Compact Support Solutions: Tripods, Pedestals, Bean Bags and More

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Whether you're shooting with DSLRs, camcorders or point and shoots, B&H has a broad array of compact tripods, bean bags and more for photography and videography in every style imaginable to suit your needs. You can even find pedestals specifically for pro video and broadcast applications. Enjoy the high levels of convenience, comfort and portability afforded by these small apparatus. When you’re on the go, you need equipment that’s easy to tote around. When you’re “always on,” you need gear that won’t give you sore joints, muscle aches and fatigue. Read on to find the perfect solution for you.

Tripods

A bunch of versatile and compact tripods with heads are here for the taking. Some of them fold up to less than a foot in length but are extendable to more than five feet. All have a folded length of less than 30" (76 cm). But don't let their small stature, light weight and easy portability fool you: These babies are built tough to last for the long haul.

Gitzo's Traveler Tripod, also constructed of carbon fiber, comes in a few different versions. They all feature impressive height ranges: The Ocean Traveler goes from 9.1 – 58.7" (23 – 149 cm), while the Safari Traveler expands from 12.6 – 64.57" (32 – 164 cm). These guys include ball and tilt heads for moving the camera and changing viewing angles. Twist-lock legs ensure stability while you work.

Giottos' tripods feature ball, pan / tilt, and combination ball / pan heads. Constructed of aluminum and carbon fiber, these support systems have minimum heights as low as 10.7" (27.2 cm) in the case of the GTL9242B-S2. The tripods can support double their own weights, or at least close to it, and the GTL9242B-S2 can even hold well over twice its 2.6 lb (1.2 kg).

You’ll find a slew of tripods from Manfrotto, featuring ball, pan / tilt and fluid heads. With a 17.6-lb (8.0 kg) load capacity despite a mere 9-lb (4.1 kg) weight, the 055CXPRO4 Tripod with MH057M0-Q5 Pro Ball Head Kit is a fair titan among tripods. The other offerings from Manfrotto support roughly between 3.5 lb (1.6 kg) and 15.5 lb (7.0 kg). The tripods boast minimum working heights of about 17 - 20" (43.2 – 51 cm) and are capable of expanding well beyond that.

B&H also has an ample selection of tripods from Oben. All boasting ball heads, these supports have load capacities as high as 26.45 lb (12 kg) and as low as about 6 lb (2.7 kg). Many of them can support well over double and even triple their own weights, a testament to the strength of their engineering. Collapsible to as little as 13.3" (33.8 cm) in the case of the CT-3500, the Oben tripods are easily portable, yet extendable to impressive lengths: 8 of them fall into the 69 – 72" (175 – 183 cm) range.

Slik tripods come with two- and three-way pan heads, as well as pan / tilt and ball heads. They sport load capacities of about 2.5 lb (1.1 kg) at the low end, and up to about 15 lb (6.8 kg) at the high end. The tripods are largely made of lightweight aluminum, with some constructed of titanium and others of gun metal. The aptly-named Compact Tripod II has a folded length of only 14.17" (37.3 cm), so it ought to stow easily in your gear bag.

You’ll also find notable selections of Vanguard tripods, constructed of aluminum, magnesium and carbon fiber. These systems support roughly 4 – 22 lb (1.8 – 10 kg) and the Alta + 235AP and 235AB 50 shrink down to a mere 18.7" (47.5 cm) for easy toting. The AP wears a 3-way pan head, while the AB sports an SBH-50 ball head rotating 360 degrees. They each feature five leg sections.

Tabletop and Mini Tripods

Be sure to check out this choice selection of tabletop and mini tripods that fit conveniently on virtually any flat surface, for those times when you don't need long legs and would like to, say, sit in a chair or on a sofa while you shoot.

These Oben Table Top Tripods come with mini ball heads and feature all-aluminum construction. Supporting loads up to 6 lb (2.7 kg) and achieving maximum heights from a mere 4.2" (10.7 cm)—for those extreme low “ear to the ground” or macro shots—to a still compact 17.3" (43.9 cm), they all feature standard ¼"-20 mounting screws. Two of these have extendable center columns for increasing height.

