The Brand New MeFOTO Air: First Impressions

The Brand New MeFOTO Air: First Impressions

The idea of a travel tripod causes hesitation. On one hand, you have a size that makes bringing a tripod on location no longer a physical strain. On the other, these tripods tend to be thin, causing them to be less sturdy than larger, thicker tubed tripods. The key to a good travel tripod is striking a balance of size and strength. For the past few years, MeFOTO has been the leading brand in travel tripods with their wide selection of sizes. Their introductory line of tripods offered everything from tabletop height to a full size 64" tripod. With their newest release, they seem to be pushing the boundaries of how small a tripod can really be. 

The new MeFOTO Air line of tripods look to be some of the smallest tripods ever made. When I say that, I'm referring to their folded length, as their full size option, the Globetrotter Air still gives a maximum height of 68", while folding down to a length of just under 17". Personally, I have been playing with the new Roadtrip Air, the size down from the Globetrotter. At a folded 15", this tripod fits inside of all of my camera bags. Not on, but in. That means that flying and packing for extended trips will be a whole lot easier in the future. The Roadtrip Air still offers a maximum height of 61", so I don't see myself having issues with the height. 


They Aren't Perfect

Like camera bags, no tripod is truly perfect. If you're shooting with a medium format camera or a D810 with a grip, maybe look elsewhere. Theoretically, the Roadtrip Air and Globetrotter Air have a weight limit that would support those beasts, but I don't feel as if the tripod would keep either steady enough for serious use. As far as I can see, these are mirrorless tripods through and through. My Fuji X-Pro2 and Sony a6300 fit like a champ and the tripod, even fully extended, still feels solid. The tubes are thin, but that's to be expected out of a tripod that has to morph between a 15" and 61" size. 

There's also the center column that needs to be addressed. I don't see myself utilizing the full 61" height due to the fact that the center column has three extensions. This just begs for camera shake. I understand why it's designed this way to keep the size as small as possible, but it detracts from the usefulness in those extreme situations. I would rather have an extra leg extension than that many center column extensions. Again, no tripod is perfect and only time will tell how much of an issue this will prove to be in reality. 

No Carbon Fiber

I'll be that guy and make this complaint. The issue isn't the weight, as the Roadtrip Air only weights 2.5 pounds. Even the original Roadtrip was only 3.6 pounds, and the Carbon Fiber option brought that down to a marginally different 3.1 pounds. I'll survive the weight. I want carbon fiber tubes for the rigidity and dissipation of any minute vibration the tripod may encounter. After having switched from the original aluminum Roadtrip tripod to a slightly larger, older, and carbon fiber Gitzo, the difference was apparent. While that Gitzo sits over two feet long all folded up with my head of choice on it, I feel a lot safer creating long exposures and sticking the tripod in water or next to a busy road. 

None of this is to say that I dislike the Roadtrip Air, in fact, it looks to be an incredible tripod for a variety of applications. I have a few trips in the works that will require me to travel as light as possible and the Roadtrip Air will allow me to bring a tripod without needing a bigger bag or having to check luggage. For the mirrorless users, this will be a handy piece of equipment to have around for those times when size and weight are paramount. 

Spencer Lookabaugh's picture

Spencer Lookabaugh is a lifestyle and portrait photographer located in Columbus, Ohio, as well as an employee of Midwest Photo Exchange. He is a firm believer in printing, shooting film and digital, and the power of photography. He also shoots landscape work in his spare time.

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Anyone know of a good sub-2 lb. tripod that can get to at least 56"? I've been looking for one to take backpacking for a while now, but I've been having trouble finding one.

It's exactly 2 lb and can get to 58".
Not sub 2 lb, but that's my best bet. And it's not even that expensive!

I have it in the non-carbon version and like it a lot for my Sony A7II with all lenses, even heavy ones as 35mm f/1.4.. :)

I took my buddy's Sirui for a spin back in October (walking around Oslo)... super light! Considerably lighter than my MeFoto CF Globetrotter I had packed. That said, the MeFoto was much more stable (and taller). If Sirui offered a slightly beefier head (or put a full size tripod head screw on those legs), I'd probably get one.

Not sub 2lb but i recently bought a Velbon Ultrek UD-43D for travel. folded it it 11.6" but rises to a surprisingly sturdy 61.6". I replaced the head with a custom small arca swiss compatible thing I put together and it weighs in a 2.5lb. worth a look and mega cheap.

I have the MePhoto Backpacker, which is 2.6 lbs, holds13.2 lbs and goes to 51" high. Build isn't great, especially with the twist locks and there is lots of flex going on in those legs, so it isn't the greatest with stability. The head on them is terrible- there's lots of slip on the ball head- there's no way to lock the camera tight- it'll slip every time, so precise locking when you have the camera framed the way you want is impossible. But i can toss it in a bag and if i lose it, i wont feel sad.

Because of how poorly the MePhoto performed, i bought a Gitzo GT1545T Traveler carbon fiber tripod- it's 16.7" folded, goes up to 60.2" and holds 22 lbs. And it's 2.3lbs. I paired it with a Kirk ball head, which is incredibly fluid and when you lock the camera, it stays locked with no camera weight sag. The Gitzo has absolutely NO flex in it's legs- there is no shake whatsoever. You do get what you pay for (luckily Gitzo ran a xmas holidays $150 or $200 off, can't remember, 2 years ago, so i grabbed one. Love it. Depending on safety of my location, i'll either bring the Gitzo or the MePhoto.

The difference in camera shake between this knockoff and you "old" gitzo isn't the carbon fiber, it's the build quality. Even if they (mefoto) did a carbon one, it wouldn't old up to a gitzo tripod on the count of the way they specs their carbon fiber (plys, weaves, fiber angles, etc...)

I looked at one of these in a local camera shop. Even when the center column was collapsed the column still wiggled.. The legs often stuck when trying to extend or collapse. I was pretty disappointed with it just in the store. I think it would work for a travel tripod, I just think it's quite a bit over-priced for the quality level.

Note to MeFoto owners or users (this might have changed since i bought mine 2 years ago), but hidden on the inside the tripod case is a small pouch containing the leg spikes and an allen wrench. I had no idea it was even in there and the only reason i found out was because airport security flagged the tripod, as their x-ray spotted odd metal things hidden in the case. They tried to confiscate it because it was basically sharp pointed metal pieces, but finally relented, seeing as 90% of what was in my bags were camera gear.

If you go on a trip, you'll want to take those things out, to be on the safe side.

Dang made in China POS. This flimsy thing couldn't even support my cherry Pentax K1000. I'll stick to my trusty hand made 35 pound Bogen. She wouldn't move during an earthquake. All these young kids want the lightest, sounds like you need to hit the weight room.