The Peak Design Travel Tripod: Pricey but a Small Breakthrough

The Peak Design Travel Tripod: Pricey but a Small Breakthrough

Like many photographers, I was intrigued by the announcement of the Peak Design Travel Tripod. It was a Kickstarter offering, like many things Peak Design sells. It appeared to be a fresh look at what a travel tripod should be, so I plunked down my money. I opted for the carbon fiber model, as travel tripods are all about weight, and carbon fiber is lighter.

Before we dig too deep, here are the specs:

Price: $599.95 (carbon fiber, aluminum: $349.95)
Max Height: 60″ (152 cm)
Min Height: 5.5″ (10 cm)
Compact Length: 15.5″ (39 cm)
Max Load Capacity: 20 lbs (9.1 kg)

Using the Peak Design Travel Tripod

After a couple of delays due to the coronavirus slowing shipping from China, the tripod arrived, beautifully packed in a cylinder, which contained a soft travel case. 

The Travel Tripod is incredibly light, 2.81 pounds for the carbon fiber model I ordered. Although I had an inexpensive Amazon tripod, I was looking for something sturdier and more useful for my landscape and Milky Way photography. In the photo below, the Peak Design tripod is at the top. Below is my less expensive generic carbon fiber tripod. The elegance of the Peak Design tripod is pretty obvious.

I also have a heavy duty Manfrotto tripod. It's sturdy, but no fun to travel with, so I use it to hold a portable six-nch telescope for night sky work, where I set up once and don't move around.

The Peak Design tripod holds 20 pounds of gear and has a hook on the center column you can hang some weights on. A camera bag should work nicely for extra weight.

Also hidden in the center column is a gadget to attach a cellphone to the tripod, something I find refreshingly useful for an occasional time-lapse or using some of my iOS lightning capture apps. It probably makes the world's most expensive smartphone tripod, but when you need a steady smartphone platform, it's nice to have.

The ball head is well designed and is very low profile. The mounting plate is an Arca-Swiss design (included), which is a pretty common standard. It's quick and easy to get my Sony camera mounted, and once it's on, there is a rotating locking ring that holds everything in place.

I've taken the tripod out on a few landscape shoots close to home and away from people (COVID-19 restrictions) and the tripod is certainly steady for my use. I like the fast locking leg cams, which I prefer to screwing and unscrewing tripod legs. I can set up at a new location really quickly. 

The Peak Design Travel Tripod has a bit of an ecosystem too, there are optional spike feet, and a universal head adapter so you can use your favorite head. Landscape photographers will like how close the tripod can sit to the ground. If you take the center column out, you can get the tripod into a really low position.

It's Not Perfect

Nothing in life is perfect, and the Peak Design Travel Tripod isn't either. I love the carrying bag, but it is a pretty tight fit. The secret is getting the ball head in the right position so that it fits into insets between the legs. If you don't discover that, it's no fun, especially in low light, getting the tripod into its case.

This is probably not a good tripod as it ships for videographers. It doesn't have a fluid ball head, and smooth pans are out of the question. Still, as I've noted, you can put a video-friendly head on this tripod if you like.

The camera plate is attached with an Allen wrench. It's included and cleverly attached to one of the tripod legs. You can't use a coin to tighten it, though, and in the middle of nowhere, I would not like to find that tool missing. Peak Design does sell replacements, but I think an extra should be included, maybe in a pocket in the soft case.

The ball head rotates freely, but if you want to shoot vertically, you have to finesse your camera into a "legal" position. And for all photography, the center column has to be raised slightly so the ball head can rotate. Peak Design also put a bubble level onto the head, but it's usually hidden when your camera is attached.

Summing Up

Worth the money? For me, yes. It's light and folds really small thanks to a clever nesting design that leaves no empty space when the tripod is folded. It's quite steady in my use, but not the equal of a really heavy duty tripod. Hanging a camera bag from the center hook will help a lot if it's windy.