For something a little different, give the Gary Fong Flip-Cage Tabletop Tripods a try. For compact digital cameras and iPhones, these little numbers are essentially the same form factor as a deck of cards, making them the ideal compact travel companions for your point and shoot or smartphone. Capable of accommodating any camera with a tripod screw and maximum dimensions of 4.0 x 2.5 x 1.0" (10.1 x 5.4 x 2.6 cm), the Flip Cage Tabletop Tripod for Compact Cameras weighs in at a virtually non-existent 0.19 lb (88 g). It’s available in a spectrum of fun colors, too.

The Joby Gorillapod family of tripods is ultra-versatile, apart from being really cool looking. The original Gorillapod, designed to support compact point-and-shoot cameras, boasts a trio of multi-segmented and flexible legs that you can bend and tweak to fit virtually any kind of protruding mount surface—even rocks and doorknobs. Each joint bends and rotates a full 360 degrees. The Gorillapod supports up to 0.72 lb (0.33 kg).

The Gorillapod Hybrid Flexible Mini-Tripod was engineered for compact interchangeable-lens cameras, such as Micro Four Thirds. It also features the wrap-around grip legs of the Gorillapod, as well as a 360-degree pan, 90-degree tilt knob. The Hybrid shoulders burdens of up to 2.2 lb (1.0 kg). For the pro camera or prosumer camcorder photographers, there’s the Gorillapod Focus, supporting up to 11.1 lb (5.3 kg), and for the DSLR lovers, the Gorillapod SLR-Zoom is also available, bearing loads up to 6.6 lb (3 kg).

Just can’t seem to get compact enough? Try this little dude out—that is, if you can even see it: The 0.9 oz (25.5 g) Gorillapod Micro 250—for the smallest point-and-shoots—can effectively hold ten times its own weight. Can you do that?

Continuing to push the limits of just how small a tripod can get are the Manfrotto Pocket Supports. That’s right—tripods that fit in your pocket. What will they think of next?! These diminutive helpers support small point and shoots up through DSLRs.

The Joby Gorillamobile portable stands are definitely very similar to their parents, but they’re designed specifically for smartphones like the iPhone 4, as well as the 2nd and 3rd generation iPod touch. For a similar kind of look, feel and flexible support for your iPad or iPad 2, look no further than the Yogi; or, for a somewhat more conventional type of tablet stand of the folding triangle variety, try the Ori.

We’re confident you’ll get a kick out of the Quik Pod Handheld Tripods and adapters. Take great pictures of yourself or yourself and others with ease by setting your timer and then holding these handy little boom-pole style pods at arm's length. No more struggling to get a good self-portrait by holding the camera or phone between thumb and forefinger, only to be dismayed to find that your ear or half of your head got cut off when you snapped the pic.

The Quik Pod Boom-Style Tripod from Quik Pod really seems better classified as a monopod with legs. Who says three legs are better than one? Sometimes, one leg is all you need, especially when shooting with lighter-weight cameras or mobile devices, in tighter spaces, in situations where you’ve got to be able to move around a lot, or in locations where tripods are prohibited.

Monopods and Unipods

Enter monopods and unipods. Acebil's 3-Section Aluminum Monopod with Head has an adjustable height of 2.3 – 5.9 feet (0.71 – 1.8 m); this simple one-legged support system bears loads up to 8.8 lb (4 kg), which is more than twice its own weight. It’s equipped with a flat-base head with a ¼" screw.

For a different spin on the monopod theme, grab the BOGgear BOG-POD RLD-1 shooting stick with special forked yoke neck. The anodized aluminum shooting stick is designed to support telephoto SLR lenses rather than cameras themselves. Other great applications include firearm-mounted riflescopes and spotting scopes, making this item especially appealing to hunters and nature observers.

