Let’s face the facts. As a photographer, whether amateur or pro, we need support, and no I’m not talking about a jock strap or a sports bra. Actually, I mean tripods or monopods. In this article I’m going to review some of the best carbon fiber tripods so you too can get some extra support.
Why The Need For a Carbon Fiber Tripod?
Certain photographic situations absolutely require a tripod, and having one on hand can be beneficial for many other situations. At times though, we might think it inconvenient to carry and use one due to size, weight and travelability. It’s a valid point.
In my search to find the best solution, I have been looking at all sorts of tripods. From small travel tripods to large studio stands, and everything in between.
One thing I have found is that there is usually a trade off in a tripod being light weight and portable versus being stable and useful. Which is why I really started looking into carbon fiber tripods. The best carbon fiber tripods offer a very stable platform while being much lighter than similar size metal or even plastic tripods.
What Is Carbon Fiber?
When we see “Carbon Fiber” in a description of anything, it means that it is a polymer or resin reinforced with fibers of carbon. Carbon fibers offer several advantages such as high stiffness, high tensile strength, low weight, high chemical resistance, high temperature tolerance, and low thermal expansion.
Therefore this makes carbon fiber tripods both light weight and extremely stable. To get a metal tripod, even a light metal like aluminum, to have the same weight as a carbon fiber tripod, the metal has to be thinner or the entire tripod needs to be less rugged. I can carry around a full size carbon fiber tripod at the same weight as a less secure travel tripod made of metal.
How I Found The Best Carbon Fiber Tripods
How did I determine what carbon fiber tripods would be in my list? Well after a lot of research and field testing, I used the below factors when picking.
- Size and weight: As a photography this is extremely important, you need a tripod that can extend and compact down without being cumbersome or too heavy.
- Stability: Is it rigid enough? Is it vibration free? Is it sturdy enough? Just because it’s a carbon fiber build, doesn’t automatically make it stable.
- Versatility. I like usable features. If a tripod has a certain usability that works well for me, I probably rated it higher than other similar tripods.
- Quality. This seems subjective, but it really isn’t. A good quality product may not stand out, but a lesser quality tool will certainly be noticeable and won’t even make my list.
- Price. I believe you usually get what you pay for. I also believe a tool doesn’t have to break your bank to be a great item.
If I’m boring you to death (sorry) you can save some time and checkout my favourite carbon fiber tripods below including my number one pick.
- ZOMEi Z669C Portable Carbon Tripod Monopod (Editors Pick)
- Neewer Carbon Fiber 66″ Lightweight Carbon Fiber Tripod
- Manfrotto MKBFRC4-BH Befree Carbon Fiber Tripod
- Sirui T-025X 52″ Carbon Fiber Tripod
- ZoMei Z818C Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod
Top 5 Best Carbon Fiber Tripods For All Types Of Photographers
ZOMEi Z669C Portable Carbon Tripod Monopod (Editors Pick)
ZOMEi Z669C Portable Carbon Tripod Monopod Specifications
Weight: 3.4 lbs
Collapsed Height: 14″
Extended Height: 60″
Maximum Load: 19 lbs
Price: Click here to find latest price
ZOMEi Z669C Portable Carbon Tripod Monopod Review
The ZOMEi Z669C easily makes my top pick for the best carbon tripod because it meets all the requirements I listed above. In fact, it blows some of them out of the water in my opinion. Plus, it adds a little something special that I really found useful.
Other photographers are in agreement here as well. Currently there are over 500 positive reviews on Amazon with an average rating of 4.5 stars. Not bad!
In size and weight, this Zomei tripod comes in at about 3 ½ pounds and folds down to a very portable 14 inches. It extends all the way up to 60 inches which was ideal for shooting wildlife and some studio work.
Traditionally when using a tripod made out of aliminim or plastic, you start to get some flex when extending out to full height. This is mainly due to the last two sections of tripod legs being extremely thin and therefore causing a less stable platform.
Having the carbon fiber legs also seemed to dampened a lot of vibrations that I introduced by adjusting my camera settings or moving the ball head.
