Q: What's a good but cheap tripod?
A: The most commonly recommended reasonably-priced tripod is the Manfrotto 190XPROB, often paired with the 486RC2 or 488RC2 quick-release ballhead.
The question of what tripod is best, or how much tripod you need, is enormous. Much bigger than be covered in an FAQ. Do some googling, read some reviews, and think about your needs — how important is portability? How much weight does the tripod need to hold? (You want to error on the side of more load capacity than you need.) How tall do you need the tripod to be? (You don't want to have to extend the center column all the time; the less you do so, the better.) Make sure you go out and try it before doing anything (ie, avoid blind online buying). Tripods are all about creating a stable platform (which is why $50 tripods are no good) and usability. Having a good tripod makes using one more enjoyable and you will spend more time thinking about the shot rather than how much you dislike your tripod.
The 190XPROB is an aluminum tripod which is heavier than a comparable carbon fiber model, but this lightness comes at a premium. And unlike a cheaper tripods, the 190XPROB will hold a fair amount of weight and is regarded as being quite reliable. This tripod features a horizontal slip column which allows for the center column to be orientated horizontally which greatly benefits macro and low level work. The legs can also fold out 90 degrees allowing the tripod to sit flat on the ground. This is a very powerful combination which gives to it's flexibility. The split center column is found on tripods which take medium weight, where as fold out legs are featured on most good tripods.
Here are some other tripods folks have mentioned using:
- Manfrotto 055XPROB (Like the 190XPROB, but taller and it can take more weight. Consequently it's a much heavier tripod)
- Velbon Sherpa
- Velbon CX-540
- Manfrotto 725B
- Sunpak 6601UT
- Slik 700DX
- SLIK Sprint PRO
- Sunpak 757