How much weight should a good camera tripod hold?

Discussion in 'Accessories' started by edubz, Sep 13, 2015.

  1. edubz

    edubz Mu-43 Rookie

    Sep 9, 2015
    I am looking at used tripods on the internet and saw that some have a maximum allowed weight.

    what should a good tripod hold?
  2. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    You have good tripods that can hold 5lbs and good ones that can hold 35lbs+. You want one capable of holding you heaviest gear. The heavier weight one can hold also usually means the tripod is heavier, so it's a balancing act especially when you add in height of tripod and number of sections.
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  3. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    Real Name:
    I would worry less about weight and more about design, construction and reputation. Leg diameter is a key indicator of rigidity, and if you are planning on doing any log exposures, then this is something you should keep in mind. Ballheads are another key component to consider if you do not already have one. Convenient, reliable (i.e.stable) and affordable - in most cases you will only be able to pick two. Manufacturers with good reputations has been getting larger over the past five years, and it is best to set a budget (including a head if you do not have one) and work from there.

    Good luck,

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  4. wjiang

    wjiang Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Get a tripod and head for the use case you have - this may mean different tripods for different situations. A super stable tripod for super telephoto or long exposure work may not be very useful as a travel tripod for more normal focal lengths, for instance. Don't go overboard with capacity, but do make sure you get one that is rated to a comfortable margin higher than your highest load, especially if you intend to hang a bag off it to increase stability.
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  5. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 All-Pro

    Oct 1, 2010
    Weight "ratings" are whatever the advertiser wants them to be, since there is no standard to determine them. The largest tube diameter is a better metric for comparison. (Stiffness increases as the fourth power of diameter.) IMO any thing under 25mm/1 inch is a bad choice.
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  6. eteless

    eteless Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 20, 2014
    A good tripod for a compact camera (say 'full frame') folds up and collapses if I put a monorail camera on it, on the plus side it's very stable while it's laying on the ground.

    Sometimes weight ratings give a good guide as to what's clearly unsuited for the job.
  7. gryphon1911

    gryphon1911 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 13, 2014
    Central Ohio, USA
    Real Name:
    1) All tripods have a weight limit
    2) Tripod manufacturers specify the maximum weight limit they have tested their products to withstand
    3) "good" is a subjective thing and we need to know what you quantify as a good characteristic in order to help you.
    4) You will also need to be concerned with the maximum weight limit of the tripod head as well.

    A "good" tripod should be able to hold the maximum amount of weight that you require. Your requirements for maximum weight(both of the load on the tripod head as well as overall tripod/head weight) should be determined by you, based on the factors that make the most sense to (a) what you shoot, (b) the portability you need, (c) the weight you are willing to carry, (d) the total weight that you determine you will need and add 25% because you will most likely not think of something or you'll buy something later that could eat into your calculated weight limit.
  8. Clint

    Clint Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 22, 2013
    San Diego area, CA
    Real Name:
    - You want a tripod and head that is heavier than your gear.
    - You'll have to consider the folding length to the maximum height without the center column extended vs. cost.
    - The shorter the folding length and the lighter the tripod, the more likely you are to take it with you.
    - Tripods come without center columns, geared center columns, and quick adjust. Geared is great if you want the fine adjustment for height - but usually more of a pain than many like. No center column removes opportunities for vibration but provide less flexibility in setup.
    - Columns may also be multiple position flipping or moving to side, more of gimmick that does increase vibration, yet may come in handy.
    - Carbon Fiber tripods offer better vibration dampening, but cost more.
    - Little things with tripods or heads can drive you nuts and/or keep you from using the tripod - so you want to get the best you can afford.
    - Preferably tripods legs should 3 adjustable positions.
    - Most people prefer a ball head to a pan/tilt head for still photography, vice versa for video work. Less expensive heads have a tendency to move slightly when you lock them down - a big nuisance that often leads to non use.
    - Although manufactures use max weight a better gage is the longer the lens you plan on using, the heavier duty the tripod needs to be. Gitzo uses their series to define this, Series 2 tripods for up to 200mm, Series 3 for 300mm, Series 5 for 400mm and above. This is on the safe side and the tripods for longer lenses have larger diameter legs. In general, the more stable, the more cost.
    - Extending the column on a tripod increase the possibility for vibration - ideally one should never extend the column (general rule - often disregarded with subsequent consequence's)

    Several years ago there were only a couple of main brands for top of the line - that now seems to have changed. I would check out: Three Legged Things, Feisol, Gitzo (top brand – top price), Induro, Manfrotto, MeFoto, Oben (B&H only), Sirui. I know a lot people start with a Manfrotto 190 or 055 Series.