Moving onto the ball head of this Zomei Z669C. It had a very solid feel which I have come to expect from Zomei products. It loosened up easily for composition and then clamps down in place securely. The ball head is also removable, so if you have a favourite one that you prefer, it’s easy enough to swap it out.
The tripod and ball head are rated to hold 19 pounds. Which more than covers my heaviest camera and lens combo. Mostly I was using my Canon 70D with a 15-85mm lens which was nothing for this beast.
This brings me to a nice little feature that I think more tripods should include. What exactly am i talking about? Sorry to be lacklustre but it is the humble central column. If you shoot long exposure photography then you already know the value of this add-on.
In rare circumstances even carbon fiber just isn’t enough to keep a tripod stable. Once I was shooting a very important outdoor job and the winds were 35 mph with gusts of over 50mph! This is where a dropdown cerntral column comes into frame (pun intended).
What I did was add a sandbag weight to the central column which added a lot of extra stability and lowered the center of gravity. Utilising the central column stopped my expensive camera and lens from blowing over and being able to continue with the shoot.
Another great feature that added versatility was the ability to convert the ZOMEi Z669C to a monopod. At first I thought this was a gimmick feature but I actually found myself using it more than I thought. My niece plays under sevens soccer, so this monopod feature actually came in handy many times.
Setting up the monopod feature was pretty straight forward. All I had to do was remove one of the legs and the center column and then screw them together. Voila! A carbon fiber monopod!
While this ZOMEi Z669C is not a garage sale price, it was reasonably priced for its high quality construction and versatility. I can definitely see this tripod being part of my photography kit for years to come. I highly recommend this tripod for any level photographer.
Neewer Carbon Fiber 66″ Lightweight Carbon Fiber Tripod
Neewer Carbon Fiber 66″ Lightweight Carbon Fiber Tripod Specifications
Weight: 4.8 lbs
Collapsed Height: 24″
Extended Height: 61″
Maximum Load: 26 lbs
Price: Click here to find latest price
Neewer Carbon Fiber 66″ Lightweight Carbon Fiber Tripod Review
Neewer is a brand I’ve come to trust in regards to lighting equipment and other photographic electronic gizmos. So it came as no surprise that the fit and finish quality of this tripod makes it one of the best carbon fiber tripods I tried out.
It’s also very reasonably priced currently on Amazon with an average rating of 4.5 stars.
One feature that I found really beneficial with this Neewer carbon fiber tripod was the maximum extension height of 66 inches. Those extra few inches sure made shooting at full extension a lot more enjoyable with my taller body frame.
However there was one drawback to this extra height. Compacted down, it comes in at around 18 inches. This means it might stick out somewhat when placed in a bag or strapped onto a hiking backpack. Comparing the positives and negatives of this, feel like the extra heigh definitely is worth the compromise.
This carbon fiber unit is stable and settles adjustment vibrations quickly. The legs extend to full length by means of twist locks and I could lean on them without causing much flex. Not all my weight, mind you, but a significant amount of pressure for testing.
Two more very appreciated features are the center column weight hook and the convertibility to monopod use. Until you need those added features, you’ll never know how beneficial they are. But once you need them, you’ll wonder how you ever did without.
I have come to appreciate round legs and twisting sleeve leg locks while testing these carbon fiber tripods. I really took note of their advantages when testing monopods earlier, and having them on tripods is also very nice.
I’m not at all opposed to levers, but there are some nice advantages to the round twist sleeves, such as not having to adjust after hard use in the field. Also, the round carbon fiber legs feel very strong and give me confidence.
Overall this was a great tripod in which i got a lot of value from. This model is slightly cheaper that the above Zomei which makes it more attractive for those on a budget. Highly recommended.
Manfrotto MKBFRC4-BH Befree Carbon Fiber Tripod
Manfrotto MKBFRC4-BH Befree Carbon Fiber Tripod Specifications
Weight: 2 lbs
Collapsed Height: 16″
Extended Height: 55″
Maximum Load: 8 lbs
Price: Click here to find latest price
Manfrotto MKBFRC4-BH Befree Carbon Fiber Tripod Review
Another high quality unit is the Manfrotto MKBFRC4-BH Befree Carbon Fiber Tripod with Ball Head. Manfrotto used to be marketed in the USA under the brand name Bogen. Now, it’s called Manfrotto everywhere in the world. If you’ve been around long enough to remember the Bogen name. Then you know it is a brand synonymous with high quality materials and workmanship while still being fairly priced.
