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Should you Choose a Carbon Fiber vs Aluminum Tripod?

Choosing the right tripod for nature photography can be difficult. In this article, we compare carbon fiber and aluminum tripods based on a wide range of criteria like tripod weight, stability, stiffness and price, and more.

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Should you Choose Aluminum vs Carbon Fiber Summary

As a quick summary, here is our assessment of whether to choose an aluminum tripod or a carbon fiber tripod.

CategoryWinner
Weight and Portability Carbon Fiber
Stability Aluminum
Stiffness Carbon Fiber
Longevity
Corrosion Resistance Carbon Fiber
Price Aluminum
OverallCarbon Fiber

Quick verdict: If you can afford it go for a carbon fiber tripod. If not choose a high-quality aluminum alloy tripod. Avoid cheap and low-quality tripods. You will usually have to replace it with a better one within the first year. A high-quality tripod can last for decades if you take good care of it. So this is by far the best way to spend your money.

landscape photographer with a tripod

Weight and Portability

If you are going to carry your tripod in order to get to your location you will need to carry all of your gear including your tripod. A bulky and heavy tripod will become a hassle to carry, resulting in your deciding to manage without on occasions where it could actually be useful to have it. Carbon fiber tripods are a fair deal lighter compared to their aluminum counterpart. In terms of portability, there is no difference between the two. A collapsible tripod is great, but avoid giving this higher priority than stability. Tripods with legs that have four sections are a little more unstable than those with legs divided into three sections. The weight savings you get from a carbon fiber tripod can be well worth it if you plan on carrying your tripod a lot or also use it as your travel tripod.

Winner: Carbon fiber

manfrotto tripod
Photo by Manfrotto.com

Stability

You will find that aluminum tripods generally have more stability for the same reason they lose in the category above: Added weight. Heavier tripods are more stable and not as easily moved due to wind. Because of their lightness carbon fiber tripods often end being top have when you place a heavy camera and a long lens on top of it. However, make sure you place the tripod firmly on the ground and use the hook at the bottom of the center column to hang your heavy camera bag to counteract this, to eliminate this drawback of carbon fiber tripods.

Winner: Aluminum

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Stiffness

Every slight vibration that travels from the ground through your tripod and up to your camera can result in camera shake. Since carbon fiber is much stronger than aluminum it also means it doesn’t transmit vibrations as easily. Even the tiniest amount of camera shake can result in a ruined photo, and after all, that is actually what you try to avoid in the first place by having a tripod. Carbon fiber tripods are stiffer

Winner: Carbon fiber

Longevity

If you take care of your tripod it will outlive several camera models and lenses. High-quality tripods matter whether they are made from aluminum or carbon fiber can last a very long time. Even if you are a bit rough with it from time to time a tripod can take usually ensure it, however, carbon fiber is stronger. But with high-quality tripods s this is likely to close to call.

Winner: draw

Photo by Manfrotto.com

Corrosion Resistance

In landscape photography, it is not uncommon to position your tripod half submitted in water if this what it takes to get the shot. This also means that your exposure the tripod to the road of corrosion. Aluminum doesn’t corrode the same way as steel, however over time it will start to oxide, especially in scratches. Wiping down your tripod after exposing it to the elements and salt can help protect your tripod, and prolong the life of your tripod a great deal.

Winner: carbon fiber

Price

Carbon fiber has a higher price tag than aluminum without a doubt and for a reason. But if you don’t have the extra money to spend then it doesn’t matter if the quality is better.

Winner: Aluminum

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Concluding words

Overall we suggest you get a carbon fiber tripod even though it is more expensive than aluminum. However, aluminum tripods are a great choice if you are just starting out in photography, and need to cash out for lens and camera as well. But avoid the cheapest tripods, as the saying goes: Buy quality once, garbage twice.

2 thoughts on “Should you Choose a Carbon Fiber vs Aluminum Tripod?”

  1. I like your analysis. But surprised you picked a Manfroto Tripod.
    I have the same tripod, and there is one very short coming with Manfroto tripods, that is Manfroto DOES NOT provide a method to weight down the tripod with a camera bag to help stabilize it on windy days, most other quality tripods provide a hook from the center column to provide a means to stabilize the tirpod by weighing it down.
    Since these manufacturers are aware that a slight wind can blurr the shot I find it surprising that they do not provide a simple method to reduce the affects of wind on a tripods stability.

    So maybe when comparing tripod features you should include the capability to stabilize the tripods, it is crazy for us to pay hundreds of dollars for a tripod that provides NO WAY to stablize it as a standard feature

    Reply
    • Hi Art,

      As such I didn’t pick a Manfrotto, as I merely compare benefits and drawbacks of Carbon Fiber vs Aluminum tripods for each of the criteria above. The “winner” is chosen for each category, whether it is the best choice in terms of, i.e. stiffness, corrosion resistance.

      I don’t actually recommend a specific tripod in the article. Sorry, if that wasn’t clear.

      Anyway, I like Manfrotto, but I agree that a hook would be nice as standard, and not as something you should pay extra money for.

      Thanks for commenting 🙂

      Reply

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