Carbon Fiber Tripods are comparatively new and brilliant innovation by the makers. They are supposed to be the best in terms of durability and strength. The reason they are so popular is that they are lightweight too which makes them an excellent option for people who travel a lot. Though I have already written a post on the best lightweight tripods, not all carbon fiber tripods are light and fit for traveling like the Gitzo Systematic tripods.
Let’s do a quick comparison between the aluminum and carbon fiber tripods and then we’ll get down to the list of the best carbon fiber tripods in the market.
Quick Comparison: Carbon Fiber Vs Aluminum
Before comparing the two, first, let’s understand what is carbon fiber? Some of you might know but I’m sure the majority doesn’t. According to Wikipedia –
Carbon fibers are thin fibers about 5-10 um in length and composed of carbon atoms. Several thousand are bundled together to form strands and there is a very complicated process in place for its production.
Carbon fibers aren’t used as such. They are often mixed with graphite or polymer base to form Carbon Fiber Composite. This composite is then used to construct the tripod. Aluminum, as you all are well aware, is a magnificent metal. It is light, cheap and durable. Let’s look at the differences between carbon fiber and aluminum in a tabular form.
|Durability||Tripod Specific||Tripod Specific|
Note: Damping properties are the best in wood. This is the reason why wooden tripods are still out there. Read more…
As it is clear from the table above that the carbon fiber tripods outperform aluminum ones in almost all the tests, we can’t say for sure that these tripods are always better than aluminum. Some carbon fiber tripods are cheap and their tubes aren’t as good as they should be. Some good aluminum tripods like the Manfrotto 190 are much better than cheap CF ones.
The stiffness of these tripods is one more important factor. Stiffness can be measured by a parameter called Young’s modulus. A little research shows that Young’s modulus of CF is 2.5x the aluminum. That means CF is better quality material and will perform well. But remember that under high stress, aluminum will bend whereas the CF will shatter into fragments. A bent tripod may still come in handy, so don’t go for low-quality CF tripods just for the sake of it.
Now that you have some knowledge about CF and it benefits let’s look at some of the best carbon fiber tripods in 2019
Manfrotto 055CXPRO3 – Perfect All Rounder
The Manfrotto 055Xpro3 is my go-to option. It checks all the boxes of a good tripod and comes at a reasonable price. It is a 3-section tripod which extends marvelously to a height of 67″ (170cm). That’s huge! It can support up to 17.6lbs (8kgs) of weight and has an extendable central column. The weight of the tripod itself is just about 3.7 lbs (1.7kg) and is a great option for travelers.
Lightweight | Durable | Flexible | Bubble Level | Value for money. Check Price on Amazon
Collapsed height is more than others in the same range | Bit pricey
The tripod legs can be extended in 4 different positions and it gets really close to the ground at its maximum separation. The most interesting part here is the central column. With a quick little adjustment, it can be turned into a horizontal boom which rotates 360 degrees. Watch this video and it will be clearer.
Gitzo Traveler 2545T – Perfect Travel Partner
The Gitzo traveler 2545T is a superb tripod by Gitzo. The name Gitzo is a benchmark of quality itself. Though expensive, the tripod offers a range of features. In my opinion, it is one of the best travel tripods which you can buy right now. The unique design of this tripod allows it to fold inwards covering the ball head. This makes sure that your ball head is protected from bumps and hits. You may argue that the specifications aren’t extraordinary but what matters is the durability. These tripods almost never disappoint even after several years of use.
Product: Gitzo 2545T Series 2
Max Height: 65.2″
Weight: 4 lbs (1.8kg)
Payload: 26 lbs (11.8kg)
Warranty:2 years, extended 5 years
The tripod’s Carbon Exact tubes are stronger and much more durable than the regular aluminum ones. It has special G-locks which are small. Pair it with the GH1382QD Ball Head and it makes a perfect travel partner. Read full review here.
Vanguard Alta Pro 2+ 264CT – The Everyday Best
The Alta Pro series from Vanguard is their top-notch tripod range. This tripod gives quite a competition to the Manfrotto 055CXPRO3. The tripod is easy to set up within seconds and is very comfortable to hold/use. The feet are hybrid – that means you don’t have to buy separate spiked feet for it. Though it is not a great travel tripod, it is will get the job done in normal everyday usage. Let’s look at the specs:Specifications
Product: Vanguard Alta Pro 2+ 264CT
Legs: 3 section legs with 4 position angles – 20°, 40°, 60°,80°
Max Height : 63″
Weight : 3.7 lbs (1.7kg)
Payload : 15.4 lbs (7kg)
Warranty: 2 years, extendable upto 8 years
The tripod has a removable central column which acts as a horizontal boom just like the Manfrotto one but it is quite as durable. But if you do use it that way, make sure you use adequate counterbalance or the setup may tip over. Another thing which makes it worthy of my list is the shock absorbing rubber rings on the central column. These rings prevent the central column to hit the chassis when you unlock it in an extended position.
