When it comes to tripods mirrorless cameras have different requirements than DSLRs and so you can often get by with a lighter tripod. Unfortunately there are many manufacturers to chose from and even more commercial claims which are often misleading. As I have not only used quite a few myself but also witnessed the joy and frustation people experienced with their tripods during my workshops, I want to share my experiences with you.
- Choosing a tripod
- Choosing a Ballhead
- Quick Release Systems
- Recommended Kits
- Further Reading
Choosing a tripod
There is a huge difference when using cameras with an electronic first curtain shutter (EFC) or cameras with a purely mechanical shutter.
What is an electronic first curtain shutter? Imagine it as a theatrical performance: at the beginning the curtain opens and at the end it closes. With digital sensors it is possible to do this purely electronical: the software tells the sensor “now the exposure begins” (first curtain) and “now it ends” (second curtain).
Mechanical shutters may lead to vibration which can be a problem with the first curtain. With the second this is not that much of a problem, as you are already done with gathering light and you won’t see this vibration in the photo anymore.
Every camera from the A7 series except for the first gen A7r has an EFC (which is also activated by default) so the following recommendations assume you are using a camera with EFC, as it means we don’t need a tripod as stable as without.
I will only cover tripods and ballheads to be used with lenses up to 200mm as this is the area I can rely on my own experience. With longer lenses the advantages of mirrorless cameras start to diminish and the lens will absolutely govern the tripod choice.
If you don’t want to learn about the basics of choosing a tripod or a head for your tripod you can skip most of the article and scroll down to the recommended kits 🙂
Lection 1: Do not trust advertising claims
The most important thing is: the maximum load capacity nearly every manufacturer gives for it’s tripods is absolutely meaningless. There is no standard to measure it, many manufacturers are just giving you the breaking load while a few more honest manufactures will give the maximum load you can comfortably work with (whatever that means). You just can’t compare these values between different manufacturers.
What is really important when choosing a tripod is the maximum focal length you want to use. There are only two manufactures I know of (Gitzo and RRS) that will tell you what tripod (class) is suitable for a given maximum focal length.
What are you willing to carry?
This is the first question you should be asking yourself. If the best tripod you have is the tripod at home because it is too big and heavy to carry around it is completely useless. You should also consider how you want to carry it. Dedicated tripod bags look nice at first sight, but strawling through a city with two bags is something best avoided (I am speaking from my own experience here).
Many shoulder bags only have very poor options for carrying a tripod. You have to take the tripod out of the bag to get to the camera? Bad idea. You have to take the tripod out of the bag each time you want to change lenses? Bad idea.
I am most happy with strapping light tripods to the side of a backpack or using very small tripods (see my recommendations at the end of this article) that can fit into my shoulder bags (or backpack).
Lection 2: You get what you pay for
Chimping on a tripod is the worst thing you can do with your money. A good tripod will outlive your camera and even your lenses if handled with care. I often get to hear the argument “I don’t need an expensive tripod because I am not using it very often”. Yeah sure, but because it sucks big time using a junk tripod you will use it even less often than you thought you would and end up not using it at all which will end up in all those noisy handheld nightshots I get to see on flickr every day.
There is a difference between price and value: I could buy a used Gitzo tripod today for 400$ and sell it in 5 years for 350$. I could also buy some “generic professional carbon fiber tripod” for 100$ which is neither stable nor a joy to use and try to sell it in 5 years. Is the company still around? Are there any spare parts available? Does anyone remember Triopo which was “hot” 5 years ago? Will anyone be willing to give you even 50$ for it?
Lection 3: All that glitters is not gold
Unfortunately even the reknown companies often also produce junk tripods for the mass market so it is somewhat hard to recommend manufacturers in general but you might want to look what the following have to offer:
Gitzo (no junk at all)
Reallyrightstuff (no junk at all)
Feisol (no junk at all)
Manfrotto (former Bogen in US, also some cheap junk)
Velbon (also some cheap junk, Geo, Sherpa, UT, Ultra, Ultra TR worth a look)
Novoflex (Triopod worth a look)
Choosing a Ballhead
I will only cover ballheads here as I think they are the best allround solution and also the most common type of heads. I am also not covering super telephoto or macro work here, these disciplines have their very own requirements.
I am interested in good build quality, little to no drift when locking the ball and no sag when having the camera locked for a longer period of time. Oh, I have also become quite the fan of aspheric balls which are not perfectly round but have an elliptical shape instead. The benefit here is, the more you tilt the camera the resistance of the ball is increased which counteracts the moment of eccentricity which derives from the load not being directly above the ballhead. This might have sounded a bit technical now, but to make a long story short: after having used a ballhead with an aspheric ball once I never wanted something else again.
