3 Legged Thing Punks Billy Snap Verdict
The Punks Billy looks great and not just because it’s in the Camera Jabber colours. The anodised finish and carbon legs give you a real sense of quality, but it’s only when you start to use it in earnest you realise just how good it is. It’s not a travel tripod although the slender profile and weight might suggest this.
Billy is a full height everyday model that builds on the groundwork provided by the excellent Punks Travis. Suffice to say that the Punks Billy comes as close to perfection as can be when it comes to a tripod since it arrived it has rarely if ever not by my side; it’s lightweight, sturdy and reliable.
If you need a versatile full height tripod that challenges that need for any other support, then that’s the Billy, and at £250 it’s a tripod that will last you a lifetime.
- This tripod has now been superseded by the 3 Legged Thing Billy 2.0
For Punks Billy
- Light weight
- 165 max heigh
- Low profile
Against Punks Billy
- No accessories port
When I reviewed the 3 Legged Thing Punks Travis last year, I was blown away by just how good it was.
It was the first tripod of its type, price and weight that provided me with full height support but without the bulk. It was also simple yet feature packed, and ultimately it felt built to last. Almost a year on with almost daily use it’s still going strong.
It did everything I wanted from a tripod, and the only real upgrade that I wanted to see was a carbon version.
Now we have it with the Punks Billy, identical in almost every way other than the legs are now carbon.
When I say that the Billy is identical to the Travis in all but the materials used for the legs I mean it, same twist locks, same AirHead Neo just lighter and of course with new stickers, but this is no bad thing.
3 Legged Thing pride themselves on the quality of their carbon fibre, there’s no glitzy carbon weave to the finish it’s just pure good quality carbon.
Let’s run through the features; firstly it packs down to just 46cm, compares that with the Benro FTA29V1 Travel Angel (Again a great tripod) and that measures 59.5cm.
The Punks Billy adopts the legs around the centre column design when packed down; this is now favoured by many manufacturers as it enables a small pack down size.
Unfolded there’s a maximum height of 137cm which extends to 165cm with the centre column extended, perfect for a full height tripod.
Weight wise the Billy comes in at 1.38Kg that’s 220g lighter than the Punks Travis, that’s not a great deal, but any weight saving helps. The Benro weighs in at 1.86Kg for comparison.
As with Punks Travis, we have the same AirHed Neo, and this will support a weight of 18Kg, by any measure that’s some weight.
To put it into context it will happily hold a 5D Mark II with a 100 to 400mm attached.
The 4-section carbon legs are secured using twist locks which hold everything in place firmly and as ever you have three leg angles to choose from 23º, 55º and 80º.
Unlike other manufacturers who have devised clever, quick release mechanisms to drop the tripod down to ground level the approach adopted by 3 Legged Thing is a little more hands on.
If you want to drop the height of the tripod down to ground level, then you remove the bag hook at the base of the centre column, release the centre column twist lock and remove the column from the crown.
Then it’s a case of unscrewing the tri-plate and screwing this directly on to the crown of the tripod. All quick and easy enough to do.
Once set the tripod can then be dropped to ground level with a height of 100mm.
Every part of the tripod has a design use, so around the tri-plate crown, there are three slots so a strap can be quickly attached.
As already mentioned there is a hook at the bottom of the centre column, anodised in orange, and this is perfect for quickly hooking on a bag to add more weight if needed for stability.
Some manufacturers are now marketing waterproof tripods, but here it’s not necessary as the seal between the carbon tubes and twist locks is nice and tight, and if you do get crud or dirty water into the legs then it’s easy enough to dismantle, clean and re-assembled.
An essential feature of any high-quality tripod is the ability to swap feet, and at the bottom of each leg the feet can be removed and replaced with Heelz, Stilettoz or Clawz.
These additional feet are widely available, and they don’t cost a fortune with replacement Bootz replacements setting you back £15 and the CLAWZ and Stilettoz costing £50.
Ensuring you always get a level base there are a scattering of bubble levels around the tripod with one built into the tripod crown and a further two featuring on the AirHed Neo.
