Tripod load capacity explained
Often when a new tripod is announced you will see a payload, or load capacity, listed among its headline specifications. In short, a tripod’s payload is how much weight it can withstand before it loses stability.
And by stability we don’t just mean how much weight can a tripod take before it collapses. When a tripod is overloaded with weight it will allow more vibrations, and thus camera shake.
And when shooting at longer focal lengths (and these lenses tend to be heavy) those small vibrations will be all the more apparent.
Tripods offer different load capacities according to the type of photography they are designed for and the materials from which they are made. Tripods made for landscape photography, for instance, will have a higher load capacity than travel tripods.
The Manfrotto BeFree Advanced GT, however, is a travel tripod designed to offer a payload of 10kg / 22lbs.
The GT balances payload and stability with strength and weight and supplies the photographer with the convenience of a travel tripod such as the original BeFree Advanced, with the performance of a pro tripod such as Manfrotto’s 055.
What load capacity do I need in a tripod?
As a general rule, a tripod’s payload capacity should be about three times the combined weight of your camera, leans and tripod head.
For instance, if you’re shooting with the Nikon D850 and the AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR lens, plus a ball head, you’re looking at a combined weight just shy of 3kg. You’d then need a tripod with a payload of at least 9kg.
This is what makes the Manfrotto BeFree Advanced GT such an attractive option. It offers a high load capacity that can fully support premium cameras and heavy lenses, while weighing just 1.55kg itself (in the carbon fibre version; the aluminium version weighs 1.85kg) and folding down to 43cm.
What tripod load capacity for shooting at 200-300mm?
When shooting at focal lengths of 200mm to 300mm you’ll likely want a tripod with a load capacity of around 10kg/22lbs. Most telephoto lenses at this focal length are fairly lightweight these days, but it’s still worth ensuring your tripod has a payload of this size to ensure rock-solid stability.
What tripod load capacity for shooting at 300-400mm?
As you move beyond 300mm in focal length, lenses start to get longer, wider and heavier. When shooting at these lengths, a tripod with a load capacity of 18kg/40lbs is recommended.
What tripod load capacity for shooting at 500mm and above?
When shooting at really long focal lengths of 500mm, 600mm or even 800mm you want absolute stability. You’ll want to a tripod that offers a payload of at least 23kg/50lbs. But for peace of mind, a tripod like one of the Gitzo Series 5 Systematic tripods will help guarantee sharpness.
How does the centre column affect load capacity?
Load capacities are generally based on your camera being mounted in landscape format above the centre of the tripod’s legs. As you play around with angles, the payload capability will change.
This is why it’s beneficial to have a tripod that offers a maximum payload more than the total weight of your kit.
What’s more, you can help ensure that payload stays stable by hanging your bag from the tripod’s crown to give it some extra weight around its centre of gravity. Some tripods like the Manfrotto BeFree Advanced GT have a hook on the crown that makes this easy.