And of course, most of these beauties will slide easily into any camera bag, purse, or pocket. Sure, we’ll tell you about the load-bearing capacity and other useful specs of all 13 items covered below, but what we’re really focusing on is the sheer fun factor that brings out the gadgeteer in all of us “serious” shooters. Need I mention that all the items included here make fantastic, fulfilling, and economical gifts for your favorite photo enthusiast? And if you’re an inveterate admirer of mechanical ingenuity like yours truly, that most definitely includes you.
Joby GorillaPod Micro 250 This cute little short support system with auto-fanning leg design is barely visible when mounted underneath your camera and you can leave it permanently in place. It’s surprisingly solid, its mini-ball head tilts up to 36° in any direction for easy leveling, it weighs less than 1 ounce, and can support up to 8.8 ounces; perfect for point-and-shoots but not the hot ticket for DSLRs.
Manfrotto MP3-D01 Large Pocket Support It resembles an alien space creature, but it’s really an ingenious folding tabletop tripod with three rubberized, slip-resistant flipper-like feet that fold out, can be angled to frame your shot, and are held in position by strong springs. Believe it or not, this unit is extremely robust and will accommodate larger cameras including DSLRs. It comes with a storage pouch and adjustment tool.
MeFOTO Day Trip Tripod Kit This cool-looking high-style mini tripod has twist-lock legs with three angle adjustments, an Arca-type quick-release ball head, and a unique reverse folding-leg design that lets it fold down to a mere 9.4 inches! It weighs only 1.8 pounds, and its Q00 Ball Head has a large ergonomic knob for easy pan/tilt adjustments, and a bubble level. With a maximum height of 24 inches, an impressive 8.8-pound load capacity, in a variety of non-traditional colors, it’s a versatile fashion statement.
Manfrotto Pixi Mini Table Top Tripod Its form factor is definitely spacey but this little guy is not only a sturdy tabletop tripod—with its legs folded together it also becomes a smooth, ergonomic handgrip. In either configuration it’ll support a consumer DSLR, point-and-shoot, or compact camcorder; it has a mini-ball head with single knob control and rubber anti-slip feet. Maximum height: 5.3 inches; maximum load capacity: 2.2 pounds; weight: 0.51 pounds.
Gary Fong Flip Cage Tabletop Tripod It sure doesn't look like a tripod with its “deck-of-cards” form factor, but this ingenious frame-like support can be mounted permanently beneath your camera and lets you position it securely in a vertical or horizontal position while providing an adjustable-tilt axis. It can even do light duty as a macro shooting stand. An upgraded version accommodates translucent reflectors for sophisticated lighting effects, a Gary Fong specialty. Size: 3.9 x 3.6 x 1.8 inches; weight: 0.19 pounds.
Oben TT-100 Table Top Tripod This all-aluminum-alloy tripod has a single-lever-operated ball head that swivels and pans 360° and tilts to 90° in one direction for shooting verticals—ideal for macro photography. It folds to a super-portable 7.5 inches, has single-section legs providing a maximum height of 4.2 inches, and a 6-pound load capacity sufficient to accommodate large DSLRs.
Pedco Ultrapods Of all the Pedco Ultrapods on the B&H website, the Digital Tabletop Tripod is definitely the most futuristic in metallic-silver nylon resin, with silver feet and a blue “edge glow” knob and thumbwheel. Other models look more industrial or come in a range of zippy colors, so take your pick. Their signature feature: A touch-fastener strap for affixing them to irregular surfaces and objects. Designed for “all size point-and-shoot cameras and compact video cameras” they fold up to about 5 inches in length and weigh 5 ounces or less.
Cullman Magnesit Copter Mini Tripod Despite its aeronautical name, it definitely won't fly, but it does come with a CB-2 Mini Ball Head with an ingenious reversible mount that provides a standard ¼”-20 mount on one side and a shoe mount for an off-camera flash on the other. It is made of anodized aircraft-grade aluminum alloy and its legs have rubber feet and form a comfortably rounded handgrip when closed. Its maximum height is 6.5 inches, it supports up to 2.5 pounds, and it weighs a lightweight 0.6 pounds.
Trek-Tech T-Pod Tripod Here’s a novel take on the “don't leave home without it” camera support that consists of legs, a MagMount head, and an extension pole that lets you adjust the height from 10.0-13.5 inches. Or you can use it without the extension pole for a height of 3.8 inches. It weighs 0.81 pounds and it stores in a fitted case that’s a mere 1.5 inches thick. It’s designed to hold equipment up to 9 pounds, but “the load rating is affected by the weight distribution” so you better make sure it’s stable when attempting to hang that long lens off your high-end DSLR.
Joby GorillaPod Video Yes, you’ve seen those distinctive flexible, wrappable legs before, but what makes this GorillaPod a Video model is its pan-and-tilt video head with quick-release plate that pans 360° and tilts up to 135° in any direction for flexible video shooting. Its strong magnetic feet are made of (would you believe?) neodymium, and allow a variety of creative options such as fridge and telephone-pole mounting. It provides a maximum height of 7.2 inches and weighs 2.8 ounces.
Velbon ULTRA Maxi Mini D This adorable little critter does a lot more than you might think because its robust, five-section aluminum legs extend to a maximum height of 19.5 inches, its hefty QHD-43D ball head lets you compose and lock via a single lever, and it has a full-size quick-release plate. It folds to 7.9 inches, weighs only 1.5 pounds, and has a maximum load capacity of 5.6 pounds, sufficient for most DSLRs.
Joby GorillaPod Focus/Ballhead X Bundle What, another GorillaPod? Yes, but not just any GorillaPod! This top-of-the-line professional 11.4-inch-tall unit supports up to 11.1 pounds, employs more than 24 leg joints in its flexible, coiling legs, and its hefty ball head with universal mounting plate will accommodate pro camera rigs with large zoom lenses. Fabricated of machined aluminum alloy, high-quality ABS, durable TPE grip rings, and a stainless steel camera screw, it’s, um, the 800-pound gorilla of GorillaPods—despite weighing only 9.26 ounces.