Are you in the market for a well-built, stable, and feature-packed tripod that's light enough to travel with you? Whether you're a pro photographer, or an enthusiast like me, 3 Legged Thing’s Equinox tripod series might be just what you're seeking. In the process of shopping for my first-ever tripod, I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to spend some quality time with the Equinox Winston, Albert, and Leo tripod systems, as well as some tripods from other manufacturers. From the light, yet rugged carbon fiber tripod design, to the smooth panning AirHed 360 ball head, my experience with 3 Legged Thing's Equinox offering was sort of like learning how to drive in a Ferarri. I'll walk you through my quest for a tripod in the paragraphs below, and dig a bit deeper into what makes 3LT stand apart from the rest.
After four years at B&H as a pro audio writer, and one year of handling audio production for the B&H Photography Podcast, I started to become interested in taking pictures. Like most new photographers these days, I used my iPhone, but as my interest deepened, I longed for something more. I knew I wanted a camera with interchangeable lenses, but should I go with a DSLR or mirrorless? Wide angle or telephoto? Canon or Nikon? Sony or Fujifilm? Sanity or insanity? And so, the agonizing decision-making process began.
After weeks of pestering co-workers for advice, I finally settled on the Nikon D7100 with a Nikkor AF-S DX 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 lens. Mostly interested in wide-angle and cityscapes, this seemed like a solid choice; plus, I got a great deal from the B&H Used Department.
Eager to learn this camera’s mechanics, I made it a point to operate only in Manual mode. It’s been a pretty fascinating journey to use the light meter and experiment with how focal length, aperture, ISO and shutter speed all affect the photograph.
One relationship I immediately noticed when shooting handheld is how one’s ability to capture a sharp image is affected by shutter speed and dependent on focal length. I was hoping to capture the blurred motion of traffic, clouds, and water in my landscape photos using relatively long exposures, but realized that the longest handheld exposure I could make with my 10-24mm lens while still maintaining sharpness was a measly 1/10th of a second. “Hmm. I bet I need a tripod to take long exposures,” I thought.
Lo and behold, as confirmed by a quick Google search, a tripod was exactly what I needed. I turned to my colleague Todd Vorenkamp, who recommended I visit the B&H SuperStore and try out the different models for myself. He also steered me toward three new tripods from British manufacturer 3 Legged Thing. He said I could even try these three models out in the field if I wanted, which sounded like a great plan. But first, we headed down to the B&H SuperStore’s tripod department.
When we got to the store, I was overwhelmed by the number of choices. Skeptical that it was necessary to spend any more than the minimum on this kind of accessory, I grabbed a $99 model off the rack, and started to loosen the twist locks to expand the legs in each of its five sections. As I continued to loosen the locks, one of the leg sections fell off. “You can’t loosen them that much” said Vorenkamp, laughing.
“Why would they make it that easy to unscrew the leg section?” I thought. After reattaching the leg and fumbling around for a few more minutes, I finally got the tripod set up. Made from aluminum, it was reasonably light. But, with a load capacity of just 11 pounds, it felt pretty flimsy. Having just spent a fair amount of money on a camera and lens, I felt that I needed more stability than this budget tripod offered. As another co-worker put it, perhaps it would be better to spend more money up front, thus avoiding the “first tripod tax,” by siding with quality over ultra-affordability.
I tried several other tripods at higher prices—both five-section travel models and three-section models that didn’t fold down quite as small. Some had twist-lock legs, and some had flip locks. In general, I found the flip-lock design to be faster to lock and unlock. By contrast, I inadvertently disconnected almost every single twist-lock model I tried to operate. Watching me struggle, Vorenkamp mentioned that 3 Legged Thing tripods have a twist-locking system to prevent accidental disassembly of the leg sections. Eager to check them out, and still on the fence about the store models, we returned to the office to demo the 3 Legged Thing Equinox Winston tripod, the Equinox Albert mid-sized travel tripod, and Equinox Leo small-sized model.
Since these were demo models sent for review, I had the opportunity to use all three tripods in the field over several weeks. I started by taking the Winston to a boat dock in Brooklyn Bridge Park for some Manhattan skylines. The Winston boasts the highest weight capacity and maximum height of the three, and has three leg sections that extend to a maximum height of 73", and a minimum of 6.75". At its highest 23° angle leg spread, the tripod supports a maximum of 88 lb, and it can be adjusted for wider 55° and 80° stances for lower-level shooting.
