When you need to balance your camera for timer shots, long-exposure images or when you're zoomed in at one hell of a distance, you’re going to need a tripod to prevent camera shake and blur. For holidays and travel, carrying a three-legged contraption might be the last thing you want to do but there are always times when you'll curse not carrying one.
Whether it’s photographing a tropical sunset, the Northern Lights or the streaked lights of cars at night, a considered creative composition and pin-sharpness is easiest with a tripod in tow. We’ve picked-out several designs aimed at compact, interchangeable lens and D-SLR cameras for you to go for. Take your pic.
BEST FOR PERFORMANCE
Vanguard Alta 225CP tripod - £385.20
If you refuse to travel without your DSLR - and we totally understand why - a super-light, full-length tripod like this is a must. A few brands are worth investigating here (such as Manfrotto and Veldon), but we’ve got a soft spot for the Vanguard Alta 225CP, rated as the most lightweight around. Made using carbon fibre and weighing-in at a unbelievable 810g, the five-section 225CP demands use of a SBH-30 ball head for panning and tilting, which adds another 270g, but the main body can easily clip on to the outside of a backpack.
Solidly built, and with a bit of practice quick to erect, the 225CP has a built-in spirit level to help get landscapes flat, as well as a hook underneath for a camera bag or rucksack, which adds convenience as well as stability. When extended its spiked rubber legs stretch 115cm, and when furled it’s 42cm. Expensive, yes, but how much did your last lens cost?
BEST FOR TRAVELLING LIGHT
The Pod – Green - £9.99
Fancy using a long lens while completely legless? Tripods, as the name might suggest, traditionally have three legs since that's the simplest way of staying upright and stable. We've found plenty of ways of shrinking the tripod concept, but The Pod – Green takes a completely different tack by eschewing the idea of legs altogether.
Designed to support a D-SLR camera (though the manufacturer has myriad designs for all kinds of cameras), The Pod – Green is basically a beanbag with a 1/4-inch universal mounting bolt attached to the front. If you've already got something to lean on, it does a great job of creating a stable - though tweak-able - platform to shoot from with just enough lens support. It's got a Velcro seal on the bottom and inside is a plastic bag full of plastic pellets but, if you really want to travel light, we'd advise ripping these out before your journey and simply stuffing an empty Pod with sand or soil while you're out and about.
BEST FOR TREKKERS
TechTrek Trekpod - £112
Anyone into landscape photography will know what a pain it is to lug a full-size tripod up the side of a mountain, and in winter when hiking sticks are needed, the amount of gear can all get a bit too much. Striding purposely forward is the aluminium-based TechTrek Trekpod, an all-in-one device for snap-happy walkers that’s simultaneously a monopod, tripod and hiking stick.
Capable of supporting 4kg of camera and lens, the TechTrek weighs 790g and ships with a standard, quick release MagMount STAR ballhead as well as an aircraft cabin-sized carry bag. Elsewhere in a genre that has instant treks appeal (sorry) is the cheaper Leki Sierra FS Monopod and is also worth looking out for.
BEST FOR FLEXIBILITY
Joby GorillaPod SLR-Zoom GP3 & BH1 ballhead - £34.95 & £39.95
Actually finding somewhere to station a tripod can be tricky, so Joby has come up with a tripod with flexible joints that can physically wrap around random objects. It lacks height - something that also guarantees it to be luggage-friendly - so needs to be clipped to balcony railings, the backs of chairs and even trees which also worked well in our test.
Its clever clogs are good at gripping both smooth and rocky surfaces, too, and it’s simple to adjust for height on uneven surfaces just by bending those legs, but it’s the GorillaPod’s flexibility we love most. It weighs 240g on its tod and is able to support up to 3kg cameras but do bear in mind that it does need to be paired with a pricey BH1 ball head, which adds a further 160g.