    Check this out -
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2015
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  9. PakkyT

    PakkyT Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jun 20, 2015
    New England
    Shouldn't the simple answer to this thread be "As much weight as you require it to hold." ;)
  10. VooDoo64

    VooDoo64 Mu-43 Veteran

    Jul 17, 2010
    Zagreb - Croatia
    Real Name:
    Davor Vojvoda
    I have now Manfrotto x055 pro with 3-way head, i know its heavy but tripod should be heavy and stabile, Olympus have excellent IBIS but if you want to shoot long exposure or even star trails with your live composition you shold have extra stabile tripod so do not be stingy when buying a tripod ..
  11. Speedliner

    Speedliner Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 2, 2015
    Southern NJ, USA
    Real Name:
    Manfrotto 058B for short carries from house or car. So convenient I actually enjoy using it and ROCK solid.

    Any quality for the longer carry situations. I use a Vanguard Alta Pro 263 AT for this purpose. I have used the tilt column for macro very happily. Centered and all the way down, it's as sturdy as any center column tripod of similar construct.

    Clint's advice was perfect. No tripod can be too sturdy yet few are rated for less weight than any m43 setup.

    Go to a store and try some...if you can't do that buy from a place with a fever is return policy and keep trying until you fall in love with one
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2015
  12. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 All-Pro

    Oct 1, 2010
    I got interested in Gitzo two or three years ago and have collected a number of Gitzo catalogs going back maybe 10-15 years. In every one, the series are based on the upper leg size:

    For the aluminum tripods the sizes are as follows:
    Table, Series 00, 5⁄8˝ (16mm)
    Weekend, Series 0, 3⁄4˝ (20mm)
    Sport, Series 1, 7⁄8˝ (24mm)
    Reporter, Series 2, 1-1⁄8˝ (28mm)
    Studex & Inter Pro Studex, Series 3, 1-1⁄4˝ (32mm)
    Pro Studex, Series 4, 1-1⁄2˝ (38mm)
    Tele Studex, Series 5, 1-5⁄8˝ (42mm)

    For carbon, the numbers are nearly identical:
    carbon 6X, carbon eXact
    Series 0, 20.0mm (3/4”), 21.7mm (7/8”)
    Series 1, 24.0mm (7/8”), 25.3mm (1”)
    Series 2, 28.0mm (1 1/8”), 29.0mm (1 1/8”)
    Series 3, 32.2mm (1 1/4”),32.9mm (1 1/4”)
    Series 4, 36.6mm (1 1/2”), na
    Series 5, 41.2mm (1 5/8”), na

    There is some material in the 2014 catalog that associates series to focal length as described in Clint's post, but there are a lot of variables (tripod height, leg material, column up or down, number of leg sections) that also factor in. That's why the actual spec for the series is based on the upper leg size and not 35mm equivalent focal length.

    For me, the "2" series 28 or 29mm diameter is the sweet spot for travel tripods. Weight is not substantially more than flimsier tubes (when you start smaller they get pretty skinny at the bottom!) and stability is much better. This is true across quality manufacturers. My Benro Travel Flat has 28mm carbon tubes. For work at home, I have a Studex and a TiltAll, both of which have 32mm/1 1/4" tubes.
  13. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 All-Pro

    Oct 1, 2010
    Ultimate yield strength? Working strength at what % of ultimate yield? Established by Marketing based on claims by other manufacturers? For the tripod without head? For the head? With the load carefully balanced over the tripod or head? Load cantilevered out? How far/what is the moment?

