Peak Design Travel Tripod – Hands On Review
Tripods have been around since the beginning of photography. I always wonder why they have three legs and not four. For the most part, tripods have changed very little in the last 50+ years. Simply, all they are is three tubular legs made of some sort of metal. The legs through any number of different locking mechanisms extend out, lengthening the tripod. Some tripods have center columns that allow for extra height.
In the beginning, you would screw your camera onto the tripod and typically use three handles to control the tilt, rotation, and sideway motion of the camera position. This eventually morphed into a plate that would go onto the bottom of your camera, and this plate would clip into the tripod and be held in place by a screw-in clamp or locking lever clamp.
The tripod itself eventually lost its handles in place of a ball head. This ball head would be encased on a mount. Two knobs would be used — one for rotation and another to position the camera in any number of almost infinite positions. Finally, after too many tripod makers with many different clamp mounting systems, the industry seemed to finally adopt one standard mount known as the ARCA SWISS plate and clamp.
All tripods still had round, tubular legs, and some were made of steel and aluminum. For the most part now, they are made of carbon fiber. Carbon fiber tripods lessen the weight of the tripod and make using a tripod much easier. Mostly, these tripods are pretty large and are quite a burden to carry, especially on long hikes.
Over the last few years, almost all tripod companies started to introduce travel tripods. These tripods were smaller in height and weight. There were no great innovations in tripods until Peak Design reinvented the tripod.
The Peak Design Travel Tripod Video (6:16)
Peak Design is known as a company that has been innovating new products like camera bags, backpacks, camera mounts, and, especially, a wide line of camera straps. While I wasn’t a big fan of their camera bags and packs, I became a Peak Design camera strap addict. I’ll do an article on these straps at a future date. You can check these straps out HERE. These straps are modular and can be attached and detached quickly. This is great when you have your camera on a tripod on a windy day. And by taking the camera strap off, you minimize shake (caused by the wind). These straps clip on and off with a flick of the thumb. If you aren’t using these straps, you should look at them.
Peak Design made history a number of years ago by crowdfunding a tripod that was completely different than any other tripod out there. The engineers worked for four years to develop this tripod, and these clever folks thought completely out of the box. I am always a fan of innovation and clever design.
The crowdfunding far exceeded what they were looking for, and the number of tripods sold by this crowdfunding campaign project was astounding. Could the tripod — when delivered — live up to the hype?
The simple answer is yes. They kind of thought of everything when designing this small tripod. For me, it was an answer to a need that I found missing for a long time. I am in need of a tripod that can be carried in a small camera backpack and provide a stable camera platform when needed. If in my travels I am walking a city for the day and want to have a tripod for an interior of a church photo or fireworks at night, I now have one. Weighing in at 2.8 pounds, it is a lot of tripod for such a small weight factor.
The Peak Design Tripod
From the moment the tripod arrived, I knew I would like it. The package arrived in a handsome plastic case. Inside this case was a zippered bag, and inside the bag was the tripod. When pulling it out the first time, I knew it was quite special and different.
There was a clever and small little tag-like manual. Attached to one leg was a clip with a set of Allen Wrenches that could be used to adjust the ball head and legs.
The first thing you notice is that the legs aren’t round. They are six-sided tubes. The overall diameter of the tripod is much smaller than other tripods of the same size with tubular legs.
The legs open and operate smoothly with the flip of the leg locking levers. The lock quickly in place. You can, with one hand, unlock all the levers in the collapsed mode.
A thumb-lock at the top of each leg allows the legs to be spread out for further reach. As you can see in the video, you can remove the center column and have a tripod close to the ground for those special shots when needed.
I have used the iPhone attachment more than a few times. It is neatly tucked away in the center column and easy to pull out and use at a moment’s notice.
Your camera attaches to the tripod head using the Arca Swiss plate or Peak Design’s unique mounting plate. It needs an Allen Wrench to attach to the camera. You can use the Allen Wrench that is conveniently attached to the tripod. The plates are small and compatible with their Capture Clips.
To secure the camera to the tripod, make sure the head locking collar is set to the “unlock” position. You take your camera with the plate attached and click it into place. There is a thumb spring-loaded release to use in case you have trouble. Then you turn the locking collar until it shows that it is in the “lock” position. The thumb release is locked, and the camera is now secure.
To unlock, turn the locking collar to the “unlock” position. Hold the camera and then push down on the thumb release lever and lift your camera off the top of the tripod.
To use the ball head, you use the lower collar and loosen it up. And while holding your camera position to where you want, tighten the collar. You must have the center column pulled out a few inches to do this. It really is pretty intuitive. And after a while, you will admire the engineering that went into this. Note of caution: You need to keep your hands on your camera when loosening the ball head collar. The camera can drop down fast. And if your fingers are in the wrong spot, you’ll know it quickly.
One of my heaviest cameras is the Sony a7r iv with a 100-400mm lens on it. I found it to be steady and work just fine. I am not a fan of center columns, so I never extended the center column any further than I need to operate the ball head. I was surprised when I did try it out for the sake of the review and was surprised that it added about 10 more inches in height, and I didn’t notice that much sway.
There are a number of travel tripods out there these days. I also own a Gitzo Traveler Series 2. It comes with roughly the same specs and is priced at about $100 more — at $699.95. The Peak Design tripod is priced at $599.00 and is available from B&H Photo or Roberts Camera.
I have taken this on a number of trips and packed the tripod in my check-in duffle. Once I am at my destination, it attaches easily to any one of my different camera backpacks. It’s fast to set up. It’s dependable and has saved my ass a few times. You never know when you are going to need a tripod for a time-lapse, late evening, or early sunrise. Knowing it is within easy reach makes it ideal. At home, I have this tripod stashed in my truck. If I’m out and come across a scene that I want to capture, I know where the tripod is, and I don’t miss the moment.
I admire good engineering, especially when it comes to photographic products. Peak Design’s team is always thinking outside the box, and this tripod is a good example that you really can reinvent things and answer the needs of the photographer when doing so. If you need lightweight and solid camera support, then this is a tripod you need to look at. I have had no regrets about making this purchase.
Photography is my passion and has been for 50 plus years. My career in photography has allowed me to travel the world, meet some of the most interesting people on the planet and see things I could never have dreamed of. My goal is to share the passion of picture taking through photographs and teaching with as many people as I can, hoping it brings them as much joy and happiness as it has me. I do this through photoPXL.com, this site, as well as Rockhopper Workshops, and other projects, as well as teaching as Artist In Residence at the Indianapolis Art Center.