Tripods are like camera bags, there is no one size fits all. This fact will soon come around to irritate you at some point, especially when you’ve bought that lovely Gitzo tripod, only to discover it’s not quite useful for a specific task. My biggest piece of advice here is to not sell your equipment; just because it’s not useful for one thing, doesn’t make it bad for another.
The focus of this tripod article
Sometimes a heavier tripod can be more useful. For example, if you’re doing interior photography, a heavy, 50 year old tripod might move around less on the ground. There are other options to consider as well, for example what if it’s a big house and you’ve got to move that tripod from room to room? What if you have to get on public transport? This article would be too long to cover everyone’s needs, but I am going to focus on lightweight tripods.
Full Sized Travel Tripod
There are numerous travel tripods available at the moment. There’s a lot made by the Chinese especially. Some of them don’t have the best leg locks, some have wobble/play in the legs. Some of them, the centre column doesn’t go up or down. The point is, many of them seem to have a few flaws. In the 1kg range, there aren’t many options. My advice is to save up and get the Gitzo GT1545T Series 1 Traveler. It’s expensive, it’s overpriced, but it is the best.
Taller and more stable tripod for heavy duty tasks
Here I’m going to recommend a completely different brand. 3 Legged Thing - Albert. Again, it’s carbon fibre and helps with vibration reduction. It extends taller, it’s got more useful features such as an unscrewable monopod and it’s altogether more useful outside of hiking.
The lightest of the light
For a long hike in Canada, in 2018, I didn’t want want to take a full-sized tripod as it would be too much to carry with a weeks worth of food and whatnot. Carbon fibre tripods have reduced the weight of “travel” tripods considerably but most of them are still above the 1kg mark; the criteria I set fit more the tabletop tripod option. Mirrorless cameras are typically quite small, and the suggestions below might not work for DSLRs. However, don’t instantly dismiss them because you might be surprised at the strength of these. 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 have mounting points on the lenses themselves which helps to balance things on a tripod.
Carbon fibre tabletop tripod with home-made legs
Luckily a Sony a7rIII 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 Max Mini
- Gitzo Mini Traveler Ball Head – Noir Decor
There’s a few tripod ballhead options too:
I have found the Novoflex Microstativ Micropod Tabletop Tripod with a Giottos MH1304 to be the most pragmatic solution to the above. It doesn’t have any joints that can unscrew themselves over time which is nice. I made my own legs for it, as you can see in the photograph. The default legs are good, I just wanted to save a couple of grams and make the legs slightly longer too. This tripod can holy my Sony a7rII and a Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 G Master lens without a problem.
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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. A 30 second exposure with a 6 Stop ND Filter shows no signs of blur on stationary subjects at.
If money is no object and you don’t mind something slightly heavier, get the Gitzo Mini Traveler Ball Head – Noir Decor, it’s the best hands down.