Carbon Fiber versus Aluminum


Today’s Question: Other than the lighter weight and being more expensive, what are advantages of carbon fiber versus aluminum tripod?

Tim’s Quick Answer: A carbon fiber tripod will provide a lighter weight while offering equal or better stiffness, will generally dampen vibrations better, and is very durable. The primary disadvantage, of course, is that a carbon fiber tripod will be significantly more expensive than a comparable aluminum tripod.

More Detail: Carbon fiber offers an excellent ratio of strength to weight. So, while carbon fiber is often described as being a lightweight material, that doesn’t tell the full story. The real benefit in my mind is that carbon fiber is able to provide a strong and sturdy platform for your camera even at a low weight.

An aluminum tripod can be made to be just as sturdy as a carbon fiber, but with equal strength and sturdiness the aluminum tripod will be heavier. An aluminum tripod that is as lightweight as a comparable carbon fiber tripod will not be as strong or stable. For example, I’m sure every photographer has seen a lightweight travel tripod that is not sturdy at all and can’t support heavy camera gear.

Carbon fiber will also dampen vibrations better than aluminum, which in some cases can help ensure sharper photos. In addition, carbon fiber is more resistant to corrosion than aluminum.

Needless to say, all other things being equal, a carbon fiber tripod is going to be more expensive (and sometimes much more expensive) that a similar aluminum tripod. And just because a tripod is made of carbon fiber does not mean it is a great tripod.

If you’re not comfortable spending more money for a carbon fiber tripod, you can absolutely find an aluminum tripod that will serve your needs very well. But if you are comfortable spending more, carbon fiber does provide benefits compared to aluminum.