Benro Go Plus Travel FGP28C – As Flexible as it can be
That’s another brilliant tripod from Benro. The go plus travel is designed for travel photography and has a number of nifty features that make it a delight. The go plus has an impressive strength to weight ratio. Like the more expensive models, the go plus collapses around the central column making it more ergonomic. One noticeable feature of this tripod is that the legs detach completely and join together to form a good carbon fiber monopod! Let’s look at some specs
Product: Benro Go Plus Travel FGP28C
Legs: 4 section legs with 3 position angles
Max Height: 65.2″ (165.6 cm)
Weight: 3.5 lb (1.6 kg)
Payload: 30 lb (14 kg)
Comes with Spiked feet and a Carry Bag
Monopod Height: 69.9″ (177.5 cm)
The central column is very flexible and it turns into a horizontal boom with a flick of a button. You can mount a good head on one side and some counterweight like a lightbox or something on the other. This will prevent it from falling over. The go series of tripods is one of the most flexible ones in the market. You have numerous attachments like a boom coupler, laptop tray, etc. It’s a complete workstation if you have all the accessories.
Gitzo Systematic Tripods – The Tripod Beast
The Gitzo systematic range of tripods is probably the strongest and heaviest carbon fiber among all. The reason why it has been included in the list is that its performance is unmatched. While it is the perfect go-to option for wildlife/aviation photographers, travelers or casual street photographers won’t find it of much use. The biggest advantage is the removable base plate. You can buy multiple base plates, central columns or half bowl levelers and fit each of them with a different head. That way, you don’t have to replace the heads manually. Just flip the lock and remove the base itself.
Check Price on Amazon
The systematic tripods weigh around 5lbs or so and can easily extend to a height of 5 feet and above. They can handle extremely heavy setups (more than 20kgs) easily and with Gitzo, you don’t have to worry about the built quality. The design is as beautiful as it is strong. The legs can spread up to 23 degrees which is great for low-level photography. Needless to say, it comes at a hefty price. Check out the full review of the Gitzo Systematic Tripods here.
Carbon fiber tripods are counted in the premium section of photography gear. Generally, a newbie doesn’t go for them because they are a bit pricey but they are excellent pieces of equipment built to last several years for continued usage. The five tripods mentioned above are all top of the class from different manufacturers and getting one of these will certainly push your creative limits as a photographer.
Well, that’s my take on the best carbon fiber tripods out there. I hope you enjoyed reading the article. Let me know your thoughts on this in the comments section below and if you have any doubts or questions feel free to ping me up.
Tripods For All
It is a real nice article, I also would like to advice Tripods above $150 like the Benbo Trekker MK3 tripod kit with ballhead and carrying case. This tripod has a maximum support weight of 17 lbs., and it extends to 61 inches. The tripod weighs 4.5 lbs., and it includes a ballhead for quick and rapid movement. The Benbo Trekker MK3 retails around $179. 3 Legged Thing makes the X1 Brian five-section carbon fiber tripod with Airhed 1 ballhead that retails for around $399. The X1 Brian extends to a maximum height of 81.1 inches and supports a maximum load of 17.6 lbs. The tripod as a magnesium head with Arca Swiss style clamp and a three-section reversible center column.
Thanks for the recommendation. I’ll look into them for sure.
It’s always great reading your posts on Tripods. You provide good information on these tripods. I haven’t used one before, but won’t mind recommending it to friends that will indeed buy this product.
I will definitely bookmark this post for later to show it to others.
I don’t think the Cons of this product will be a problem for people that really love Tripods.
Thank you for this post and all the best.
Thank you so much. I’m glad you like them.
Wow another great tripod review! Carbon Fiber sounds pretty strong at the get-go. What I like about the Gitzo GT5543LSUS is that it appears to be really sturdy and lightweight at 6.2 pounds. That’s not too bad for the quality sturdiness. This tripod looks great for a bigger camera with a larger lens, perfect for capturing the night sky or some ranging wildlife. I’ll bookmark your post and share with some friends as well, great work!
Thanks a lot.
The carbon fiber tripods are the rage over here in Dubai for some reason and many of my colleagues who are earning a living taking photos and video filming for local government agencies and the larger companies swear by them. Due to the chatter, I decided to come here and get schooled a bit to get the real story.
You have pointed out the advantages that they offer in almost every measurable category, so I can see why my friends are so high in them. They seem also to be priced a bit more than the aluminum models out there (at least the better ones that you are recommending) but that extra cost is worth it for the extra performance and quality you are getting.
At this point in time, I certainly would like to upgrade, but likely will wait until a sale comes up or perhaps when I absolutely have to change out my current equipment. These carbon fiber tripods are attractive though, and I will get one eventually. Thanks for getting me up to speed, now I can see what I am missing.
Glad you found it helpful.
Wow, I did not know about Carbon Fiber tripods, but they sound like a great option for anyone serious about their photograhy skills. You’ve given great recommendations too! I’m quite a newbie at photography, but I have been looking into tripods to improve my image quality.
I know you touched on this lightly in the article, but at which point should you be switching to one of these carbon tripods from an aluminium one? I do quite a bit of in-studio photography and am not on the move much, but I’m always looking for the best equipment out there.
Thanks for the advice!
There isn’t a certain level which you must cross to change gear. Even aluminum tripods are good. But as you progress on your photographic journey, you might feel the need to upgrade, you might feel the weight of aluminum as a restricting factor, etc.
At this point don’t worry about it and continue shooting and if you need to buy a good tripod, we are always here.