Good cameras are smaller and cheaper than ever. But if you want to take sharp photos and video on the go, you’ll need a versatile, portable tripod to keep your camera steady and placed where you want it.
You see, tripods are like the bread on a sandwich. It doesn’t matter how big, small, or artistically inspired your sandwich is. If it isn’t supported by bread, you’re going to have a medium-sized mess on your hands. I mean, you won’t need a tripod to take pictures of the family at Olive Garden, but can you imagine what your yearbook pictures would look like if the photographer didn’t have a tripod?
Most mini tripods are small enough to fit in your pocket, which makes them a great option for people who want a lot of portability. But they’re also a great option for photographers who need a lot of versatility. You can use a mini tripod indoors, outdoors, or on a desk. They can be adjusted to take the perfect picture in rugged terrain, or to ensure that you get a crisp photo in a low-light setting. Some mini tripods are so light-weight that you can attach them to trees. The Joby Gorillapod and iGadgitz PT310 are especially impressive because they can double as hand-held stabilizers, or magnetically cling to and wrap around surfaces.
Of course, you don’t need to buy a dedicated camera or camcorder to shoot good photos or video. Your cellphone probably has a powerful camera built into the hardware (you’ll know if it doesn’t). Some of the tripods that we’ve recommended come with a clamp for phones, but you’ll generally want to attach an adapter to your phone if you want to use a tripod. While you’re at it, you may want to grab a Bluetooth shutter remote to make everything easier.
Joby GorillaPod Magnetic 325 ($23)
The Joby GorillaPod Magnetic 325 is the most versatile mini tripod that you can buy. Its magnetically-tipped, flexible legs allow you to take stabilized photos from impossible angles. Yes, the GorillaPod’s legs look gimmicky, but they can wrap around tree branches, magnetically stick to walls, and adapt to grossly uneven surfaces. Imagine recording a time-lapse video from a hand-rail, or taking a selfie from the rafters of a building. These are options that either don’t exist or are too inconvenient to consider without a GorillaPod.
Oh, and the Joby GorillaPod isn’t restricted to tripod-duty. You can transform the GorillaPod into a selfie stick, a hand-stabilizer, or a shoulder rig by bending its legs into various shapes. It’s a great option for people who are on the go and need to get creative with their camera placement.
A final note on the GorillaPod: there are thousands of cheap knockoff imitations and we’d strongly encourage you to avoid them. The build quality on the cheap clones is typically awful and we’ve had the legs literally fall apart in our hands just unpacking them.
iGadgitz PT310 ($16)
If you’re looking for a reliable mini tripod with a low-profile design, the iGadgitz PT310 may be right up your alley. It has rubber legs and a strong frame to prevent slippage, a ball and socket joint for 360 degree adjustability, and a bubble level to keep your shot from being cockeyed. When the rubber legs to this mini tripod are folded up, it can double as a hand stabilizer. This is a great option for people who shoot a lot of video on the go, as the PT310 is relatively versatile and easy to set up.
The iGadgitz PT310 can hold up to 3.5 pounds, which makes it perfect for compact cameras and lightweight DSLR’s. Just keep in mind that this tripod doesn’t have adjustable legs, so you’ll have to use it on a relatively flat surface.
Oben Ultrapod ($12)
If you’re looking for a laughably portable mini tripod, then the Oben Ultrapod has your name written all over it. This thing only weighs a tenth of a pound, and it folds down to the size of a pocket knife. Despite the Ultrapod’s small size, its aluminum and fiberglass frame can support any camera under 3 pounds. Just for reference, most small DSLR’s are about 3 pounds. You definitely don’t have to worry about this tripod collapsing under the weight of your point-and-shoot.
It’s fair to assume that such a small, cheap tripod would be a lame companion. But the Ultrapod is actually quite versatile and can stand up against larger tabletop tripods, like the Joby or the iGadgitz. It has a built-in ball and socket joint that can turn your camera at any angle. You can also strap the Ultrapod to a tree branch or a rail with the included “one wrap” strap (a piece of Velcro), just don’t try it with a heavy camera or a wimpy branch.
RetiCAM Tabletop Tripod ($30)
The RetiCAM Tabletop Tripod is a mini tripod that sports professional, traditional features. Each of the RetiCAM’s legs can be adjusted and locked independently, so you don’t have to worry about what terrain you find yourself shooting in. At it’s shortest, the RetiCAM is about 10″ tall, but it can be adjusted up to 19″ if you’re trying to shoot something from a reasonable height. Compared to a full sized tripod, the RetiCAM is incredibly portable (it only weighs 1.5 pounds), yet it can hold a camera up to 6 pounds.
Have you noticed what really sets the RetiCAM apart from other mini tripods? It has a 3-way pan/tilt head instead of a ball and socket joint, which means that you can achieve a smooth and level pan when shooting video. Whether you’re trying to record a quality film, or just trying to avoid jump-cuts in your Youtube videos, the RetiCAM is worth considering. It’s a great tripod for professional videography.
Neewer Compact Tripod ($38)
Like the RetiCAM, the Neewer Compact Tripod sports a traditional design and traditional features. In fact, the two tripods are almost identical. Both have independent extendable legs, a 360-degree ball and socket joint, and a bubble level head. They both can adjust from about 10″ high to 19″ high, both weigh 1.5 pounds, and both can hold up to 11 pounds.
Here’s the difference; the Neewer is geared toward photographers instead of videographers. The Neewer sports a 360-degree ball and socket joint instead of a pan/tilt head, which means that while it can adjust to any angle, it can’t pan smoothly for video. If you’re a photographer in need of a sturdy mini tripod, the Neewer is a great candidate.
Fotopro Monopod ($26)
Yes, this is a monopod. It only has one leg. This may sound like a stretch, but the Fotopro Monopod can keep up with and outperform some tabletop tripods. Like a traditional tripod, the Fotopro Monopod can stabilize your camera on a flat surface. Unlike a traditional tripod, the monopod achieves stabilization by curling up like a snake. You can also use this as a selfie stick, or wrap it around guard-rails like the Joby.
Now, the most exciting and groundbreaking feature of the Fotopro Monopod is its multi-mounting hardware. Each end of the Monopod is equipped with a tripod mount, so it’s possible to mount a phone or camera on each end of the device. We understand this might be a bit much to take in at once, but here’s the best use case we can think of, courtesy of Fotopro: you can use the Monopod to Facetime your girlfriend while watching La La Land. Welcome to the future.