Choosing the Best Travel Tripod

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Tripods are a great tool for quality night and low light photos, but when traveling, carrying a bulky tripod is generally not an option. This guide will help you choose the best travel tripod, and help you weigh the variables to determine which tripod might be best for you. Unfortunately, there are trade-offs with these variables…something that’s lightweight and very stable is likely to cost a small fortune. Something that’s cheap is likely to be bulky. Unless money is no concern, you have to make a compromise somewhere with your travel tripod.

Unfortunately, finding the tripod that makes the fewest compromises and is best for your needs and travel is incredibly difficult. You could always just spend $0, rest your tripod on a garbage can, and call it a day…but that’s probably not the best solution, either.

For the last several years, I’ve been using the same tripod, but have been looking for a marginal improvement over it for greater stability. I’ve combed photo forums, reviews, Amazon, and even local camera stores to find something. (Tip: Best Buy’s tripods are absolute garbage, and unless you live in a large city with a really nice camera shop (like B&H in New York City!), chances are your local camera shop sells garbage tripods, too.) My recommendations in this article are a result of reading about and inspecting DOZENS of tripods.

Obviously, I’m approaching this guide as someone who most often carries a tripod around Walt Disney World, Disneyland, or other Disney properties. However, I also carry my tripod in National Parks and when we travel to other destinations. I’ve found that these same principles apply to all of those destinations. In each case, I do a lot of walking (or hiking) while carrying a tripod.

Here’s what you want to consider when looking for a tripod for Walt Disney World, Disneyland, or travel in general.

68 second exposure…you won’t get shots like this without a tripod!

Variables

1. Weight

The reasons for wanting a lightweight travel tripod are two-fold. First, you want something that won’t weigh down your luggage (side note since I get asked this question a lot: tripods ARE acceptable carry-on items). Second, and more importantly, you want something that won’t weigh you down when you’re carrying it.

On an average day in the parks, I walk several miles carrying a camera bag with a tripod attached to the back of it. The total weight of the bag exceeds 20 pounds, and that’s with a several lenses including a bulky Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8. If my tripod were any heavier than it is, I’d have to rent a locker each day for it. So by having a lighter tripod in essence “saves” me $7 per day. I recommend factoring this savings into your tripod budget, because not spending that $7/day amounts to spending substantially less over the life of your tripod. It will be cheaper in the long run to get a $200 tripod that weighs 3 pounds and is compact rather than a $50 bulky one that weighs 5 pounds. Trust me on this.

If you’re planning on using a tripod for travel beyond Disney, you’ll want that lighter tripod, anyway. Last time I checked, there were no storage lockers in the Rocky Mountains.

2. Stability

This concerns not only how stable the tripod is on its own, but also how much weight it can support. If you’re only using a point & shoot camera or an entry level DSLR with a kit lens, you have a great advantage here. Your equipment is lighter and thus you don’t need a tripod that can support a lot of weight. This means it’s much easier for you to find a stable tripod for your camera that will be lightweight and won’t cost a small fortune. Consider this a major victory!

If you use more than the kit lens with your DSLR, or plan to upgrade your camera or lenses in the future, you will want to look at tripods that can support more weight. Now, just because your camera only weighs 2 pounds and your heaviest lens only weighs 1 pound doesn’t mean that you want a tripod that supports 3 pounds. It’s best to play it safe and get one that can support a bit more than your heaviest camera and lens combination.

3. Size

For traveling, you want a tripod that is tall when extended, but collapses to a compact package when folded (folded height is NOT the same as minimum height…you want to look at folded height). I would highly recommend a tripod that has a maximum height of no less than 59 inches (the taller, the better) and folds down to less than 17 inches. A tripod with a maximum height of only 50 inches will not be over to “see” over crowds, so you can forget about fireworks photos. Every inch is important when it comes to height.

This is where you’re most likely to get in trouble with cheap tripods from Best Buy or your local camera shop. These tripods can usually support a decent amount of weight (although they probably weigh a bit on their own), chances are that they are incredibly bulky. I’ve frequently seen these tripods with folded heights of 24 inches and maximum heights of 55 inches. This is no good.

