Tripod that's good for traveling

Discussion in 'Accessories' started by anne_kerr, Dec 15, 2013.

  1. Can you recommend a tripod that is good on the go? I would think I would want something light, although I wonder if that'd make the camera topple over if there's wind?
    Thanks in advance!
  2. Anne, you didn't say what your budget is, or what camera you're using, but you might take a look at the Manfroto line:
    The carbon fiber versions probably provide the best combination of lightness and strength.
    One solution for wind problems that works with any tripod: Take along (or buy on the road) an empty one-gallon plastic water jug and a bungee cord. If you have wind or other stability problems, just fill the jug with water and use the bungee cord to suspend it underneath the tripod.
  3. I second William's advice to look at Manfrotto - although the 057 line are big, heavy tripods, so I'd probably not start there (see whether the 190 series - especially the older ones - are enough for you, and then look at the 055s). As he says, you can weigh a tripod down, either by hanging something around the head or - in most cases - using a hook on the tripod to add stability. You can just hang your camera bag on it, often.

    What kind of budget are you looking at, and what kind of equipment are you trying to support? My "big" tripod is a Really Right Stuff TVC-34L (which is moderately heavy and very expensive, but extremely solid); I have a Manfrotto 055CXPro3 (which is quite heavy but a bit more portable, but significantly less solid) and a Velbon REXi L, which folds down very small, is quite light (for an aluminium 'pod), has a very nice quick set-up mechanism and is still pretty rigid unless I'm carrying a really big lens. Velbon have some newer, smaller, only slightly less solid options as well. There are other brands that are well thought-of, but with which I have less experience.

    I've also been known to use a Velbon VTP-777 (now replaced by the 787) or a Tamrac Zipshot (or a gorillapod), none of which will hold a big camera very well, but all of which are extremely small and light so long as you're in favourable conditions. They're all pretty good for a compact camera or small mirrorless model. Don't rule out a monopod, either.

    I would be wary of buying any tripod with an integrated head - ideally you probably want to make that decision separately, and probably look at a small ball head. We may be able to advise there as well.

    Let us know what you want to put on it, how "light" is light, how tall you are (how tall the tripod needs to be) and roughly how much you were thinking of spending, we may be able to help narrow things down. But I suggest you go to a camera store (not a department store, which tend to stock cheap tripods that don't really work) and try a few before making a final decision, since choice of tripod can be pretty personal. Good luck!
  4. I had a very capable very sturdy tripod... that I rarely used. Mainly it was a pain to lug around. There is no way I would travel with it. I just got it's partner last week.
    This thing is super compact, super light, and I will be taking it with me nearly all the time now. It is not the most stable. With the legs fully extended it gets just tall enough, and barely stable enough.
    But barely stable enough is so much more stable than not having a tripod. I would definately recommend this one. Or you could go a bit less compact and probably get some additional stability.
  5. When shopping for a tripod there a couple of key things to look for:

    - Can the tripod and tripod head combination , without extending the center column, bring the camera up to very close to
    your eye level so you don't have to stoop to see through the viewfinder?

    - Can you change out the head for a better one or one more suited to your needs?

    - Is it stable or flimsy? Carbon fiber technology is lighter than aluminum, but you don't want legs so skinny and joints so
    weak that you sometimes are better off not using a tripod at all.

    - Are the legs independent of one another or are they tied to the center column by bracing? You want them to be able to
    spread independently of one another.

    Other things to look for:

    - Can the legs be spread flat?

    - How many leg sections are there? Fewer leg sections to reach the same approximate height generally translates to
    greater stability.

    Tripod Head:

    - Do you want a free spinning ball head , which many people like because it tightens with just one control, or do you
    prefer separate horizontal and fore/aft tilt movements? A small number of photographers end up preferring a a double-tilt
    design where the tilts are geared.

    - Panning movements at the base of the head and at the camera platform adds a lot of utility whether you plan on ever
    shooting panoramic so or not. But this can add to the cost.

    - Avoid heads that use a grease type lubrications, especially for ball heads. This stuff is sticky enough to attact grit of all
    kinds and that makes it harder for the head to lock down and to move smoothly.

    - Quick release system. I'll be blunt here: the Manfrotto QR system and the copies of it is stupid. Get an open ended
    dovetail Arca-Swiss compatible QR clamp and plates. Lots of people make them.

    As for specific brand recommendations: I like Induro, Manfrotto, Gitzo and Really Right Stuff leg sets. For tripod heads I
    prefer Really Right Stuff and Arca-Swiss. My main small travel tripod is an 8x carbon fiber Induro - I think it is either a CT
    or CX model - mated with an Arca-Swiss B1 Monoball . I have replaced the clamp on the head with a Really Right PCL-1
    panning clamp.

    Two last thoughts:

    - Good tripods and heads are not initially cheap but if not horribly will last decades.

    - if you intend to shoot video consider getting a second head that is designed for video.
  6. MeFoto makes some nice, sturdy and compact tripods.
    One technique that will help steady any smaller tripod is to hang the camera bag or pack from the head of the extended tripod. Some tripods provide a hook underneath the ext. column, otherwise you can just loop a handle (of the bag or pack) over whatever's handy near the tripod head.
  7. Anne,
    there are an awful lot of variables here, as the answers so far demonstrate.
    In dialectical and also in logical terms here, there are a number of contradictions (choose one or compromise in each of the various dimensions):
    • steady vs. easy to carry (light weight)
    • "handy"/convenient vs. tall enough for you to use without extending the center column
    • all types of 'heads' vs. all other types of heads (ball, pistol grip, .....)
    I could go on and construct a massive matrix, but there is not world enough and time.
    In the end, you will probably have to try, maybe even buy, several tripods before you find one that suits YOU (sort of like marriage these days). I only have 6 or 7 (tripods, that is, not marriages), and one monopod, but I've found in the end that I actually don't like to use a tripod much at all, and end up shooting with the monopod, when I'm not just depending on image-stabilized lenses.
    BTW, I do use the various Manfrotto heads ranging from the 222, to the 322, to the 393, variously. I like the Manfrotto gear.
  8. A Gitzo GT-2542 is not the cheapest tripod in the store, but probably the sturdiest of light weight tripods. It will hold a 300mm lens steady in a mild breeze, and fold small enough to fit in a carry-on bag. It's on my short list for air travel. For general use, I have a Gitzo GT-3541LS. The twist collars are less bulky than those with levers, and completely self-adjusting. Gitzo legs have bushings that ride inside the next leg, making the joints just as rigid as the segments. The column is held by a collet, not a screw, making it very rigid, even when extended. Gitzo collars take only 1/4 turn to tighten or loosen, and the column doesn't rotate.
    A tripod doesn't have to reach eye level. For starters, the head and camera add at least 6" to the height. Secondly, it's not terribly uncomfortable to stoop a little with the tripod fully extended (but column down).
  9. This is the one I use and it works very well, folds to 14", weights 2.2 lbs and extends to 60".
  10. I bought an Induro Carbon with four sections- no special reason, I could have gone with 3 as easily. I find it is steady and light and the price not outrageous. Leg section twist locks are beefy and easy to fasten. Comes with sturdy bag. Packs small as I need.....check out their line and the customer comments on same. I use it now with Really Right Stuff BH 40 ball head, a perfect match for my

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