When I caught wind that the tripod masters at Really Right Stuff were about to release a new product, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. I love new gear. Because it had not even finished final production yet, they unfortunately could not send me a brand new one in time to satisfy my desire to see it. However, they didn't want to disappoint and instead sent me the prototype! Score! Let’s take a look at the TFA-01 Pocket Pod.
So what is the Pocket Pod? It’s an extremely lightweight, compact and portable tripod measuring 6 inches tall with the legs folded underneath, and 11.1 inches across with the legs fully splayed while only being an 1.5 inches above the ground. If you’ve traveled at all in Europe, you might have seen similar tripods being sold on the side of streets or in camera stores dotted throughout tourist areas of cities the world over (I know of a few dozen sprinkled around San Francisco). These tripods appeal to the traveling photographer who just doesn’t have the space or the strength to carry around a full sized tripod while gallivanting around the world. Unfortunately, the ones found out while traveling often lack the quality one desires.
A handy little tripod that can hold over 100 times it's own weight.
Those who look for great tripods such as the Pocket Pod are very discerning with regards to weight and strength. It’s pretty easy to find a compact and lightweight pod, but the real challenge is finding that coupled with durability and strength.
The Pocket Pod competes with a range of choices ranging in price, from extremely flimsy (but light weight) for $2, to beefy and hefty ones for almost $600. When browsing the options, there doesn’t seem to be a happy medium between weight and strength. That is where the Pocket Pod comes in.
The Pocket Pod weighs a mere 5.1 ounces without a ball head and only 1 pound with a ball head and is capable of holding over 100 pounds. At a price point of just $98, not only is it on the low end of the price spectrum, its mix of strength and weight makes it like no other mini tripod like it out there.
The unconventional legs allow it to be light, strong, and adaptable to environments.
The legs are built differently than you might expect and deviate from the industry standard. Rather than using a screw or locking mechanism with “spokes” that hold the legs in place, the Pocket Pod has sturdy aluminum legs that move freely and independently of one another held tightly by tension in the center. This setup has it’s advantages when you are shooting on uneven surfaces, as the legs can “mold” to the terrain and give you a flat and stable shooting surface. Really Right Stuff has managed to allow for these free moving legs without sacrificing on strength. Though it is only rated for 100 pounds, I stood on the tripod and it held strong (I weigh quite a bit more than 100 pounds).
The tension on the legs is fully adjustable, and once they are fully tightened down the weight of a heavy DSLR doesn’t give this tripod much grief, even when the legs aren’t at their strongest (splayed fully out). However, heavy cameras can limit the height choices you might have (scroll down to read more about this).
Though travel photographers will love this pod, they aren’t the only ones with something to get excited about. Both macro photographers and food photographers will also find great use in the Pocket Pod. I have never used a tripod that was so sturdy and also able to get so close to the ground. It’s a huge relief to not have to think about stability when I’m trying to focus on getting the right shot.
It felt great to be able to maneuver my camera around my subject on the table rather than have to hassle with larger, bulky tripods getting stuck on the edges of my shooting surface.
I like to shoot food, and it was great to be able to get right next to my subject on my shooting table. Usually I’m stuck on the edges of the table and have to move the food closer to me to get the right shot. My other option would be to get a tripod with a boom arm, but those can set me back several hundred or even a thousand dollars. This little tripod solved my problem for a heck of a lot less.
There are a couple things that didn’t work perfectly about this design. With heavier cameras, the legs can only adjust comfortably to about three or four different heights on an even surface because the tension on the joints can only hold so much. The rubber feet help, but the truth is you can’t get the range of heights you might want or expect. If you shoot with a micro fourthirds camera or a small point-and-shoot, this isn’t an issue as those are so light weight that the Pocket Pod will easily hold them strongly in numerous configurations. However, DSLRs and lenses are significantly heavier, so you just need to be careful and know the limits of the Pod.
Lightweight cameras are held strong with little issue. Just be careful if you're mounting full sized DSLRs.
Unfortunately, we sacrifice telescoping legs when we have a tripod that only weighs 1 pound. I admit, it is handy to have a tripod that can pack down to half a foot and pop back out to over four feet. That said, they are either extremely flimsy (like my old Vivitar) or they are uncomfortably heavy (also like my old Vivitar). For me, stability is more important. I’ve nearly lost my camera on numerous occasions on flimsy travel tripods. It’s just not worth it. Even though it can’t telescope, when you’re out and about odds are you can find something to set the tripod on.
When I was testing the Pocket Pod, I was using the Really Right Stuff ultra-light ball head and Canon L-bracket, which are great. I really love the locking mechanism for the L-bracket, and that bracket also makes my camera feel really sturdy. I never have to take it off when I transfer from one Really Right Stuff head to the next.
If you’re on the go, you need light weight and dependability. The Really Right Stuff Pocket Pod gives you both, weighing no more than a pound and able to withstand over 100 pounds of pressure. It’s fully adjustable and works wonders for macro photographers. Get right in the face of your subject, steady as a rock.
It’s easy to balk at the price point if you are unsure of the market. However, after you look around and see what’s out there, I’m positive the Pocket Pod will work its way back into consideration. It’s likely the strongest and ground-huggingest (that means it gets way down in the dirt!) mini tripod in its price range.
Oh, and Really Right Stuff is the only carbon fiber tripod manufacturer made 100% in the United States. Bet you didn’t even know a company like that existed.
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