Credit: Min An

How big of a tripod do I need?

Generally, a tripod that extends so that the camera will be at eye level is a good choice. However, it also depends on the type of pictures that you take.

By Jeff Collier

Generally, a tripod that extends so that the camera will be at eye level is a good choice. However, it also depends on the type of pictures that you take and the restrictions and limitations you have on your luggage if you plan to travel with your tripod.

Some people only travel with a table-top tripod or a GorillaPod, which allows them to mount the camera on tree branches, tubes, etc., so they can have a high angle without having a tall tripod. 

Whichever type of tripod you choose, just make sure it will hold your camera. Table-top tripods are often meant for smartphones or compact cameras – so, if you travel with a DSLR, for example, make sure it’s sturdy enough.

The same goes for the GorillaPod; there are different models for different types of cameras – so choose the right one. Regarding extendable tripods, most of them will hold a DSLR with standard lenses. 

How to Choose the Right Tripod Height

Here’s a handy way to find out how big of a tripod you need:

Your Eye Level minus the height of your camera’s viewfinder minus the tripod head (base plate) height = correct tripod height.

  1. Measure the distance from the floor to your eye-level
  2. Subtract the height from the floor to your viewfinder or rear LCD screen (whichever you normally shoot with)
  3. Subtract the height from the floor to your tripod base plate with the tripod legs fully extended.

You’ll be left with the maximum tripod height needed. (See also: do I need a tripod for travel photography?)

Ideally the ‘tripod head height’ will be without the centre column extended (since this can compromise stability), but you’ll find that most travel tripods won’t be tall enough if you don’t extend the centre column.

Are travel tripods worth it if they don’t meet the minimum height criteria outlined above? Yes, I believe they are, since you should be able to put up with the discomfort of stooping over to take the shot while on holiday. It’s better to have a travel tripod that’s too small for you, than to not have one at all!

jeffcollier
Shotkit Writer, Product Tester & Instagram Manager

Jeff Collier is an experienced film photographer who enjoys experimenting with modern digital photography equipment, software and apps. He’s also an ex-world champion triathlete and avid cyclist, clocking hundreds of km each week in the beautiful Tweed Valley of northern NSW, Australia.

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