4. Cost

Some professional photographers spend just as much on their tripods as they do their cameras and lenses. I know a couple of guys who have tripods that cost them well over $1,000. Personally, I find this to be a little ridiculous. There are plenty of great tripods that cost significantly less than this. That said, if you want a tripod that is light, stable, and well-sized for travel, you are going to spend over $100, unless you are exclusively using a point and shoot. I’ve tried to find budget tripods and “hidden gems” in this area before…and they simply do not exist.

5. Ease of Use

This is a factor that is frequently overlooked, and one thing that is difficult to judge when buying online (which you almost certainly will be doing). How quickly you can setup and take down the tripod is important, especially if you are not on a trip that is dedicated solely to photography. Don’t test the patience of your family members on vacation with a tripod that takes forever to set up and break down. Things like twist lock legs, quick release plates, and easy to use ball-heads all factor into the mix here.

The last two variables here concern the tripod head rather than the tripod itself (yep, you’ll likely need to purchase two things for a good tripod set-up). Luckily, tripod heads are far simpler than tripod legs…we’ll get to tripod heads below.

This 56 second photo would’ve been impossible without a tripod!

Recommendations

As mentioned, I’ve read about, tested, and used a number of tripods. There is no one-size fits all recommendation, and there are a few options within each class that offer their own nuances (i.e. they fold up differently or use a unique system) that some people like. Personally, I’ve found that “unique style” of tripod is generally code for “gimmicky.” I’ve been burned on these “unique” tripods a couple of times in the past (see the left-most tripod in the top photo on this page? That’s the Fat Gecko Tripod. It’s one of the biggest pieces of garbage I’ve ever purchased), so I don’t recommend them. I like traditional tripods the best, and here are my recommendations for point & shoot, entry level DSLRs, and advanced DSLRs.

Point & Shoot Cameras

For point & shoot or anything smaller than a DSLR, a good option is the Velbon Ultra Maxi-L tripod, which costs $147. Sarah has this tripod, although she doesn’t really use it much because she’d rather do iPhoneography at night…and because carrying a tripod, no matter how light, can still be a hassle.

Upsides here are maximum height (60 inches), folded height (14.2 inches), and weight (2.2 pounds). It also has twist lock legs for easy set-up and take down, and includes a carrying case.

The downsides are stability and price. Velbon claims that this tripod can support 4.4 pounds, which is about what a full frame DSLR and decent pro grade lens weigh. However, I wouldn’t trust it with anything more than an entry level DSLR and kit lens. It’s also more expensive than the Luxi L tripod (below), and Maxi’s compactness is only barely smaller than the Luxi L. Basically, its only big advantage is the .7 pound weight difference. Still, I have a very difficult time recommending a tripod that many photographers are going to grow “outgrow” quickly. Unless intend to never buy a DSLR (in which case it’s worth it to pay a premium for this tripod), consider the next level up–the Velbon Luxi L.

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Entry Level DSLR Cameras

My recommendation here is the Velbon Ultra LUXi-L Tripod (SEE UPDATE BELOW). I got this tripod (actually, I have the Luxi F, which is an earlier model that was a different color) when I bought my Nikon D40 back in 2008, and I’ve been using it since.

Upsides to this tripod are maximum height (63.4 inches), folded height (15.35 inches), and weight (2.91 pounds). It also has twist lock legs for easy set-up and take down, and includes a carrying case.

The downside to this tripod is stability. It can support 5.5 pounds, which is all most photographers will need. I’ve used it with my full frame Nikon D600 (read my review) camera and pro grade lenses without issue. With bigger lenses, I have been a little nervous, though. Not so much because I thought the tripod would fail, but because it was definitely more top heavy, and would be more prone to falling if someone bumped it. My heaviest camera/lens combination is right at 5 pounds (and thus less than its rating), so unless you have some serious equipment, this will probably be a sufficient travel tripod for you.

Given the height, weight, load weight, and price combination, this is probably THE BEST tripod option for 95% of photographers who want a travel tripod. It gives you latitude if you want to step up from a point & shoot quality camera, better height than the point and shoot option, and supports enough weight for most photographers.

A lot of “serious” photographers scoff at this tripod. I’ve been set-up next to professionals with tripods that were clearly much more expensive than mine, and I could tell the Luxi was getting some looks–and not looks of envy. But it performed, and my shots were tack sharp. The coolest looking gear does not a good photographer make. Just mentioning it in case you’re concerned about other photographers not taking your tripod seriously for some reason…

Also important to note with both the Luxi and Maxi tripods. You want the “L” version or the (older) “F” version of these tripods. The “M” version or (older) “SF” versions are significantly shorter and are not recommended.

