It might not be the tallest tripod around but the 3 Legged Thing Ray has a premium build with some very nice touches, including the ability to turn into a monopod, a table-top tripod or a microphone boom. Most crucially, however, it packs down very small and does a great job of keeping your camera still.
Short packed-down length
Removable legs and interchangeable footwear for versatility
Available with or without the Airhed Vu tripod head
Quite a large diameter when packed down
What is the 3 Legged Thing Ray?
The 3 Legged Thing Ray is a premium travel tripod that’s designed to be as robust and stable as the company’s Pro range tripods but with less weight. It’s a smaller alternative to the 3 Legged Thing Bucky announced at the same time.
It’s available by itself or as a kit with the new Airhead Vu tripod head.
Construction: Carbon fibre tubes, hard anodised aerospace-grade magnesium alloy fixings
Max Height: 129.5cm
Minimum height: 104mm
Leg sections: 5
Centre column sections: 2
Folded length: 34.2cm
Leg angles: 23º, 55º, 80º
Load capacity: 30kg / 66lb at 23º, 20Kg / 44lb at 55º, 10Kg /33lb at 80º
Max tube diameter: 26mm
Head height (with the kit): 98mm
Being a travel tripod, the 3 Legged Thing Ray packs down to a small size – just 34.2cm in length. If you buy the Ray as a kit with the new AirHed Vu tripod head, that length includes the head which is surrounded by the legs when they fold up in the reverse position for storage.
Being so compact means the Ray can fit in your hand luggage or can sit sideways in a suitcase if you decide to pop it in the hold when you’re flying.
With the legs and centre column fully extended, the Ray can reach a height of 129.5cm. That will make a 6-foot photographer stoop, but as a statuesque 5-foot 2-incher, I find it ideal.
As usual, the legs can be splayed to three different angles, 23º, 55º and 80º with each bringing a different maximum load capacity – 30Kg, 20Kg and 10Kg respectively. All more than enough for a substantial camera set-up.
If you’re looking to shoot at low-level, it only takes a few seconds to remove the centre column from the canopy, just unscrew the Tri-mount (and head) from the centre column and then attach the Tri-mount to the canopy. Then, with the legs splayed to their widest setting, the Ray has a maximum height of 10.4cm.
Alternatively, 3 Legged Thing likes to make versatile tripods so all three of the Ray’s legs can be detached to enable 3 Legged Thing’s new Vanz footwear to be attached to turn it into a table-top tripod.
In another typically 3LT move, the legs can be used as a boom for holding a microphone or light or a leg can be attached to the centre column to make a monopod.
Bags are becoming a more common accessory that’s supplied with a tripod and it’s great to see that 3LT has upped its game here. The zip-closing bag supplied with the Ray kit feels well made and looks smart. It’s also big enough to fit the tripod legs in with the head attached without the shoehorning that it is sometimes required with other tripod bags.
If you buy the Ray and AirHed Vu kit, you’ll notice that the head comes with a new QR Octa quick Release plate. As usual, 3LT has opted for a bolt with a hex socket and coin slot for fixing it onto a camera. And as standard, 3LT supplies the Toolz – a Carabiner-style keyring combined with a Coin Key, Hex Key and bottle opener to cover all bases.
Build and Handling
3 Legged thing has used 8-layer Japanese carbon fibre to make the Ray’s leg and centre column tubes while the canopy, leg fixings and locks are made from aerospace-grade anodised magnesium alloy. This combination gives a high-quality feel and overall the Ray seems more refined than 3 Legged Thing’s earlier travel tripods.
The machining quality is superb. If you unscrew something from the 3LT Ray, you can quickly and easily reattach it or an accessory. This isn’t one of those tripods that takes ages to get things realigned or the threads matched. Everything screws together with wonderful smoothness.
3 Legged Thing has also used new style twist locks with rubber-like O-Pads. These are designed to give better water displacement – I’ll take their word on that – and better grip. The latter part I can confirm, the leg lock grips have much more purchase than those on older tripods like the 3 Legged Thing Leo.
3LT has used its new Rapid Latch for releasing and adjusting the leg angles. They’re much easier and slicker to use than the old-style angle release.
I really liked the 3 Legged Thing Leo when I tested it back in July 2018. I took it away on several trips and used it to support a variety of cameras while shooting long exposures, including the Panasonic Lumix G9 while I was on a windy cliff-top.
The 3 Legged Thing Ray doesn’t have quite as big maximum height as the Leo, but it packs down fractionally smaller and weighs less. More importantly, it’s also a bit more rigid which means it can keep my camera still.
I’ve yet to use the Ray is the same windy conditions as I experienced with the Leo, but I have every confidence that it will do a great job when I do.
Similarly, the AirHed Vu is well made and the knurled knobs give great purchase. I have to confess, I miss the quick release and snap-close fastening of the AirHed Switch that came with the Leo, but the AirHed Vu has a more premium feel and is likely to be more secure.
I peered through the ‘vision panel’ into the inner workings of the AirHed and although I could see some movement, it doesn’t make any difference to how I use the head. I don’t really get the point of that panel but I like that it makes the head look like Bender from Futurama.
We tend to ask the impossible of tripods, we want them small, light and strong, and that goes even more so with travel tripods. While it might not be the preferred choice of tall photographers with bad backs, the 3 Legged Thing Ray is a very well-made travel tripod.
It’s stable without being too heavy and extends to a decent 129.5cm yet packs down to just 34.2cm. What more can you ask for from a travel tripod?
At £319.99 / $329.99 for the legs alone and £389.99 / $429.99 with the AirHed Vu, the price is beyond what many first-time tripod buyers hope to pay but is in line with what many more experienced photographers expect to shell out. 3 Legged Thing has been making tripods for ten years now and has honed its design, the Ray has a premium build.
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