Lection 4: Smaller isn’t cheaper
A bigger ballhead incorporating a ball with a bigger diameter will always be more stable than a smaller one, all else equal. Another problem is, making a ballhead smaller with the same function set (panorama function, dedicated friction knob etc.) does often not reduce the price substantially. Just take a look at the Novoflex CB3-II* and it’s newer small brother the Novoflex CB2* and you know what I am talking about (both are very nice ballheads by the way). This might also be the reason some well known manufactures don’t even bother offering smaller ball heads (I am thinking of Arca Swiss and Markins here).
* affiliate links
Nevertheless I have tried some light ballheads worth mentioning and want to share my experience with them:
Arca Swiss P0*:
This is one of the best pieces of gear I have ever bought. The rotating panorama plate ist where it belongs (on top) the handling is superb with a ring for locking you can’t miss, it is rather lightweight at ~305g (without a quick release system) and has a comparatively big aspherical ball.
You can’t go wrong with this one for lenses up to 200mm (even heavier ones), but it is also the biggest and heaviest head I will mention here and also quite expensive. Nevertheless: Heartily recommended.
When I first saw it my expectations weren’t that high but this one proved to be a decent performer with exceptionally low weight (124g without quick release system). There is just one big wing screw but it is easily possible to control the friction with it before locking the ball. Recommended for lenses up to 90mm.
Like the P0 this design also incorporates an aspheric ball and right now this is my preferred choice for using with my Sony cameras as it is quite small and very light (163g) and therefore a great fit for all the traveler tripods with foldable legs. You can control the friction with the big screw knob before locking the ball on this one as well and it works very well. Recommended for lenses up to 135mm.
What I haven’t used yet
I got word the smaller RRS heads are also very good but they are very expensive in Germany which is one of the reasons I didn’t get a chance to test them yet.
I have yet to use one of the Markins heads, but right now they are all too big for my needs.
I don’t yet know what to think of the Sirui products. Some people talk smack about these, others complain about sample variation. The prices have risen recently and I think they are quite ambitious by now. Things like spare parts supply are still a big question mark for me, so right now I am not really interested in their products. YMMV.
Lection 5: You can’t afford to buy cheap
I have used – and seen people use – some low level “no name” and/or generic heads that come with all kinds of “brand”names and I wouldn’t waste my money on them. They have often questionable build quality like rubber grips on the screws that come of, significant drift when locking the ball, are unusable with gloves on, get stiff when it is freezing cold, the list goes on and on…
Be smart, don’t waste your money on junk. You get what you pay for, this is especially true for tripods and ballheads.
Quick Release Systems
You should definetly think about getting a quick release system and by “a system” I mean an Arca Swiss compatible system which has become pretty much the standard now. You ask why?
- You want camera specific L-brackets (which I would recommend): only available for Arca Swiss.
- You want to replace your tele lenses’ foot with something more stable and compatible to your quick release system: only available for Arca Swiss.
- You want small camera plates for your compact and use the same system for your 800mm lens? Only possible with Arca Swiss.
The problem here is: the standard isn’t really a standard. Although there is a host of manufactures using it (RRS, Novoflex, Markins, Gitzo (sometimes), Manfrotto (sometimes), Sirui, Sunwayfoto, Kirk, Benro, Mengs, Neewer and many more) not every plate is compatible with every clamp. I recommend quick release clamps with a screw knob as they have much less compatibility issues than the ones with flip locks.
There are numerous combinations of tripods, heads and quick release systems that could or could not work for you. I could never possibly cover all of them so I want to show you just some kits instead that worked for me or some of my closest friends. I have first hand personal experience with all of these kits, otherwise I wouldn’t recommend them. All of them are Arca Swiss compatible.
All affiliate links are marked with a *.
City trip “in the bag” tripod
Velbon UT 43D II Kit* (includes QHD-43D head) + Neewer 25mm*
Folded length: 26.5 cm
Maximum height: 154 cm (including ballhead)
This is my preferred choice for city trips as this tripod easily fits in my backpack and even some shoulder bags. I don’t like walking through a city with a big tripod on my backpack annoying other people and looking like a mugworthy photographer. On the other hand I don’t like taking shots of cityscapes without a tripod and this is where this Velbon comes into play.
The downsides are that it isn’t the most stable tripod out there (I recommend spreading the legs a bit for additional stability) and that it can’t be disassembled for cleaning, so I wouldn’t use it in (sea) water and especially sand.