UPDATE: I just purchased a new version of this tripod for lightweight travel when I don’t want to carry the MeFoto–it’s called the Luxi L III. It’s my understanding that it just came out, and the only places I’ve seen it are some sketchy store called “holgacamera.com” and a couple of sellers on eBay. The usual suspects like B&H Photo and Amazon do not have this version, only the older ones. I purchased my Luxi L III on eBay from this seller for $170. That might seem like a lot, but it comes with a great ballhead that negates the need to purchase the ballhead I recommend below (the Manfrotto is still superior, but this one is perfectly fine if cost is an issue). My tripod shipped from Hong Kong and took about 8 days to arrive.

So far I’m loving this tripod. I definitely recommend this tripod over the earlier Luxi L models as it has a taller maximum height (64.5 inches), lighter weight (2.68 pounds), can support more weight (7.7 pounds). This last one is the big stat, as the additional 2.2 pounds it can support make it suitable for heavier DSLRs! The only downside to this version is that it’s slightly taller when folded: 16.5 inches. Definitely worth that extra inch in folded height given the impressive gains elsewhere, in my opinion. I would recommend this new Luxi L III tripod to everyone except those who will be shooting in wind and other intense conditions, where I think the MeFoto retains a clear advantage. 

Expect a full review of the new Velbon Luxi L III tripod once I get a chance to test it in the parks.

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Advanced DSLR Cameras

After months of searching for a tripod with just a bit more stability, a reader tipped me off to the MeFoto RoadTrip Travel Tripod, which costs $189. This tripod was recently released (March 1, 2013) by Benro, but from what I understand, it has been sold under other brand names for significantly more in the past.

The upsides to this tripod are its maximum height (61.6 inches), folded height (15.4 inches), weight (3.6 pounds), and load weight (17.6 pounds). For DSLR users with prosumer/pro bodies and pro grade lenses, the load weight here is the most important factor, and what might tip the scales in its favor over the Luxi. It also converts to a monopod, has incredible build quality, a great padded case, a hook for hanging your camera bag (for added stability), and a 5-year warranty. The ball-head is also pretty nice, although I am such a fan of my Manfrotto ball-head that I immediately replaced it with that. Price is another upside here, and although $189 might seem like a lot of money, for a high quality Benro tripod, it’s a steal. The Benro “Angel” series tripod to which it’s most comparable costs $237. The MeFoto RoadTrip has better specs (besides twist lock legs) and costs less.

The downside to this tripod is its ease of use. It doesn’t have twist legs, which means more set-up and take down time. It’s still pretty easy to set-up and take-down, but I’d plan on spending about 30 seconds longer with the individual twist system. Likewise, the inverse folding system makes it more compact, but makes it a tad more difficult to attach to my LowePro Flipside camera bag. Because of these potential “ease of use” issues, I brought both this tripod and my Velbon Luxi tripod with me on our last trip to Walt Disney World, thinking I’d switch to the Luxi if the MeFoto were too inconvenient after the first night. I ended up using the MeFoto the entire trip, as the added stability/load weight gave me a lot of peace of mind with my heavier lenses.

UPDATE: After using this for a few months, I stumbled upon the Luxi L III mentioned above and decided to order that. My reasons were because the set-up and take-down time were really a factor when photographing in the Disney parks, where time is of the essence, and also because I like to travel light (only carry-ons) and this tripod takes up more room in a suitcase. Since the Luxi L III supports more weight, I’m comfortable using my full frame DSLR and pro-grade lenses with it.

I’ll still be keeping the MeFoto, but purely for when shooting in the National Parks, where wind and other severe weather can be an issue, for added stability. If you are primarily shooting travel landscapes outside of a Disney environment, I recommend the MeFoto RoadTrip. If you’re primarily shooting Disney parks or want to travel lighter, I recommend the Luxi L III discussed above.

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Sure, there are better options out there if you want to drop $500 to $2,000, but based upon my testing, these three travel tripods offer the best in stability, weight, height, quality, and ease of use for their prices. A tripod is a critical element of achieving good photos at night, so if you do want to take better nighttime photos, I strongly encourage you to get one of these tripods! It can be a chore to carry a tripod around all day, but the results make it totally worth it.

