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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Gadget Bag: Beyond The Tabletop

Ultracompact tripods are good for much more than point-and-shoot cameras

Labels: Gadget BagGear
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Manfrotto 209
Manfrotto is synonymous with the word "tripod," so it's no wonder that the Manfrotto 209 tabletop tripod is a favorite among photographers. Made of lightweight, heavy-duty aluminum, model 209 will support up to 4.4 pounds. The matching Manfrotto 492 micro ballhead elevates this to a must-have accessory. Add the 10-inch Manfrotto 259B center column extension for even greater versatility.

Novoflex Micropod

Tamrac TR404 ZipShot
Weighing in at a miniscule 1¾ ounces, the Novoflex Micropod supports up to medium-format cameras. Its three legs extend from the hemispherical base and connect the unique O-ring mounts. About 5.4 inches when folded for transport, the Micropod has a minimum height of 2.8 inches.

The Tamrac TR404 ZipShot mini-tripod is only 9 inches long when folded, but springs to life like magic and stands at a maximum height of 28 inches. It features an integrated metal ballhead and lightweight aluminum legs. Checking in at merely 9 ounces, it's very portable and easy to stow. The ZipShot mini tripod supports up to 3 pounds safely.

Velbon Ultra MAXi Mini
The Velbon Ultra MAXi Mini aluminum tripod, available with the QHD-51Q ballhead, is a serious system that weighs just 1.3 pounds, but supports up to 4.4. It reaches the maximum height of 18.8 inches when all five aluminum leg sections and two center column sections are fully extended. The divisible two-section center column is convenient for low-angle or close-up photography, and delivers a minimum height of just 5.4 inches. When folded for travel, the Ultra MAXi Mini is but 7.7 inches long. The included QHD-51Q ball socket head is constructed of die-cast aluminum and includes a QB-3B quick-release plate. The durable legs feature Velbon's unique single-twist leg locking system for fast deployment.

Vortex Summit Shooting Stand
The Vortex Summit Shooting Stand is a lightweight (1.5 pounds) tabletop tripod with a unique two-way head with micro-adjustable focus dials that make it especially suited for macro and copy photography. Maximum height of this single-leg-section tripod is 13.3 inches and maximum load is 5 pounds.

The only wooden tripod offered in this roundup, the Berlebach 50031 tabletop tripod offers three-position independent leg spread and leg locks that are unaffected by dirt or water. Wood is said to absorb minute vibrations better than aluminum and some other materials; it's also naturally lighter in weight and more comfortable to handle when the temperature plummets. The load capacity is a respectable 17.6 pounds and maximum extended height is 13.8 inches. This Berlebach model weighs only 1.3 pounds and folds up to 10.6 inches. Berlebach, whose name is widely known in Europe, has been producing handcrafted products for over a century. Match a professional-level ballhead like the SLIK SBH-320 with DQ-L Quick Release to create a versatile and useful system.

Flashpoint Table Top Tripod
The 4-section Flashpoint Table Top Tripod extends up to 21.3 inches and folds to 8.6 inches for easy storage. Unique in this category, it has a removable center column and a hook for a weight bag (which is a huge benefit on any windy day). Made of machined aluminum, the Flashpoint Table Top Tripod accommodates a maximum weight load of 8.8 pounds and weighs a sparse 1 pound itself. It's highly recommended because it's extremely portable and will accommodate fairly large rigs.

SLIK Minipro V
The SLIK Minipro V weighs just a hair over 12 ounces, but supports more than 3 pounds. The two-way pan head facilitates precision camera adjustment. The two-stage legs can be extended about 1.25 inches for added stability with heavier cameras. The Minipro V collapses to less than 8 inches for easy storage. The unique center column has a suction cup that will attach to any flat, smooth surface—like a car window, for instance. The unit also can be used as a "chest pod" by raising the center column and positioning the legs against your torso.

Talk about small! The Sunpak Mini Flat Tripod folds completely flat into a shape that's only about 5 inches long, and it easily slips into a purse or jacket pocket. You won't be setting your Canon EOS 5D Mark II on this support, but it's great for a compact camera or camcorder. Rubber-tipped feet help the tripod hold its ground.


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