Still: very usable for lenses up to 90mm (beware of (strong) wind though).
Lightweight outdoor tripod
Manfrotto Befree Carbon* / Manfrotto Befree Aluminum* + Neewer 25mm*
Folded length: 40.5 cm
Maximum height: 143 cm (including ballhead)
Weight: 1095g (carbon) / 1440g (aluminium)
For the cost of a longer folded length you can get rid of the disadvantages of the aforementioned Velbon at roughly the same weight. The befree can be easily disassembled for cleaning and you can simply order spare parts at manfrottospares.com.
If weight isn’t your main concern you might want to settle for the aluminium version which is 345g heavier but also ~100 bucks cheaper. Both versions are usable for lenses up to 135mm.
The luxury travel tripod
Gitzo GT1544T* / Gitzo GT1545T* + SunwayFoto FB-28i* + Sunwayfoto DDH-06 (also available as Kit FB28i-DDH)
Folded length: 43 cm / 43 cm
Maximum height: 149 cm / 161 cm (both including ballhead)
Weight: 1230g / 1300g
In terms of build quality but also stability these are the best travel tripods money can buy. The GT1545T is the latest version with the newest leg locks which are a little shorter than the older ones which results in an increased maximum height. Personally I prefer the locks of the last generation so I included the GT1544T here as you might get a good deal on these now.
As head I choose the Sunwayfoto FB28i-DDH which is the smallest head I know of which offers an aspheric ball and is also equipped with the smallest panorama plate (Ø 50mm) I know of which even fits between the legs when folded.
Gitzo recommends these tripods for lenses up to 135mm (up to 200mm with reservations (like center column retracted)) and I would second that.
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94 thoughts on “Tripods for Mirrorless Cameras”
hi, perfect timing.
thx a lot.
You are welcome!
Nice article Bastian.
So you have any recommend for a panoramic head system especially for MRL camera
Can you be a little more specific what you need?
Are you thinking of multiple row panoramas?
I want 1 complete kit with nodal slider so can take multi row + 360
Thanks for your help
I am not an expert in this area (doing only single row panoramas with a Novoflex Castel-Q).
Novoflex offers a quite sophisitcated system which can be folded for easier carriage, it is also quite expensive though: https://www.novoflex.com/en/products/panorama-photography/vr-system-slim/
Thanks for your help,
Becos I’m in Asia so will give this one a try http://www.ebay.com/itm/BENRO-MPC30-Panorama-Kit-for-2D-3D-Panoramic-Shot-Head-Nodal-Plate-Included-/141917632793
I think 1.03kg still okay for MRL system and for my place can get it under around~ $280
This novoflex slim is the system I’ve got; it’s not too heavy for travel and is very well made.
I think I’d go for a bushman Sandbug as the other sensible quality multi row head for A7
Do any of you have experience with tripods and air travel? I have a Sirui t-005x and will be going to Lisbon on budget airlines. Not sure how to take it. I don’t have checked luggage, I know on the way there I can check my carryon for free with ryanair, keeping my camera bag. With the return trip I fly Vueling and am not sure if they allow checking carryon luggage for free. Is it too risky to try and get it through airport security by carryon?
I have no experience with Portugal but had no problems with a travel tripod as carry on baggage so far in: Germany, UK, USA, Canary Islands, Iceland.
But it ultimately comes down to the security guy at the airport.
Ok, so you risk your tripod? Going from your experience with all those countries I will probably just try it, if the tripod doesn’t make it I have a good excuse to get me a Gitzo 🙂 Is this only with the Velbon or did you take bigger ones as well in carry on through security?
Yes. US and Iceland was a Gitzo Series 2 Traveler tripod. I checked with the TSA and also the german border patrol before though. Your Sirui is so small, this should not be a problem.
Greetings. Be careful when evaluating this Sirui tripod…though they evidently make quality products, I would NOT recommend ANY tripod with a fixed (Non-extendable) center column! A camera is at its LEAST STABLE on such a tripod! For travel, check out promaster XC522 or Oben AT3535, among others. Good luck!
I have used it quite a lot. Of course you have to throw the center column away but then it is a nice little tripod.
I went the somewhat more expensive way (I wanted to avoid a center column because of rigidity concerns – as do the Gitzo Systematic or RRS tripods):
Feisol Tournament CT-3442 Rapid
Acratech GPS Ballhead (very small & light!)
Not cheap, as I said, but it can also handle FF-DSLRs and small teles without problems (like 300/F4).
This is a very nice setup indeed!