The Peak Design Travel Tripod is not the perfect videographer tripod, but it can be adapted to a fluid head. Does it cost more than I'd like? Yes, but almost everything does. It's well built, sturdy with normal use, innovative in construction and features, and it has become my daily tripod for landscape photography. 

So, no regrets. 

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Are you able to rotate the ball head at minimum height without a center column? In the second to last image, it looks like the head is wedged.

the center column has to be raised slightly so the ball head can rotate.

Ah, so is it a smaller column that replaces the longer one, or does the long center column separate to shorten its length?

thats what the article says. says you have to lift the center column to rotate the head, but if you have to remove the center column to achieve minimum height then I’m wondering how that works. It’s clear you don’t have one of your own and are just reading the article like me, so maybe someone who actually knows, should respond. Thank you.

The PD videos show the details. Removing center column does not remove it entirely, since the column is needed to hold the head. A few cm of the column are left and that's enough to lift the head for free rotation.

Ah. That makes sense. Thanks man.

Its a slightly fiddly process. You have to take the allen key and go into the ball head and loosen a fastener. The centre column then seperates into two and the shorter top piece (with ball head) can then be used to get low to the ground.

My criticisms of the tripod are few. Overall I really like mine (aluminium, felt the CF was way overpriced and I did back the kickstarter so it was a bit cheaper). However:
- Cell phone holder... would far rather have the allen wrench hidden in the little compartment. If I am out with a tripod it isn't going to be my cell phone that goes on it!
- plastic allen wrench holder that clips onto a leg is not good. The allen wrench is going to get lost...
- No panning ability.

But overall its a good one. Stable, beautifully built and very small. To me the Al one was worth it but the CF would not be.

Gotta pay those salaries. R&D is not free.

The column separates in two (into a larger piece and a smaller one that's permanently attached to the ball which is captive in the head, due to the reversed design); but unless you're gonna be using it in low mode for a while then the cumbersome process is probably not worth it... You have to turn the head in portrait mode to expose a screw at the top of the ball which loosens the two sections.

Although if you don't often extend it fully and you often use it low then you can leave that extra section off most of the time. If what you're shooting allows for doing so, it's far easier to just reverse the center column (so it goes up instead of down) and have the camera hang upside down, since you don't need to use any tools to do that (just pop the hook off as if you're gonna access the phone holder, pull it out, put it back in from the bottom).

From what I've seen most travel tripods require unscrewing some sorta part to do the same thing so it's not that much worse off than other designs, some come with a shorter spare column but then you have to transplant the head anyway (unless you carry two heads...). Many require you to unscrew the bottom hook even to reverse the column so the PD one is slightly friendlier in that regard.

My main gripe is the lack of pano rotation which I do use even for stills, but I figured out a workaround by just using a pano clamp (like a Sunwayfoto DDH-05N or 07N) that I can simply clip into the existing head & ARCA clamp... It's an extra 100g or so to carry so it's not ideal but there's enough upsides elsewhere to make it worthwhile for me, YMMV.

I do wish they'd just made the head 0.7-1" taller and added an extra control ring & pano functionality, but I can imagine why they might've thought 3 rings could get confusing or why they would've wanted to stay <16" folded. I'm honestly surprised they were able to ship out orders in April, I didn't order mine until late Feb after I'd read The Center Column's review and some actual user reviews. Was hung up on the price and the pano thing when they first announced it last year.

Thanks! That’s very helpful. 🤙🏽

Price: $599.95 (carbon fiber, aluminum: $349.95)

haha you so crazy

The price is inline with high-end last a lifetime tripods from Gitzo. I don't know about the durability of the PD but when you are still using the same tripod 20 years later you don't really care what you first paid for it. A solid tripod is often the last piece of gear that needs to be replaced.

actually, I sold my gitzo and markins m20 head a long time ago when other alternative cheaper mfr came to the scene. I realized that to get a good tripod you didnt need to pay so much. I sold them, bought other gear and pocketed the rest. never again. kind of what godox did to the oem flash situation. I sold all 4 of my nikon flashes and use godox yongnuo and shanny flashes for weddings. never will I pay crazy high oem flash prices again. same with tripod/heads. there are excellent sensibly priced alternatives.

