I recently bought a full sized Vanguard tripod that I’m very happy with. I am however looking for a more compact/travel tripod, and the MeFOTOs look pretty awesome and reasonably priced. Thanks for the review!

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  8. Michael Chapman

    Great article! I use the Benro S8 for video and I absolutely love it. I plan on getting a Benro S6 monopod with fluid head now that I know how good the quality is. For my still photography I use a Gitzo systematic series carbon-fiber tripod.

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  9. Talwin Davis

    Would you guys recommend the MeFotos over Manfroto, or are they about the same to you guys? If the are different what are the differences in the two?

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    • Pye

      You can’t really go wrong with either. I prefer MeFoto just because even with the aluminum version, you get a tripod well under 4 pounds a 5 year warranty and for under $200 bucks. Plus, they use Arca Swiss plates. The carbon fiber variant is even lighter if you can opt for it. Also, I love the way they fold and store for travel. But, you are comparing two great tripods, can’t really go wrong either way.

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  10. Deena Bell

    Enjoyed reading this article and watching the video. May I ask which tripod and head you would recommend for doing both? I shoot a lot of soccer and have been recently asked to shoot some video of a friends’ son. I have been looking for a tripod and now with this request, I am in need of a tripod and head that can be used for both video and portrait work. I have a Manfrotto monopod for action stills.

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    • Cha

      I would recommend the Benro S4 for both videos and stills. And if you’re using the manfrotto monopod that has the same plate then it would be even more beneficial when you want to switch from the monopod to the tripod. Hope that helps!

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  11. Glen Richards

    Forgive me if this is a stupid question. As I was looking at the tripods your recommended for video, I noticed that none of them said that they were fluid head, and I thought that was a super desirable thing for a video tripod?

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    • Cha

      you’re absolutely right. Having a fluid head is desirable in video and all the S’ models have fixed fluid drag and the S6 and S8 have fluid drag controls.

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  12. James Matthews

    I’ve been tossing up buying a Pelican case for a while now, not so much for traveling but because my pack has reached capacity. If you are traveling with this do you ever have flight attendants weigh the bag? I’m thinking with this thing packed full of expensive gear it would be well over the acceptable weight allowed for a carry-on item and an easy target for crew member having a bad day. I wouldn’t want to check that.

    Has anyone with a MeFOTO Globe Trotter ever felt like they were missing something or left wanting more? I’m tossing up purchasing a new tripod and the GlobeTrotter looks pretty good. A good friend and photographer recommended the Induro Carbon 8X CT314 to me which can handle more weight and go a bit higher but not sure it’s worth the extra cash right now. Any thoughts would be appreciated :)
    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/655210-REG/Induro_471_314_Carbon_8X_CT314_Tripod.html

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    • Stan Rogers

      The only *real* down side is that with the long centre column, it might not go low enough for some uses. An accessory clamp can make up for that. It goes tall enough that I have to stand very straight (like “at attention” straight) to look through an SLR viewfinder in landscape orientation, and I’m 5’10”. I wouldn’t use a very long lens (300mm or more) at full extension except with the mirror locked up and a fast shutter speed, or hands-on to dampen vibrations. That’s the price you pay for 16½” folded and 3½ pounds with a decent head (aluminum version); with the centre column most of the way down and the bottoms tubes at least partially tucked away, no problem. Oh, and don’t go for the big load (near the 13lbs/6kg rating) with the legs splayed to wide angle and the tubes fully extended; the bending is visible and th tripod gets springy. (With the tubes overlapping by an extra inch and the bottom tubes tucked in, again no problem.) The head also feels very slightly “grainy” with a very light load; with a hefty SLR you won’t really notice. And the tilt is limited outside of the vertical slot to just over 30 degrees; again, this is a structural/mechanical limitation of the compactness. That is as complete a list of negatives as I can come up with, and they were all reasonable compromises for what I wanted.

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    • James Matthews

      Thanks Stan. Some great points there! Maybe I’ll swing past the SLRLounge office and test one out myself before I buy :)

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  13. fotosiamo

    I haven’t seen it tested, but are the regular Manfrotto video plates compatible with the Benro video tripods? That’d make it very convenient.

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    • Pye

      Yep yep, they were compatible with one another. Just the S2 had a smaller size plate that wasn’t.

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    • fotosiamo

      Damn, now I want one of those Benro S6s…

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  14. Nick Viton

    Manfrotto makes great tripods too

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    • Cha

      They absolutely do. We’ve used them (and still do) for stills and video. But in terms of portability and size the MeFOTO’s are hard to beat for stills. And for video the Benro head’s can support more weight than the equivalent sized Manfrotto heads.

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    • Pye

      Agreed, plenty of great tripods out there. We still have quite a few Manfrottos in the studio as well.

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  15. Brian Stalter

    $200 was a bit steep for me so I opted for a Manfrotto MK294A3-D3RC2. It was under $200 and has the panning head so it could still work good for video and panorama work. It’s a bit heavy but I don’t carry it a lot (rides on my ThinkTank International) so I don’t notice the extra weight.

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    • Pye

      Can’t fault Manfrotto, they make good stuff too.

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  16. Stan Rogers

    MeFOTO didn’t exist as a brand when I made my purchase, but it appears to be an update of the Benro Travel Angel series tripod (same tubes, castings, locks and feet, but the included ballhead is better now, and it comes with an anodized finish rather than the powder coating of the older Benro) that I did wind up buying. As far as I can tell, it’s the same company making them (they also make the Induro brand, which tend to be taller, heavier and have fewer leg segments so they’re less compact and tote-able — but sturdier for all that; tripods are always a compromise). And I have to say “good choice”. I spent a couple of days at our two very good local retailers (they’re not B&H big, but Vistek and the main Henry’s store in downtown Toronto are the sort of place that doesn’t mind letting weirdo artist types do what looks for all the world like interpretive dance with their display units) winnowing the field down so that I could get the least amount of compromise between “compact”, “lightweight”, “affordable”, “tall enough when extended” and “sturdy enough to actually bother putting a camera onto”. (And in my case, the sturdiness factor also means the tripod has to be able to fight back against my Parkinsonism. That little inconvenience also means that there are times when going up to eye level isn’t just a nice-to-have feature, it’s the only way I can use a camera at all.) It came down to the Travel Angel (or, these days, the Globetrotter) that I *could* afford or a Gitzo that I couldn’t (but would have saved for if the TA wasn’t what it was). Not much of a coin toss, really.

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  17. Don Wright

    I’m sorry…but I honestly have a hard time taking a review of tripods seriously when part of the review seems to be based on the color options…

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    • Christopher

      Did u watch the video or read the entire thing? I think dismissing an entire review because of one aspect, that for many consider a major pro, is not the most open minded approach. The different colors do come in handy in multi-person studios. Other photographers enjoy expressing themselves. We’ve heard positive responses in the community about the multiple colors so we thought it was worth mentioning.

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    • Pye

      Color seems like it may not be a big feature, and it definitely isn’t at the top of the list as to what we look for in a tripod. But, you would be surprised how often it has come in handy. I.E. when shooting with other photographers and trying to identify which tripod is yours, having a color makes it easy to distinguish, even from a distance.

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    • Greg Faulkner

      I think the orange one looks awesome if matches my car :) I’m so shallow and easily sold to lol

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  18. Eric S

    good call on Benro. I use their monopods for wedding videography and am planning to replace my tripod with an S4 head and add an S4 head for my slider as well.

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  19. Anthony McFarlane

    Thanks for sharing. I bought the Mefoto Globetrotter tripod because Pye talked about it. Awesome piece of gear!

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