Peak Design Travel Tripod Versus Manfrotto Befree: Which Is Better?

When the Peak Design Travel Tripod was first announced and released, I did scoff at it. I thought it was nothing more than just an overpriced tripod. As someone who currently owns the Manfrotto Befree tripod, I thought this release from Peak Design was silly, to say the least.  

In his latest video, Lok Cheung goes over some of the major differences between the Peak Design Travel Tripod and the Manfrotto Befree tripod. Cheung compares the carbon fiber versions of both tripods and demonstrates some of the reasons why the Peak Design Tripod may be a better option. Of course, the price point is one major reason to purchase the Manfrotto version over the Peak Design version; however, Cheung does make a good case for the Peak Design. 

One of the biggest complaints that I saw only about the Peak Design tripod was that the legs and center column were far too slippery and looked like they could quite easily break. Cheung does address this issue and points out how this is a travel tripod. Travel tripods aren't necessarily about having the most sturdy design or being the most effective option. Compromises are going to be made; however, when compared to another travel tripod, the Peak Design option does seem to come out on top. 

Personally, I have to say Cheung does make some good points, and although I don't think I'd ever spend the kind of money the carbon fiber version is asking for, the aluminum version doesn't seem too bad. The weight difference isn't huge between the two, but the price is. 

Check out the full video linked above to see why the Peak Design Tripod may actually be a great option. 

Usman Dawood's picture

Usman Dawood is a professional architectural photographer based in the UK.

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I took the PD tripod on a trip to Iceland with lots of long exposures and just hated the head design. The legs are OK (though heavy since they went for a non-cylindrical design that adds weight without much benefit). The head ALWAYS has to be raised. If you shoot vertical, you can't freely tilt it up and down - you have to keep flipping it between left and right when making small tilt adjustments, shifting your perspective noticeably when you have objects in the foreground. The head is a fundamentally flawed design and really annoying to use in the real world. If I kept an L-bracket on my camera at all times (thus saving me from flipping the head vertically) I might consider it, but I don't like L-brackets.

I took the Befree tripod on a trip to Iceland and used it for time laps and long exp on a January 2020 winter. I never regret my decision, it's durable, stable, easy to setup, and the ball head works just fine. However, my half frozen hand just cannot tighten the tripod legs properly sometimes.

Last week you said the Gitzo series 0 traveler was the best travel tripod you've ever used. Could you comment on that relative to the two tripods being discussed in this article?

FWIW The Center Column has some interesting technical tests that compare the stability of the PD vs Gitzo, RRS, etc.

Thanks. Took a look at the site. Very interesting, but I'd really like to hear from Northrup since withing days of recommending the Gitzo as the best, he didn't even refer to it in the reply above. No problem as the Gitzo wasn't part of the discussion but he obviously is someone with a lot of user experience which is a more important to me than lab tests.

I'm not sure I could live without an L plate for heavy tripod/stitching use, I'm surprised you get by without one... There's loads of L plates where the vertical dovetail can be removed and left off most of the time. If anything I'm more annoyed at needing a workaround* for smooth panning (something PD could've built into the head at the cost of an extra inch or less IMO), vertical drop slots always seemed like a stability/usability compromise to me.

*My workaround is a panning clamp I can clip into the existing head, using the PD legs with a different head isn't as appealing IMO because it starts to erode at the space savings. I guess some of that comes down to how it's carried tho, some people will attach it to the side of the bag and will care more about weight than folded length or volume, others might prioritize one of those traits more than the other.

"non-cylindrical design that adds weight without much benefit".

That would be your expert opinion as an engineer?

I would pick my €115 Manfrotto Befree anytime ofer the much to expensive Peak design counterpart. The difference in money is just to much.

Based on a number of comments, I think I'll have to agree with you. The Befree tripod is pretty damn good.

I had this tripod as I was a backer on KS. I decided to get rid of it due to the following reasons:

- You have to raise the center column to make any adjustments to the ball-head.
- This tripod gave rise to shake when shooting in a stream (North Fork of Left Creek). I shoot mainly landscapes, so having a stable tripod is imperative. IMO these tripod legs flex under weight of a DSLR like the Nikon D850. Add to it that you need to actually raise the center column to level the ball-head and it was not a pleasant experience.
- The ball-head does not pan which impacts my photography (as I do a lot of panning shots). I understand they have an attachment to affix a panning head, but that defeats the purpose of a travel tripod. It is hard to imagine any rationale for not allowing this head to pan - would have added less than half an inch to the head if they allowed it to pan.
- The other 'features' being pushed to market this tripod (the phone holder, opening the legs in under 15 seconds) are frivolous and of no use to serious photographers. I can spend an additional 5 seconds to setup my RRS.

For $600 (I paid the KS price), it is not worth it - they might fix these issues with v2 (and if they do I will revisit purchasing it). RRS is coming out with a Travel Tripod in July or August (per their teasers) and I would happily pay the extra cost to get one of those. Unfortunately, due to purchasing via KS, I PD would not accept a return - but I had no issues selling my tripod at cost, due to the heavy demand (I think I could have sold it for a little higher had I wanted to). YMMV!

A number of people have mentioned how you have to raise the head to make any adjustments. That I think would annoy the heck out of me lol.

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, properly appreciate it.

Peak designs makes some good stuff but that tripod is not one of them.