For high-quality video shooting, it is very important that the camera does not shake. Stabilization is often built into modern models, which gives a smooth picture without additional devices. There are also inexpensive steadicams on sale: they allow you to shoot handheld and change the direction of the camera using electronics. But best of all, video tripods fight vibrations. What to look for when buying and how to choose the best one, read in our material.
To begin with, let’s determine what features of a video tripod can affect its operation.
Fluid head with smooth rotation
When shooting video, one of the classic techniques is panning. When you move the camera horizontally, the picture should move smoothly, without jerking. However, the movement of the human hand is not constant in speed, so special tripod heads are used for smooth rotation. They have a special damper with a heavy silicone fluid that creates resistance to the movement of the head. A similar effect can be observed if you immerse your hand under water and move it: you need to make more effort, so the movement slows down and becomes measured.
In professional models of video tripods, the resistance can be adjusted: increase or decrease. This is necessary, for example, to adjust the tripod for users with different muscle strengths.
When shooting video, any movement should be carried out exactly as the operator intended: for example, when panning, it is impossible for the camera to twitch vertically or tilt. Statics is also important when shooting with a telephoto lens.
The rigidity and stability of a tripod is directly related to its weight and size. Therefore, video tripods are equipped with double sections of legs made of strong steel and horizontal struts. A weight of 5–10 kilograms is normal for a video tripod.
There are also lightweight video tripods for travel or blogging. They are convenient when the compactness of the device is more important than stability. Light tripods are a separate topic, you can also read about them on our website in the article “How to choose a tripod and monopod”.
In addition, you can buy a separate tripod head for video shooting and put it on a tripod with a detachable head. This will allow you to get the best of two types of tripods: smooth rotation and ease of transport.
All tripod heads and video tripods have only one long handle. Why is that? The fact is that when shooting video, it is important to accurately set the angle of rotation of the camera, and such a handle allows you to slowly, without jerking, turn the head of the tripod.
The handle on a video tripod is usually removable. It is screwed onto a special thread on the right or left (for left-handers) at different angles to the site. If desired, you can buy a second handle and install two on a tripod.
Hemispherical head base
We have already mentioned that horizontal panning is one of the basic techniques in video shooting. In this case, the tripod head rotates around a vertical axis in a horizontal plane. But if you set up a tripod and mount the camera on it, this plane will not be perfectly flat. It is necessary to set the plane to a horizontal position using the built-in bubble level or sensor in the chamber.
On photo and many video tripods, the head is fixed or has a flat bottom surface. Then the horizon must be set by changing the length of the metal legs. But keep in mind that the process is not convenient, and the height of the tripod will decrease.
Another, more comfortable option is when the tripod head is connected to the tripod using a hemispherical surface and fixed with a screw. This allows you to set the horizontal position of the pan plane without changing the position of the legs.
Then the tripod has another characteristic — the diameter of the hemispherical head mount. It must be borne in mind that in order for the head to be compatible with a tripod, this parameter must be the same for both devices.
If you unlock the video head tilt and try to tilt the head of a professional tripod, you can feel the resistance of the springs, which tend to return it to a horizontal position. This is the work of the so-called counter-balance system. It is designed to balance a heavy camera and lens.
Not all video tripods are equipped with counterbalance. Most often it is found in professional models, but in the budget segment this bonus is not provided at all. If you choose a tripod in the middle price category, you need to make sure that there is a counterbalance in advance. For example, Benro S4Pro, Manfrotto MVH500AH, Kingjoy VT-3510 heads have a counterbalance.
Platform with longitudinal sliding
The center of gravity of a movie camera is always shifted forward or backward relative to the tripod socket. If you ignore this and mount the camera on a tripod, the camera will tend to tilt when the head is unlocked. You will have to constantly prevent this by holding the handle. It will be inconvenient to control the movement of the head (like a car whose steering wheel spontaneously turns in one direction).
