Landscape photography demands a tripod, when are we likely to find ourselves amid gorgeous landscapes? When we travel, of course, which is the absolute worst time to be carrying around a heavy, bulky and downright awkward tripod.
Cue this revolutionary product from San Francisco-based Peak Design, which weighs as little as 1.29kg and packs down to a surprisingly narrow size. It’s also got some rather clever features you just wouldn’t expect to find on a tripod. Think tripods are boring? Prepare to change your mind – and get saving.
- Best travel tripods: lightweight tripods ideal for travel
Peak Design Travel Tripod review: Design and features
The aluminium-crafted Peak Design Travel Tripod weighs 1.56kg and arrives in a slim-fitting carry case. It’s surprisingly sleek when packed away, and noticeably less awkwardly shaped compared to other travel tripods we’ve tried. It’s not heavy and at 39cm nor is it particularly long, though its biggest design win is in its very narrow construction. It’s just 6.6cm wide, and though it does take a little adjusting, a wiggle of the centre column and it’s possible to get the ball-head to nestle into the top of the legs. Not a millimetre is wasted. And its compactness looks incredible.
Its neatness extends to its mount, which comprises an Arca-Swiss design whose camera base plate can be fixed to a camera’s tripod thread using a Hex key. Rather cleverly, there’s one nestled in the leg. However, after a few sessions, the Hex key did keep falling out of its hiding place and we had to put it in a camera bag to keep it safe. Besides, we’d really rather not have to travel with a Hex key. What’s wrong with a D-ring, which can be tightened by hand?
With the camera securely in place using a lever and a dial on the base plate, there’s then a dial to change the camera’s position, essentially by loosening and tightening it. It works well once you get the hang of it and you can get all types of angles – including portrait orientation – but it moves a little differently to most ballheads, so be prepared to make a few mistakes to begin with.
Its real genius feature is an integrated smartphone adapter. Hidden inside the central column, a quick twist of the load-bearing hook reveals an origami-like C-shaped contraption that fixes to that Arca-Swiss holder and hosts smartphones up to about six inches in size.
Peak Design Travel Tripod review: Size
Designed to be as small, compact and as lightweight as possible, this tripod’s four-section legs extend to 130.2cm, and with the central column raised, it reaches a maximum height of 152.4.cm. Is that enough? Just about. Although the range you’ll find in tripods is up to 160cm before the centre column is even considered, the Peak Design Travel Tripod has a very tough, remarkably stable centre column that doesn’t droop or drag even when there’s a heavy lens perched upon it.
Peak Design Travel Tripod review: Price
The Peak Design Travel Tripod comes in two versions. For £256.63 / AU$482.87 you’ll get the aluminium version, which we reviewed, but for £439.97 / AU$827.83 you can get a version constructed mostly of carbon fibre. Not surprisingly that decision is all and only about weight; the carbon fibre version clocks-in at 1.29kg, so about 270g lighter. That’s a lot extra for not all that much less bulk, but if money is no object, the lighter, pricier version is worth considering.
Peak Design Travel Tripod review: Performance
We mostly loved using the Peak Design Travel Tripod. Though normally we tend to strap the tripod to the outside of a camera backpack, in this case, we were actually able to squeeze it inside. However, what we like most about this tripod are the cute design flourishes that make it so quick to unfurl and, later, to pack up. Take the four-leg clasps. While many travel tripods have so-called quick-release clasps, these ones have a flat profile and sit flush to the legs. They, therefore, align perfectly when it’s packed up. All you need to do when you get out in the field is to simply slide a thumb under all four leg clasps to release them simultaneously. The legs then slide out. Each leg has a tough rubber pad on its sole to help absorb shock and grip when on a shiny surface. They’re much tougher and more permanent-looking than on many tripods.
Peak Design says that the more expensive carbon fibre version is better at dampening vibrations, though we didn’t experience any issues with the aluminium version, even when used outside in strong winds. If you do get nervous there’s always a hook on the bottom of the centre column to hang a bag onto, which will add extra stability.
With a large, heavy wide-angle lens weighing 1.2kg anchored to a bulky Canon full-frame camera worth another 800g atop the Peak Design Travel Tripod we had no problems with stability. Its load-bearing ability actually reaches 9.1kg, which easily outstrips that, so it should suit most rigs.
Peak Design Travel Tripod review: Verdict
The Peak Design Travel Tripod is really expensive, but it's also the neatest travel tripod around, no doubt about that, and it’s also one of the lightest. The aluminium version has a high-end build, a very neat and compact design, and some excellent unexpected features – chief of which is that smartphone adapter – but it’s not immeasurably better, performance-wise, than a much more affordable travel tripod. Still, though, if money is no object and you want the most premium travel tripod experience, then this is the travel tripod for you.