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.
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.