My primary tripod is an Induro CT203 with an AcraTech GP Ballhead, total cost of around $700 USD. This may seem like a lot until you truly appreciate everything a good tripod does for your photography. Getting rigidity and rock solid stability in a relatively lightweight package means using carbon fiber and highly machined parts….hence the cost. But lower end tripods will ultimately lead to frustration. Here’s the course most photographers (including myself) go through: buy cheap plastic tripod for $40. Realize it doesn’t work in any real world situations and toss it. Buy $100 aluminum tripod.
This tripod works great at first, but it’s heavy as a mother, and the metal parts start corroding over time, especially near the ocean. Eventually replace this tripod with a set of carbon fiber legs ($200) and a separate, cheap ballhead ($100). This tripod works great at first but the ballhead is clunky to use and not smooth in its operation. If any dirt, dust, water, or sand get inside the various mechanisms, the tripod legs and ballhead bite the dust. Finally spend $300-$400 on a set of carbon fiber tripod legs with twist locks, and $400+ on a high quality ballhead that is easy to clean and service with a company that offers excellent customer service. Use this tripod for the rest of your life.
Which means that the typical serious photographer will spend twice as much on tripods over his or her life than if he/she had simply purchased a good tripod from the get go. However, I realize that not everyone can afford a high-end ‘pod, and in those cases you can check out Slik, Dolica, and Induro (aluminum models). Each produces inexpensive tripods that are feature-rich enough to serve you well until you can afford a better tripod.