Back in June, I shared my thoughts onfrom the folks at Peak Design. I was enthused about the innovative offerings this camera accessory company brought to the table—especially with regards to an important photography tool such as a tripod. On paper, it seems as if Peak Design thought about the “little things” a photographer needs when using a tripod on the go.
Recently, I got some real-world, hands-on time with this new tripod prototype. And all I can say is—unbelievable.
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Compelling industrial design
Peak Design shipped me its carbon fiber pre-production version of its tripod. First, let’s look at the actual size of the Travel Tripod. This full-size tripod collapses down for compact packing and traveling. No big deal. That’s what travel tripods are supposed to do, right? What surprised me was the extent at which the tripod collapsed. When folded down, the Travel Tripod is roughly two inches longer than my Joby GorillaPod — an mini tripod. Not only that, the circumference of the Travel Tripod is roughly the size of a water bottle.
Unlike other tripods, or the GorillaPod, this travel tripod fits with ease into the side pouches on my backpack, which is designed for water bottles or tripods. Granted, my backpack of choice is the Peak Design 30L Everyday Backpack, so it only makes sense that it’s a perfect fit.
The ball head mount (Figure A) is not perfect, but it’s definitely much easier to use than some other ball heads on the market due to its design. There are three components to consider on the ball head: The quick release, the locking ring, and the adjustment ring. The adjustment ring allows you to rotate and tilt the ball head to your desired setting and lock it securely in place. The quick release allows you to easily clip in your camera with the accompanying tripod mounting plate (These plates are the same plates used in the current Peak Design Capture system). So, when your camera isn’t mounted to the Travel Tripod, you can easily mount it to your Peak Design Capture Clip or straps. The quick release latch locks your camera into place on the ball head. Securing the locking ring prevents accidental contact onto the quick release, and it is as easy as sliding the lock into place.
I currently use the larger capture plates for my cameras. These work fine with most tripods that have arca-type heads. My larger mount did fit on the Travel Tripod, but only after I rotated it one-quarter of a turn. My camera stayed securely in place no matter how hard I pulled on it to see if I could force it off of the ball head.
The weight of the tripod is extremely light. It was so light at 1.7 Kg that it concerned me. How would the tripod handle the weight of my heavier L-series Canon EF lenses? How would it handle the tank-sized RF Canon lenses? For the most part, the stability of the tripod is sufficient. I initially had issues with the camera shaking on long exposures, but that was my fault. I didn’t utilize the center column’s hook to add more stability — as you would with any tripod.
As much as I like this prototype, I do have a few features to nit-pick. First off, the ball head is easy to use because of its intuitive design, but there’s a design flaw limiting the tilt angle if you shoot in portrait orientation versus a landscape orientation. You can light up your shot, but if you like to frame up towards a higher point of view you’re limited to about 40 degrees of tilt up or down. This is due to the ball head’s support structures, which helps keep it still and secure during a shot. The only way around this is to shoot with a wide-angle lens.
The tripod’s legs and feet are designed with weight and convenience in mind. You can even remove the retractable legs with the push of a spring. But, I wish the tripod feet had spikes to offer a more secure grip onto the ground or when shooting on a hillside. However, Peak Design recently announced a spiked feet accessory that will be available for $29.95 at launch and $25 during pre-order. The current offering of this tripod is 60-inch maximum height. I would prefer something a little closer to 70-inches in maximum height, but this is still a usable height. Considering that the collapsed footprint of this tripod is that of a mini tripod, the 60-inch maximum height is still impressive.
The soft case, which encloses the Travel Tripod for easy storage, has a small pocket for the hex tool which is needed when you attach the accompanying mounting plate to your camera. (Peak Design received a lot of push back about requiring the customer to use a hex tool to attach the mounting plates to their cameras. I actually agree with Peak Design’s premise of making sure the mount is securely torqued to keep your camera safe). However, it’s not easy to get the hex tool out of the tiny pocket. I suggest Peak Design add a keyring to the tool to allow it to be hooked onto a keyring or bag loop.
This tripod is definitely a game changer when it comes to portability and functionality. Locking in your camera or telephoto lens is not a hassle. Instead, it’s quick, easy, and secure. Packing up the tripod for, say, a long hike won’t bother you because you’ll have room for it in your bag, and you’ll hardly know that it’s in your bag since it’s so lightweight.
Premium products come at a premium price. If you’re a beginner photographer, the Travel Tripod may not be in your budget. If you’re ready to stop buying multiple tripods this is an investment worth making. The pre-order ends on July 18—visit the Kickstarter campaign, and place your discounted order of $289 for the aluminum version or $479 for the carbon fiber version. The post-campaign cost increases to $349.95 and $599.95. The first shipments will go out in December 2019.
Are you going to place your order? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below or tag me on Twitter. Nice job, Peak Design.