Carbon fibre tabletop tripod with home-made legs
Carbon fibre tripods have reduced the weight of “travel” tripods considerably but most of them are still above the 1kg mark. I have spent a while looking for tripods suitable to take on the Pacific Crest Trail and not just daily hikes; as such, I require something much lighter than the average person. Tabletop tripods seem to be the best solution. Mirrorless cameras are typically quite small, and the suggestions below might not work for DSLRs. I wouldn’t instantly dismiss them because you might be surprised at the strength of some of them, and you might not need something as big as you imagined. It rather depends on the balance of the camera and the lens, and also how much the lens protrudes from the body e.g. a zoom lens is typically much longer than a prime lens. Some zoom lenses also have mounting points on the lenses themselves and not just the base of the camera.
Tabletop tripod options
Luckily the Sony a7rII and a prime lens isn’t long enough to tip over various tabletop tripods I have found:
- Novoflex Microstativ 19 Mini Ball head and Tabletop Tripod – 142g with head
- Novoflex Microstativ Micropod Tabletop Tripod without ballhead
- Manfrotto 709B Mini Tabletop Tripod
- Manfrotto Pixi Mini Tripod – 191g
- Manfrotto 2 Section Mini Tripod
- Oben TT-50 Table Top Tripod
- Pedco UltraPod II Lightweight Camera Tripod
- Feisol Mini Tripod TT-15 – 190g no head
- RRS BC-18 Pocket ‘Pod Package
- Sunwayphoto T1A10
- Novoflex BasicBall Blue
- Trailpix Ultralight Tripod – Universal 68g no head
- Leica Tabletop Tripod
- Platypod Pro
There’s a few tripod ballhead options too:
- Giottos MH 1004 Mini Ball Head
- Novoflex Ball 19/19P
The Manfrotto 709B Mini Tabletop Tripod looks great, and it is arguably better than the Pixi Mini; however, after reading a detailed review describing a weak point, I decided to give that tripod a miss. The trailpix looks interesting too, and I wonder if using something like that and some tent pegs to hold it to the ground, would make a sturdy platform; a ballhead would still be required. This would reduce any vibration issues associated with taller tripods. It would be ground height but for some landscape shots it might not be an issue.
After researching all of the tripods above, I bought the Novoflex Microstativ Micropod Tabletop Tripod as it’s extremely lightweight. It doesn’t have any joints that can unscrew themselves over time either. I had played around with some design ideas of my own, but I found keeping the body section of the Novoflex Microstativ Tabletop Tripod and making my own legs worked out to be cheaper than having a part of aluminium CNC machined. I have a couple of gripes with the Novoflex Microstatic Micropod Tabletop Tripod, but nothing that would warrant the cost of having a part of aluminium CNC machined.
The original Novoflex Microstativ Micropod Tabletop Tripod
The completed result with my own legs
In total, this weighs less than 100grams. I used carbon fibre tubing, 6x8mm (1mm wall) that was originally 500mm long (I cut it with a cutting disc). I also used 6mm solid carbon fibre rod (this was 1000mm long and I cut little sections that were put into the ends of the tube) and I used regular epoxy to fix the rods in the tubes. Finishing epoxy would be better as it sets slightly harder. Before I placed the segments into the tubing, I carefully cut a 1mm deep groove into the rod, so that I could place o-rings in the appropriate places. I completed the other end by using a bit of the 6mm rod and also some epoxy to create a rounded edge. Finally, I bought some silicone feet and cut them in half to make them smaller. The legs are longer, lighter and stronger than the original aluminium legs.
This is the basic design of each leg.
I took these photographs with a 6 stop ND filter. A 30 second exposure showed no signs of blur on the rocks at all (there’s slight blur on the rock on the left but that’s because it’s out of focus).