If you’re looking for a full frame compact camera, you can get a Sony RX1 series camera and it gets the job done. If you’re looking to get the job done in style, you can spend thousands more and get a Leica Q, but you’ll probably arrive at the same place. That about sums up the relationship between the MeFOTO RoadTrip Classic Leather Edition and the original RoadTrip Tripod.
The difference is that, at least in the case of MeFOTO’s premium offering, the upgrade won’t cost an arm and a leg. There’s only a $50 difference between the leather and standard editions. I looked at the titanium-colored, carbon fiber version of the leather series, priced at $349.
I’ll get this out of the way first: The Roadtrip Classic Leather Edition is the sexiest tripod on the market. It feels weird and a little dirty to say that about a tripod, but it’s true. MeFOTO didn’t skimp on the presentation here. The whole setup comes with a nice carrying bag and dust bag, and a set of tools and spikes in a hidden (albeit hard to find) zipped pocket inside. The leather around the legs is hand-stitched, and it feels nice to the touch.
Does It Work Well?
But looks aside, is it a good tripod?
When you consider its competition in the price range and what you get for the money, it's pretty decent value. The tripod is travel-friendly (the kind where the legs fold upward around the center column for an even smaller footprint) and it’s the lighter carbon fiber version. The tripod can also be converted into a monopod without tools by removing one of the legs and attaching it to the center column.
The RoadTrip CF Classic Leather Edition measures 15.4 inches in its folded state and when fully extended, reaches 61.6 inches. It’s 3.2 pounds in this incarnation and can support up to 17.6 pounds atop the included ball head and Arca-Swiss style quick-release plate, according to MeFOTO. There's even a bubble level by the plate. In practice, I didn’t test this theoretical weight limit, but I did mount a Canon EOS 80D with an EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens, a weightier combination (5.3 pounds) than most users would probably use this tripod with, and it was rock solid in both tripod and monopod forms. This is impressive, given that you essentially are getting two tools for the price of one.
Even though it’s integrated into the tripod, the monopod is not an afterthought. It’s a solid-feeling unit that you can use on a several-hour sports shoot with a heavy telephoto lens. The monopod is assembled by removing one of the legs and the center column, and putting them together. It’s not a new feature (the original RoadTrip had this, and several competitors have imitated the feature as well) but with the leather edition, the monopod now becomes the slickest looking monopod on the market as well.
The tripod includes some other thoughtful touches. There’s a spring-loaded hook at the bottom of the center column to hold extra weight, such as a camera bag or sandbag, to give the tripod more stability, and the spikes for the feet are easily removable.
Operationally, while I’m personally not a fan of most twist-lock mechanisms on tripods (I generally prefer lever locks), the ones here work smoothly and better than I expected, though it still took me some time to warm up to this way of opening up the tripod legs.
I only had one complaint that was an issue for me throughout testing. The knobs on the ball head that’s included, though they’re slightly different sizes, were similar enough that I would constantly loosen the one that held the tripod plate and attached camera when I meant to loosen one of the other knobs to make an adjustment. While a color change for this knob would be an easy fix, better would be to make the knob to release the plate a clamp or lever instead of a knob that matches the ball head adjustments. The last thing any photographer would want would be to accidentally loosen the wrong thing and have their camera take a tumble.
One could work around this by gaffer taping the release knob so it feels different to the touch, but then that would ruin the point of such a stylish tripod. In any case, if the ball head isn’t for you, it’s mounted with a standard 3/8-inch thread, so you can replace it with your own, though a larger head might not fit in the included bag.
Is It Right for You?
Ultimately, if the features sell you and looks matter, this is the tripod to get. For comparison, I paid the same exact price for another brand’s carbon fiber tripod and it doesn’t fold up as small, doesn’t have a built-in monopod, doesn't have a hook to hang weights, and doesn't even have a case. It didn’t come with a head for the money either. Viewed through that lens, $349 is worth the investment for a tripod that is about as solid as anything else in this price range.
However, if looks don’t matter and you just want the features, it might be worth looking at the plain-jane RoadTrip.
What I Liked
- It looks great. Materials are very high quality right down to the included carrying case.
- The ability to convert to a monopod means fewer separate tools to carry.
- Weight hook is a nice addition.
- Carbon fiber lowers the weight of the whole setup.
- There’s a ballhead and removable spiked feet included for the price.
- Not a huge premium over the price of a regular RoadTrip, given the lifespan of a tripod.
What I Didn’t Like
- The tripod release plate needs a revision, between the all-too-similar knobs and the Arca-Swiss style plate that requires a tool to fully tighten (though that’s included). It’s strange to need no tools to make the tripod but need something to tighten the plate. Taking a page from Manfrotto, with a ring under the tripod plate to tighten things would be great.
- I’m not a fan of twist locks for the legs, but this is a purely personal preference, since many tripods use this method.
Click the following link to purchase the RoadTrip Classic CF Leather Edition.
Note: MeFoto provided a RoadTrip Classic CF Leather Edition for this review