Not too long ago if you wanted a travel tripod the choices were pretty slim. Today however there’s a huge selection, and the label of travel is now attached to almost any small tripod that comes along. The MeFoto RoadTrip Air might not have the obvious travel label, but it’s small size, weight and height show huge potential in the travel sector.
There’s no denying when you first see the MeFoto RoadTrip Air that it has instant appeal. Our review sample arrived in an attractive brushed silver, aesthetically it looks like a great piece of kit.
The small size means that it fits perfectly into a backpack or will strap to the exterior without too much fuss. At it’s most compact it measures just 29cm.
Despite it’s size it weighs in at 1.13 kg, still not a great deal but heavier than you’d expect. This weight is down to the full metal construction and this gives the tripod an overall feeling of quality.
The legs are of the telescopic twist lock type, in much the same style as walking poles, and feature five sections. When fully extended along with the centre column, also of the telescopic design, the tripod reaches a full working height of 155cm, which really isn’t at all bad.
The telescopic design of the legs and centre column isn’t commonly used and I was initially worried that the internal mechanism wouldn’t be strong enough to hold a camera with any security. However after a week of testing I found that any worries were unfounded and the legs locked securely in place.
One initial issue that did take a little getting used too was that the leg sections are either all locked or all released, this means that when adjusting the leg height you need to work out a technique. I found that loosening the legs and then holding one section and retracting before locking worked, and when practiced a few times the technique became second nature.
The legs and column also don’t need to be fully extended if you don’t want and will lock at any position that you see fit.
The centre column is held in place by a more tradition twist lock which is again metal and shaped in a way that enables easy purchase when it needs to be locked or released. The extra height for the tripod is hidden within this column, which twists to extend in the same telescopic style as the legs.
Attached to the base of the centre column is a sprung hook that can be used to weigh down the tripod when needed.
Each of the legs has three angle options so plenty of flexibility over the height. Unfortunately due to the centre column and head design its not possible to lay the tripod flat to the ground.
Topping off the tripod is the small ball head. This is screwed to the centre column and can’t be swapped out. It features two forms of adjustment; a pan and ball release. Although there is no friction lock on the ball release, the slow release of the ball works equally as well.
Cameras are attached by means of an Arca Swiss style base plate and this features two slightly protruding screws that help act as a security stop. The quality of the tripod is carried over to the head and although small it can still support a weight of up to 6KG.
In test I used a Canon 5D MKII with 100-400mm attached just to test this out, and the tripod held the weight. Although I felt that the stability of the tripod wasn’t quite up to that of some of the larger rivals such as the 3Legged Thing Punk Travis and swapped back to using the lighter Sony Alpha 7R which is a much better fit.
MeFoto RoadTrip Air Review Verdict
As a travel companion the MeFoto is an excellent choice, the small size means it packs conveniently into or onto a bag. The 155cm height and quick release legs make it quick to unpack when needed and best of all its easy to use.
However the small size does come at a cost, the spread of the legs isn’t quite far enough to give it as much stability as some of the other travel tripods around the same price, and unless you get the legs correctly grounded the tripod can feel quite unstable on uneven ground.
Stability was a niggling issue I had with the RoadTrip Air, that’s not to say it was unstable, just not as stable as the likes of the 3LT Punk Travis. In urban environments where the ground is flat the tripod excelled, and I loved everything about it; small, light weight, quick and easy to use.
In the country, however, those telescopic legs that were a joy to use in the city became a bit of an issue.
Unlocking and locking the legs to the right height wasn’t tricky, but was by no means as easy as with tradition lever or twist locks. Extending the centre column fully provided the height, but doesn’t provide the same stable foundation as when the centre column is packed down.
When you’re adjusting the legs there is a handy bubble level that’s positioned under the base plate. The position of this bubble level really highlights how MeFoto envisage the tripod being adjusted. You need to get the tripod in position and levelled before attaching the camera.
Getting the tripod as even and level as possible was essential, as any tilt in any direction and the stability of the tripod would be affected to a greater degree that you’d expect with other small tripods such as the Manfrotto BeFree or Punk Travis.
After a while you do work out a technique to level correctly even on uneven ground. In most conditions locking the legs isn’t an issue as the rubber feet enable plenty of torque.
The RoadTrip Air does supplies a good level of support in a compact form, and compared against the Manfrotto BeFree and 3LT Punk Travis, despite the obvious advantages of the larger systems when it comes to stability, the MeFoto definitely wins out when it comes to overall convenience.
If you’re looking to travel the cities this year then the MeFoto RoadTrip Air is a great travel support choice, however, if you want to take serious landscape tripod then I’d go for the 3 Legged Thing Punk Travis.