What Is Tripod Load Capacity?

When you’re shopping for a tripod, one of the more confusing numbers you’ll run into is the tripod’s “load capacity.” It sounds pretty simple: shouldn’t that just be the maximum weight the tripod can handle?

Well, it’s a little more complicated than that, and unfortunately there’s no universal standard for determining the load capacity. So, one manufacturer might say their tripod can handle 20 lbs, while another manufacturer’s standards would rate that exact same tripod at 30 lbs.

Generally, the load capacity of a tripod refers to the maximum weight that a tripod can handle before it starts losing stability (due to the weight only). But, since there’s no universal standard for this number, the rule of thumb is that your tripod’s load capacity should be at least three times the total weight of the heaviest camera/lens/head you’ll be mounting on the tripod.

When you’re trying to find the right load capacity that you need, remember to factor in the weight of the head too, since that will also be mounted on the tripod legs.

Heads have a load capacity too!

Also, don’t forget that tripod heads also have a rated load capacity. It’s the same deal with these too: there are no universal standards for determining this number. So, the best thing to do is be conservative and get a head that’s rated for at least three times the weight of the heaviest camera/lens that you want to use with that head.

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steveb2About the Author: Steve Berardi is a naturalist, photographer, computer scientist, and founder of PhotoNaturalist. You can usually find him hiking in the beautiful mountains and deserts of southern California.


  1. Steve how do they figure three times the total weight of the heaviest camera/lens/head you’ll be mounting on the tripod. I understand twice the load but three time? I use the rule of twice and not push it.

    • Hi Bodean – I’ve heard that some tripod manufacturers (such as Gitzo) are really conservative with their numbers. So, it’s probably safe to get a Gitzo tripod that’s rated at just two times the weight of your camera/lens/head. But, in general, I think it’s good to be conservative and if you’re not sure how strict a manufacturer is with their numbers, then relying on that “three times rule” is a good idea.

  2. Michael Young says:

    And don’t forget large format cameras like 4×5 or even 8×10, these may not be used much these days, but when we did they produced great images, especially when perspective control was needed. These cameras did not weigh a whole lot but needed much stability, like sand bags on feet or even cinder blocks. The heavier the more stable and remember to use a shutter release for cameras and for digital also, maybe use manual focus, timer to get that great shot.

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