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 good tripods, which cost ~$300 are so much better than cheap tripods that you should simply wait patiently until you can afford to spring for a good 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 I figure tripods are similar. If you can afford a good one and know you’ll make good use of it, you should definitely do it. But if you can’t, don’t stop yourself, 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.
A decent tripod will do pretty well on the following aspects.
There are a couple of important things to consider when buying a tripod.
- Head Stability – 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.
- Leg Stability – 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 spendy 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.
- Overall size – 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.
- Feature set – 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.
Best Starter Tripod: Dolica GX600B200 Proline Tripod
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.
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 bang for the buck tripod under $100.Buy Now
Best Travel Tripod: Dolica TX570B150DS Ultra Compact 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.
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 an awesome tripod to take on a trip.Buy Now
Best Tabletop Tripod: Manfrotto PIXI Mini Tripod
The Manfrotto PIXI is a mini tripod which is a new breed of tripod. These are tiny tripods that come in handy when you have a surface to put your camera on but need control over the angle.
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 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.Buy Now
Best Flexible Tripod: JOBY GorillaPod SLR Zoom
The Joby GorillaPod SLR-Zoom 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 0.42 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 10 in long and 2.4 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.Buy Now
Hope this list of the best tripods under $100 helps you find a tripod that works for you. If you have any questions, be sure to ask below.