If you’re reading this you might have come here because you want a new tripod and trying to decide between Carbon or Aluminum. Well maybe this will help you decide, the big factor, which best fits your need as your photography style dictates.
Pros: Light weight (duh), Small collapsed size.
Cons: Cost compared to Aluminum
When I go for a hike the tripod I grab is carbon fiber. When you have a hike ahead of you and carrying other gear along (see my other post on Low Cost Alternative Camera Bags) the light weight and small size really make the carbon an advantage of owning. I also like them for architectural photographs since a lot of the time is spent walking around the site, looking for good shots and walking up and down stairs. But there is a drawback. We were taking photos for a client at a rehearsal hall. The floors were slick, I did not notice one of my tripod legs was no fully extended (pulled out at an angle from the base). The weight of the camera caused the leg to slide out, that with a long exposure caused small blur in the image that was not noticed till later when zoomed in. The culprit, the tripod leg moved on the slick floor. Another disadvantage I have come across is while standing in a stream while taking photos of a waterfall. If the water has some force to it I have notice my tripod quaking as the water hits it, forcing me to take a shot from another location. I know strong water will knock over a tripod no matter what it is made from.
Pros: Cost, usually less compared to Carbon
Cons: Heavy (mine is really bulky but the weight can be an advantage), It really does not collapse much.
If I am not making a long trek for photos, I grab my Aluminum Tripod. I especially grab it for waterfall photos. Mine is rock stead and can take a pounding when water is hitting it and not move. Now if I have to make a good trek to the waterfall and it is to heavy to tote along, I end up going to my carbon and adjusting the location I shot from at the waterfall depending on the water strength. Lately I have been grabbing it more for Architectural photos (see above) its steadiness is and advantage. I pull those legs out, and they don’t move on just about any surface I shot on. On ice, pull out the spikes, push into the ice, rock steady.
It really depends on what and where I am photographing that day. Truth be told, there are both types in the car with me. If you are just starting out and need a decent tripod, I would go with Aluminum, lower cost and steady. If you’re into hiking or walking a distance to get to your shot, Carbon is the way to go.