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Gadget Bag: Have Tripod, Will Travel
Many of us look forward to vacation travel for the photo opportunities such journeys provide. Away from our daily routines, visiting a new and visually rich destination makes it easier to come away with great photographs.
However, the process of traveling often results in many photographers leaving behind an important tool—their tripod. This inevitably results in frustration when a photograph presents itself that could only be properly captured with the camera mounted on a stable platform. Thankfully, a tripod and head don’t have to be heavy and bulky.
Innovative designs and lightweight materials, such as carbon fiber and magnesium, provide tripods and heads that deliver stability to ensure sharp photographs, while remaining portable enough to carry and stow away in luggage.
Here are a few of the available tripods and heads that can help you bring home those images you’ll remember for a lifetime.
Lightweight Travel Tripods And Heads
The Davis & Sanford Carbonlite X10 is a carbon-fiber/magnesium tripod that weighs in at only 5.4 pounds and folds down to just 30 inches. The tripod provides built-in bubble levels, a three-way head and adjustable, snap leg locks. It includes multiposition rubber-ball-to-spike feet, and the bottom centerpost has a hook, which allows you to hang your camera bag for additional stability. List Price: $249.
The Giottos MT 8160 is a professional-quality tripod that offers a variety of features in a portable design. Weighing just 5.5 pounds, the tripod includes a three-position leg spread—25-50-75, via dial control—and a reversible center column that can be positioned horizontally or vertically at virtually any angle. It supports a maximum weight of 22 pounds and has a closed length of just 25 inches. Estimated Street Price: $299.
The innovative design of the Gitzo G1155T Traveler provides a full-sized tripod that collapses to a length of only 14 inches. Standing less than five feet when fully extended, the carbon-fiber tripod features a 180-degree folding mechanism that makes it compact enough to store in your hand luggage. The five-section tripod weighs 2.2 pounds and supportsa maximum weight of 9.9 pounds. Estimated Street Price: $625.
Utilizing a combination of carbon fiber and magnesium, the Velbon El Carmagne 640 delivers a lightweight and reliable platform for your camera gear. It provides a maximum height of 59.8 inches and weighs only three pounds. With the center column removed, the tripod delivers a low-angle height of just 5.8 inches. Street Price: $339 (with head).
The Induro Carbon 8X C014 tripod is constructed from eight-layer carbon-fiber tubing that provides stability and strength, while weighing only 1.3 pounds. It extends to 55.2 inches and features leg locks with moisture and anti-dust seals. The feet are designed with removable rubber or stainless-steel spikes for secure footing in a variety of surfaces and terrain. Estimated Street Price: TBA.
For photographers who shoot with supertelephoto lenses, the Jobu Design Black Widow Gimbal—Light Weight is an alternative to a ballhead. Weighing just 2.5 pounds, the rugged gimbal can accommodate lenses as large as a 600mm ƒ/4, while staying compact enough to store in luggage. It features a quick-release clamp and an all-weather design. List Price: $399.
For those who enjoy close-up photography, the Kirk Photo Mighty Low-Boy offers the ideal solution when stability and size matter. Weighing only 2.6 pounds, the minimum height is 1.75 inches. It offers four leg-angle settings: 26, 45, 75 and 90 degrees. The short, centerpost features a spirit level and makes the folded tripod only 11.25 inches in length. List Price: $170.
Made from lightweight magnesium, the innovatively designed Manfrotto Model 3437 3D Magnesium head can be put in almost any position. It includes spring-loaded conical joints, delivering a lock system that provides flexibility and rigidity with 35mm and medium-format cameras. It includes a quick-release plate and rubber-grip knobs for maximum convenience. Estimated Street Price: $99.
Designed around a fixed-positioned ball surrounded by a moveable housing, the Novoflex MagicBall Mini allows users to position the camera at an incline position without having to negotiate slots. A single-locking handle controls the tension and position of the head for quick and easy positioning. The head weighs 11.6 ounces and supports up to 11 pounds. List Price: $285.
For the ultimate in portable stability, the OSN CP-5 Digital Bottle Camera Pod allows you to convert something as simple as a soda bottle into a camera platform. Designed to work with most 20-ounce bottles, it can also serve as a car-window mount or attach to a flat surface, such as a book. Its compact size and versatility help you to achieve sharper images using everyday items for support. List Price: $9.
The Pod builds on the traditional beanbag, but with a twist—a tripod socket. The Pod can be used to shoot at ground level, out of a car window or anywhere a tripod isn’t feasible. With a nonslip base and made with waterproof nylon, The Pod becomes a very effective tool for helping you get the sharpest images possible, no matter where or how you’re shooting. Estimated Street Price: $16.
The Really Right Stuff BH-25 LR Ballhead offers a versatile ballhead design at a weight of less than eight ounces. Providing a load capacity of 8.8 pounds, the head features a T-shaped release lever that controls two actions at once: the locking and unlocking of the panning base and ball. The spring-loaded lever can be pulled and repositioned into one of six positions. List Price: $175.
Weighing just 38 ounces, the Slik Sprint Pro 3-Way provides a maximum height of 64 inches and supports a maximum weight of 4.4 pounds. It includes a three-way panhead, speed-release leg locks, and a gearless center column for quick and easy positioning. With the built-in short column, the tripod can be positioned to a height of just 6.8 inches, ideal for close-up photography. Estimated Street Price: $98.
Sometimes using a traditional tripod isn’t practical, but a stable platform is still needed. The Sunpak FlexPod Pro is a flexible, lightweight mini-tripod that you can bend, stretch and wrap around just about anything. Weighing only six ounces, it’s light enough to carry anywhere, yet it can support a digital SLR. A built-in quick release makes setup fast and easy. List Price: Around $30.
A tabletop tripod is great when you want to shoot in the evening, but don’t want to take your full-sized tripod along with you.
The Sunpak Mini Pro Plus features three-way head, a built-in bubble-level, and versatile, precise camera positioning, all within a compact package. It weighs only 13.7 ounces and provides a maximum height of just more than 12 inches. The bottom end of the center column features a suction-cup mount for smooth surfaces in order to help prevent the camera from tipping over. Estimated Street Price: $25.
Weighing in at only 13 ounces, the Trek-Tech T’Pod is a small and rugged tabletop tripod that’s ideal for travel. Its MagMount system allows the tripod to be deployed in seconds. It can also easily be stored in its 1.5x.3.5×8.5-inch carrying case, and its compatible with digital and film SLR cameras, as well as spotting scopes. List Price: $80.
Giottos (HP Marketing Corp.)
Gitzo (Bogen Photo)
Manfrotto (Bogen Photo)
The Pod (Bogen Photo)
Really Right Stuff
Slik (THK Photo)