If I come across that Arcatech head I will definetly have a closer look, didn’t yet know it is available with a smaller diameter.
I tried the Feisol CT-3442 and compared it to the Gitzo GT1545T but the Feisol legs are wobbly compared to the stable Gitzo.
Thanks for interesting review.
I am looking for L-bracket for my a7 II and it looks like you are using the one I am interested in. Have two questions regarding Sunwayfoto L-bracket:
Are those centering marks useful and accurate enough?
When in vertical position on the tripod – is this part long enough to hold firmly the camera? (it seems very short compared to bottom part)
I can answer both questions with a “yes”.
I use the centering marks all the time and have had no issues in vertical position.
Thanks for quick response.
Decision made 🙂
Can you recommend any mono pod with legs? Sometimes I like to use one for panoramic photos, provide some kind of stability. Carrying a tripod might not be allowed in some places. Just look too professional, or get in the way of other people.
I do own a heavy duty monopod which I mainly use with long lenses.
I tried a few shorter lenses with it, but honestly I saw very little to no improvement over hand held shooting.
I would rather get a very small tripod like one of these instead.
Thank you, I bought the Manfratto Pocket today. I have already kind of semi permanently attached it to my Sony A77. It balances well with the 16-50 SSM that came with the body. Now I just need to find some sturdy platform to place the camera. I shoot a lot of flowers too. When using my 50mm 2.8 macro lens at low positions, that should come in handy.
I use it all the time for ground level shooting!
In Venice I used it more often than my real tripod 😉
Thanks for the review.
Have you heard or even used a Cullmann Concept One 622T(C)?
I am looking for a lightweight travel tripod, the Manfrotto Befree looks good except it doesn’t have a weight hook, and I’m not sure if it is stable enough for such a lightweight tripod. (I am using a A7II, the heaviest lens I got is the Makro-Planar 60/2.8, maybe a Helios 40-2 later which is ~800g w/o an adapter)
Then I found this 622T(C) which has a similar weight and size, but has only a few reviews out there.
Also, what do you think about detachable monopod? I see it becomes a trend for a travel tripod. Is there any disadvantage of it? Thanks.
when looking for a lightweight tripod for myself I also came across that Cullmann tripod.
I can assure you it is less stable than the Manfrotto Befree.
Stay away from cheap carbon fiber tripods with 5 leg segments.
Even some for 400$ are junk, I am looking at you 3 legged thing tripods with center columns “featuring” 2 or even 3 segments.
Stay away from tripods with detachable monopods. They make the tripod less stable (additional connection) and they are too short to use them for anything.
I have a before aluminium, and would like to know if it can be fully closed after setting up the neewer 25mm on it?
as you can clearly see in the picture it does 🙂
Thank you so much for your prompt reply Bastian!
I wondered if you have any experience of the Sunwayfoto FB-36III ball head. I upgraded from a Velbon travel tripod with a 4-way tilt and swivel head to a Sirui W2204, and I’m looking to pair it with a suitably sized head for my Sony mirrorless cameras and lenses up to 200mm. I’ve tried the Sirui K20X but unfortunately there’s significant shift when locking the head down. I’ve read a comment from a customer on amazon.com suggesting that the Sunwayfoto does not suffer from this issue. Any thoughts?
Unfortunately I did not yet have a chance to test the FB-36III personally.
With the FB-28 I did not yet encounter such issues, but I am not using it with very long lenses or at macro distances, where this can be more apparent.
I tested the Manfrotto befree after I read this article but I found it only sturdy when I left the outer two leg segments and the middle column retracted. The wind made it visibly wobble when fully extended. I compared it to a Cullmann 525 (without monopod) which is much more stable (70cm stowing length and 2,5kg aren’t great for travelling, though).
Am I too picky? Or do you also recommend max. exposure values for using those tripods? If yes: what are your tripod recommendations for long exposure shots?
I don’t know how windy it was, but you certainly have to put some weight on the tripod in such situations.
I also recommend spreading the legs a bit to put some initial pressure on them.
Apart from that long exposures should be easily possible and are actually less demanding than something like 1/30 to 1/2s.
Thank’s for the quick reply! Your comment about longer exposures being more forgiving makes sense.
But I found it hard to put weight on the Manfrotto since it doesn’t have a hook.
I bought a Sirui ET-1004 now, it’s practicly the same size and weight of the Manfrotto Befree but much more stable plus the included Ball Head allows for much more precise settings and the mount is already compatible to Arca Swiss which I switched to after I read your article. So big thanks for that, this system is just so much easier and faster to use, especially with the L mount.
