The running advice in photography circles is that you must spend a couple of hundred on your first tripod, or forever rue the day. So a list of the best tripods under $100 is probably going to raise some eyebrows and maybe even some blood pressure.
I guess the thinking is that pro tripods, which cost ~$300 are so much better than cheap but good tripods, that you should simply wait patiently until you can afford to spring for a professional one.
But here’s how I look at it. If you don’t have a tripod and just want to learn how to use one to expand your photography skills, why hold out until you can afford the expensive one? Why not start with an affordable one and graduate to the good stuff later?
I’ve used affordable tripods for ages and got great shots and haven’t had many problems or damaged any gear. Here’s one I got of the Milky Way.
I mean, many photographers started with a point-and-shoot or a phone. Once they got interested, they switched to a mirrorless or DSLR.
The higher end cameras are wonderful and powerful and let you do things you just can’t on a phone. But the budget option is what gets you a taste of photography, gets you interested in stepping up to some better gear.
I honestly doubt we would have so many enthusiasts buying DSLRs if they hadn’t got into photography on phones and p&s cameras.
So it’s the same with tripods. If you can afford an excellent one and know you’ll make good use of it, you should definitely do it. But if you can’t afford the $300 tripods, try out one of these excellent budget options.
How Much Should I Spend On My First Tripod?
The expensive tripods are better. It’s true, they are, I’m not going to lie. They are made from materials like carbon fiber and can be sturdier at less weight. They also have high quality heads which can hold a heavy weight precisely, and without drift.
But. The best budget tripods are actually pretty decent. And you can certainly learn how to shoot fireworks, or night skylines, or even the milky way using a tripod under $100.
So – if you are just trying your hand at some long exposure photography, and have a budget like most normal people do, just start with a decent affordable tripod. In strong wind, you will have trouble but in normal conditions, you will definitely be able to learn how to shoot astrophotography or fireworks or even long exposures of water.
How to Choose a Tripod
So how to choose a tripod? The following features matter:
There’s two aspects to stability – the head and the legs.
The head is the part that holds the camera and allows you to swivel it and lock it.
The head has a max weight it can handle. Anything more and when you tighten the knob the camera will slowly creep away from the locked position, ruining your shot.
So you want a head that can handle the max weight of your camera. So – if you have a full frame DSLR and large lenses, this means you need a far better tripod head than if you are wielding a micro four thirds camera and lightweight lens.
Next up is the leg stability. Generally speaking, the lighter you go, the less stable the overall setup.
But if you use fancy new materials like carbon fiber, you can go lighter and the legs will not flex or bend. Unfortunately, carbon fiber is expensive and there’s no way around that. Yet.
Still even with carbon fiber, it’s easier to unbalance or knock over a lighter tripod than a heavier one. It’s just physics.
You can improve stability by using a bag of rocks hooked on to the center pole.
So it would seem you want a heavier tripod for stability. But really – you want a lighter tripod so you can actually carry it places.
Especially if you are interested in traveling or hiking with your tripod.
With that in mind, you may want not only a lighter tripod but one that folds up pretty small and takes up less space in your bag.
Finally there are a variety of features that make a tripod more useful. Tripods have ball, pan and pistol grip heads. They have reversible columns and center hooks, leg locks and comfort grips.
Without getting into all the details, you at least want a feature set that will let you try a few different things and offer a user experience that isn’t frustrating.
Best Tripods Under $100
So let’s do it – Here are some great tripods under $100. They are not apples to apples comparisons because there are a couple of different tripod types represented here. But I wanted to make sure there’s a good option no matter what kind of photography you plan to pursue.
This tripod is a great buy as the best beginner tripod for DSLRs – it is pretty light, carries a decent load and has a good set of features.
Let’s explore that. On the weight front, this tripod is just 2.5 lbs. That is nice and light, even though it is aluminum. For reference, I have an older Manfrotto that weighs in at a shoulder-seizing 7.5lbs!
Of course, as described earlier, this means it simply cannot be as stable as a heavier tripod. And cannot carry very heavy zoom lenses.
Still, the max weight Dolica says it can carry is 15 lbs, which is actually quite a bit. My Canon 70d with my 18-135mm lens weighs about 3 lbs.
