Buying a tripod often ends up in a battle between carbon fiber tripods and aluminum tripods. Carbon is known to be durable and lightweight yet very expensive. Despite the price difference, are carbon tripods worth it?
Budget is always a factor when buying a new tripod. Some photographers can easily recover the cost of owning an expensive tripod. However, some casual shooters cannot justify spending a grand on a tripod.
An aluminum tripod already works well. But the temptation of owning a carbon tripod is strong that it may haunt photographers during their sleep.
Carbon fiber tripods produce sharper images
This may sound confusing at first. Both tripods reduce shake and can hold your camera still. Can carbon fiber tripods produce sharper images?
The short answer is yes.
But for a longer explanation. Carbon is naturally stiffer than aluminum and it absorbs vibrations better. So if you are shooting, the vibration is dampened before it reaches the camera. Think of it as a tripod and a shock absorber in one. This results in sharper images.
However, outside factors should still be considered. Just because you are shooting with a carbon unit means that strong winds will not affect your image.
Aluminum tripods are heavy
Besides being stiffer and more durable, carbon is lighter than aluminum. This is the main reason why the best travel tripods out there are made of carbon.
The difference is not 1 Kg and may only be a hundred grams apart. However, lugging an aluminum tripod for a day will wear you out.
Another advantage of using a carbon tripod when traveling is its durability. As mentioned earlier, it is more durable than an aluminum tripod. It will likely survive any bumps or falls.
The only downside is carbon cracks when under extreme pressure. If it falls down or if it bends unusually with an extreme amount of force, then it will shatter. But this is a rare occasion. Durable tripods like the ProMediaGear carbon fiber units are tested for to withstand extreme conditions.
Unlike aluminum, carbon is not malleable enough to be straightened. Once it is cracked, then it is already a goner.
Carbon fiber tripods will last a lifetime
Carbon tripods last a very long time as long as proper maintenance is taken. The same can be said with aluminum tripods.
But, the main disadvantages of aluminum are dings and hard usage. Like mentioned earlier, aluminum is malleable and can be deformed at certain points. Carbon may flex to absorb the impact, while aluminum will bend.
However, it can be said that both materials last a very long time. The main factor in its lifespan is tripod maintenance.
If not taken care of, both tripods may be broken in no time. Love your tripod and it will love you back.
Aluminum corrodes in the long run
Tripods are used outdoors in extreme conditions such as rain, seawater, rivers, snow, and a whole lot more.
Because of these conditions, an aluminum tripod will deteriorate. It is just how nature works with this element. But with carbon fiber tripods, this is not a problem.
However, there are aluminum parts on a carbon tripod as well. These parts, when exposed to salt or damp areas may weaken in the long run.
All in all, maintenance is key to a long-lasting tripod. But once nature takes its turn, the carbon fiber will win over aluminum.
Carbon is more expensive than aluminum
This is where aluminum shines. Price is the main reason why a lot of people go for an aluminum tripod.
There are decent aluminum tripods out there that cost $150. That is not enough for a good carbon tripod.
For casual photographers, that is more than enough to last for several years. A carbon fiber tripod may then be considered a luxury for them.
Do you need a carbon fiber tripod?
With all the points raised earlier, carbon is more superior to aluminum. There are several aspects that aluminum will win such as stability. But it is not enough to rank above carbon.
However, before jumping ship and buying a thousand-dollar tripod. There is a question that needs to be answered.
Do you need one?
Sure, tripods are considered a worthy investment and will outgrow any gear that will have. But, for your usage, is it worth getting one?
With mirrorless cameras getting more popular and lenses are getting smaller, an aluminum tripod might suffice for some.
That being said, it all boils down to the budget and your intended purpose. If you are looking for a tripod that will last you several bodies, then carbon fiber is a no-brainer.
Now, if you are a budget-conscious buyer and you want to save some money, then get an aluminum tripod.
What is the best carbon fiber tripod worth buying?
If you are decided that carbon is the way to go, then it is time to search for the best carbon fiber tripod. Luckily, ProMediaGear has several options in its catalog.
The best tripod out there is the ProMediaGear TR424L Carbon Fiber Tripod. It has 42mm diameter carbon fiber legs with a cross-woven pattern. The locks are made of aluminum and work smoothly in any condition.
It is compatible with a flat top mount and a bowl system depending on your usage. Besides that, the anti-slip fit helps keep it planted in the ground.
The TR424L has four leg sections with a max height of 196 cm. The minimum height is 15 cm with a folded length of 67 cm. It weighs 2903 grams yet it can carry a max load of up to 125 lbs.
All the features are the same. It has the same bowl system, and even the locks are identical.
However, this is a more compact model. It maxes out at 179 cm and folds to 60 cm. It only weighs 1950 grams but it can hold up to a maximum of 60 lbs.
These tripods are CNC machined in the USA with all the research, development, and production done by photographers. This means that all photography functionality is considered during its design.
That being said, these carbon fiber tripods are worth it despite the high price tag. It is a one time purchase that will surely last a lifetime.