Which tripod fits into luggage and provides great weight capacity?

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June 28, 2013 at 10:30 am  •  Posted in Q&A by  •  6 Comments

Some time ago you answered a question about selecting tripods (Which type of tripod should I buy?) and I bought one then, but it’s too big to fit into my suitcase. We will be travelling in Asia this summer and I want to take a tripod, but the small ones that I have seen look flimsy. I will be using my Nikon D800 with the 24-120mm f/4 or with the 70-200mm f/4 lens. What do you recommend?
—Mei L.

Your question is timely, Mei, since many people will be traveling this summer. I just completed an article about travel tripods for the August/September issue of the magazine. Your camera with the heaviest lens weighs about 1.7 kg, so you’ll want a tripod and head with a maximum load capacity of 2 kg or more. In this respect, any of my recommended travel tripods (with head) would suit your needs; they vary in price from about $150 to $900.

An excellent example of a well-designed travel tripod, the new Manfrotto BeFree ($250, list, with head) folds down to a size that will fit into a carry-on bag: 40 cm long, including the head. When set up, this 1.5 kg accessory will support up to 5 kg of weight. Photo courtesy of Gentec International

Check out the following travel tripods on a Canadian photo retailer’s website: the Benro Travel Angel and MeFoto series, Gitzo Traveler GK1580TQR5, Optex CF100 Travelite,  SLIK Sprint Pro II,  Velbon Ultrek UT-43D and the brand new Manfrotto Befree. For the greatest stability, do not extend the centre column even if that means you’ll need to bend down to see the LCD screen or to look through the viewfinder.

Available in several sizes with varying capacities (as listed in the DayMen – Joby GorillaPod Comparison Chart), a GorillaPod is designed so it can be firmly attached to a solid object in order to provide great stability for a camera/lens combination. Photo courtesy of Daymen

If you insist on something even more portable (folding to 29 cm in length and weighing 762 g with its head), you’ll want the very rugged Joby GorillaPod Focus with Ball Head X, made with flexible ball-socket joints that bend and rotate, allowing the legs to be attached to a solid object. While the GorillaPod resembles a tripod, I would not use it in that configuration. You’ll get much greater stability (for a load up to 4 kg) when the accessory is firmly attached to a tree branch, a car’s external rear view mirror, or a fence post, for example.

6 Comments

  1. Robert / July 3, 2013 at 10:14 am / Reply

    In my travels I have been using the Gitzo 1542T with a Really Right Stuff BH-25 LR ballhead. This combination is very compact, solid, and light. It all fits inside my carry-on luggage. That’s great as I often travel without checking luggage.

  2. Tino / July 3, 2013 at 4:28 pm / Reply

    Hi Peter, with respect to your tripod editorial, I went through the June/July issue and could not find anything other than advertisements on tripods. Is this being published in a future issue perhaps? Thanks, Tino.

    • Valerie / July 4, 2013 at 11:03 am / Reply

      Hi Tino, you’re right, the article on travel tripods will be published in our August/September issue, thanks for pointing that out!

  3. Tricia McDonald Ward / July 4, 2013 at 12:05 pm / Reply

    The Benro Travel Angel mentioned here is an excellent tripod: very compact when folded, but reaches a good height when extended, sturdy, and very quick and easy to put up. It weighs slightly more than some other travel tripods I’ve used, but folds into a more compact package and is much better quality. It came with a good quality bag too. I ordered it from VIstek as it was not available at local (Vancouver) shops, and I highly recommend it.

  4. Peter K Burian / July 8, 2013 at 9:38 am / Reply

    Hi Tricia, Yes, you cannot find Benro at every photo retail store but Vistek.ca does carry the full line.

    And I agree; this travel tripod is well worth buying.

    Cheers! Peter Burian

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