Photography titan Canon has a Monopod 500, bundled with a mini ball head and supporting more than eight times its light 1-lb (0.5 kg) weight. This gives it the ability to support everything from point and shoots to pro DSLRs and video cameras as well as scopes and binoculars.

A particularly intriguing tool is Oben's ACM-2400L 4-Section Aluminum Self-Standing Monopod with Mini-Legs. A monopod with legs, you say? That’s right. Simply unscrew the bottom to release three 9" (22.9 cm) aluminum legs that form a mini tripod at the base of the monopod. Pretty cool, huh? It’s also highly practical. The great advantage here is that you can take the ACM-2400L to locations where tripods are prohibited, such as certain tourist areas, and grab beautiful, blur-free shots without having to use a hand to steady the monopod. Though only 2.5 lb (1.13 kg) itself, the ACM-2400L can hold a highly impressive 26.4 lb (12 kg). It collapses to a mere 23.2" (58.9 cm), but extends to three times that.

No discussion of monopods and unipods would be complete without the mention of pocket-sized wonders like the XShot Pocket XShot and XShot 2.0. Featuring telescopic camera extenders and collapsibility to as small as 6.5" (16.5 cm) and 9" (22.9 cm), these are not only useful pieces of equipment but also great conversation starters that can go virtually anywhere you can—as long as you’re wearing something with a pocket. The XShots are compatible with any point-and-shoot camera and also work great with shoot-and-share video cameras.

Camcorder Tripod Systems

All of these camcorder tripod systems fold down to less than 30" (76 cm). Gitzo’s GT2540LLVL kit consists of a GT2540LLVL Leveling 6X Carbon Fiber Tripod with a G2180 Series 1 Fluid Head with Quick Release. The tripod kit boasts an impressive load capacity of 8.8 lb (3.99 kg), considering the tripod's weight of 3.7 lb (1.66 kg). It also descends to as low as 6.3" (16 cm), and extends to an amazing 67.7" (172 cm). 

The Joby GorillaPod Video, just like the other members of the GorillaPod family discussed earlier, offers flexible legs you can wrap around a wide array of objects for mounting in places you may not have thought possible. What’s more is that these legs boast ultra-strong magnetic neodymium feet, enabling refrigerator, top-of-telephone-pole, and a slew of other exciting mounting options. Pan 360 degrees and tilt 135 degrees using the included micro ball video head. The GorillaPod only supports 0.72 lb (0.33 kg)—but then again, it only weighs 2.8 oz (80 g), which makes that load-bearing capacity quite impressive. And think of all the versatile options you gain.

Pearstone's VT-2100 Fluid Head Video Tripod pans 360 degrees and tilts up and down for full action tracking. Its height is adjustable from 25 – 64.3" (63.5 – 163 cm) and its load capacity is 15 lb (6.8 kg).

Pro Video: Tripods and Pedestals

For pro video, the tripods, monopods and unipods offered by B&H are the same as those listed above for camcorders—which, in turn, means that they are largely the same as those for DSLRs, as well. This is to be expected, as DSLRs and camcorders are the tools of choice for many professional videographers.

However, sometimes, such as when using certain hefty motion picture or broadcast camera setups, pro video applications call for support systems with greater load-bearing capacities. These heavy-duty tripods from Vinten, made of aluminum and carbon fiber, are still less than 30" (76 cm) when folded, and boast load capacities of 44 lb (20 kg). The V100CP2 Vision 100 is a kit consisting of carbon fiber tripod legs, a 360-degree panning, 180-degree tilting head and an adjustable mid-level spreader for added support. It’s built to accommodate the lighter end of the big guns of professional TV, filmmaking and broadcast video.

A product category particular to pro video applications is that of pedestals. Like tripods, pedestals offer three-legged camera system support, but come with dollies for wheeled mobility, and are designed to hold heavier loads. When you’re working with complete, full-size motion picture, studio or broadcast camera configurations that need to be moveable, pedestals are pretty much essential.

