If you want to shoot landscapes, stars or video while you’re on safari a tripod is essential….so I’ve been trying out a couple of lightweight travel ones. I won’t go into every technical spec here as you’ll be looking for different features depending on your kit and locations, but my overall impressions of the two I’ve used are:
MeFOTO is Gitzo’s budget range, so it has a pedigree behind it and I had high expectations. I’ve been using (and some might say abusing!) the carbon fibre incarnation with a very funky green trim.
price - around £250 from UK retailers plus £20 for the short column
weight - 1.7kg including legs, column and ball head
size - max working height 163cm and folds to 41cm - and if you buy the short column it gets very low to the ground indeed - a big plus for me
Also turns into a nifty monopod
Leg adjustment is a bit clunky and it let sand into the mechanism on the first outing.
The rig is more than a bit unsteady with my huge 400mm prime telephoto lens on it, but the same would be said of most travel tripods….they’re not made for this sort of load really, and I only used it like this for a while in a hide in Kenya.
More disappointingly, I lost a leg section off the Globetrotter when it fell off in Death Valley recently and I couldn’t find it again …so not only did I feel madly guilty about the environment, it also made for an interesting last few days of the trip with various low walls, rocks and sticks being used to prop it up - very uncool!
Overall: it does the job fine unless you’ve got a monstrous lens and body combo. I fitted an old Manfrotto video head and it worked pretty well as a travel video compromise. Do be careful of those unreliable leg fixings, though, or you’ll end up with a bipod like me!
I also spent some time using the Feisol CT-3441SB40.
Feisol’s prices are more in the range of Gitzo (MeFOTO's parent range) so it was interesting to see if there was a big difference in performance too.
weight - 1.61kg including column and ball head
size - max working height 184 cm and folds to 43cm
smoothness of handling - this one just felt like quality in my hand and I could actually do one handed leg adjustment…and non of the legs fell off which felt like a bonus!
short column available for ground level shooting
price is the main turn off - twice as much as the MeFOTO at around £495 plus shipping, direct from Feisol. £25 for short column.
As with the MeFOTO it is less than rock steady with a mighty 400mm 2.8 lens and D5 on it - I certainly wasn’t going to risk leaving it standing on it’s own! - but again that’s to be expected from this class of tripod.
Which would I recommend?
If your pockets aren’t mega deep the Globetrotter is a versatile and endearingly quirky little set of sticks that will see you right in most situations ...if you treat it gently.
If money’s no object the Feisol wins out on build, reliability and that unquantifiable silent joy you get when using something that’s…well, a joy to use.
I’d like to also know more about the Manfrotto BeFree 2N1 - has anyone got any first hand knowledge and opinions on this one?