There have been a ton of articles written about travel tripods by photographers and I just wanted to add my experience in looking for a good travel tripod to the information highway. About a year ago, August of 2019 to be exact, I was preparing from a road trip to do some hiking in the UP of Michigan. I knew that opportunities would abound for shots that involve a tripod. In my haste to find a travel tripod, I settled on the MeFoto Travel tripod (review here) and it worked OK for me but I was never really satisfied with its stability on uneven terrain or with the column extended even a little bit. Hence the new search.
Here was my criteria for the travel tripod, which is probably close with minor tweaks to what we all want as photographers.
- Sturdy with either a mirror-less or DSLR system
- No center column (More on this in a minute)
- No longer than 24 inches (So it fits in my MP-1 photopack)
- Adjustable for low angled landscape shots
More on the center column. In my humble opinion, if you use a tripod with a center column, you basically have a glorified monopod. Not to mention that there well be camera shake with the column extended no matter how tight the lockdown is. Having said that, my choices for a travel tripod without a center column were pretty slim. Here are the ones that I considered initially.
Peak Design Travel Tripod
This is a very innovative product and is definitely portable and has been getting a lot of press, but based on my criteria, it has a center column and there have been reports of the legs flexing with certain combos like a DSLR and 70-200. I cannot confirm this as a definite not having utilized the product, but this is what I have read and is being reported in some cases. I don’t want to risk my gear if there is even a a slight possibility of flex.
Benro FTA28CV1 Travel Angel
Reasonably priced carbon fiber tripod. but again, utilizes a center column and reviews have noted that is rotates down in the vertical / portrait position. That may be dependent on the weight of the rig. Some say they like it and others not so much.
Gitzo GIGT1545T Traveler Series
A very popular brand and well know name. I highly considered this one, but again, it has a column and I did not want one with a column. In addition I had read some reviews that noted it was not that stable again, with column extended and the rubber feet can come off relatively easy.
The three tripods above were the ones that consistently were near the top of each search that I did. Furthering my search led me to a vendor that I had never heard of called Leofoto. Located and assembled in China (what isn’t these days) I stumbled upon this manufacturer in my search. It seemed to get really good ratings from photographers who have used this brand and it was carbon fiber at a reasonable price ($318.00 as of this post).
The more I contemplated the decision to purchase this, it became apparent that my checklist of things was going to need to have some give and take. This tripod provided 4 out of the 5 things I wanted. What I sacrificed was the weight. This tripod weighs 1.77 kg or 3.9 pounds, so for a travel tripod, it is considered on the heavy side. Aside from that, here are the things that I like about the tripod.
- Compactness – 18.9″ inches folded
- Stability – This is just as stable as my main tripod from RRS
- Made to last from 10 layers of carbon fiber
- Spider is CNC Machined aircraft aluminum
- Has military grade anodization so its built to last
Although I compromised on the weight, there were other selling points for me this tripod. On the collar there is a threaded socket that you can put a magic arm or threaded grip to hold an off camera flash or anything else you may need. This company does have some very creative accessories that you can utilize with this addition.
The tripod when fully extended is plenty tall enough, even for someone that is 201cm (6 feet 5 inches). With 5 leg extensions you can customize to your height and have rock solid platform.
After having used this tripod I have come to really like its stability and how my gear mounts on the tripod platform. It is a non-skid surface and the design allows for a load of 44 pounds, far heavier than any rig I would use including video.
With all that said, there is not center column on this tripod, it is rock solid in all conditions that I have tested, (wind, rain and uneven terrain) and I would recommend this tripod as a travel tripod or a main tripod if you so choose. I am really happy with this purchase thus far.
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