Travel Tripod Reinvented: The Peak Design Travel Tripod is Here

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A few times a year, a tripod manufacturer says that it has revolutionized the tripod. Then, you see the new and shiny tripod at the B&H Photo SuperStore and feel like you have been fed a load of marketing fluff. Tripods are tripods. Some are good. Some are better. But, they all have three legs and they all do the same thing. Enter camera bag and backpack maker Peak Design, who spent the last four years reimagining and re-designing the travel tripod, seemingly from the ground up, and has come up with the Peak Design Travel Tripod. No tripod in recent history (maybe ever?) has caused so much buzz on the Web, and there is good reason for the buzz.

With all that buzz surrounding the Kickstarter campaign and pre-production reviews, if this is the first time you are hearing about the Peak Design Travel Tripod, please check the rock you live under, because that rock has likely heard of this new product.

Although they have been working on the product for four years, the Travel Tripod was first conceived 11 years ago by Peak Design. The idea was to re-make the travel tripod and to remove "dead volume," speed deployment, and maximize portability. Let's discuss those three points separately. If you want to get some Tripod 101 before you read further, click here.

Dead Volume

When you fold up a tripod, the legs come together at the bottom, but there is a lot of space in the top of the tripod due to the way the hinges extend from the tripod chassis or spider. If the tripod has a center column or, if the legs reverse, usually that space is minimal, but it is certainly still there. The Peak Design Travel Tripod designed its chassis and triangular-shaped legs to fold together when collapsed. This makes the folded tripod more compact than other tripods in its class, giving it a diameter (3.125") that is not much bigger than a garden-variety plastic or stainless water bottle—think Kleen Kanteen instead of a 16-oz plastic disposable bottle.

Speed of Deployment

The Peak Design Travel Tripod is flip-lock only—there is no twist-lock option. This allows for a more compact collapse and an, arguably, faster deployment speed. Semi-unique to the design, when collapsed, the four flip locks for the five-section tripod have minimal spacing between them, allowing for all four locks to be disengaged simultaneously. Also speeding deployment is the fact that the legs do not need to flip 180° away from the center column as they do on other travel tripods that fold up around the extended center column.

Maximum Portability

In the Laws of Photography, the larger and heavier a tripod is, the more stable it is and the heavier the weight of gear you can stabilize. Also, in the Laws of Photography, the larger and heavier a tripod is, the less likely you are to bring it with you if you have to wander far from your home base, car, or studio. Hence, the travel tripod was developed so that people would have less of an excuse to head out into the field without a camera support. However, even so-called "travel tripods" can be cumbersome and unwieldy. Peak Design, with its Travel Tripod's extremely compact storage and light weight, is trying to do everything in its power to cut down on excuses about why you didn't pack a tripod. In line with its sleek design, there are no knobs or protrusions extending from the tripod. It literally can slide into a water bottle holder on a lot of camera bags and backpacks. Where is your excuse for leaving the tripod in the car now?

So, with those three design goals, we have a tripod here that, although, from a distance, looks like any other tripod, it actually has some innovative features not found on other tripods—and the primary one not discussed yet is the tripod's ball head. On the Travel Tripod, the ball head is integrated and has a single friction ring to lock down the camera when positioned. One important thing to note is that, to maneuver the ball head, you have to extend the center column a bit. The head also features three notches for rolling toward a vertical position from landscape to portrait, but only one notch will give you a true portrait setup. The head accommodates quick-release plates from Peak Design and also works with most Arca-type compatible QR plates. The head does not have a separate panning function.

If you are in love with your current tripod head (if you aren't, please come to B&H and shop for one you will love), you can get an adapter from Peak Design that allows you to use your own tripod head.

One other innovative feature is that you can remove the center column weight hook to reveal a smartphone mount for setting up your smartphone on the travel tripod. This is definitely a smart idea since many photographers capture scenes with two cameras these days—their "real" camera—and the other camera, which sometimes sends text messages and receives robocalls.

Peak Design Travel Tripod in both carbon fiber and aluminum alloy
Peak Design Travel Tripod in carbon fiber or aluminum alloy

The Peak Design Travel Tripod was built to resist weather and impacts, comes with a travel sleeve, and all parts are fully serviceable, cleanable, and replaceable. It is available in carbon fiber or aluminum alloy. Both models stabilize up to 20 lb of camera gear—a significant load capacity for a tripod designed for travel. The tripod packs down to 15.5" (this includes the integral tripod head) and extends to a maximum height of 60" with the center column raised. The aluminum model weighs 3.44 lb and the carbon fiber unit checks in at 2.81 lb.

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