When you first pick up the SLIK CF-422 LITE tripod, you have to remind yourself that it’s supposed to be lightweight. It’s natural to unconsciously equate weight to quality. With photo equipment, heft often denotes better materials and construction—think expensive lenses and flagship DSLRs. That’s not the case with this new tripod from SLIK. It’s one of the sturdiest tripods we’ve used, and its light weight is exactly what most photographers want in an accessory that’s begrudgingly necessary.
The SLIK CF-422 is the top model in the company’s new LITE series tripods. The LITE moniker has a double meaning: first, to imply its portability, and second, to reference the removable LED flashlight built in to the tripod’s center column. There are five models currently in the series—three aluminum and two carbon fiber. Of these, the CF-422 is the largest and the heaviest, weighing in at 2.43 pounds and collapsing down to 18.7 inches to slip into the included carrying case.
There are several features we really like about this tripod. In our field use, it performed comparably to heavier, more expensive carbon fiber models upon which we’ve relied for years. The diminutive ballhead included with the carbon fiber LITE models, the SBH-180DS, is rated to support a max load of up to 6.6 pounds, but in use we got the impression it could support much more. We paired the SLIK CF-422 and SBH-180DS head with a Nikon D750, Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 plus a Tamron Tele Converter 1.4x and a Really Right Stuff L-plate, for a total weight of about 6.72 pounds. The SBH-180DS head handled the load effortlessly, suggesting it could be pushed a lot further before losing grip.
The SLIK CF-422’s four-section legs can be locked at three angles: one to maximize height, one for a slightly wider stance, and one that gets you really close to the ground (7.71 inches) when you twist off the center column. Fully extended, the maximum height of the tripod is 70.1 inches. Adjusting the leg angle is very easy with SLIK’s Rapid Flip Mechanism (RFM) at the top of the legs that releases with a quick press and clicks satisfyingly in place when the legs reach one of the three lockable angles. This RFM also allows you to invert the legs 180 degrees to make the tripod more compact for storage. Twist-grip style controls allow you to easily lock and unlock the leg segments when adjusting height.
The only difficulty we encountered with the SLIK CF-422 was the tension knob that locks the center column. It’s made of a hard plastic that’s not especially comfortable to use and that can be tough to unlock if you’ve overtightened it. After some use, though, we got the hang of it.
Overall, the SLIK CF-422 and SBH-180DS ball head combo make an excellent camera support, ideal for photographers who want an affordable carbon fiber tripod that’s lightweight and compact, perfect for hiking and backpacking. And the removable LED flashlight is an added bonus for illuminating your way back after sunset. List price: $329. Contact: SLIK, slikusa.com.