Therefore, for the convenience of shooting, it is important to move the camera relative to the tripod head at an arbitrary distance. To do this, video tripod platforms have an elongated shape and can move back and forth in the recess of the tripod head in an unfixed state.
Benro S4Pro, Manfrotto MVH500AH, Kingjoy VT-3510 are examples of such tripod heads. Almost all professional models are distinguished by such a platform.
Next, we will give examples of good video tripods for every taste and budget.
Best Budget Video Tripods
Falcon Eyes Cinema VT-1500
For beginner videographers or those who don’t plan on spending a lot on a video tripod, the Falcon Eyes Cinema VT-1500 is a good choice. The tripod head is non-removable and made of plastic, which reduces the weight and cost of the tripod. The central column is lifting — convenient for quick height adjustment. The camera can be rotated to portrait position by tilting the platform 90 degrees.
Advantages of Falcon Eyes Cinema VT-1500:
- allows you to enter the world of videography without any special expenses;
- light — only 1.3 kilograms;
- you can shoot from a tripod in portrait position — more expensive models do not have this function.
Disadvantages of Falcon Eyes Cinema VT-1500:
- slight camera shake when shooting video due to the low rigidity of the plastic head and the flexibility of the tripod legs (this can be reduced if the center column is not extended and the camera stabilizer is used).
GreenBean Videocraft 316
GreenBean Videocraft 316 weighs 2.1 kilograms — heavier than the previous model. The rigidity of the tripod will be higher than that of the VT-1500 due to the more massive head.
The rotation of the head is smooth thanks to the hydraulic damper. But you can not turn your head to portrait position.
Benefits of GreenBean Videocraft 316:
- good workmanship of the head for its price;
- smoothness of head rotation;
- easy to carry and use.
Disadvantages of GreenBean Videocraft 316:
- the plastic latches of the leg clamps are a potentially weak point that can fail at the wrong time.
Falcon Eyes CinemaPRO VT-1800B
When choosing equipment for shooting, sometimes there comes a point when amateur solutions are no longer suitable, and you start using a heavy camera for long-term work. Here you can not do without a solid tripod with counterbalance.
With a relatively low price — about 8 thousand rubles — Falcon Eyes CinemaPRO VT-1800B has the desired characteristics.
The head here is made of durable aluminum-magnesium alloy, there is a counterbalance. In addition, the tripod is equipped with a sliding platform and an adjustable handle.
Advantages of Falcon Eyes CinemaPRO VT-1800B:
- a full set of basic video tripod functions at a minimal cost;
- metal video head;
- excellent maximum height — 1.84 meters.
Disadvantages of Falcon Eyes CinemaPRO VT-1800B:
- there are no rubber pads on the legs, only small stops, so they can move apart on a slippery floor.
Best mid-budget video tripods
Sirui SH25-CN is a tripod with ball head base, which makes it easy to adjust the horizontal position of the pan plane. It costs much more than the previous model — about 17 thousand rubles — but the Sirui brand has a better reputation and quality control.
The legs end with spikes, which allows the tripod to maintain stability on uneven and soft surfaces. And the rubber pads on the feet are suitable when used on a smooth surface.
Advantages of Sirui SH25-CN:
- spherical base of the head with a diameter of 75 mm;
- reliable two-section design of legs with screw clamps;
- good build quality and a five-year manufacturer’s warranty.
Disadvantages of Sirui SH25-CN:
- there is no counterbalance adjustment, that is, its resistance cannot be increased or decreased;
- The tripod handle can only be mounted on the right.
GreenBean HDV Elite Combo 4
The GreenBean HDV Elite Combo 4 is a three-function video tripod: tripod, monopod and mini tripod.
The tripod itself is quite light (2.1 kilograms), with a simple leg design and convenient metal clamps. It is not as rigid as the previous model, but is much more compact when folded.
If you unscrew one of the legs and attach it to the head, you get a video monopod. It is good because it is much more mobile than a tripod.
