- Peak Design — which makes my favorite camera and travel backpacks — launched a Kickstarter campaign for its new Travel Tripod. I got the chance to try out a prototype, and in my opinion, it’s revolutionary.
- Tripods can often be a pain to carry around, but they can be key to stepping up your photography game — especially when traveling. The Peak Design Travel Tripod is incredibly lightweight and folds up smaller than any similar full-size tripod.
- The Travel Tripod’s Kickstarter campaign is live until July 18. If you back the campaign, you can get an aluminum Travel Tripod for $289 (that’s $61 off the retail price), or the carbon fiber version for $479 (a $121 discount).
As an amateur travel photographer and a reporter who often shoots my own photos, Peak Design has been on my radar for a while. The company, which was launched in 2010 by a photographer who was looking for a better way to carry his gear, has exploded over the past few years.
That’s partly thanks to its success using Kickstarter to secure funding to scale production on new products, rather than traditional private equity or loans. The brand has had seven successful Kickstarter campaigns and has raised more money on the platform than any other single brand or product.
The eighth campaign is now live.
While the last few Kickstarters were for dynamic gear that could be used for general photography or everyday travel, this latest one heads back to Peak’s roots making camera accessories specifically for the traveling photographer.
Meet the Travel Tripod.
Tripods are a necessary, but often frustrating piece of gear to use outside of a studio setting. It can help elevate your photography, but tripods are heavy, and even the best travel-oriented ones are bulky. That’s because most tripods consist of three metal tubes — the legs — around a center column. Even when tripods are folded up for carrying or storage, they tend to have a lot of negative space since the tubes don’t fit very tightly together.
Peak sent over a prototype of the Travel Tripod for me to test out. I’ve been using the 3 Legged Thing Corey Travel Tripod for the past year or so, which I’ve been more or less satisfied with, so I was excited for a chance to see if Peak’s tripod really makes a difference.
Peak’s Travel Tripod solves the bulk problem that most tripods have with legs that are a unique six-sided shape, rather than circular tubes. They’re designed for the closed position and fit tightly together around the triangular center column.
The shape is undoubtedly effective — when closed, the Travel Tripod is just 8 inches in circumference, or about 2.5 inches in diameter (which is around the width of a standard water bottle) and a bit taller than one at 15.5 inches.
It’s hard to stress how small that is for a tripod without seeing it in person. For context, the 3 Legged Thing Corey has a larger diameter of 4 inches, or 11 inches in circumference.
Of course, weight matters too for travel gear.
The Travel Tripod comes in two variations — a more affordable aluminum alloy and a premium carbon fiber. The aluminum weighs in at 3.44 pounds, while the carbon is a remarkably light 2.81 lbs. For comparison, the lightest functional tripod that I’ve used for travel, the 3 Legged Thing Corey, is 3.4 lbs, but has a much larger diameter at 4 inches, or 11 inches in circumference.
The Travel Tripod has efficient and intuitive features that were obviously designed by a photographer familiar with the process of setting up and using a tripod in the field.
The highlight is a small yet hyper efficient ball head mechanism for a free range of movement. There’s also a single adjustment ring on the head that unlocks full articulation, or locks the head into position. One thing that’s always annoyed me about tripods is that it’s often unclear which knob you’re supposed to turn to maneuver what you want — the adjustment ring solves that.
There’s a quick release/attachment plate for your camera, with a clever locking ring to secure it in place and avoid any accidental jostling or release. For a bit of extra convenience, there are three cutouts to turn the ball head 90 degrees and drop the camera into portrait orientation — most tripods only have one.
The legs deploy quickly and easily, and the cam levers secure tightly. The center column is released and locked with a small, low-profile knob that extends for an easier grip. Combined, these two elements make setting up the tripod incredibly fast.
For example, as I was walking back from testing the tripod with a few long exposures of traffic, I heard an ambulance coming down the street that I wanted to get a shot of, but the tripod was completely folded up for storage. I managed to get it set up in about 10 seconds, leaving me a few seconds to get my exposure settings adjusted before the ambulance passed.
Other nifty features include a counterweight hook on which you can hang your camera bag for extra stability, a nifty cell phone mount hidden behind that hook in the center column, and a generous 20 lb weight capacity. That can handle a full-frame SLR or mirrorless camera with most telephoto zoom lenses. I took a few sample shots with a Sony A7 III and attached Sony 100–400 mm lens, and the tripod was more than capable of handling the weight.
If there’s a downside, it’s the price.
The aluminum Travel Tripod retails for $349, while the lightweight carbon fiber retails for a brutal $599. Peak has faced some criticism for the pricing, though in a Kickstarter backers video, the founder disclosed that it comes down to manufacturing costs of the unique design. Each carbon fiber Travel Tripod costs $230 to make and Peak sells it to retailers for $300, meaning the profit margin for isn’t massive.
Fortunately, the Kickstarter campaign is still ongoing, so it’s possible to get a huge discount on the tripods. If you back the campaign, you can get the aluminum Travel Tripod for $289 (that’s $61 off the retail price), or the carbon fiber version for $479 (a $121 discount).
The light weight of the tripod is definitely useful, but it’s not much lighter than competitors. What really stands out is the small profile when it’s folded up. It takes up so little room in your bag compared to other tripods that it’s easy to store in any piece of luggage or camera bag.
I’ve been carrying mine to and from work and shoots in a few different bags for testing purposes, and have an easier time than with any other tripod I’ve used.
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