Hows the Gitzo 1532 tripod? I wanted one with 3 sections and i see the 1545 is 4.
By my standards that one isn’t a travel tripod.
The mountaineer range does not feature foldable legs, combined with only 3 leg sections we are talking about a folded length of 62cm + ballhead vs 43cm including ballhead.
With only 3 leg sections it will be a little more stable though, but not enough that I would compromise on portability that much.
I see you’ve replaced the plate on the Velbon ball head from the quick-release to arca. How did you do that? When I turn the plate sideways I see a screw at the bottom of the ball, and behind that I see a bigger screw that is really really hard to unscrew. I worry I’ll break it. Or should I somehow start from the top?
You need to unscrew that second bigger screw. Velbon uses some glue here, try using a hairdryer for a few minutes, should be much easier then.
Thanks! It worked! Now I need to buy the right 1/4 screw so it fits my arca mount.
What’s your opinion on the mefoto roadtrip carbon fiber?
Overpriced and cheaply made Gitzo knock off.
Rather get the carbon fiber Befree for the same price or less.
in the photograph with the description “A bunch of Arca Swiss compatible stuff”, I see a Mengs panorama plate at the bottom right. Can you recommend that? And which version do you use (there are different variants)? I am thinking about buying a Novoflex Panorama Q-48, but it is very expensive, so I would be very interested to hear if the much cheaper Mengs stuff worked well for you …
Thank you very much, Roman
it is Mengs Pan-02.
It does an okay job but not a great one.
Now I greatly prefer the PocketPano with adjustable click stopps for all these kind of panorama work.
Bastian, for landscape panoramics do you find that using your PocketPano nodal head really makes that much of a difference given the large distances involved and how good software has become?
They’re just such a pain to set up (I’ve tried a Nodal Ninja)
It depends, if I take panoramas with a 21mm lens (which is what I bought it for) I usually have lots of foreground and it makes a big difference.
For longer lenses and if there is no foreground it is not needed.
I’ve used a slightly different Mengs, but which has the exact/same functionality. I can confirm that I get great results, because it has tubular spirit levels (in addition to bulls-eye), which are much easier to use than a bulls-eye. Also, with bulls-eye levels you ideally need to be looking directly on top for an accurate level and that limits the height you can stand your tripod. It would be hard to level accurately with a bulls-eye with your tripod set to eye level, but not so with the tubular spirit levels (in my experience).
Of course, Bastian is correct that the nodal head he’s using will be the most accurate, but whether it really makes a difference, I will ask him separately.
does regular tripod work for mirrorless camera or mirrorless camera require some other tripod?
You can use any tripod, but compared to a DSLR you may be able to get by with a smaller/lighter one.
Bastian, Have you used a series 2 traveller?
Will you prefer Gitzo GT1545T over GT2542T? The later is series 2 traveller.
with my Nikon DSLRs I have been using Series 2 Traveler but switched for a smaller Series 1 when I decided to only use Sony cameras.
The difference in stability is noticeable, but the Series 2 is also a bit bulkier.
If you are using nothing longer/heavier than a 2.8/135 get the Series 1.
If you want to use lenses like a 70-200mm 2.8 or front heavy lenses like the 24-70mm 2.8 GM rather get the Series 2.
Hi Bastian, pls take a look at Sirui T 1204 X.
I own a series 2 traveller (2545) and Sirui T 1204 X, their version of traveller. I bought Sirui in a flash sale at throwaway prices so i never expected much from it. But then i gradually started using it exclusively.
Today i took a hard look at Sirui, trying to figure out why. Its actually a very decent tripod. Few things that i observed:
1) It is lighter than series 1 Gitzo (1545) and folded length is also shorter (15 plus inches).
2) Despite being lighter, its tubes are thicker than series 1 Gitzo. Last tube is 16mm compared to 14.7 of Gitzo. Same with first tube. Pls note that models before 1545 (1542 etc) have even lower tube diameter (11mm ?).
3) There are 3 locking positions compared to 2 with Gitzo.
4) Build quality is equally good in my eyes. Sirui has 2 legs wrapped with thick foam, very convenient.
5) Sirui has a center column hook to hang weight. Gitzo has stopped supplying those in their newest models.
6) Like Gitzo, Sirui comes with a short center column but that column can be screwed onto long column for extending the height even more or to be able to carry both columns conveniently.
7) Gitzo goes higher. 116 vs 130
I really wanted to conclude Gitzo to be better, brand image etc, but that’s really not the case 🙂
Would like to know what you think.
