Ultra Compact Travel Tripod

adamhiram

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Yay another tripod thread!

I have a big heavy full-sized Manfrotto tripod that I've used for years. It holds something like 22 lbs, weighs 6.5 lbs, and folds down to about 30". I've strapped it to the outside of my camera bag for short trips, but it's definitely not something I would want to do for any real traveling.

Most travel tripods fold down to around 15-18", sacrifice a little stability for convenience, and typically can be strapped to the tripod strap on most camera bags.

I am looking to pickup something even smaller that fits inside my camera bag (around 12" folded), and is still stable enough to reliably hold a full size DSLR with a heavier lens. I'm certain the sacrifices that come with this size are significant, but there are a number of options that look pretty usable.

For example:
  • I currently have a Velbon Ultra Luxi-M tripod that I picked up for a trip in 2011 when I was using an entry-level DSLR with a kit lens. It only holds 4.4 lbs, but that was sufficient at the time. I still use it occasionally, but usually with only 2 of the 5 leg sections extended and the center column collapsed. With the head removed, it folds down to just under 12", which is nice.
  • There are a number of options from reliable brands such as the Sirui T-25SK or Oben CT-3535 that definitely seem to fit the bill, with small folded length and decent load capacity, but also have something that seems off, like a center column that doesn't collapse. This seems to be pretty common for travel tripods this size.
  • There are other more common models such as the Manfrotto Element Small Traveler, or MeFOTO BackPacker that look like decent options as well, albeit with smaller load capacities than the ones above.
Does anyone have experience with these or other similar ultra-compact travel tripods? Are they actually usable with a bigger camera and lens (D500 + 17-55 = 3.6 lb), or are they all too unstable to use reliably? I'm not opposed to using a regular sized travel tripod, but being able to actually fit it inside my bag makes a huge difference.
 
I bought one of these for travel a couple years ago, and love it. Light weight (under 4lbs) extremely stable and rated for 17lbs. Has a stable ball head on a center shaft that can be flipped upside down, and the legs will fold out independently so it's great for setting up on the side of a hill. Won't quite fit in a camera bag, but it is compact and comes with it's own nice carry bag. Vanguard VEO 265AB Aluminum Tripod with TBH-50 Ball Head
 
I have the Sirui T-05x, and there's also a carbon version, the T-025x.

Very light, folds extremely small, reasonably sturdy.
 
Does anyone have experience with these or other similar ultra-compact travel tripods? Are they actually usable with a bigger camera and lens (D500 + 17-55 = 3.6 lb), or are they all too unstable to use reliably? I'm not opposed to using a regular sized travel tripod, but being able to actually fit it inside my bag makes a huge difference.
No experience with very many, but I've got one that came with my spotting scope. It actually resides in the zippered case of the scope, and I'm sure it is less than 12". It is very solid, but I don't just offhand know what it is, or if it can be obtained separately. Next time I'm in the basement, I'll look for a name on it.
 
I bought one of these for travel a couple years ago, and love it. Light weight (under 4lbs) extremely stable and rated for 17lbs. Has a stable ball head on a center shaft that can be flipped upside down, and the legs will fold out independently so it's great for setting up on the side of a hill. Won't quite fit in a camera bag, but it is compact and comes with it's own nice carry bag. Vanguard VEO 265AB Aluminum Tripod with TBH-50 Ball Head
Thanks for the recommendation! I think something like that would be a good backup plan, but my primary goal is get something that fits inside my bag rather than strapped to it. It's amazing what a difference that can make when traveling, especially the attention it does (or doesn't) attract.

I have the Sirui T-05x, and there's also a carbon version, the T-025x. Very light, folds extremely small, reasonably sturdy.
This is exactly the information I was looking for. The T-25SK is the newer version of the 025X, which is the carbon fiber version of the T-05x. From what I've read, the center column can be detached, but it doesn't collapse. Do you find that it affects stability at all having it permanently up, or is it still pretty solid?

No experience with very many, but I've got one that came with my spotting scope. It actually resides in the zippered case of the scope, and I'm sure it is less than 12". It is very solid, but I don't just offhand know what it is, or if it can be obtained separately. Next time I'm in the basement, I'll look for a name on it.
Thanks, keep me posted!
 
I bought one of these for travel a couple years ago, and love it. Light weight (under 4lbs) extremely stable and rated for 17lbs. Has a stable ball head on a center shaft that can be flipped upside down, and the legs will fold out independently so it's great for setting up on the side of a hill. Won't quite fit in a camera bag, but it is compact and comes with it's own nice carry bag. Vanguard VEO 265AB Aluminum Tripod with TBH-50 Ball Head
Thanks for the recommendation! I think something like that would be a good backup plan, but my primary goal is get something that fits inside my bag rather than strapped to it. It's amazing what a difference that can make when traveling, especially the attention it does (or doesn't) attract.

I have the Sirui T-05x, and there's also a carbon version, the T-025x. Very light, folds extremely small, reasonably sturdy.
This is exactly the information I was looking for. The T-25SK is the newer version of the 025X, which is the carbon fiber version of the T-05x. From what I've read, the center column can be detached, but it doesn't collapse. Do you find that it affects stability at all having it permanently up, or is it still pretty solid?

