Posts Tagged ‘tripods’

Tripod rethink

Thursday, May 23rd, 2019

I am not a tripod user. Of course like many photographers I own a small collection of these objects, but they stay tucked away in boxes or cupboards or gathering dust in a corner. They range from a hefty large Manfrotto job which used to be able to hold a 4×5 camera down to a tiny twisty table-top thingy that came free with a roll of film. Somewhere in the loft there may be still an even more massive beast from Linhof. It’s several years since any of them have left the house.

Of course tripods are sometimes essential. I used one when photographing ‘The Secret Gardens of St John’s Wood‘ in 2011, where I needed to take multiple pictures from the same camera position to build up panoramic images, though more to mark the spot than support the Nikon I was using which I often didn’t actually bother to attach, as I didn’t have a proper (and expensive) panoramic head.

I’ve also occasionally resorted to a monopod, though not to hold the camera steady but to hold it in places I could not otherwise put a camera – around 5 foot above my head for the picture of the druids on Primrose Hill. This picture was taken with a Nikon, and peering at the screen on the back of the camera at a very distant arms length iinvolved considerable luck to get the camera level. Using a mirroless camera would be an advantage as it is rather easier to operate them remotely from a phone app.

Tripods have changed a little over the years, with various attempts to make them smaller or lighter. I’ve used ones made of wood, aluminium and steel and cursed them all. Even plastic, though I’ve never paid the extra for carbon fibre. But there is a general rule, that if a tripod is light enough to carry it’s too flimsy to be of much use. Of course if you can afford an assistant, things are different, and he or she can add the tripod to the umbrella, step ladder and lighting gear. But that isn’t my sort of photography.

Peak Design have embarked on a new project to redesign the tripod and are now seeking funding on Kickstarter to produce their Travel Tripod, which they claim is “A full-featured tripod in a truly portable form.” And it does look to be a decent tripod. They claim too that it can be fully erected ready for use in 9 seconds. The project has already been funded to around 6 times it’s goal with a couple of months still to go, so clearly plenty of relatively wealthy photographers beleive their claims and want to save the $61 off the aluminium version or $121 from the carbon version for a tripod which should arrive around Christmas. The carbon version has so far attracted almost 3 times as many pledges – at US$ 479 (or more). Spiked feet are extra and you’ll need more than the one standard plate to fit on the bottom of your camera provided if you want to be able to use more than one camera, though Peak say it can be adapted to take similar third-party plates.

It does look a nice tripod, but that’s around £377 (or a little more as the exchange rate falls), which to me seems rather a lot and even the cheapskate aluminium at US$289 (£227) seems prohibitive. But if you are a genuine tripodophile it’s worth a look, if just to drool. The Kickstarter offer ends Fri, July 19 2019 1:00 AM BST.

Mostly the improvements seem small; a different leg profile that makes them fit neatly when folded so it takes up less space; cam levers to lock the legs (rather similiar to some on at least one of the tripods I’ve owned.) The big improvement to me seems to be in the ball head. For some the phone adapter that hides away in the centre column until needed will be useful. But you still end up with a package that is 15.5 inches long and weighs 1.56 or 1.27 kg to cart around.


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