Now I wouldn’t trust it close to the limit as vendors like to pretend their tripod will carry a small elephant and it’s usually not true.
The Dolica GX600B200 tripod is not especially compact at a folded down size of 23 in.
Still, it’s a great starter tripod because of its generous feature set.
The ball head allows for easy positioning of the camera at a variety of angles, with a quick release plate to let you switch between handheld and tripod use really easily.
You can change the angle of the legs to four different positions. Usually the legs lock at a particular angle and you can just increase or decrease the length of the legs.
With more leg locks, you can get the camera lower to the ground by spreading the legs out. This gets you more stability at lower heights. Also, you can shorten the center column so you can go way down low like this photographer here.
It also comes with a pretty decent carrying bag, which is just nice to have for a tripod that isn’t small enough to throw into a backpack.
The Dolica GX600B200 tripod is very affordable and well under the $100 mark for such a feature-filled offering. This is definitely the overall best DSLR tripod under $100.
This Dolica is an ultra compact tripod which folds down to an incredible 12.5 inches, just a smidge over a foot! That’s pretty impressive for a tripod with this set of features. This makes it our choice for Best Travel Tripod.
This one weighs in at 2.5 lbs which again is pretty light. Dolica claims it can hold 14 lbs, which again is far beyond what a beginner or amateur shooter is likely to need.
One cool feature of this one – for days when you want to go even lighter – is that it can convert into a monopod, which is just the one leg. Shooting with a monopod is useful in crowded places, and with this one you don’t have to pick a tripod OR monopod, you get both.
It’s pretty impressive what Dolica has done here to make Dolica Ultra Compact tripod so small. It uses twisty locks on the legs instead of clippy. Clippies are faster, but take more space.
It uses a smaller than average plate for your camera, again this takes less space.
The final section of the legs is pretty slim so I wouldn’t use it at full height with too heavy of a camera or in windy conditions.
Other than that, users report that this is still a very sturdy tripod for most situations and at that size, it’s the best travel tripod under $100.
That seems like a pretty rare situation, but this little tripod is also tiny and can be thrown in your bag to use in a pinch at any time.
It’s just 7.3 inches long and 4 inches wide and amazingly can hold up your DSLR and lens. Yes, you heard that right! It can hold a DSLR solidly despite its tiny size.
While not the most versatile of tripods, I wouldn’t get the Manfrotto PIXI as my main tripod but it’s an excellent second option for the gear bag. It’s my pick for Best Travel Tripod.
It’s also really useful for trying out macro photography, if you want to get into that. And at its current price point of under $30, it definitely won’t break the bank.
Finally, we have to give a shout out to the GorillaPod – the best Flexible tripod. These flexible tripods can be wrapped around a fence or branch. They can be balanced on rocks or other uneven surfaces.
The Joby GorillaPod 3K Kit has a high quality ballhead that does a good job holding an SLR.
Users report that it’s really easy to position using the ballhead.
You do need to take your time ensuring the gorilla arms are securely fastened to whatever you are using as a prop.
At 0.86 lbs, it’s a lot lighter than all our other options other than the mini tripod, but don’t worry – it can hold 6.6 lbs.
It’s also small compared to our ultracompact tripod at 12 in long and 2.6 in wide, but is definitely bigger than the PIXI.
While it usually sells without a ballhead, which you have to buy separately, you can get an incredible deal on it if you buy the bundle from Amazon.
Best Tripods under $100
|Tripod Name||Tripod Type||Weight||Capacity||Height||Link|
|Dolica GX600B200 Proline Tripod||Normal||2.5 lbs||15 lbs||23 in||Link|
|Dolica TX570DS Ultra Compact Tripod||Ultra Compact||2.5 lbs||14 lbs||12.5 in||Link|
|Manfrotto PIXI Mini Tripod||Tabletop||0.4 lbs lbs||2.2 lbs||7.3 in||Link|
|JOBY GorillaPod 3K Kit||Flexible Arms||0.86 lbs||6.6 lbs||12 in||Link|
Hope this list of the best tripods under $100 helped you find one that works for you. If you have any questions about the various tripod types, be sure to ask below.This post has affiliate links. If you use the link, you don’t pay anything extra but Sidecar Photo gets money for another glass of wine!