No experience with very many, but I've got one that came with my spotting scope. It actually resides in the zippered case of the scope, and I'm sure it is less than 12". It is very solid, but I don't just offhand know what it is, or if it can be obtained separately. Next time I'm in the basement, I'll look for a name on it.
Thanks, keep me posted!

The central column does collapse, and can also be reversed for macro work.
 
Try looking at a platypod: Platypod®.
Or, bring a small beanbag and a wireless release or a bungie cord (and then attach the camera to things like chairs).
 
An option I have used for the past decades is a 1985 era C-style clamp with a 1/4"x 20 thread on top. To that thread I attach a Cullman Ball head. This clamp attaches to doors,tables, desks, and other firm supports. It is very small perhaps 3 inches tall;the ball head which is of the same vintage,is about 3 inches tall as well.
 
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1985 era C-style clamp with a 1/4"x 20 thread on top. To that thread I attach a Cullman Ball head.

Bet that would earn you some looks today at airport security, maybe even win you a full body cavity search.:allteeth:
 
The central column does collapse, and can also be reversed for macro work.
Collapses or detaches? It looks like the tripods this size from Sirui have a center column that can be removed altogether or extended higher, but not simply collapsed without removing a piece.
 
The central column does collapse, and can also be reversed for macro work.
Collapses or detaches? It looks like the tripods this size from Sirui have a center column that can be removed altogether or extended higher, but not simply collapsed without removing a piece.

To fold it up and attach it across my rucksack (I bought it because it folds to the same width as my camera rucksack, so can strap on without projecting beyond the bag) I just slide the centre column down and fold the legs. I don't remove anything.
 
I picked up a Sirui T-025SK carbon fiber travel tripod, after confirmation that similar models were sufficiently stable, and so far it looks like it will meet my needs. Of course it's nowhere near as stable as bigger tripods, but for the size I am pretty impressed.

Pros:
  • It folds down to about 12” and fits INSIDE my camera bag
  • It holds my DSLR with my heaviest lens with no problems
  • With about 5lbs of weight hanging from the hook under the center column, it is very stable
  • It can be expanded all the way to 54” if needed
  • Overall it feels pretty solid and well made
Cons
  • It's a little bit “bouncy” - I think this is a combination of the light weight and carbon fiber material and isn't a deal breaker, but was unexpected
  • It uses an Arca QR system, which I am not a fan of. I would love something that uses Manfrotto’s simpler RC2 system, but at this size that just doesn't exist. At least it’s a common system that is standard on most tripods these days.
  • The QR plate requires an allen wrench to attach to the camera? It’s 2019, every QR plate should have a D-ring, especially if used for travel. I picked up a BlackRapid Arca plate that doubles as an attachment point for my strap that should fit that.
  • The center column can be removed but doesn’t fully collapse. When attached, it cannot be lowered below 7.5” (and extends to 13”). When removed, it feels more stable but the tripod cannot be folded back up neatly. I'd rather deal with it attached than have to assemble and disassemble it all the time, but I would’ve have liked something fully collapsible for maximum stability.

Overall I am pretty happy with it, and will follow up at some point once I've had a chance to use it in the real world!
 
This is a follow-up after a week of use...
  • The folded size is amazing. I cannot stress enough how useful it is to be able to fit it inside my bag rather than strapped to the outside.
  • It weighs next to nothing. After lugging around a 6.5 lb full-sized tripod for years, it took time to have confidence that it could securely hold the weight of my camera, which it definitely can. What's funny is after using this one for a week, my full size Manfrotto feels like it weighs 20 lbs.
  • It's surprisingly stable. For normal shutter speeds I really have no concerns. For longer exposures, it helps to not extend the center column or to just remove it altogether, and as with any other tripod, using a shallower angle on the legs and not extending every section helps with stability.
  • Related to the weight and stability, I feel a lot more comfortable if I hang a weight from the center column when the tripod is fully extended. I picked up a small HeroClip to hang my bag from, which works really well.
  • I wasn't sure what to make of the non-collapsible center column, but the benefits seem to outweigh any inconvenience. It doesn't really affect stability too much as long as I don't extend it all the way, and it's great that it can be removed altogether to get very low to the ground (3.1").
  • As I mentioned previously, I'm not a big fan of the Arca QR system, and requiring a tool to attach the plate is a non-starter for me. Instead, I'm using a BlackRapid 50mm Arca QR plate that includes a D-ring to tighten the screw, and doubles as an attachment point for my BlackRapid strap.
My only complaint is that one section of 2 of the legs stuck when extending it, which seemed like a defect with the shims in the twist locks. I contacted Sirui and they mailed out 2 new shims that immediately fixed the problem. It's a big pet peeve of mine to have to repair something brand new, but at least it was an easy fix.

At this point, I think this will have a permanent spot in my camera bag, and am very happy with it.
 
Thanks for the closure on your decisions. Sounds like it's a good fit. Now....too make the tripod even better, get used to using a remote or wireless trigger. That will reduce the negative of a lightweight tripod substantially.
 

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