£186 Manfrotto BeFree
Best vlogger tripod / DSLR B-roll legs
This is a cracking little tripod if you shoot with a DSLR or Mirrorless camera. I bought one recently after getting fed up humping my full size tripod around. It has a smooth fluid head and unlike other small tripods will extend up to almost 5ft so you can get away with doing stand up interviews as long as your guest isn’t a giant. It also has a nifty folding leg system that means they spread to get you right on the deck. It’s super light 1.36Kgs and folds into it’s own little handbag/man bag.
The specs claim it’ll handle up to 4Kgs which is a bit far fetched. It gets very wobbly with a mid-sized camcorder on top and isn’t any good if it’s windy. I tried it with my rigged Sony FS5 and couldn’t get a steady shot. To be honest it’s ideal for something like a Sony Alpha series camera, a whopping Canon 5D with a 70-200mm lens would give you issues with anything other than a locked off shot. That said it’s a useful addition, I shoot lots of B-roll and macro with an A7s and it gets the job done. If you are a vlogger this is the tripod for you. There’s a cheaper ball head version for stills.
£350 (eBay) 501 HDV Manfrotto
Solid pro 2nd hand tripod
I picked up this tripod 2nd hand for £350 on eBay and it’s been my daily legs. Perfect for a mid-sized professional camcorder I’ve used this with everything from a Canon XF305 to a Sony FS7. It’s got all the features you would expect with locking and adjustable pan/tilt friction. My head is mounted on some sturdy 520M legs with a spacer. This set up is indestructible and can take any amount of being thrown around. You’ll probably struggle to buy this new but they are regularly available 2nd hand on ebay. They’ll give you a rock solid shot in windy weather. The trade off is they are a little heavier, around 3-4Kgs. There’s a larger Manfrotto 701 tripod head that can be found for sale on ebay along with an older boxier version of the 501. The 701 is designed for large ENG type cameras and is a little unwieldy and too stiff for todays modern lightweight camcorders.
£490 Sachtler 1002 Ace M Gs System
Hire: BBC Production Services (internal productions only)
Sachtler make superb tripods with an incredibly smooth action, their top of the range gear costs thousands so I was blown away to see they were offering this sub £500 lightweight tripod. As you might expect it has the silky smooth action you get from all of their heads with fine adjustment on friction. Again this is aimed at mid sized camcorders that are sub 5Kgs. It’s light and portable with composite legs. However, you get what you pay for with this tripod. I’ve used this as a rental and it appears to be almost entirely made from plastic. I didn’t break it but it looks like parts including the plastic leg locks might snap off with some rough treatment. If you are a small crew film maker this is worth a look because it’s so portable. On a windy day it’s still useable with a firm hand. I wouldn’t buy this but I can see it’s appeal to thrifty production managers.
£950 Manfrotto Nitrotech N8 and 546GB Twin Leg Tripod
I haven’t tested this tripod which was launched summer 2017 but there’s been lots of chatter and good reviews online. At £400 for the head only it’s only a matter of time before this starts showing up on shoots. Unlike traditional fluid head tripods this has a nitrogen charged piston which claims to give superior camera balance. I’ve got a couple of reservations. The mechanics of the head seem very open, I’ve recently finished a property show in which all my gear got completely covered in filth and dust. This looks like it’d be a nightmare to clean plus I’m concerned how serviceable an air charged piston would be. That said it looks cool.
£1200 Miller DS10
Superb run & gun all-rounder
Hire: Visual Impact / Pro-Cam
Ok it’s a bit more than a grand new but I’ve used this tripod, love it and want it. This version has alloy legs but there’s also a lighter more expensive carbon fibre model the DS20. The DS10 is perfect for a single operator or small crew, it’s light, strong and easy to use. The aluminum fluid head feels smooth and balanced even with a bigger camcorder like the Sony FS7. The twist lock legs can go super high, flick the leg top brackets and they spread to give you a ground level shot in moments. For a lighter tripod this feels sturdy, well made and robost. Second hand they occasionally sell for around £600 online. If you spot one at a discount snap it up.
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