Are you interested in wildlife photography? Whether you’re hoping to venture into the heart of Africa on a safari or just looking to photograph birds and squirrels in your backyard, one indispensable tool is the tripod. When it comes to finding the best tripod for wildlife photography, it’s important to ensure that you balance out your needs and preferences with your budget to find the best option that will make a difference in your work.
Here at The Adventure Junkies, we enjoy helping our readers to learn about photography; in order to help them capture the best images that they’re after. With this in mind let’s take a look at some different tripod options that are available.
From traditional aluminum tripods to lightweight carbon models that are perfect for travel and hiking, let’s take a look at the best options that are available for wildlife photography enthusiasts today.
For more of our top wildlife photography gear recommendations, check out the Best Cameras for Wildlife Photography.
Quick Answer - The Best Tripods for Wildlife Photography
- Manfrotto MT190XPRO4
- MeFOTO Classic
- Induro CT-414 8X
- Gitzo GK2542-82QD Series 2 Mountaineer
- ProMaster Professional XC525C
- Oben CT-3561
- Davis & Sanford TR654C-36
- Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB
Comparison Table - Best Tripod for Wildlife Photography
|Manfrotto MT190XPRO4||4.4 lbs||Aluminum||$||4.6|
|MeFOTO Classic||3.7 lbs||Carbon||$$||4.6|
|Induro CT-414 8X||6.3 lbs||Carbon||$$||4.6|
|Gitzo GK2542-82QD Series 2 Mountaineer||5.4 lbs||Carbon||$$$||5.0|
|ProMaster Professional XC525C||3.0 lbs||Carbon||$$||5.0|
|Oben CT-3561||3.1 lbs||Carbon||$||4.2|
|Davis & Sanford TR654C-36||3.3 lbs||Carbon||$||4.3|
|Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB||5.4 lbs||Aluminum||$||4.5|
Reviews - The Best Wildlife Photography Tripods
BEST FOR: EASE OF USE
PROS: Sturdy, versatile, easy to use
CONS: Aluminum construction
BEST FOR: OVERALL USE
PROS: Lightweight, ideal for travel, 360-degree panning, versatile
CONS: Locking mechanisms don’t have great weather sealing
Induro CT-414 8X
BEST FOR: VERSATILITY
PROS: Steady, good build quality, built-in level, 55lb load capacity
CONS: Rubber feet can become loose over time
Gitzo GK2542-82QD Series 2 Mountaineer
BEST FOR: PROFESSIONAL USE
PROS: High-end, includes bubble level, includes a top-notch ball head system
ProMaster Professional XC525C
BEST FOR: ASPIRING PROFESSIONALS
PROS: 5-section tripod, spring-loaded weight hook, ball head included, built-in monopod
CONS: May not include carrier bag
BEST FOR: BUDGET-CONSCIOUS PHOTOGRAPHERS
PROS: Affordable, lightweight, good for travel
CONS: Some reported issues with the ball head construction
Davis & Sanford TR654C-36
BEST FOR: LOAD CAPACITY
PROS: Lightweight, versatile, high maximum load capacity
CONS: Plastic construction for some components
Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB
BEST FOR: VALUE
PROS: Flexible, stable, versatile
CONS: Plastic construction for some components
HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST TRIPODS FOR WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY
While there is no shortage of options available today, you’ll want to ensure that you find the best tripod for your needs. Here’s a look at some things that you’ll want to consider when choosing a tripod for wildlife photography.
The weight of the tripod is an especially important consideration if you’re planning to travel with it; or if you’re going to be taking it with you on hikes or nature walks. Tripods vary in weight considerably, from just over a pound to more than 6 pounds. Keep in mind that the heavier models will get very heavy quickly when you’re packing it around.
With tripods, you’ll usually be choosing between heavier, traditional aluminum models, and more modern, lightweight carbon fiber ones. Carbon fiber is the preferred material of choice for most wildlife photographers, but it’s more costly than aluminum.
It also tends to be less stable in high-wind conditions; although some models include an option to hang a sand or water bag to add extra stability. Here’s a look at both options now.
Aluminum is the classic material that most tripods used to be made from. Today, many budget models are still made from the same material. The main advantage to aluminum is the price. It’s usually much more affordable than carbon fiber. There’s also the fact that aluminum is a more study choice; ideal for high-wind environments.
Carbon fiber is a material of choice for most photographers today. Carbon fiber tripods are lighter; and easier to transport. However, these tripods tend to be more expensive than aluminum. They also may lack stability in extremely windy conditions.
TYPE OF HEAD
When you buy a tripod, it will come with a head –but you can remove this and attach it to a different type of head if you would like. There are a variety of different tripod heads on the market, and all of them are designed for different things.
Ball heads are the most common type of head that most tripods come with, but pan-tilt heads are another popular choice. These heads allow for more precise positioning.
Most serious bird photographers and anyone who’s looking for something that will allow them to track the movement of wild animals will want to consider purchasing what’s known as a gimbal head for their tripod. A gimbal head allows for easier movement and offers better stability for heavy telephoto lenses –the kind that you’ll be using for most of your wildlife photography.
MAXIMUM LOAD CAPACITY
Most tripods are designed to hold a certain amount of weight, so make sure you consider the maximum weight that your tripod is able to take. Go ahead and calculate the weight of your camera and lens to find out what type of tripod you’ll need to get.
Stability is another important consideration. A good tripod should be able to hold your camera and gear; without falling over and damaging them. Usually, tripods that feature better construction provide better stability.
Next, you’ll want to consider the height of your tripod, and make sure you get one that’s the right size for you. Choosing one that’s the right height will allow you to easily look through the viewfinder, without having to hunch over –or stand on a log!
To find your ideal tripod height, take your height and then subtract the distance from your eyes to the top of your head. Then, subtract the height of the camera from the bottom to the viewfinder, as well as the height of the ball head. If you’re stuck, Jim Harper at Improve Photography has a helpful chart that you can use to find a tripod that’s an ideal height for you
A QUICK RELEASE PLATE
A quick release plate is one accessory that allows you to easily remove and reattach the camera from the tripod. This will allow you to place the camera on the tripod and lock it into place easily. This is especially useful when photographing wildlife; where you need the ability to work quickly.
Finally, last but not least, you’ll want to consider the cost as well. You can expect to pay more for a high-quality carbon fiber model, but they’re the preferred option for most landscape photographers. Higher-quality models tend to be easier to use as well; which means less fiddling with components when you’re out in the field.