Setting up the Winston was a breeze, and the ParaLock parallel locking system was really helpful in preventing accidental disassembly. Unlike any of the other tripods I tried, the twist locks stop before the leg section becomes detached, a feature I clearly needed.
With the Winston standing firmly on the wooden dock, I attached the release plate to my camera, and mounted the assembly on the included AirHed 360 ball head. I then panned the AirHed 360’s smooth-action Pano-Clamp until I found a nice composition of the Manhattan skyline and the Brooklyn Bridge at a 24mm focal length. Compared to some of the other tripods I tried, the Winston definitely had a more stable feel. I hooked up my Nikon MC-DC2 cable release, consulted the light meter for the correct exposure, and then attached my Lee Filters Little Stopper 6-stop ND filter. At f/14 and ISO 100, I calculated a 2.5-second shutter speed when using the filter to maintain a correctly exposed image. I released the shutter, and was delighted to see a nice, sharp image on the LCD.
After packing up the Winston, I sought out another shooting location in the park. Winston’s three leg-section design was much faster to pack up than the five-section designs I’d tried. Weighing less than four pounds, the Winston is surprisingly light and fits nicely into the included carry case with shoulder strap.
On my next outing, I took the Albert and Leo travel tripods out to Montauk, New York, for some seascapes. Since I would be setting up in the sand, I took 3 Legged Thing’s Clawz tripod feet for extra stability. The Clawz offer an alternative to the stock Bootz feet included with all tripod models. Several other types of feet are available for various conditions, from soft ground to rocks to ice. I also wanted to try out the larger QR6 EQ Release Plate that has a 38mm x 60mm Arca-Swiss footprint, so I packed that in my bag, as well.
Although the Albert and Leo models fold down to an impressively small size, I found the five leg-section design slower to set up and take down, which was a bit of a hassle when moving from location to location. But, this complaint isn’t specific to 3 Legged Thing; the issue is common to all the five-section tripods I tried from different manufacturers.
Hoping to capture a nice sunset, I arrived at the beach around 7:00 pm, picked a spot and set up the Albert tripod. This model is the heaviest of the three, weighing just over four pounds, but in practice it felt about the same as the Winston. The Clawz came in handy on the beach, settling firmly into the sand. Although not quite as rock solid as the Winston, I felt pretty good about the stability, and was able to capture some sharp seascapes at shutter speeds up to 30 seconds. Like the Winston, the Albert ships with the AirHed 360 ball head.
Next, I set up the Leo Travel Tripod with the AirHed Light ball head. This model folds down the smallest of the three, and is lightest at just over three pounds, making it a great option for long trips. I did miss the AirHed 360’s Pano-Clamp feature, and the AirHed Light head also felt a bit less stable, especially with the camera in a vertical orientation. This seemed like a good time to try the larger QR6 EQ Release Plate, which covers more surface area on the camera, thus improving weight distribution. This plate has three slotted ¼"-20 sockets to offer more alignment options for your camera. The QR6 EQ seemed to provide improved stability over the Leo’s stock release plate.
Overall, I was impressed with all of the 3 Legged Thing tripods I tried. All three were very light, and felt quite sturdy, thanks to construction featuring eight layers of tightly woven carbon fiber. Of the three models, the Winston is certainly the sturdiest and, as mentioned above, it’s even lighter than the Albert travel-sized model.
Those were my impressions of 3 Legged Thing Equinox series tripods. Thanks for reading, and please let us know what you think in the Comments section‚ below.
Nicely written article. I have a 3 Legged Thing Brian and absolutely LOVE it, one of the nicest features is the ability to unscrew a leg and move the ballhead over to turn the tripod into a monopod. It isn't something I do often, but on occasion it sure comes in handy. As for the 5 section comments I agree it does not feel as stable as a 3 section and it does take a bit longer to setup but it truely is very stable and very very portable.
You're right, the 5 section is also very stabl, and the portability factor makes it perfect for travel. Thanks for reading!
Boy, not only are you an awesome audio guy ( I listen to your podcasts!), you got good chops for cameras and writing too!
Wonderful story, great pix!
Harley - Thanks for reading, and for the kind words!