Magnesium alloy is the way to go if you want something that is tough and light. But you'll pay some decent amount of money for one of those bad boys. Aluminum Alloy is a good way to go for your first tripod. I have the Vanguard Alta PRO 263AT which is decent enough for me and it's still not cheap, I paid $170 for mine but it is an affordable price for a good mid-range tripod. Just stay away from those SunPak Best Buy specials.