I've had a couple of cheap tripods over the years but when I got my Nikon D7100 I wanted something stronger and steadier. I didn't want one of those all-in-one tripods that discount retailers sell. I wanted a serious tripod, but I wanted to buy one without taking out a loan. After extensive research I came across the Vanguard Brand of tripods and heads.
Most tripods are made of either aluminum or carbon fiber and come in a three-section and four-section leg extensions. Carbon fiber is significantly lighter and more expensive than aluminum so if you think you're going to carry it long distances you might want to consider carbon fiber. If you want to save money, get aluminum. The three-section and four-section leg extension versions have different degrees of sturdiness and compactness. Four-section extensions allow tripods to be reduced to a size to less than 24 inches in length which is the general requirement for carry-on luggage on a plane. The three-section version is sturdier simply because every extension point can introduce wobble. For the most part these are the primary considerations in buying a tripod. One final consideration if you are very tall may be the height of the tripod. For tall individuals you may need to find one tall enough that you're not bending over all day looking thru the lens.
Tripod heads are another matter. There are all shapes and sizes and some work better for those photographers that take still photos and others that are preferred by those taking movies. I settled on a ballhead. It's preferred by most still photographers and that's what I intend to use it for the most. Various tripods and heads of virtually all manufacturers are interchangeable so many photographers have tripods and heads that are from different manufacturers. It's really just a personal preference. The primary requirement of the head is the ability of the head to support at least the weight of your equipment.
I ended up getting the Vanguard 263AT with the Vanguard BBH-200 Ballhead. This is an outstanding combination. The tripod is aluminum and has legs with three-extensions and the ballhead is the middle of the line of Vanguard BBH Ballheads. It's a wonderful combination and I couldn't be more pleased. You can find out more information from this company at their website, vanguardworld.com. Below are two videos demonstrating this tripod and bullhead.
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