About price, this tripod is the highest priced carbon fiber tripod on my tested list. Coming in at more than double the cost of either of the previous two tripods tested. Is it worth it? Are the other tripods somehow lesser in quality?
So, let’s look at the tripod!
In use is where you really see why some people are very willing to pay the extra money for a Manfrotto product. One thing that stood out for me was how quickly I was able to set it up.
It has lever locks on the legs, which allow almost instantaneous locking and unlocking. Unlike cheaper tripods with locking leg levers, Manfrottos have an adjustment capacity built right into them. They even give you the tool for it!
A small hex key (allen wrench) fits the exposed socket and allows adjusting the locking levers. This is only needed periodically, however. Mostly needed after hard use, like a week or so out backpacking.
Another very quick adjustment is the leg spread angle. A small twisting lever I could operate with my thumb is the control for that. The quick release on the ballhead is virtually intuitive in how it works. So again, operation is so quick it hardly requires any thought at all.
I was a little surprised at the ballhead included. It seems a little lighter duty than many of the other Manfrotto ballheads I’ve used and tested. Maybe the ballhead is why the rig is rated at about half the load capacity of other units tested, 8 to 10 pounds. Maybe they rated it conservatively, or maybe the other ballheads are rated a little more generously by their manufacturer or distributor.
I think at the end of the day, what really separates this tripod from the other models is the Manfrotto name. It’s like the Nike of tripods. Your kind of paying extra just for the name, but at the same time you know you will get a great long lasting product.
Sirui T-025X 52″ Carbon Fiber Tripod
Sirui T-025X 52″ Carbon Fiber Tripod Specifications
Weight: 1.5 lbs
Collapsed Height: 15″
Extended Height: 54″
Maximum Load: 13 lbs
Price: Click here to find latest price
Sirui T-025X 52″ Carbon Fiber Tripod Review
Now, I will discuss the Sirui T-025X 52″ Carbon Fiber Tripod with C-10X Ball Head carbon fiber tripod. This is also a higher priced product, but it has some features which might justify the expense for certain users. As with the other tripods I included in this review, the fit and finish quality is superb.
Two features I felt set this item apart in my quest for the best carbon fiber tripods. One was the extreme angle the legs can spread out and the other is the ballhead.
First, the legs. Spreading out at close to a 90 degree angle (but not quite), I could see myself using this tripod on a hunting trip to use my spotting scope. Lying down on the ground in a concealed spot, with my glass mounted on this for super clear viewing… Yeah, I can see a use for this feature.
Since this tripod is carbon fiber, the extreme weather will hardly affect it. Plus, its light weight and small size make it an easy item to pack along with my other gear.
Second, the ballhead. What sets this ballhead apart is that it has separate controls for tilting and panning. The panning motion is controlled either like a regular ballhead or with its separate control and movement. Seems like a backward step for a ballhead, but in use, I was able to see why this idea is very useful.
I could pan over quickly without disturb any other angle of my camera (or spotting scope) position. I know I’ve seen this feature before on other ballheads, but they’ve all been heavier duty and more expensive.
If searching for the lightest and smallest carbon fiber tripods, this one definitely deserves a look.
ZoMei Z818C Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod
ZoMei Z818C Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod Specifications
Weight: 3.6 lbs
Collapsed Height: 18″
Extended Height: 65″
Maximum Load: 15 lbs
Price: Click here to find latest price
ZoMei Z818C Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod Review
I rounded out my own search for the best carbon fiber tripods by playing around with the ZoMei Z818C Light Weight Portable Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod. I’ll admit I had not remembered ever seeing this brand name before I started researching all the available options, but I’ve come to know and respect this brand. Fit and finish is virtually perfect, as it is with all the tripods that made this list.
This tripod has a great mix of usable features, but it doesn’t beat out the competition hands down. It’s nice and tall fully extended at 65 inches, but it only folds up to 18 inches at 3 ½ pounds. My, how my requirements have changed since I started testing carbon fiber tripods!