By the way, one departure that Gitzo took is that your model (1542) had a way of removing the long center column without needing the short column. No longer the case. Now you need a short column to mount the base plate. Also, your model comes with weight hook that no longer comes with newer models.
I don’t think to highly of the Sirui brand. The tripods are nothing but Gitzo knock offs imho.
Leg locks are far inferior to the Gito G-locks and the base looks rather flimsy by comparison.
That removable leg that can be used as a monopod I see as a weakness, another unnecessary connection and a too short monopod.
The foam on the legs looks nice until your tripod gets wet.
For Gitzos I can order spare parts which will arrive within a day, with Sirui I don’t even know if you can actually get spare parts at all.
If the tubes have higher diameter yet the tripod is lighter you might want to ask yourself where that weight reduction comes from.
The whole short center column thing is something I would never use in the field (no matter what brand), way too much of a hassle.
If I want to get really low I use a mini tripod.
Nevertheless, I liked the xxx2 generation of Gitzo tripods more than the recent xxx5 generation, I think I also wrote that in the article.
I prefer the older leg locks and that they included a weight hook.
At least in Europe Sirui prices have risen to often ridiculous levels, you can often get a used Gitzo for the same price.
Thank you Bastian. I agree that build and fit and finish is not at Gitzo level. My model of Sirui is not the monopod version.
Thank you for the minipod suggestion, very interesting. Pls take a look at the specific Sirui model I suggested, if you happen to.
I actually wanted to ask your opinion on Series 1 mountaineer in the last comment:) if you have used one.
In terms of price they are often interesting options.
For the same price though personally I rather had a Traveler, as it is much more compact when folded because the ballhead sits between the legs.
I went to a store to take a look at Gitzo’s and saw GT1542 Mountaineer tripod. Its quite nice as well. It is 4 inches longer than the travellers and doesn’t fold backwards, Thats the con, but everything else is just superb.
The biggest difference is the ground level set mechanism where you just pull out the center column 🙂 No second or third step or short column insert required. Goes down to 15cm’s. Weight 1280 grams, but i will remove the center column so maybe 1180 grams. Its got a weight hook 🙂
You forgot to mention the greatest feature with the Velbon is their unique patented system to release all sections of the leg with just one-twist. This allows a much faster deployment than with any other tripod on the market. I prefer the previous model Ultra REXi L because it does not fold back on itself and again makes deployment faster. Many makes are turning to the folding principle, which admittedly leads to a shorter tripod, but to get adequate height they add an extending central column which gives instability. So it’s always a compromise, but Velbon has a great system which no other make can beat.
This tripod just fits in my carry-on bag. I travel constantly and never had problems at airports on 3 continents.
For landscape photography I’ve been using a manfrotto befree traveller (1.4 kg aprox). I live in Andalucia, Spain, and often hike in Cadiz, which btw is very windy. My feeling about my tripod is that is not as sturdy as I’d like. I don’t love the simplistic ballhead either. I’ve read your article and wonder if an update to the third of your combos (Gitzo + SunwayFoto) worth the investment. It looks like it will.
Thanks for your help.
also the Gitzo will lose quite a bit stability when used with center column.
So if you are usually using the center column keeping it retracted should make a big difference.
Against wind higher weight can help.
I put my backpack between the legs and I use one of these things to hook it to the tripod.
That way it will not bounce around from the wind and make the situation even worse.
So before spending big money maybe try these things first.
Thanks, Bastian. I’ll try to figure it out and maybe save that money for either the voigtlander 65mm or the upcoming 110mm…
Thanks for all the work and information here.
I’ve got the Benro Slim carbon tripod, which I would definitely recommend, albeit with a couple of caveats.
Firstly, the supplied ball head is a definite weakness – this is where they have compromised on this tripod to keep costs down. I have replaced with a second hand Sunwayfoto ball head and it makes a big difference. I definitely agree with the recommendation of both the Sunwayfoto head and the mini tripod mentioned in your other article.
Secondly, while the Benro legs are great, there is a tradeoff between operating height and stability. In windier conditions I don’t use the bottom leg section and I almost never use the central column. I am 6’0″, thus it’s somewhat restrictive both in comfort of use and range of shots I can get.
But I feel this setup has provided me with a good balance between performance (up to perhaps a 135mm lens), weight and cost. I have a tripod that is small and light enough to go in a carry on bag for a city break (I screw the head off and it fits in luggage lengthways) and good enough to take on hikes without feeling too much of a performance/utility compromise.
I will add a better and bigger set of legs to supplement this setup with better performance in trickier conditions.