Finally, as indicated above, I highly recommend swapping out whichever head comes with your tripod for the Manfrotto 486RC2, which Manfrotto recently replaced with the Manfrotto 496RC2 (this one comes with an extra quick release plate, which you’ll want) in its product lineup. There are a lot of options for tripod heads and I’ve tried most of them (pistol grips, pan heads, etc.) and nothing beats the simplicity and quality of the Manfrotto ball-heads. Nothing.

If you get the Manfrotto head and one of the Velbon Maxi/Luxi tripods, you’ll also need a bushing screw, as the threads on the Manfrotto head aren’t the same size as those on the Maxi/Luxi tripods. This might seem complicated, but it’s incredibly simple in practice, and swapping out the heads takes about 30 seconds and requires no tools.

If you’re looking for other photography equipment recommendations or photography tips in general check out a few of my top photography blog posts:

Photography Buying Guide: Everything from Underwater Cameras to Software
Best Books for Improving Your Photography
5 Indispensable Tips for Better Vacation Photos
Infrared Photography Guide & Tips
Choosing the Best Camera Bag for Travel

Your Thoughts…

Do you own any of these tripods? If so, what do you think? If you own some other travel tripod that you’d recommend, share your thoughts about! If you have any other questions or comments, please leave them below.

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66 Responses to “Choosing the Best Travel Tripod”

  1. Kayla says:

    This is a great resource and guide! I breathed a sigh of relief to see the tripod I purchased three days ago is on this list. Going to add some comments in case it helps others who reading…

    I took a cheap tripod we had owned for several years to the parks with a new camera and ended up having an accident that resulted in almost $200 in repairs. I wish I had spent the money on a good tripod from the start instead. That experience factored into me buying something that cost a little more than I preferred, but hopefully saves me from another purchase in a short period of time.

    I had been looking at the MeFoto Backpacker, but it’s not tall enough for most uses in the parks. Then I saw the RoadTrip, which has a good extended height, collapses small, and has a good support weight. The conversion to monopod was also a big plus to me, since I had considered purchasing one. The four twist locks on each leg are a little cumbersome at first, but hopefully gets easier with practice. It feels very sturdy once set up.

    The only thing I don’t like so far is the quick release plate. Replacing their ballhead the Manfrotto is a wise suggestion. I’ll stumble along with the included system for now, but could see a new one on the horizon.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      The MeFoto Backpacker is cheaper and looks about the same, so I hope it doesn’t trick people…it is NOT recommended because it’s too short. Glad you caught that yourself before having to make a return!

      If you do get a Manfrotto ball-head, note that you DO NOT need to buy the bushing screw. Manfrotto and Benro/MeFoto both use the industry standard size. Velbon is the odd duck, for some reason…

      • Brian says:

        I also found the Backpacker a bit too flimsy as well as too short. I have tried several benro’s before settling on the A2691T. I’m lucky to have a Benro retailer in my city so I can try them.

        The new Travel Angel II has a better monopod feature, the monopod on the first gen Travel Angel is far too short for me at 6 feet tall.

      • Tom Bricker says:

        Since the Backpacker is the same basic design as the RoadTrip, I think you’d find that flimsy, too. I didn’t find that to be the case, but I suppose if I did, I’d just hang my camera bag from the center column.

  2. Crystal says:

    The height/weight is a continual issue for me…I want taller but still want compact when folded yet want light and it still has to be sturdy…since I shoot full frame and I am 5’ 8”.

    I may have to try the Road Trip tripod, the specs look decent on it, and I already have two different Manfrotto ball heads and tripods….

    I also have a Manfrotto 190CX3 – it is lighter at 2.9 lbs but is only 57” expanded and when folded is 21.7” + head. I also have the 055XPROB – it is great when I don’t have to carry it – at 5.3 lbs it is a beast and is 25.8” folded. But the center column going horizontal and 70” extended height is great for local trips.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      How do you fit those tripods in your carry-on luggage…or don’t you?

      • Crystal says:

        The 190CX3 fits in at an angle with head on it a 24″ bag and with head off in a 22″ bag…I have traveled a lot with it, but would like something shorter when folded and taller when extended.

        The 055XPROB has never flown, I use it for playing with still life arround my house and going to local botanic gardens when I don’t have to carry it much.