    I just think that claimed weight capacities are, if not totally bogus, then at least not comparable between manufacturers. Tube diameter , on the other hand, is fairly objective and a valid way to compare products of similar quality.
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  14. Clint

    Clint Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 22, 2013
    San Diego area, CA
    Real Name:
    Oldracer, Longer lenses needs more torsional rigidity. Torsional rigidity in carbon fiber tube is highly defined by outside diameter and thickness. Thus larger diameters for more torsional rigidity equals longer lenses.

    However Gitzo takes their Series Designation one step further, no matter the height, weight, column vs no column, number of leg sections, they design the rest of the tripod to be effective at the designated series level for the designated focal lengths. E.g. whether you get a Gitzo Series 3 tripod with a max height of 13.78” or 58.86” you already know they both will handle up to a 400mm lens effectively. (Note: my designations above were all short 100mm - probably because I stay more conservative so as not to have buy several tripods)

    Hence Gitzo’s “At Gitzo we recommend using the focal length of the lens you intend to use, not the weight of your equipment, as the primary factor for selecting the tripod Series.”

    However not all tripods are made as Gitzo makes theirs, so I would not depend on the top tube size alone from other manufacturers!!!! I own one travel tripod with a top tube dia. of 30mm and have used other travel tripods with 28mm top tubes, and they do not live up to a Gitzo of the same tube size. I do agree that weight is nothing more than a marketing hype.

    Heads are another issue, if you use an Arca-Swiss, Really Right Stuff or a Markins - you'll see they they are typically the preferred heads.
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  15. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 All-Pro

    Oct 1, 2010
    Clint, I don't think we disagree on anything substantive. The point of my post was simply to clarify that Gitzo series numbers define a tube size rather than referring to some kind of lens focal length number. I.e., "2-Series" is defined by a specific tube diameter and does not refer to 200mm even though that series may be suitable for such a lens.

    Yes. To be specific, the torsional resistance of a column (what mechanical engineers call a round structure that is much longer than its diameter) varies as the fourth power of diameter. So adding 20% to diameter more than doubles the stiffness. That's why, as we agree, tube diameter is so important.

    Wall thickness actually doesn't matter anywhere near as much, due to that fourth power relationship. My guess is that in most cases tripod wall thickness will be determined by other loads that the tube has to take. For example, the tube getting stepped on and the stress on the tube where it enters the metal joint fittings. The higher-end manufacturers undoubtedly have test protocols that simulate these. With the race cars, we always used tubular anti-roll ("sway") bars with as little wall thickness as we could get away with, the issue usually being the bar wrinkling when loaded against the support blocks. From a weight standpoint it was much better to add a little diameter than it was to add thickness.

    Agreed again. That's why I pointed out that diameter is useful to "compare products of similar quality." The amount of tube engagement when extended and the fit of the leg lock bushings and o-rings will certainly have a significant effect on stability. Here, tight tolerances and carefully-chosen materials translate into both better stability and higher manufacturing costs.
  16. Harvey Melvin Richards

    Harvey Melvin Richards Photo Posting Junkie

    Feb 15, 2014
    Southwest Utah
    My college photo professor (in 1976) claimed a good tripod should be able to hold your own weight. I finally purchased such a tripod at a surplus auction. This tripod now holds up my stationary belt sander in my shop.
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  17. mattia

    mattia Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 3, 2012
    The Netherlands

    I owned a 055 Manfrotto. Sold it because it's too annoyingly heavy and large for travel, and thus basically never left the house. I don't shoot out of a car/my back yard that often. I now have a 4 segment carbon travel tripod (RedGed, similar to Siuri's stuff) with a ballhead and arca swiss. It doesn't come very high, but since both my cameras have flippy up screens these days I don't mind much at all. I try to leave it as low as possible, and hang a bag on the hook if I need a little extra stability. The whole thing weighs 1.2 kg and folds down to about 40cm, which means I actually take it with me when I travel/backpack, and held my Canon 5D mark II with heavy glass just fine, so it deals with the smaller MFT and FE cameras just fine as well.