Thank you for this information. That Neewer 25mm clamp appears to have been taken off the market. Your affiliate link says it is not available, and Google didn’t show it available anywhere else. Any suggestions on what could replace it?
This clamp should be pretty much the same.
If you want to mount it on a Manfrotto Befree you should also get this though.
Thank you. What about for use with the Manfrotto Pocket?
Thanks so much for this article Bastian! Saved me a ton of money.
I bought the Velben QHD-43D. How does one remove the quick release clamp and replace it with the Neewer 25 mm clamp?
Make sure the ballhead is in one of the 90° sockets.
If so you can see a screw at the bottom of the ball on the other side.
I don’t remember whether there was a small plastic cover, if so remove it.
You should see a screw now.
On some tripods the screw is glued, if so use a hair dryer to heat it up a bit, then it is easier to remove the screw.
Thanks for your advice, Bastian. Now I can fit the tripod inside my camera case.
Have you seen Sunwayfoto tripods? T1C40T is the carbon fibre travel version.
Looks like yet another Gitzo Traveler copy.
As it is not really available in Germany and Sunwayfoto does not attend the biannual Photokina fair I cannot say whether it is a good one.
On their page they have described their patented joint design etc. if you scroll down. Pls have a look if you can.
Only needing one instead of two wrenches to adjust the legs is nothing that gets me excited.
If I have a look at the leg lock design of the Leofoto Ranger tripods that is way more interesting
and an actual improvement over the original Gizo Systematic design.
Hi Bastian, I love your work and articles, on FM too. However I have to say that tripods and ball heads are a particular bugbear of mine, especially the rabid addiction of some people to Gitzo and RRS !
I’ve mainly used Manfrotto, Sirui (past 3-4 years) and now a new Chinese brand (to me), Jingjue, and a variety of tiny desktop tripods (including a Triopo, I use these by placing them on large boulders or other stable surface) !
At x4 – x8 times the price Gitzo and RRS simply aren’t worth it (IMHO) simply because I don’t see how they can improve on pin-sharp shots at up to 6.5 minute exposures, taken on cheaper Chinese tripods.
The added benefit of course being if I lose or damage one in an accident (e.g. porter dropped and lost one in Kyrgyzstan) then replacing it isn’t going to make me cry and I can easily update to new versions at minimal cost when I wish.
I should mention that most of my photography is done in remote, or at high altitude, locations where vibrations from traffic / people etc. is usually of virtually no concern (only the wind – and in that case I use my body to shield the tripod). Obviously with these smaller, lighter, tripods shooting from in a river is less of an option (I use my much heavier Manfrotto for that). That said I’ve not had any issues with long exposures shooting in downtown Shanghai either (on the Sirui) !
I simply feel that many people feel the peer pressure to go for a Gitzo/RRS when in fact much cheaper tripods are more than capable. To them I’d say try experimenting with cheap tripods first and if you are getting sharp shots at your usual exposure lengths then a Gitzo or RRS is going to be excess for your needs, as they usually are.
Fantastic review, thanks for taking the time & effort to write it. I’ve made some purchases as a result 🙂
There’s an interesting website called thecentrecolumn.com, which measures the resonance profiles of tripods as part of its evaluation. The Gitzo CT1545 does well, but the BeFree Advanced is one of the worst travel tripods in its database…no review as yet of the Carbon.
However, one travel tripod in the BeFree’s class that’s even more stable than the Gitzo, is the RRS TFC-14 mk2, so possibly one for you to review in in future? The only disadvantage is it has no centre column & is around the same height as the BeFree with column down, but that’s also why it performs so well. RRS also sells a separate centre column that can be added to this tripod for ultimate configurability.
I would be really interested in having a closer look at the RRS TFC 14 MK II. Unfortunately they are hard to get in Germany and if so only for very high prices.
Hi Bastian, thanks for the great article! These days there’s much hype about the PeakDesign Travel Tripod. Given I like the other PeakDesign products and some of the marketing claims seem to make sense to me (still marketing claims though, of course), I’d be interested in how this competes to the options discussed here. Do you already have an opinion about it or even gave it a try? Like with the other PD stuff the usability seems to be especially great – all this quick setup and just put your camera on stuff. What do you think?
The only PD design products I actually like and find really useful are the Straps/Anchor Links.
The everyday backpack (I have one, too) looks cool, but usability is pretty bad as is comfort.
I still haven’t figured out what that capture clip is for: mounting your camera in the most awkward and uncomfortable position?
Now to the tripod.