  3. Tonya Holcomb says:

    I have the Manfrotto 055XPROB with the 322RC2 Ballhead w grip action handle. I have used a 3 way pan tilt in the past & agree that a Ballhead is the easiest to use. I am 5’9″ so I needed a taller tripod. While the 055XPROB is a beast, I debated carbon fiber but did not feel I “lost” that much weight for the money. I also bought the tripod bag. I do pay $7 for the locker rental at Disney!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      I must be missing something…why do you need a taller tripod if you’re 5’9″? So it’s at eye level? I’m 5’10″ and I’m fine with the 61-63″ tripods.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      I do agree that carbon fiber is too expensive to justify the lower weight–for me at least.

  4. Nick Barese says:

    Tom,

    you write some of the best photo gear reviews around. You break everything down so its very very easy to understand. Since so many people read your site gear companies should start sending you samples to test and review!!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Ha! You should send in that suggestion! Companies offer us samples of things from time to time, but it’s mostly odd stuff we don’t want!

  5. Mitch Frost says:

    Awesome! I have been looking for a new tripod for a while now! When I met you before wishes started earlier this week I wanted to ask what tripod you were using but the show was about to begin.

    • Mitch Frost says:

      Also- I had to laugh about using garbage cans. I definitely was on the boardwalk last night doing long exposures on top of trash cans and dock posts. I was actually really excited when I saw flat stable surfaces at a decent height. Was really bummed when I discover that the railing on our balcony facing crescent lake was too high for my tripod to shoot over it!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      I was using the MeFoto that night. Great to meet you, by the way!

  6. Ray says:

    Thank you…thank you….thank you Tom. This review just cemented what I planned on doing. I’ve just gotten “into” DSLR photography and recently bought a ProMaster FW20T and only spent about $60 on it. Even though I played around with it at the photography store it only extends to about 54-55″. It is light (~2.6 lbs). Shortly after I bought this tripod the store I use started carrying the MeFoto tripods. Luckily I didn’t spend a lot on the ProMaster tripod because I want to get the MeFoto tripod you suggest. I’ve been going back and forth as to whether to get it or not because I didn’t want to get burned a second time. Even though it’s about a pound heavier…it does extend to a higher height and folds to a shorter height.

    Thank you again Tom for a great review and helping to make up my mind.

  7. Kurt Miller says:

    When I called B&H asking about tripods, they recommended the Oben AT-3410. It’s currently $50 off for a price of $175 (cheaper)and here are some of its features vs the one you recommend:

    6.6 max load (reasonably worse than the MeFoto, but I swear that the Oben looks more heavy duty than the MeFoto based on the videos that I’ve seen. Not very scientific, I know.

    Height of 62.6” (slightly higher)

    Folds up to 18” (slightly bigger)

    3.3 lbs (slightly lighter)

    The head locking mechanism seems better than the MePhoto as it looks more secure.

    I may be running a risk by putting my 5D Mark 3 on it b/c of the weight, but this thing seems sturdy enough. It actually looks very similar to the MeFoto.

    Also, from watching a video on the MeFoto, it looks like it has the twist-to-extend legs. Maybe I’m misunderstanding something in your review, but I thought you said it did not.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      The only stat there that jumps out to me is the 18″ folded height. That’s getting to a height that’s a pain to navigate through Disney parks with, at least in my opinion.

      The MeFoto does have twist to extend legs, but each has to be individually twisted. Twist-lock legs are ALL unlocked and locked with a single motion. It’s much more convenient.

  8. Brian Sennett says:

    Thanks for this review Tom…did you ever get the Fat Gecko and if so, what did you think?

  9. Tom Mullaney says:

    Great write-up, Tom. I love how practical your equipment reviews are.

    Did you consider the MeFoto GlobeTrotter when you chose the RoadTripper? I’ve been looking at both of those and leaning toward the GlobeTrotter for the slightly taller reach and the added stability but I haven’t decided yet if it’s worth the additional weight. What are your thoughts?

    • Tom Bricker says:

      The gain in height wasn’t worth the additional weight and folded size, at least not to me. Perhaps the first time someone blocks my fireworks photos, I’ll feel a bit differently, but for now, I don’t see the need…

  10. aRJedi says:

    Great article! I got the Benro Angel myself last year and it was perfect for my first photography-centric trip to Disneyland last Christmas. I’ll have to check out that Manfrotto ball head.

    A side question, do you have yor camera strap connected to the quick release plate? Or do you just take it off and lug the camera around with the tripod connected when you close the parks?

