Different Types of Tripods Explained

“What is a fluid head tripod?” is probably just one of your questions when shopping for a tripod. To answer this query and more, we discuss the different types of tripods below. 

A tripod is one of the most important tools of a photographer. It can support your camera and lens to ensure a shake-free operation and sharper photos.

However, with so many types of tripods on the market, it can be quite overwhelming to choose the right one.

Fortunately, this article will walk you through the different types of tripods based on their leg height or head. Hopefully, by the end of this guide, you will be familiar with each type.

Without further ado, let’s dive right into it!

Different Types of Tripod Based on Legs 

There are various types of tripods on the market. One way to differentiate them is through their legs and height.

Full-sized Tripod

Celestron 82052 Tripod

Full-sized tripods, also known as height-adjustable tripods, feature extendible legs divided into sections. The more sections the legs have, the taller the tripod is.

On average, a full-sized tripod’s legs can extend 50 inches to 63 inches (126 to 160 cm) from the ground.

Some full-sized tripods also include an adjustable center column to add extra height. There is even a hook at the bottom. This item can hold counterweights to ensure the tripod’s stability further.

Moreover, this full-sized tripod system usually has multi-angle leg locks. This function allows you to position the camera and lens from various angles.

Their heavy-duty construction, special features, and strength-to-weight ratio make them the ideal tripod for professional and serious photographers. They can handle heavy cameras and telephoto lenses just fine, making them true video tripod systems.

However, this type of tripod can compromise one final note. It can be too bulky for those who often travel. A taller tripod also does not necessarily mean better. The higher the legs or center column, the less stable it can be.

Compact or Travel Tripod

Amazon Basics 60-Inch Lightweight Tripod

As you can probably tell by its name, a compact or travel tripod is designed with traveling in mind.

This type of tripod offers most of the features that you get from full-sized tripods, including the chassis multi-angle leg and center column. The tripod, however, is considerably lighter and smaller, especially when folded down. Thus, it is easier to pack and bring with you wherever you want to shoot. 

A compact tripod might be the perfect choice for walk-around and travel shoots.

But before buying this three-legged camera support, it is essential to know that it cannot handle heavy cameras. Some can only support up to a few pounds, which is not suitable for professional or higher-end camera gear.

Mini or Tabletop Tripod

Manfrotto PIXI Mini Tripod

A mini tripod is the smallest tripod on the market. It is usually 4 inches up to 20 inches (10 to 50 cm) in height.

This type of tripod easily fits inside a camera bag or purse. It can also be set down on a table—hence its name—or any level surface as needed due to their compact build.

But don’t let its small size fool you!

Some mini tripods offer the same features and flexibility as their full-sized counterparts. They can also handle the weight of a DSLR camera up to a certain extent. Thus, they are especially handy for vlogging and travel photography.

However, mini or tabletop tripods only have single section legs that do not extend. They also lack a center column, which significantly limits their height.

Flexible Tripod

Joby JB01507 GorillaPod Tripod

Flexible tripods feature bendable and twisting legs that you can wrap around tree branches, poles, and other unexpected places. They help you capture creative angles and unique perspectives. They can even transform into a selfie monopod.

Moreover, flexible tripods are compact and portable, ideal for traveling. They are similar to mini tripods, but they are far more versatile. 

However, this unique tripod system can be quite limiting if there is not a place to wrap their legs around.

Different Types of Tripod Heads

Another way to distinguish various types of tripods is through the heads attached to their legs.

Ball Head

Neewer Professional Metal 360 Degree Rotating Panoramic Ball Head

Tripods with ball heads allow you to position the camera in almost all angles. They come with a locking screw to keep that position in place. 

Ball heads are probably the most popular tripod head on the market because of their flexibility. They also do not take up a lot of space, ideal for shooting in tight spaces. 

Despite these grip ball head advantages, their ball structure makes it challenging to achieve minor angle adjustments.

Pan and Tilt Head

Manfrotto 3-Way Pan and Tilt Head

Unlike a ball head, a pan and tilt head only have two axes, restricting camera movement. Nevertheless, this type of tripod head still allows you to pan and tilt independently, hence the name.

If you wish to move the camera horizontally, lock the tilt handle and loosen the pan head. For vertical movement, do the exact opposite—lock the pan function and use the tilt handle.

With the ability to adjust angles individually, it is easier to make minor adjustments using this tripod head type. However, it can take up more space than a ball head due to its separate handles.

Fluid Head

IFOOTAGE Video Tripod Fluid Head

A fluid tripod head is a type of pan and tilt head that is designed for recording videos. It has separate pan and tilt movements, but it also offers a drag feature. This function enables you to adjust the amount of friction while moving the head horizontally (pan). The result is smoother videos without any noticeable jerks, even when adjusting the angle.

However, tripods with fluid heads are usually more expensive than the previous types of tripods.

Gimbal Head

Neewer Gimbal Tripod

Gimbal tripod heads can handle heavier and longer telephoto lenses, such as 400mm, 600mm, and more.

All you need to do is align the camera and lens in the center of gravity to get the optimal balance and stability.

Then, the gimbal tripod head will hold your camera gear in this position, but it is not locked down. That means you still get to move the equipment as if you are shooting handheld.

This type of tripod head is popular among bird and wildlife photographers.

It can be pretty challenging to use, though, especially if you are a beginner.

Pistol Grip Tripod Head

Vanguard Alta GH-300T Pistol Grip Tripod Head

A pistol grip head features a ball joint and a pistol grip.

Like a ball tripod head, it enables you to position the camera at any angle you want. 

However, this type of tripod head makes it easier to achieve minor angle adjustments, owing to the pistol grip.

Simply press the trigger button to control the ball joint tension. Once you are happy with the camera position, you can release the button so that the head can lock in place.

However, only a few photographers use pistol grip heads. Maybe the reason behind this is the head’s noticeably larger size or unique design, which is not everyone’s cup of tea.

Panoramic Tripod Head

Sioti Panoramic Tripod Head

A panoramic tripod head allows you to move the camera horizontally, also known as panning in photography. 

This tripod head may seem redundant to some photographers. After all, standard ball and fluid heads already offer a panning base.

However, these two types of tripods do not give you absolute precision.

On the other hand, a panoramic tripod features markings in degrees to let you know the camera movement angle. Thus, it can help ensure accuracy when panning. That also means consistent image overlaps when you are taking panoramas or recording time lapse videos.

Motorized Tripod Head

Bescor MP101 Motorized Tripod Head

A motorized tripod head, also known as a geared head, uses a battery-powered motor for precise movement.

Most models have built-in buttons to set the speed and precision of the pan and tilt. Some high-end tripod heads are even compatible with smartphone apps, which allow you to control their position remotely. 

This type of tripod head is useful for panoramic photography, time-lapse videos, and other applications where precision is vital.

All these benefits come at an expensive cost, though.


By now, you probably have a good idea about the different types of tripods on the market.

Do note that each type of tripod is designed for a particular kind of photography. So when shopping for one, it is best to consider your needs and preferences. It can help you choose the right tripod that meets your requirements.