BEST FOR POCKETS
thumbsUp Keypod Camera Tripod Key Ring - £6.99
More a novelty item than a serious piece of photographic kit, the ultimate travel-friendly Keypod can clip to a keyring and manages a surprisingly decent level of stability. Ideal for climbers, walkers and adventurists - perhaps to pair with a rugged, waterproof camera - this 8cm-long tripod’s construction is pretty nifty. Two of the three legs jut back from the stationary central leg while the keyring part swivels round and screws off to reveal a standard camera attachment.
Once docked, a camera can be pushed back and forth, as well as from side-to-side. It’s more versatile than it looks, though. When fully extended (there are two adjustable heights) the Keypod does lose some stability. It’s not going to hold a DSLR and we wouldn't recommend it for much more than self-portraits, but the Keypod is worth considering for attaching to a daysack, just in case.
BEST FOR SELF-PORTRAITS
Veho Duopod - £24.99
Ever peered out over a city skyline, a verdant valley or a lovely lake and hoped in vain for a camera-savvy passer-by to take charge of your D-SLR and capture you in an "I was here" photo? With the Veho Duopod, there’s no need - just screw it into any camera or camcorder, extend the telescopic handle, and engage the self-timer. It’s not got a huge reach - just over 50cm - but it’s enough to make a head-and-shoulders shot possible.
Granted, it’s a bit of a snub to your fellow travellers if you're using it in a busy tourist honeypot, but that's their own fault. Random strangers will almost always cut-off your legs/head (from the photograph).
As with all good traveller gear, the Dupod has other functions too. Its three extendable legs in its base allow it to double as a basic tripod. Pairing it with a D-SLR is a bit of a stretch and this is primarily one for the tourist with a pocket-sized compact but it works with either.
BEST FOR VIDEO
Steadicam Smoothee - £169.99
A high-end choice indeed, but this one is ideal for serious amateur filmmakers after a steadying hand. Basically a mini, portable version of the rigs used by film production teams, the Steadicam is designed for using with a compact camcorder like the GoPro or an iPhone 4/4S (an additional iPhone 3GS mount sells for £24.99) to enable smooth tracking shots.
Well balanced and with a grip handle, the angle of the rig can be easily tweaked and - though it does take some setting-up and is a relatively bulky piece of kit to carry around on holiday - for anyone sick of shaky video and after a professional look, this shrunk monoframe rig is well worth investigating.
BEST FOR CYCLISTS
XSories Octopus Small Delux Tripod, £15.99
In essence a cheaper alternative to Joby’s extensive GorillaPod range of flexible tripods, the bendy Octopus tripod is designed to grip almost anything, though its small size makes it well-suited to mounting on the handlebars of a bike. That makes it ideal for filming video using a tough camera while on a trail, though it works just as well as an occasional tripod for still photography.
Sold by Surfdome.com, the XSories Octopus is flexible in its choice of mount, too, being able to dock with any camera with a standard trip thread. That said, it needs a tripod adapter accessory to fix to a GoPro. Available with pink, black or orange-clad legs.
BEST FOR SMALL BUDGETS
Kathmandu Camera Pod, £6.99
Why bother with a traditional tripod design or any kind of bulk when there are inanimate objects lying around just waiting to be used as props? That's the premise behind the oh-so-simple Camera Pod from Katmandu which can be screwed on to tables, car windows, or - best of all - a filled water bottle with a 28.5mm to 30.5mm diameter lid.
If you're already carrying one of those on a trek or day trip, the Camera Pod is a pocket-friendly way to take composed group shops when there’s no-one spare around to slam the shutter.
BEST IN A PINCH
Manfrotto MP3-D01 - £17
Camera accessory specialist Manfrotto has managed to come up with something to appeal to more than just the professional or keen enthusiast. Meet the Manfrotto Pocket MP1 and MP3 pocket-sized tripods that'll fit just about any compact or DSLR camera you might own. They're a set of solid metal legs that support your snapper on any flatish surface.
With the idea that they stay attached to your camera at all times, you just fold them away flat underneath your device when you don't need them. Far from the perfect tripod but great in a pinch and no bother at all to carry around.