The ideal travel tripod should be sturdy and super lightweight with high loading capacity. In addition, it should be compact when folded and long enough when extended. There are lots of compact tripods in the market, but how many of them truly provide these features? Well, I've spent enough time to figure it out and decided to buy a brand that I've never used before.
I've been using Manfrotto tripods for more than seven years, actually a specific model that is discontinued today. It's a known fact that Manfrotto tripods are really sturdy and made to last. My Manfrotto 055XProB (discontinued) legs and Manfrotto 808RC4 head were a perfect combo for studio and outdoor commercial shootings. But, after I started traveling more, it became a necessity to leave my Manfrotto at home and look for a compact tripod with a budget of $250.
So, after a long online search, I narrowed my options down to three popular models: Mefoto, Manfrotto Befree, and Vanguard Veo tripods. Later on, I read some posts state that Mefoto is the side brand of Benro. Even though I haven't seen any proof about this at Mefoto's company website, the similarities between basic models of Mefoto and Benro helped me to beiieve that. So, I didn't add Benro Travelangel tripods to my list. All these brands produce affordable and compact tripods with aluminum and carbon leg options. But as they're already small sized and lightweight tripods, choosing a carbon leg was going to provide little advantage in terms of weight (approximately 200-400 g). Besides, choosing a carbon leg always costs more.
All the models above were considered ideal tripods for mirrorless or small sized DSLR bodies, but what about using with large DSLR bodies? Well, that led me to eliminate Mefoto Roadtrip, because Mefoto Globetrotter was recommended for using with large DSLR bodies. But, the 4.6 lb (2.08 kg) aluminum Mefoto Globetrotter wasn't "lightweight," and the 3.7 lb (1.6 kg), but $399 carbon version wasn't "affordable" for me, so I removed Mefoto from my list. Also, after inspecting the super lightweight Manfrotto Befree (1.1 kg) at a local camera store, I decided to remove that from my list as well, due to its insecure feeling. So, the winner was Vanguard Veo 265AB on paper, but was it as good as it looked?
Winner of the Shortlist: Vanguard Veo 265AB
It was obvious that this model was underrated, because I couldn't find enough information or user reviews about it, unlike Manfrotto Befree or Mefoto tripods. Also, I have to admit that I was quite hesitant about the Vanguard brand. However, their recent VEO lineup attracted my attention, and the overall built quality with five years of extended warranty changed my mind. The Veo 265 is the most advanced of the compact VEO lineup, and the aluminum version weighs only 3.7 lb (1.68 kg), while the carbon version 265CB is only 3.3 lb (1.5 kg). I decided to go on with the $170 aluminum version, because I didn't want to spend extra $100 for 0.4 lb.
At first glance, Vanguard Veo 265AB is really compact when folded; it's only 15.4 in (39 cm). You can even fit it into your camera bag or attach it on most camera bags which have tripod connections. It comes with the TBH-50 Ball Head by default, and quite simply, it is a small and basic ball head. Despite it's small size, the ball head is pretty sturdy and precise when it's locked. The only major downside of the head is the lack of friction in the control knob. So, you have to hold your camera carefully when doing micro adjusting for your angle. But there is a good feature for those who want to capture low angle shots or shoot macro photography. You can disassemble the head and switch the standard center column with the short center column, which is also included in the box. When the short column is attached and the legs are wide open, you can shoot at ground level.
It has five-section flip-lock legs (four adjusting knobs), and with an attached camera, total length increases to 67 in (170 cm). Well, for most situations, this length is already enough, but tall photographers should consider another option if they don't want to bend towards their cameras all the time. But hey, how many of us need so much height when shooting anyway? Besides, among the other compact models, this is the best option in terms of total length. As it is a compact tripod, it is always better to add extra weight to increase stability when using it outdoors, but there isn't a hook on the center column. So, as a solution, I decided to use the strap hole for hanging my camera bag, augmented by a carabiner for extra robustness.
I decided to shoot a long-exposure nightscape at Docklands, Melbourne with a heavy DSLR and lens duo to test the limits of this compact tripod. I used a Nikon D810 and Tamron 24-70 f/2.8 DI VC USD, and considering the total weight and completely extended legs, it really worked well, and the details were pin sharp. The weight of the camera and the lens were adequate for extra stabilization, but it'd be better to hang a bag or extra weight when shooting on a breezy night.
What I Liked
- Reasonable price: $170
- Lightweight (3.7 lb/1.67 kg)
- High loading capacity (17.6 lb/8 kg)
- Good material quality with matte aluminum finish
- Durable and safe ball head
- Arca-Swiss quick release plate
- Extra low angle use option with additional low height adapter (plastic)
- Built-in adjustable spiky rubber feet for using on grass-like soft surfaces
- Can be attached to camera bag and fit easily into average luggage
- Padded and rain-proof carry case is included
What I Didn't Like
- Quick release plate should be bigger for creating more friction (for better safety) between camera body and the plate, especially when using at vertical angle without an attached L bracket
- Lack of center column hook for adding extra weight to tripod on windy days
- Lack of monopod conversion option like Mefoto
All models mentioned above are not the perfect tripods for professional nature photographers. There are better options in the market for using in challenging situations, but these are compact tripods for photographers who need a lightweight and functional carry-around tripod. In my opinion, the Vanguard Veo 265AB is the best choice in terms of build quality and price. Besides, it can even be used for professional shoots without hesitation.