What is the ideal tripod? This is a question (or windmill?) photographers have been chasing for years. The problem is that when it comes to tripods, we tend to want it all: solid support, tall maximum height, low minimum height, compact design and lightweight. The problem is, to get max height and support you need a heavier unit… unless you fork out for a carbon fibre tripod.
Carbon fibre is a lighter weight material than aluminium, but it is also more costly. But buying a carbon fibre tripod is well worth the investment, as it gives you the closest ‘complete’ package of everything on that wishlist. We’ve tested every tripod on the market, and these are our picks for the best carbon fibre tripods you can buy today.
It’s worth noting that the lines between travel tripods and full-size tripods are becoming blurred as cameras get smaller and people shoot a wider range of subjects. Therefore in our list of the best carbon fibre tripods we’ve included a mix of bigger and more compact options.
Our picks for the best carbon tripods
3 Legged Thing Punks Billy Carbon Fibre Tripod
Ali, our resident tripod reviewer, once thought the 3 Legged Thing Punks Travis was literally the best tripod he’d ever seen. The Punks Billy has surpassed that and is now the best tripod I have ever seen. However, I now want even more.
The Billy’s anodised finish and carbon legs give you a real sense of quality, but it’s only when you start to use it in earnest you realise just how good it is. It’s not a travel tripod although the slender profile and weight might suggest this.
Billy is a full height everyday model that builds on the groundwork provided by the excellent Punks Travis. Suffice to say that the Punks Billy comes as close to perfection as can be when it comes to a tripod; it’s lightweight, sturdy and reliable.
If you need a versatile full height tripod that challenges that need for any other support, then that’s the Billy, and at £250 it’s a tripod that will last you a lifetime.
Manfrotto 190go! M Series Carbon Fibre Tripod
The Manfrotto 190go! M series is a versatile tripod which would suit a number of different types of photographers. If you’re looking for something light, but which still offers a good degree of stability, then it’s an excellent choice.
Compared with some other tripods, a maximum payload of 7kg is perhaps a little light. It should suit most average camera setups though – only those who shoot sports, action or wildlife and use very heavy telephoto lenses might want to look elsewhere.
One of the stand-out features of the 190go! M series is the 90-degree central column mechanism, which means you can position your camera in a horizontal position for table-top or overhead shots.
Perhaps our favourite thing about the Manfrotto 190go! M series is how speedy it is to set up and collapse again. Being able to quickly extend the tripod, especially using only one hand (the other one usually holding something else – such as the camera) is a big plus point.
Vanguard Veo 2 235CB Carbon Fibre Tripod
There’s a lot to like about the Vanguard Veo 2 235CB. Firstly, we love the way it looks, with the slightly different weave of the carbon fibre and attention to detail of the twist locks and small ball head.
The overall build quality is excellent, and it honestly feels like a tripod that has been built to last and travel.
During our test of the Veo 2, we didn’t hold back and will admit that the tripod suffered a couple of seawater dunkings as well as being thrown about into the back of the car.
Its compact size and weight that makes it an ideal travel companion and tips the balance when it comes to leaving or taking a tripod with you.
It’s more than light enough to carry around, and although it may not offer full height, it’s tall enough to be valuable support when you need it.
The design, build and function make the Veo 2 235CB a true travel tripod and one of the best.
Sirui W-1204 Carbon Fibre Tripod
The W-1204 is a good mid-sized camera support, and although not the lightest carbon fibre tripod, it’s certainly sturdy.
Four section twist lock legs with incorporated waterproof seals, three-angle leg selectors and height adjustment of between 15 and 165cm make-up the main feature highlights.
We love the versatility of this tripod, the low-level shooting, the inverted centre column and the action of the twist locks. The carbon fibre leg construction, the waterproofing and the anodizing of the metal components are also attractive.
Overall, the W-1204 is a sturdy workhorse of a tripod, and with a decent range of features including the waterproofing. It all comes together to make a very versatile support and a good choice for the British climate.
Vanguard Alta Pro 2+ Carbon Fibre Tripod
As workhorse tripods go there is little to fault with the overall design on the Alta Pro 2+. It provides a decent height, holds a decent weight and definitely looks the part with its stylish finish.
Features such as the accessories port and removable feet also show that this tripod has been build to last and adapt with the owner.
In use the Alta Pro 2+ proves easy to adjust when first setting up – the legs with those new style twist locks release and lock the legs quickly and the ability to quickly rotate and adjust the center column independently from the rest of the tripod makes it especially handy when shooting from low angles.
The Vanguard Alta Pro 2+ is a workhorse of a tripod and one that will last for years. It’s suitable for enthusiasts through to Pro Photographers, offering features that make it versatile and adaptable to the job in hand.
If you’re the type of person who loves to take images in different genres, be it landscape, portrait or otherwise the Alta Pro is ideal.
3 Legged Thing Albert Carbon Fibre Tripod
Starting with the looks – after all, this is a 3 Legged Thing product and it’s difficult to overlook the design, colour and build before talking about anything else – the usual bright anodised parts and sleek carbon fibre reinforce the overall desirability of 3LT products when compared to many other tripods on the market.
As tripods go there is little to fault with the design, it does exactly what it has been designed to do. Be portable, have a large maximum height, be lightweight, pack down small and get low to the ground.
It is the ultimate workhorse tripod.
If you need a mid-weight tripod that will provide you with the support you want in a variety of different photographic disciplines, then the Albert is well worth the money.
Manfrotto BeFree Advanced GT Carbon Fibre Tripod
The Manfrotto BeFree Advanced GT is a travel tripod aimed at professional photographers and advanced enthusiasts. It’s a premium version of the BeFree Advanced, launched last year.
The BeFree Advanced GT is one of the finest – if not the finest – carbon fibre tripods in its class and builds on the success of its sibling, the Advanced.
If you have a pro-level DSLR or mirrorless camera, the GT can fully support it, while being light enough to clip to the side of your bag on a long day out. And that’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it?
And when you consider that Manfrotto is including its 200PL PRO plate – which is compatible with Arca Swiss systems – and its fabulous Advanced 496 aluminium centre ball head, that £370 price tag seems pretty reasonable.
Best Budget Carbon Fibre Tripod
Benro Slim carbon fibre tripod
If you’re averse to using tripods because you don’t like being weighed down, the Benro Slim carbon fibre tripod is for you. Priced at just £120, it’s not much more money than the cheapest models on the market but it offers impeccable build quality from a trusted brand.
Small and portable, you just always have room for it. In fact, it got me taking a tripod with me when I normally eschewed one. As a result, I’m taking more photos I normally wouldn’t have attempted.
The Benro Slim carbon fibre tripod has proved very popular, and for good reason.