I’m in the market for a new tripod, so in this post i’m going to run you through my thought process for selecting a tripod with the right hight for me. As a little bit of background, i’ve been using a Manfrotto 190XPROB with a 3-Way Head for several years and it’s been a great companion, and fits nicely into my travel bag, but it’s always been a little too short for my liking and this meant I ended up hunching over more than I should. It does have a centre stand which makes it higher, but centre stands are less stable and compromise the main purpose of a tripod  – which is to stop your camera from shaking. So what I have been looking for is a tripod without a centre stand that has main legs high enough for me stand straight and view the cameras LCD screen (I shoot almost entirely via Canon’s Live View).

But how high should the tripod be?

One of the challenges I found choosing a tripod in store is that they often don’t have the tripod head I’m going to use attached, and they don’t have a camera mounted. So even though it’s right in front of me, i’m still guessing if it’s the right height. With this in mind, what i’ve done below is use a little bit of maths to figure out the ideal tripod height for me, and the same approach should work for you as well.

How to calculate Tripod height

The maths

The basic maths is to measure your eye height and then subtract the hight of your tripod head and the distance from the base of the camera to the mid point of the cameras LCD screen. Here’s an example.

Eye Height 1.727m
Minus tripod head height 0.16m
Minus height to LCD Screen 0.05m
Tripod height 1.517m

Choosing the tripod

Now that you have a base number for your ideal tripod you can jump online and check the specifications for their height. You’re unlikely to find one with an exact number like 1.515m, but you can now choose the closest fit. If you’re choosing a tripod that does have a centre stand make sure the specified height is with the stand down. Good manufacturers will list both the extended and the retracted height. And if you’re wondering where you get the height of the tripod head, what I recommend doing is choosing your head first and then googling it’s model number and height. Most tripods and heads use the same size thread, so mixing brands shouldn’t be an issue. As for the height of the camera LCD screen, I just measured mine with a tape measure. You may also want to take into consideration the size of a battery grip if you have one, but I doubt a few centimetres is going to make a huge difference. Using a tripod this high means that you won’t be able to see the butons and screen on top of the camera. This doesn’t bother me because I’m familiar with my cameras, but it may feel awkward at first. Also, If i were to choose a tripod that was slightly higher or lower than my ideal height, I would go with the the lower. I know you could drop the legs slightly, but that seems painful to me.

Which one did I choose?

I’m still deciding, but at the moment i’m leaning towards a Gitzo carbon fibre Systematic series 3 with 3 sections (149.5 cm $730) or a Photo Clam PT324 Pro Gold 4-Section Carbon Fiber (147 cm $550). As for the head it’s probably going to be Photo Clam Multi flex Geared Head ($1149). All together it’s going to be an expensive piece of kit, but hopefully will last me many, many years.