Other positive features are the center column hook for weights, the ability to convert to a monopod, and the multi angle leg positions. A unique feature among the tripods I included in this review, is the 360 degree calibrated panoramic scale and the dual bubble levels on the quick release.
I would not give up my nodal mount for professional panorama work. But this set up is great for quickly getting a very decent group of images for a panorama that will be easy to stitch together in even freeware panoramic software.
The legs lock by means of twisting rings and the controls of the ballhead are easy to operate while locking securely in place. Speaking of secure, this tripod and ballhead is rated as being able to hold over 30 pounds! While I’m not really sure of that high of a rating for a travel tripod with a ballhead. I can positively state that I was comfortable putting my heaviest camera and lens combo on it.
The only thing in this entire review I will actually say that I positively didn’t like has nothing to do with features, ease of use, quality, or stability. What I didn’t care for was the color scheme of this tripod. Mostly black, which is nice, but with shiny orange parts, including the ballhead. Perhaps I’m being too picky, but I was not pleased with the metallic orange. Maybe they were going for a bronze metal look…
Pricing is right at the middle of all the carbon fiber tripods I tested for this review. All in all, another great product, promising to be a most useful tool for many photographers.
Best Uses Of Carbon Fiber Tripods For Photographers and Film Makers
I really liked all of the tripods I included in this review. Each had way more positives than negatives, and the negatives I did find didn’t disqualify any of these from consideration. I’m still looking for the perfect tripod, but I would be more than satisfied with any of these top 5 best carbon fiber tripods that i included in this list.
Below are some example in which I have used a carbon fiber tripod, im sure there are heaps of other uses, but these were the top for me.
- Nature photography: While many nice scenes can be seen from the side of a road, I find that taking a small hike will usually pay off with a much better view. Landscape scenes will also tend to involve smaller apertures for depth of focus, thus my shutter speeds are slower. Even though I can hand hold very well, a tripod ensures maximum steadiness. If I’m hiking any distance at all, from a 30 minute walk to a day hike to a week long backpacking trek, weight is among my considerations.
- Close ups, of any kind: Especially with macro-photography in natural settings, I want to be able to get up close with a steady platform. A versatile tripod will let me do that. Even in studio with lots of lights available, a tripod ensures that the final image will not suffer from camera movement, which is very important in high magnification work.
- Long telephoto lenses: Shooting with long telephoto lenses is another high magnification situation. Made especially easy for more of us now with some of the newer, low cost extreme telephoto lenses. On an APS-C size sensor, those giant zooms have quite a large magnification factor. Even if shooting wide open aperture and a fast shutter speed, that magnification factor means I’ll get better images with a good tripod. Plus, those lenses are still big and heavy, compared with my other lenses anyways, so extra support is welcome. This can apply to nature images or sports. I’ll include glassing with spotting scopes in this bullet point.
- Panoramas: A panoramic photography rig absolutely requires a tripod to get good results. Panoramas are a staple of real estate photography, residential and commercial, and are a cool way to look at the natural world around us, too. It goes without saying that a realty or nature photo shoot is an on site job, so I want a tripod stable enough for the panorama rig, and still easy to transport.
- Travel photography. What? Yes! Have you ever seen a view that you want to capture, but there are lots of people milling about, detracting from the view? Well, many of the same stitching software programs we use for panoramas can also be used for a technique called ghosting. Ghosting allows me to remove people from a popular tourist attraction in post production. It absolutely requires a tripod.
- Astrophotography. Even for relatively short exposures like the full Moon, a tripod is a must have tool to achieve the best results. If I’m shooting anything dimmer than the full Moon, my exposure times are quite long, requiring a very stable tripod. If I’m photographing stars, planets, or the Milky Way, of course I’m outside, so portability again is a factor I consider.
- Videography. A lot of the problems I see in YouTube videos or on vlogs, is what I call Shaky Cam. This has nothing to do with pizza, but rather it’s an unsteady platform that actually may cause some people some discomfort, such as nausea, while viewing. A stable platform often makes for a more viewable video. Except for certain artistic endeavors, video should not make the viewer queasy, IMHO.
I’m sure you could easily think of many other situations where a portable, but sturdy, tripod would be a good idea.