This Cartoni P-200 Pneumatic Pedestal boasts a load-bearing capacity of 55 lb (25 kg), making it a great companion for the lighter weight studio equipment in your arsenal. The rugged, precise dolly and sturdy central pneumatic column provide both optimal stability and smoothness, for secure, jerk-free operation—and thus, clear, blur-free image quality.

The Ikan E-Image EI-7902-A Pedestal bears a lighter payload of 18 – 33 lb (8.2 – 15 kg). It offers solid support for your teleprompter with camera, while still maintaining optimal mobility. The center column is easily adjustable, and the fluid head helps keep your shots stable to prevent motion blur in your images.

Counterweight, Chest and Strap Supports

For a different kind of support, consider B&H’s array of counterweight, chest and strap supports. Let’s start with those nifty bean bags, shall we? These lightweight but stable supports, great for shooting out of vehicle windows and for times when you want to minimize vibrations, serve your lenses and related equipment in much the same way as a footstool might serve you. They save you from having to hold your lens with one hand, thus reserving your digits for another use.

The bean-bag offerings from Apex include 3/8"-16 mounts, and some even come with a removable aircraft-grade aluminum plate that supports the attachment of a head for mounting a camera or lens. They also feature grooves that enable the straddling of car doors, fences and similar structures. The regular bags have sizes of 12 x 7" (30.5 x 17.8 cm) and 11 x 8" (27.9 x 20.3 cm), and then there are also mini bags for smaller equipment. Lenses up to 500 and 800mm can be supported.

Visual Departures' Steadybags are great to plop down on uneven surfaces when you don’t have time to set up a tripod. They’ll help you overcome the obstacles of divots and such that can throw off your shooting equilibrium. These bean bags are available in 0.5-lb, 3-lb and 7-lb weights.

A much smaller type of bag is also available in the Novoflex Bean Bag. A tiny 8" (20.3 cm) square, it’s capable of fitting just about anywhere and can squeeze into even a packed gear bag. The bean bag has a tough skin, too, which serves not only to protect it but also to provide excellent camera gripping. This don’t-leave-home-without-it treasure comes to you empty so that you can fill it with whatever you like—even wet sand, thanks to its waterproof interior lining.

Somewhere in between the Apex and Novoflex bags sit these Bean Bag Camera Supports from The Pod, which look like soft, thick hockey pucks and have sturdy nylon shells. Enjoy built-in ¼" mounts.

These bean bags for camcorders provide a soft resting place for your camera. The Digital Juice LowRider and LowRider Mini even feature utility pockets for storage. Made of rugged rip-stop fabric for extra durability, these guys serve as a great alternative to a tripod, especially when shooting in a tight space.

The Puffin Pad provides an alternative to the bean-bag solution, offering long lens support in the form of closed cell and memory foam. Like the larger bean bags discussed above, it has a groove for straddling car doors, fences and the like.

The Cotton Carrier Steady Shot, conveniently worn on your torso, is great for hands-free mobility for setup and in between shots or takes. It enables stable operation with virtually any camera or lens. Aluminum construction and chest support bracket ensure stability, while the nylon camera vest provides added comfort and support, giving you a greater feeling of being one with your equipment.

For another chest-strap option, consider the Novoflex Chestpod / Shoulder Pod, composed of a comfortable neck strap and wide rubberized base. The arm extending out of this base contains a swiveling plate with a ¼"-20 screw for attaching a lens’s tripod collar. The arm length is adjustable, as is the angle between arm and camera attachment point.

Just looking for some simple camcorder straps? These durable accessories from Canon, Cokin, Petrol, Porta-Brace and Sony ought to do the job. Made from durable nylon, polyester, suede and even neoprene sharkskin, they’ve got what it takes to hold your precious equipment safely.

Whatever your compact support system needs for photography or videography, B&H has the solution. Should you have a favorite type of support that you like to use, and it wasn’t covered here, please feel free to share it with us in the Comment section below? We look forward to hearing from you.