Because they know that NASA will pay the price!, LOL

It’s an interesting topic isn’t it.

Gotta pay those salaries. R&D is not free.

The only good about this tripod is the compactness of the legs. I do like that design. The head can be thrown in the trash though. With that said, every tripod can have a purpose. It's just that stable tripods tend to be bigger no matter what. As a photographer, If you don't end up with two or more tripods, you're doing something wrong.

True this. I bought the PD but in aluminium as the CF was too rich for my blood. Its a great little tripod. Can go in my bag and not hang off it. The absolute best thing is the space saving which to me is worth it. I don't mind the head but its certainly not for everything. So yeah, this makes tripod number 3 for me.

I'm leaning towards being a minimalist photographer and compact gear has no price to me.....that's of course, as long as the gear actually solves a need. So I can see myself giving this tripod a try. Hopefully we'll get some other designs and more competition in the future, driving the prices down.

get it. then give an honest review. better then those faker reviewers on youtube who have sponsored links, sponsored content, patreon, and get the item free from the mfr to push, err "review"

they get money thrown at them from every single direction. money talks and bullshet walks. so thats why I trust no one on youtube.

I feel you. I'm afraid there are no better reviewers than ourselves. Yes, I get some basic specs from websites and "youtubers" but most of the time I'll end up trying the gadgets myself and if I don't like them at least I'll get to use my printer printing the returning label.

But yeah, nowadays it's difficult to believe what we see out there.

But yeah, nowadays it's difficult to believe what we see out there

they all have hidden agenda and self serving interests to post. I like seeing those horribly shot lighting/mic from new people who review products. the ones who choke a bit and are nervous. those are the ones that tell me exactly what it is.

affiliate links, "loaned" (thats actually-given for free) equipment by the mfr patreon and youtube kickbacks and patreon. no one who posts any of them has an interest to say "this product sucks asz" the worst theyll say is downplay a minor flaw and not say how wonderful the item is. but for most, its not profitable to say a product is bad.
ken rockwell used to review and say all flaws of products he did. today, everything is awesome and amazing. it would be to his wallets interest to say so.

I was really sceptical when this tripod was first revealed and pushed by those hyped YouTubers. This gave me time to dig in about it further, gain some time and find a website talking about sturdiness.
I finally ordered the carbon version and got it a few days ago. Gave it a go and a quick comparison with my existing tripods: Gitzo, Benro, Leofoto.
Well, this thing, although it unfolds like a toy which makes you fear the worst, is actually really really sturdy and hell is this thing engineered!

I will need some more time with it, but I am really close to thinking it's the best non-studio tripod which you can take everywhere without even thinking if you take one or not, out there to shoot.

Waiting for the Steellegs (and the end of lockdown) to be available...

For now I am full of praise for this thing when normally I am hyper-critique!

I have the carbon fibre version. The legs are quite thin and tend to go slightly concave when fully extended with an A7 III and a 24-105 lens (which isn't that heavy). It's quite a short tripod. I needed to do a quick self-portrait, and when I was standing I didn't think it was tall enough to get a flattering angle, and I ended up using my Manfrotto instead (I'm only 5'8").

Thanks for pointing that out. It was my fears too that carbon fiber on such long legs will not be too strudy.
Great to have real user experience more than the PR war this brand is doing.

Too pricey with no realistic savings on weight. Clients want to see my photos, not to check on whether or not I am using trendy gear.

Thanks for the post Mel. I considered buying this. My only concern was how it would hold up on a beach, i.e. where sand clogging the legs could be an issue. But maybe that's the case for any tripod? Any thoughts on how easy it is to re/disassemble? Thanks

FWIW, PD has a 30min. video on YouTube that wholly covers maintenance and disassembly down to the last piece, it looks pretty easy to repair and they'll be stocking all the parts... Not sure how it compares to others in that regard tho. I think some of the rotation locks might stop sand more effectively but I'm not sure.

Thanks Francisco. I agree with you re. rotation locks. But I'll check out the YT video