A tripod with over 27,000 Kickstarter backers, raising $12,143,435.
But is it a good tripod?
I had the chance to spend two weeks with the Peak Design Travel Tripod and have some thoughts about it. But before we dive in, let’s go over some of the specks and what makes this tripod so special.
First and foremost, the tripod is compact. That’s the point of it. The way they did, it was thoughtful, but might have come at a cost. More on that later.
The way they made the tripod so compact is instead of using cylindric legs they went with a more geometric shape which allows the legs to fold nearly flush with the center column (which is a triangle) snug inside. To ensure the ball head doesn’t protrude, they also made that fit snug between the legs of the tripod. Which means in order to use the tripod at all, you have to extend the center column about an inch at a minimum.
Here is a quick summary of the key features of the tripod.
- Spatial efficiency: the legs and center column to nest perfectly together to achieve a total packed diameter of just 3.25 inches, which is roughly the diameter of a water bottle. The result is a tripod that deploys to 58.5 inches tall while taking up less space than most tripods.
- Redesigned ball head: the ball head operates more fluidly than traditional tripod heads while still prioritizing spatial efficiency. By utilizing a single adjustment ring, they were able to eliminate bulky and confusing knobs. This not only improves user experience but helps the tripod maintain its compact diameter from top to bottom.
- Rapid deployment: Peak Design developed a system of non-inverted legs that rapidly deploy along a system of locking cam levers. With three hand movements, the legs can be fully extended and ready for action.
- The tripod is available in carbon fiber or aluminum alloy legs: carbon (2.81lbs at $599) aluminum alloy (3.44lbs at $349)
Now that we got that part out of the way let’s dive into some of the more technical parts.
Starting at the top, the ball head is quite lovely. As an experienced and regular tripod user, I enjoyed the tripods quick-locking ring for my Arca Swiss L Bracket from Really Right Stuff. It’s not faster than my Really Right Stuff ball heads, but it’s difference and fun to do. The twist ring to loosen and tighten the ball head is also a real joy to use. It makes it extremely easy to adjust your tripod. However, if you want it to be semi-tight but loose enough to still move your camera, then you will hear some rubber rubbing noises coming from the ball head, and that’s not attractive to the ears.
All the metal from the tripod is T6 Aluminum, which makes it light and strong and can take abuse from the element just like carbon fiber. I’ll have some comments about some of the aluminum components as we get lower on the tripod.
I mentioned just above I used my L Bracket instead of the Peak Design plate that came with the tripod. It was nice to be able to remove two tiny screws from the top of the ball head, so I can use an L Bracket. But if you plan on ever using the Peak Design plate, be sure to leave the screws in place as they keep the camera from sliding left and right, out of the clamp.
Weight & Size
Yes, the tripod is tiny when folded and a decent size when open. But how much smaller is it really than popular competitors? This comparison will be between carbon fiber models only.
- Peak Design Tripod
- Folded Length: 15.5″
- Weight: 2.81lbs
- Expanded Length: 60″
- Legs: 5
- Load: 20lbs
- Really Right Stuff TFC-14 Mark 2
- Folded Length: 17.8″
- Weight: 2.46lbs
- Expanded Length
- Legs: 4
- Load: 30lbs
- Requires ball head purchased separate (BH20 or BH30)
- Mefoto BackPacker S
- Folded Length: 13.19″
- Weight: 2.18lbs
- Expanded Length: 59.40″
- Legs: 5
- Load: 13.20lbs
- Folded Length: 15.75″
- Weight: 2.4lbs
- Expanded Length: 56.7″
- Legs: 4
- Load: 8.8lbs
As you can see when comparing specs, the Peak Design tripod isn’t much smaller or lighter than the rest. Price-wise it’s more expensive than the Manfrotto and Mefoto tripods, but less expensive than the Really Right Stuff. While the Really Right Stuff tripod has the most impressive specs, it also requires purchasing a ball head separate. I use their lightest and smallest, BH20 on my RRS travel tripod.
Moving down the tripod are the beautiful geometric-shaped carbon fiber legs. They’re unique and eye-catching. But a big problem I found, which will only impact a small portion of the photographers in the world, is stability.
Because of the flatter shape of the legs and the thinness of the legs, pushing on the tripod made for obvious caving in. The legs bend so much that it would destroy a lengthy exposure.
But what really ruins the legs for me are the cam levers. They’re similar to what Manfrotto uses in some of their tripods. Because Peak Design cannot use twist locks, they had to make their own cam levers to lock the legs open or closed. They designed theirs to be large enough to do blindfolded and with gloves on your hands. However, because they’re cam levers, they loosen so easily. Multiple times I had to catch my camera from falling over because a leg started to collapse. It even happened while doing some pressure testing and tap testing of the tripod. As mentioned just above, Manfrotto has this issue with their cam level locked legs too. So it’s not a Peak Design issue necessarily. It’s an issue with that type of lock. To fix it, you have to continually check the tightness of the levels and ensure you use the supplied hex key to tighten everything. The more you use your tripod, the more you’ll need to do this.
The kicker to the cam levels is that although I know they’re the T6 aluminum, they feel like cheap plastic. Maybe it’s because of how thin they are, but they don’t feel like quality locks, which makes me even more nervous about putting something of value on top of the tripod.
During one week of my testing, I was at the beach, so the tripod spent a reasonable amount of time with its feet in the sand. Typically with my RRS tripod, I would use spikes to dig deep into the sand, but this tripod didn’t come with spikes. They are available to purchase and require the hex key to remove the rubbery feet to replace with a metal spike.
Like the spikes, you can also get a couple of other accessories to make the tripod how you want. For example, if you don’t think you’ll need the center column you can buy a kit to remove it and have a sort of shorter center column, enough to remove the ball head from its resting place and get ready for use.
There is also a kit to remove the built-in ball head in favor of whatever ball you want. But that would make the tripod larger, so if you are buying this for the size, I doubt you’ll use your own ball head.
The thing that made me laugh when I played with the tripod was the hidden-phone mount. It’s a gimmick that would only be useful to serious mobile phone photographer. It does store nicely inside the center column, but that space could have been used better. For example, Really Right Stuff has the option to store a multi-tool in their center columns. It’s something that can be used to tighten screws and bolts on a variety of things, including tripods, cameras, and lights. It can even screw on to a ball head and tabletop legs to make for a tiny tripod. That is what I would consider useful. Tools… not a phone mount. But again, if you’re a mobile photographer then it’s the perfect thing as your phone mount is always with you.
The tripod comes in a bag, a gorgeous bag. But it’s likely something you’ll leave in your closet and never use unless you are the type of person, who puts your tripod in a bag when you carry it around. But more likely, you’ll have it attached to a bag. If you use the bag, you’ll be happy as it has handles to carry and can be attached to a Peak Design strap too.
The last thing I want to point out before you have a chance to watch my video review is the center column hook. I cannot tell if it’s the T6 Aluminum or if it’s plastic, but it feels like plastic. I didn’t want to risk breaking the loaner model by hanging a heavy bag from it. But from the feel of it and the look of it, I wouldn’t hang much from it at all.
Now that I’ve shared all of this, here is my final opinion on the Peak Design Travel Tripod.
If you are a landscape photographer or a photographer who often has longer shutter speeds, then do not buy this tripod. I worry for the shake you will get from the thinness and everything else I’ve shared with you.
But if you are a photographer who simply needs a tripod to hold your camera, and use shutter speeds fast enough to not worry about shake, then this is a great tripod.