Is the Ulanzi F38 Quick Release Travel Tripod for real? Take a careful look at it. Now look at the Peak Design Travel Tripod (opens in new tab), which we described as an “expensive luxury”. Shenzhen, China-based manufacturer Ulanzi makes no bones about the two tripods’ similarity, boldly claiming that the Ulanzi F38 Quick Release Travel Tripod is both more affordable and better than its high-end competitor. Is that true, and does this model belong in our best travel tripods guide (opens in new tab)? Read on to find out.
Ulanzi F38 Quick Release Travel Tripod: specifications
- Weight 1.1 kg (2.2 lb)
- Material Carbon fiber
- Storage length 42.3cm (15.74in)
- Max height (center column raised) 159cm (62.6in)
- Max Load Capacity 18kg (39.6lb)
- Leg Angle 20°/55°/75°
Ulanzi F38 Quick Release Travel Tripod: price and release date
Launched in fall 2022 and selling for $369.95 (£328) on Ulanzi’s website, the Ulanzi F38 Quick Release Travel Tripod is more affordable than the Peak Design Travel Tripod. However, that does slightly depend since the latter comes in both aluminium ($379.95/£274.96) and carbon fibre ($649.95/£474.96) variants. However, the challenger tripod has a few advantages.
Ulanzi F38 Quick Release Travel Tripod: weight, height and payload
The Ulanzi F38 Quick Release Travel Tripod is lighter than its rivals. Weighing just 1.1kg, the carbon fibre Ulanzi F38 Quick Release Travel Tripod is lighter than the Peak Design Travel Tripod, whose carbon fibre model withs 1.29kg and aluminium 1.56kg.
However, weight isn’t everything. As any landscape photographer will tell you, it's not how light a tripod is, but how well it copes with heavier payloads. This is where the Ulanzi F38 Quick Release Travel Tripod slightly falls down – though not literally. While the Ulanzi F38 Quick Release Travel Tripod can cope with 6kg, the Peak Design Travel Tripod can hold a maximum of 9.1kg.
However, something the Ulanzi F38 Quick Release Travel Tripod offers that the Peak Design Travel Tripod doesn’t is an additional centre column that sports a standard 3/8-16 thread. It’s essentially for photographers who want to use their own ballhead – and it extends the maximum payload to a whopping 18kg. Its maximum height is 134cm, extending to 159cm with its centre column. That’s slightly taller than the Peak Design Travel Tripod’s 130 cm and 152 cm.
Ulanzi F38 Quick Release Travel Tripod: design and features
It may not be quite as talented as its competitor when it comes to weight, but the Ulanzi F38 Quick Release Travel Tripod has some standout features that might attract users of lighter mirrorless cameras. A five-section tripod, the Ulanzi F38 Quick Release Travel Tripod is lever-locked so can be extended and packed away really quickly. It’s got rubber feet for gripping onto hard surfaces with spikes also included in the box for when some extra grip is required.
The Ulanzi F38 Quick Release Travel Tripod ships with an F38 quick release Arca-Swiss-compatible plate for attaching to the bottom of a camera. It slides into the ballhead easily thanks to a really useful quick-release button, which gives the product its name. If anything the button is too small, but it works really well; turn it 90º with the camera in place and it locks it in place.
There are two locking levers on the Ulanzi F38 Quick Release Travel Tripod, one securing the ballhead — with one specific position locking in place for portrait orientation — and another for the extendable centre column. The latter can be removed when wanting to work closer to the ground, with this ‘low mode’ getting to within 18cm of the ground. There’s also a bubble level integrated into the product to help. There’s also a slot between two of the tripod shoulders to attach any accessory that uses a 1/4-20 thread, such as a monopod, smartphone or GoPro mount.
Ulanzi F38 Quick Release Travel Tripod: performance
The Ulanzi F38 Quick Release Travel Tripod is really easy to use, quick to set-up and virtually unnoticeable when carrying. It proved stable when using a relatively small mirrorless camera, though this isn’t the tripod to use with hefty full-frame DSLRs, star-trackers or anything else weighty – at least not without its alternative centre column in place.
Another nice feature is the hook that points down from either centre column. It might seem like a small feature, but a hook can be vital on a travel tripod. Since the entire concept revolves around the tripod being exceptionally lightweight, there's always going to be an issue with balance and stability. So it's wise to hang a reasonably heavy bag from this hook to give the Ulanzi F38 Quick Release Travel Tripod more rigidity. Here it comes with one more interesting feature in that you can completely unscrew the hook to reveal a one-inch Hex tool, which can be used to tighten and loosen the lever locks and the tripod’s main hinges. That's useful, but does it really compare to the Peak Design Travel Tripod, which instead of a Hex tool in its centre column hides a foldable smartphone mount?
Ulanzi F38 Quick Release Travel Tripod: overall verdict
It’s carefully priced to be just a little more affordable – and lighter– than the Peak Design Travel Tripod it clearly copies, but at its core the Ulanzi F38 Quick Release Travel Tripod is a slightly different product because its maximum payload is less. Though its optional centre column that extends the payload and allows a different ballhead to be used is a nice concept, it works best as an all-in-one travel tripod for mirrorless camera owners after something for long trips, hikes and outdoor shoots.