    • Crystal says:

      I have a Black Rapid strap and love it – I hate the strap that comes with the camera. The make an adaptor that goes with a manfrotto plate that once you unhook you can put it on the tripod then once done take it off and re-clip it to the strap. I did tend to come lose so I used some Loctite thread locker blue – medium hold that you can losen with hand tools. I am an Industrial engineer so used to the stuff at work.

      http://www.blackrapid.com/products/fastenr-t1

      • Jared@BlackRapid says:

        Hi Crystal, Jared from BlackRapid here. Do you own the Manfrotto RC2 Quick Release Plate? The FR-T1 we provide is exclusively compatible with the RC2. We want to make sure that your fastenR is not loosening.

        Please feel free to email us at customerrelations@blackrapid(dot)com .

        Thanks!

  11. Spencer says:

    Good review! I purchased the Maxi-L before our trip to WDW last month. I debated back and forth between that and the Luxi-L, but wound up finding the Maxi for a better price and the lighter weight sold me. It was awesome to have on the trip! I got some great shots using it, and the size and ease of use kept it from being annoying to carry with me. I just kept the standard head and used it with my Canon 20D & a kit (17-85mm) or Sigma 8-16mm lens.

    Only thing I might wish is that it was a bit taller for Wishes shots, but in reality nothing is going to get me tall enough to shoot over the 4 year old on her Dad’s shoulders that appeared in front of me. :-) Not that I mind, I’m glad to girl got to enjoy the fireworks, and the shadow isn’t a big deal. I think you just kinda have to get luck with who winds up in front of you while shooting those shows. Anyway, the Maxi-L is great… loved using it while travelling, and it has become my primary tripod (replacing an old giant) for use at home as well!

  12. ElizabethNDP says:

    Glad you liked the Mefoto Road Trip! It has worked well for me as well. I was able to fit mine inside my Lowepro Flipside 300 by rearranging the placement of the zip bag from top to side. Might post a pic of the arrangement to my Flickr if anyone is interested. I really like the Custom SLR- M Plate as well. It mounts nicely on the Road Trip without having to remove the Black Rapid Metro Strap. Thanks as always for your awesome reviews!
    -Elizabeth

  13. Kevin says:

    I wish I’d seen this post a couple years ago! My tripod is not a bad one for the money (~$50) with a 60″ height, only 2.5 lbs, and the legs are pretty easy to set up.

    Its minimum height is 22.5″ and smaller would always be nicer. But the quick release plate I find to be very finicky, making it a “slow release plate” for me. A better release plate would have been worth spending some money on.

  14. Keith LeLievre says:

    Tom,

    I was wondering if you could go into a bit more detail about the Ball-head. I’m wondering what the main differences would be compared to the standard ball-head that came with my Velbon Ultra LUXi-L II tripod?

    Is it a craftsmanship/quality difference or is it a functionality difference, or both, or more?

    • Tom Bricker says:

      The Luxi-L comes with a pan-tilt head, not a ball-head (at least that’s what the ones I’ve seen all come with). There’s absolutely no comparison in terms of quality or ease of use.

      • Keith LeLievre says:

        My Luxi from B&H did come with a Ballhead. I can’t find one online that comes with a ballhead now, which I find odd. I’ll try to get the specs of my ballhead when I get home. I’m curious to see if it’s one you’ve looked at before.

  15. Tom Cooney says:

    Tom, just as a note for when you visit Tokyo Disney… They are quite adamant about not allowing tripods in the parks…

  16. Keith Kolmos says:

    I bought the MeFoto RoadTrip tripod for my recent trip to Hong Kong Disneyland. I loved how sturdy it was and how well it performed. Very easy to use. Very stable.

    I’ll be posting some shots from that trip over on flickr soon and doing a photo trip report over at http://www.disneyphotographyblog.com

  17. Andrew says:

    Hi Tom,
    Thanks for the info. Do you have a recommendation on a good travel trip-pod for the Canon Rebel t3i? I’m not sure if the above are better suited toward Nikon.

    Thanks,
    Andrew

  18. Bill Browning says:

    Thanks for the info Tom. I always find the information I need on this site and your recommendations are priceless. If anyone is interested, here is a link that lists the various locker sizes at the WDW parks so one can see if their folded tripod will fit in one when not in use. http://www.wdwinfo.com/tips_for_touring/Lockers.htm
    Thanks again.

