Choosing the right travel tripod for your photo trip is essential. Biggest concerns of most travelers are size and weight. The smaller the better, right? But buying the smallest tripod necessarily doesn’t have to be the best idea. We will try to help you choose the right tripod which will cause you minimal transportation problems while keeping the best abilities to do what is its job, keep your camera steady.
Tripods have two different and important sizes (height). The maximum height after being fully retracted, which helps you with your vantage points when shooting and the carrying height, which makes the tripod as small as possible when you don’t need it.
The maximum height should be at least 165cm (65“) so you can shoot from eye-level height in order to keep natural vantage point. If possible, keep an eye on the center column, if a tripod can reach desired height without overextending the center column. It affects the stability.
Minimum height – travel size should be less than 50cm (20“) so a tripod could qualify as a travel tripod and fit your luggage.
Tip: Check out extra small Gitzo traveler tripods.
Weight of travel tripod
Travel tripod should be around 1,5kg (3.3 pounds), including a tripod head. However, most travel tripods come with preinstalled or fixed head. Choosing a carbon fiber, magnesium or titanium tripod instead of aluminum helps to save the weight, but comes with a higher cost. Some tripods can be secured with a bag of sand or water, in case of strong wind.
Tip: Look for extra lightweight carbon fiber tripods with magnesium ball heads.
There are couple types of tripod construction. Some are better for stability, some are better for portability and ease of use. Choose tripods which are small when retracted and do not have too many moving parts. Also focus on the head mechanism. Three-way heads have handles for each axis, they take more space, but can support heavier cameras. Ball heads are more compact and fast to adjust, but cheaper ones do not offer enough friction to support a camera with heavy telephoto lens, for example.
If possible, try how easy you can adjust leg height. Some tripods have sturdy handles and require some effort to extend them to maximum height. That is also affected by how many sections tripod legs have, which is usually between 2 to 4 sections.
Tip: Check tripods at BH Photo Video for price levels.
Mini alternatives of travel tripod
If your space is limited or you simply don’t or can’t carry a tripod around, there are still couple options for you. There are plenty of “tabletop” tripods, in case you have an even surface to put tripod on, or special kind of tripods with bendable legs. Most famous of these tripods is line of Joby Gorillapods, which can stand on a surface or its legs could be bent and wrapped around objects like poles, railings etc.
Now you are equipped so go outside and explore. You can download our app to see travel destination inspirations and guides made by photographers for photographers.
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