Best known for its well-designed camera bags and the ingenious Capture Clip mount system, Peak Design has stepped up to tick one more thing off the wishlists of many a traveling photographer. A truly compact, lightweight, stable tripod that's quick to deploy yet gutsy enough for serious work.
Eliminating wasted space is a key goal for any designer of collapsible, foldable technology, but to date, the majority of travel tripods seem to be mostly negative space when folded. Peak Design has addressed this – and a few other issues – with its new Travel Tripod, launched this week on Kickstarter.
"During my travels in 2008 I began wondering why on Earth my tripod was so big," says Peak Design CEO, Peter Dering. "The thing was full of negative space and knobs, and I felt like something designed for portability could do much better. I quickly realized that anything short of a complete design overhaul would fail to meet my criteria of the perfect travel tripod. It took years of development but the outcome is a camera tripod that seamlessly integrates into all aspects of travel and adventure."
The design looks as if it's been inspired by the cross-section of an orange (if you can imagine a three-segment orange), where the legs and center-column come together in a near zero-dead-space configuration. The result is a tripod that when packed-down measures 15.5 in (39.4 cm) long and 3.25 in (8.25 cm) in diameter), which is about half the size of similar travel tripods. Despite the diminutive dimensions, the Travel Tripod is fully extendable to 60 in (1.5 m) and can cop a load of 20 lb (9.1 kg).
But being compact isn't the only consideration for photographers. It also needs to be able to be deployed quickly and without hassle. So Peak Design has eliminated the usual bulky, protruding knobs that can snag when trying to remove a tripod from your bag – or when trying to get it back in. In fact, the Travel Tripod is so sleek, it means the water-bottle pocket on your existing day-pack is now also a potential tripod pocket.
The team estimates it takes around 10 seconds to fully deploy the Travel Tripod from a packed state thanks to the low-profile cam levers on the telescopic leg sections. In collapsed mode, all the cam levers for a single leg can be flipped open in one, simple movement, so it's three quick flips and the legs are on their way. Locking each leg-section in place is just as simple. No more twist-locks – just click the cam levers back into place.
To add to the sleek nature of the tripod, Peak Design has created a compact ball-head that accommodates the same (Arca Swiss compatible) base-plate used in its Capture Clip mounting system. This ball-head employs a single adjustment ring, engineered to give photographers total articulation. No more fumbling for the right knob or handle to turn, the single ring, which easily drops into portrait-mode, does it all. The head also sports a bubble-level, which seems a little useless, especially since many camera bodies would probably obscure it. Users aren't locked into using the ball-head, though. Any 3/8-in tripod head can be used instead via the optional universal head adapter.
Peak Designs likes to add a little quirkiness to its functional designs, so the team has included a hidden mobile-phone mount, stowed away at the bottom of the center column and hidden above the removable counterweight-hook. The phone mount unfolds and clips quickly into the quick-release ball-head. While the idea of using a $300-plus tripod for your phone-snaps might seem like overkill, the fact is, many photographers use their phones as supplemental cameras and may well find this little bonus feature quite handy.
A common concern with lightweight tripods is stability and strength. Sensitivity to vibrations can be amplified by lightweight materials, and tripod-heads aren't always up to the task of larger, heavier lenses. Peak Design claims the Travel Tripod will easily handle a full-frame DSLR with a 70-200 lens, and will happily cope with a 20-lb (9-kg) load. The team puts this down to careful consideration of material choices and construction.
The Travel Tripod will be available in anodized aluminum, or carbon-fiber options, and comes with a standard mount-plate, a hex-key, the universal mobile-phone mount and a soft-case. As with all Peak Design products, the Travel Pod comes with a lifetime guarantee.
The company is an old hand at Kickstarter, having launched eight other successful campaigns, with this latest offering proving so popular, it's met its goal of $250,000 five times over in the first day. Pledges begin at US$289 for the aluminum Travel Tripod (a saving of $61 off RRP) and $479 for the carbon fiber model (a saving of $121), while the optional universal head adapter is priced at $30. Distribution to retailers is expected to begin late this year if all goes to plan.
The pitch video for the Travel Tripod can be viewed below.
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