The monopod rests on the ground with only one lower end, and its upper point at this moment can be moved along with the camera. In the video, it will look like a smooth flight of the camera.
On a monopod, the camera’s flight path will not be as smooth, and the movement will not be as perfect as on a motorized slider. But this imperfection gives a special dynamics to the movement and serves as a separate artistic technique.
The kit comes with a mini tripod that can be used to support the monopod or as a separate mini tripod (without or with a video head).
Benefits of GreenBean HDV Elite Combo 4:
- this is a universal set, it consists of a video tripod, a monopod and a mini tripod, which allows you to use many video shooting techniques;
- durable metal construction;
- the price is lower than that of the nearest competitors.
Disadvantages of GreenBean HDV Elite Combo 4:
- in theory, in the event of a breakdown of one of the leg mounting axes, the tripod completely loses its structural integrity, which can lead to the camera falling.
The best video tripods
The Manfrotto MVTTWINFA professional video tripod is the tool for those who need maximum reliability.
The maximum load of the tripod is 25 kilograms, which guarantees a large margin of safety during use. And this is with a dead weight of 3.9 kilograms, achieved through the use of light but durable materials.
The upper and lower leg clamp mechanisms are synchronized here, which means that one clamp allows you to control the blocking of the leg.
The tripod can be used with 100mm or 75mm ball heads, expanding the choice of tripod heads.
Benefits of Manfrotto MVTTWINFA:
- high strength, reliability and premium quality;
- synchronization of the upper and lower leg locking mechanism reduces the time of folding and unfolding;
- three fixed leg width positions.
Disadvantages of Manfrotto MVTTWINFA:
- slightly more expensive than direct analogues.
If you need a tripod with a complete head but without compromising on quality, we can recommend the Benro A673TMBS8PRO.
The base of the tripod head is flat, which allows you to rearrange it on other tripods or monopods. A 75mm hemispherical adapter allows you to quickly set the horizon. The counterbalance is equipped with 7 levels of resistance, and can also be turned off completely. The bubble level has a backlight for precise adjustment in low light conditions.
Advantages of Benro A673TMBS8PRO:
- high head smoothness with the ability to fine-tune the counterbalance allows you to control the movement of cameras for professional-level shooting;
- all-metal construction for maximum reliability and durability;
- telescopic handle with angle adjustment and the possibility of double-sided installation;
- additional threaded mounts for accessories (on-camera monitor, recorder, lighting and sound equipment).
Disadvantages of Benro A673TMBS8PRO:
- the maximum load on the head is 8 kilograms — not the largest in the class.
Bottom line: which tripods are suitable for video shooting
If you’re going to shoot video with your smartphone, without tilting and panning, you don’t need to buy a video tripod. It is enough to purchase a special smartphone holder and an inexpensive photo tripod.
If you need to pan and tilt your camera or smartphone while recording video, you need a video tripod.
Entry-level video tripods may also have the features of a photo tripod, such as the Falcon Eyes Cinema VT-1500. It is lightweight and allows you to shoot in portrait position.
If you need a tripod with smooth rotation, the GreenBean Videocraft 316 and Falcon Eyes CinemaPRO VT-1800B are good options. The first is worth choosing if the camera is light, and the small weight of the tripod itself is a plus for you. The Falcon Eyes CinemaPRO VT-1800B is, of course, much closer to professional models thanks to its solid construction, counterbalance and longitudinal sliding deck.
Sirui SH25-CN, Manfrotto MVTTWINFA and Benro A673TMBS8PRO are professional models. The quality here is at a high level, they can be safely recommended. But Manfrotto MVTTWINFA will have to buy a head.
GreenBean HDV Elite Combo 4 is suitable for those who are ready to use a wide arsenal of shooting techniques and use a camera that is not too heavy.
Note that the design of a classic video tripod will not become obsolete for many years. Therefore, saving on it is not worth it.