  19. Nate says:

    Tom, I have been looking at the Manfrotto 496RC2, which of course led me to look at the 498RC2. Is there a reason that you chose to go with the one without tension control and pan lock? In your experience, is it not needed, or is it just not worth the extra cost?

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Back when I bought mine, I didn’t see the value in the tension control and pan lock. I might feel differently about it now, I should probably give the 498RC2 another look.

      • Nate says:

        I also noticed that neither of those two tripod heads has spirit levels. Do you find that it’s not necessary because of the “suggestion of thirds” grid on the camera? Or do you have one that fits in the shoe? Or do you just have an eye for making sure the picture is level?

      • Tom Bricker says:

        I am terrible at leveling. It would be nice to have the levels on the head, but I’ve never found a head I’ve liked with them. Most cameras now have this built-in, but even then I rarely think to check it while shooting. Definitely something of which I need to be more mindful.

  20. Jamie Gray says:

    Thanks for the great gear reviews! With my trip coming up soon, I’m wondering about the Velbon UT-43D, which looks even more compact than the main tripods you evaluated here. I read about it on one of the other forums, but find it almost weird how little mention of it there is.

    Super compact and light (11.5″ folded, 2.6lb), but reasonably tall when extended (61.6″). Weight capacity isn’t huge (6.6lb), and it does look pretty spindly…but it would fit nicely in a camera bag.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      I have no experience with it, but it looks to me like a lower quality version of the RoadTrip. Very similar in style to that, but it just doesn’t look as stable…

      Do you mean on a camera bag as opposed to “in” the bag? I wouldn’t put a tripod in the bag, I’d attach it to the outside of the bag. If a bag didn’t have a spot to attach the tripod on the outside, I wouldn’t buy it.

  21. Kevin says:

    When you tried the Roadtrip, did you also try out the MeFoto backpacker? The 3″ smaller folded height and 1 lb less weight (an dlower price) seem appealing compared to the roadtrip, but I was curious if you felt it was worth the trade-off for decreased stability. Or perhaps for you the shorter height just took it out of the equation. (I’m a fairly short guy, so a lower height might not bother me as much.)

  22. Mike G says:

    Tom, have you or anyone you know, had any experience with the Dolica CX600B502D/S Carbon Fiber Tripod that Costco sells? Right now they are offering it for $199.99, which seems like a good price for a CF tripod.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Based on a couple of reviews I just read and the specs, it seems fine. Not the exact specs I’d like to see in a CF tripod, but I think for that price, it’s a solid buy.

  23. Mike says:

    I appreciated this column very much. Earlier in the year I bought a SLIK 700 tripod to use at home and traveling. As it was the best rated I could afford, I thought nothing of the seven pound weight as I can easily carry it. However, now owning it, the size is a bit interesting. My Tamrac Aero 80 backpack doesn’t make it easy to carry it at all. There is no easy vertical storage in the backpack for tripod.

    Rading this article has me contemplating buying a second tripod for traveling, especially to future Disney park visits. However, I am curious to ask if the size of the Velbon Ultra LUXi-L might be an issue for me. I am 6’5″ and seeing the smaller max size of the tripod makes me question if my back will be killing me from bending over to set up and take shots with it. Thoughts?

    I am greatly intrigued by the Velbon Ultra LUXi-L size when folded for travel. Does its size easily fit within a backpack from your experience or do you have a separate carry case for it?

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Most camera bags have space on the outside to attach the tripod–I use that for the Luxi-L. If you’re using a regular backpack, it’ll most likely fit inside.

  24. Michael J. Costello says:

    have you looked at or seen the Sirui T-1204X Tripod. Any thoughts on it?

  25. Ricky says:

    Hi, great review.

    I recently purchased a luxi L II. i feel the legs are loose. they’re expanding / collapsing by themself when i swing the tripod. does this issue happen to you as well?

    • Tom Bricker says:

      No, that should definitely not be happening. I suspect one (or more) of the clips that control the swing on the legs is broken. That’s a serious issue and, if so, you should not use that tripod.

  26. Hi Tom,

    I own a Nikon D7000 + Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 and love to photograph people, wildlife and food. I wish to buy a tripod for my genre of photography and have shortlisted Mefoto GlobeTrotter. Is this tripod sturdy enough to handle the weight of my camera + lens? I really liked that this converts into a monopod which will be quite helpful when I am on a vehicle in a wildlife park. Appreciate your input.