Around the top of one leg is an orange band which highlights that the leg can be removed with a twist. This can then be bolted directly to the centre column or AirHed Neo to create a monopod with a maximum height of 1.71m.
3 Legged Thing makes a point that their tripods are built to last, and there’s a good amount of spares if needed. Servicing of the tripod is also exceptionally easy.
Build & Handling
The market is awash with tripods and although manufacturers add their finishing flourishes the overall construction and finish often feels a bit run of the mill and all very much the same. This isn’t the case when it comes to 3 Legged Thing.
There are however manufacturers that consistently stand out when it comes to quality, and if you buy one of their tripods, you know that it’s built to last. I like many have Manfrotto tripods that have been with me or previous owners for 30+ years; I also have other tripods from other brands that form part of my tripod graveyard.
Having now used the latest batch of 3 Legged Thing tripods for some time, I feel confident that the quality of manufacture is equal to other premium brands such as Manfrotto and Benro.
3 Legged Thing has gone to great lengths to ensure quality, and this comes across with the Billy.
The quality of finish throughout is superb, and the Punks Billy is as close to perfection as you can get.
Every joint, bolt and fixing promotes the quality of this piece of kit, but it’s only when it comes to using the punks Billy out in the field that you get a feel for just how good it is.
Place a weighty camera on top, and the AirHed Neo locks dead, there is no drift or tipping it just holds the camera exactly where you want it.
Despite the small head size, it features a smooth panoramic rotation that can be locked once in position. There is no friction control but slowly tightening the ball head lock provides the same increase in friction before it locks, and the head features a standard Arca Swiss style plate.
For the majority of the test, I was using the Sony Alpha 7R with either the 24-70mm f/4 or 70-200mm lens attached, and the Billy proved to be a perfect match.
I also pushed the weight with a 5D Mark II, and 100-400mm lens attached, again no issue.
Like the Punks Travis, the Punks Billy has become a regular piece of kit and is always my go-to tripod as it provides a good solid base at a decent weight.
Although I’m a fan of the travel tripod format the Punks Billy’s low profile, half that of the full-size tripod is just as convenient and gives me the full height.
The weight and balance make it ideal for everyday use, and there is very little to fault with its design.
I loved the Punks Travis; I thought it was one of the best tripods I had ever seen. The Punks Billy is a step up, I love the carbon fibre, the weights great, but as ever there has to be more, something that would make this the best tripod ever.
I had to think long and hard about what I wanted and the only additional feature I could think of that I would like to see is an accessories port.
OK, I could use the QRII bracket, but it would be nice to have one incorporated into the design.
These ports are incredibly useful especially as we get more involved with video. An accessories port to attach a microphone, audio recorder, monitor or a variety of other devices is now becoming an essential. So if there is one thing that I’d like to see added that will be it, an accessory port.
It’s no secret that I thought the Punk Travis was quite literally the best tripod that I had ever seen, the Punks Billy has surpassed that and is now the best tripod I have ever seen. However, I now want even more.
That more is the addition of an accessories port, and then I think I would’ve finally have found my ultimate tripod.
OK, so you know from reading the review that I think that the Punks Billy is as close to perfection for a tripod as you can get, so when it came to the verdict of this review, I had to think very carefully.
And just for fairness, I had to seek somebody else’s opinion. Jeff!
While my colleague Jeff likes the Punks Billy and agrees with me about it form and function he wasn’t so taken on the anodised colours, to be honest, I think he’s wrong, but I do take his point.
I’ve recently seen that 3 Legged Thing has started to produce more subdued tripods, black with a touch of colour. These will appeal to the more traditional photographer who takes their trade seriously, so maybe that’s it, a black option, but for me, I like the anodising, and I especially like the carbon fibre.
I’ll give the Punks Billy the highest score that I’ve yet given for tripod. But as ever there needs to be room for improvement.
So what is that improvement; an accessory port, change the aluminium for titanium, keep the rest and call it the Punks Ali.
Below are a few images from the test so far showing the Punks Travis and Billy together. Sweet ay!
Here’s a promotional video from the guys at 3 Legged Thing to get you started.