No, it is not that easy to setup, you always have to lift the center column
as otherwise the ballhead can not be positioned.
I see no benefit over the inverted leg traveler tripods here.
The ball of the ballhead looks too small to me and a panorama plate has not been integrated and that can also not be easily added.
Overstyled pricey lifestyle product IMHO.
Thanks for your opinion and fast reply. Actually I was mainly talking about the anchors and straps too (+ the arca swiss plate which I think makes sense in combination, if you’re not using an L bracket). I didn’t like the backpack’s concept, especially given the price and think the MindShift ones have much more useful features. But I guess the capture clip makes sense to mount the camera to your backpack, achieving something similar like you did with your custom anchor link setup (obviously you get less weight balance but probably faster access) – I currently don’t have one to test in practice though.
I didn’t think about having to lift the center column, thanks for the heads up.
What I still like is the quick lock & release ability of their mounting plate and the ball locking mechanism. Using the screws always annoys me a little bit. Do you know of such a quick release system that doesn’t compromise on stability too much?
The Novoflex Q=Base II is using the same mechanism.
Price in the US is not so tempting though.
I still have the MKI which was bigger and heavier and personally I prefer the lesser weight of the much smaller screw clamps.
I bought the Sunwayfoto FB-28i, thinking I would change the plate to a smaller 25mm plate when the ball head arrives and use it for my “in the bag” tripod, only to find out that the screw that holds the plate is locked so tightly while at the same time – being made from a very soft metal.
The result was that my Allen key ruined the screw from the inside and it was impossible to remove by conventional ways. On top of that, I believe the screw was glued to make sure it won’t release over time and the plates starts to wobble.
Anyway, I had to drill inside the screw to release it and eventually threw away the whole thing.
The ballhead itself is very good (!), but the process of changing plates is very risky from my experience.
I since bought the DDH version (the one with the panning plate) for my Manfrotto Befree tripod, and it is also very good.
For a smaller solution, for my “in the bag” tripod – I ordered the Sunwayfoto – XB-28, which seems to be very small and compact. All of my lenses are also small and compact, so no problem with the 4.5kg weight limit.
Bastian – How was the process of mounting the Neewer 25mm plate on the Velbon ballhead? Did the screw on the Velbon’s original plate came off easily?
No, the original clamp on the Velbon head was very hard to remove. There is a cover on top which is glued, I used a hairdryer to heat it up first in order to get rid of it…
Hi Bastian and thanks for the useful reviews and tips!
I recently bought a Leofoto LS-324C in a kit with the LH-40 ballhead. It was on sale and cheaper than the smaller LS-284C kit i had first considered (think Juriaan uses it). So I’m set for the largest and sturdiest tripod I would ever carry.
But I’m still searching for the smaller/lighter tripod which fits inside the bag for e.g. city trips. Maximum length should preferably be 30 cm and 33 cm is an absoulute max. The velbon could fit, but seems a bit flimsy and needs volume. I’m curious to know whether you still use it or have found another alternative?
In a post concerning Photokina, I saw you bought a Leofoto LS-223C. Could this be a suitable solution? It is obviously a much shorter tabletop tripod which must be positioned on top of something when height is needed (if possible). But photography is normally not the main reason for my city trips so I’d rather carry less/smaller equipment and accept some missed photo opportunities. For going even lighter, I’m considering the MT-03.
Or do you or somebody else have a suggestion for a reasonably stable and short (up to 30 cm long folded) tripod?
Okay, where to start.
I still think the Velbon UT-43 is without competition in the ~30 cm folded length range.
The Sirui and Rollei tripods (e.g. compact traveler no. 1) in this range are pure junk imho.
The LS-223C is exactly that: a table top tripod. That and macro are the only scenarios I use it for.
For a city trip the height is simply not sufficient for me and it gives me no benefit over something like an MT-03.
Thanks for the quick reply Bastian!
It seems there are no better alternatives then. I might have a look on the Leofoto LX-225, but the velbon is indeed shorter folded.
Hi Bastian! For a lightweight tripod with max folded lenght of 40cm at reasonable price (no gitzo, rrs, promedia gear etc) do you still recommend manfrotto befree? I use canon mirrorless system (R6 with 70-200 f4 is my longest focal lenght).
A 200mm lens is definitely at the limit for a tripod with these parameters, but I am not aware of anything better that came along in this price range.
Thanks for your quick reply! Maybe the befree GT version fit the role better but it is a little longer/heavier.
The GT is a bit on the expensive side, in this price range it might be worth looking at some of the Sirui/Leofoto options, too.
thank you, i’ll do my research!