    Regards
    Praveen

    • Tom Bricker says:

      You shouldn’t have any issues with that combo on the Globetrotter. Just make sure you use the tripod mount that comes with the lens for maximum balance and stability.

  27. Lennart says:

    Hey have you considered the Manfrotto Be-Free? I’m personally contemplating between this and the Benro. Should do fine with my 5DII and 35/50mm prime.

    I’ll still keep my 190xc around with my 485RC BH with QR plate. Just thinking about the weight/sturdiness as I do tend to go off the reservations for some of my photos…

    • Tom Bricker says:

      I haven’t used the Befree, but it looks like a great tripod, and I don’t have any criticism for any Manfrotto product I’ve ever tried. Their stuff is solid. Personally, I prefer twist/lock legs, but that’s just me. Looks like a great tripod!

      • Cliff says:

        I was contemplating the Befee especially at the price point. I was choosing between the Befee and the Mefoto Roadtrip since they were similar price. The Roadtrip handles heavier loads but uses a Arca Swiss plate system. I like the roadtrip because it has twist locks which I like. Currently all of my gear are on Manfrotto RC2 plates. Since I use Blackrapid straps, I’ve spent some money on a couple Fastenr FR-T1′s and RC2 Plates to use on my D200/D7000/D800. Wasn’t interested on converting to Arca Swiss.

        In the end I went ahead and bought the Sirui T-1005x and a 498RC2 ballhead instead of the Mefoto or the Befree. Its nice and light, sturdy, has good reviews, and also has twist locks.

      • Tom Bricker says:

        I use a Manfrotto head on my Mefoto tripod for the same reason as you. I’ll have to check out the Sirui T-1005x in the future, though. Thanks!

  28. Cliff says:

    I love reading this blog. Just ordered a Lowepro Bag and used your BH link. I can’t believe I didn’t see that link when I bought my D800 last month!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      How are you liking the D800 so far? I’ve been considering replacing my D600, but I take so many photos that I’m concerned the larger file size would be an issue.

      • Cliff says:

        I like the D800 a lot however it is much heavier in my current setup than my D7000 with grip and 18-105. I am using the 24-70 f/2.8 primarily on my D800 and it is heavy. Even with the 16-35 f/4, its still heavy. I actually had some concerns about having all that weight + a SB-910 on a Blackrapid strap.

        My next trip down is March 8-15 so I will report back to you on how the D800 handles at the World.

        So far, file sizes have been concerning me as well. My D7000 lossless compressed 14bit nef is around 17-20mb per file. On the D800 its about double the size. With memory cards and fast shooting, write speed also becomes an issue. I can only see this a problem when shooting multiple shots fast. I decided I had to buy new SD cards at 95mb/s and get fast CF cards as well. The D800 has CF+SD, unlike D7000 which is SD+SD.

        The one thing I really liked about the D7000 was the U1 and U2 settings which is very quick to switch. On the D800 you have 4 Shooting Menu Banks, and 4 Custom Setting Banks. This is nice however if you change the settings when you’re in the banks, it saves your changes. And you have to navigate menus to change these shoot/custom settings.

        I did a lot of research before I settled on the D800. Snapsort rated 98 for the D600 and 99 for the D800. The only reason I went for the D800 was because I liked the feel better. I’d hold out for a new model which we all know Nikon is eventually going to come out with.

        Happy Shooting Tom

  29. HendySukin says:

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  30. JKC says:

    Tom, great tips inside an even greater blog! Some questions if you don’t mind:
    - Do you recommend monopods where a tripod may be prohibited? Are tripods allowed during open hours?
    - Do you have special access to WDW for the great photos you take that the rest of us would not be granted?

    Thanks much!

  31. Garrett says:

    Hi Tom,

    I ended up grabbing the Velbon Luxi L III per your recommendation and in depth review on another post so thanks for the information! Just an FYI, when i was finalizing my transaction via PayPal, it informed me that “This transaction will appear on your statement as PayPal *HOLGACAMERA.” The name looked familiar so I switched tabs back here and saw you said that retailer looked kinda sketch. Looks like this eBay seller, though using a different name, is the same as the other site you found. I still followed through with the transaction since you successfully got yours haha. Anyway, just figured you may want to know. Thanks again!

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