HEIPI is a travel tripod with slick-look carbon legs, a highly engineered ball head, and an innovative main and sub-tripod design. The approach the company has taken is certainly different, and there’s no doubt that the result works spectacularly well, especially considering the compact size and weight that make it ultra-portable.
In looks and style, there is something similar to the Peak Design travel tripod. But look deeper, and you see that they are different but share a similar style of lever legs locks, carbon look and removal of negative space.
In use the HEIPI tripod provides the firm, steady base you’d hope for, and the leg length adjustment is fast and smooth. The adjustment of the centre column, or in this case, the sub-tripod that forms that centre column, matches that precision as long as the locking ring is fully loosened.
Used as a standard tripod is just one part of the HEIPI; remove the centre column, and it forms a mini tripod that enables you to drop to ground level in seconds. Then there’s the ability to insert the sub-tripod back into the main tripod through the base, effectively inverting the centre column for low-level, close-up and macro photography. This ability is possible on other tripods, but it’s nice and fluid here.
Another innovation is the built-in Smart Phone adapter, which removes the base plate, pulls up the hidden clamp, and pops your phone in place. It’s all very slick and well thought out. The HEIPI travel tripod is exceptionally good. Hopefully, whilst HEIPI has produced high-end tripods in the past, this new product shows real innovatation that I hope will be followed by more.
The HEIPI W28 is a travel tripod that innovates in all manner of ways. Firstly it’s small and compact, far smaller in bulk than many other travel tripods, which means that it neatly straps to a backpack or will equally tuck inside a day pack without too much trouble.
This travel tripod also stands out because it looks amazing with its slick carbon legs and carefully designed legs locks. As you look deeper at the design, you see the amount of thought that has gone into the many features.
The make-up of the tripod is broken into three pieces that come together. There’s the main tripod with the carbon fibre legs, lever-style leg locks with angle adjusters, and twists lock quick release for the centre column, which is, in fact, the sub tripod.
The sub-tripod doubles as the centre column, but as the three legs slide into the canopy of the main tripod, the intersection is over a wider area than a standard column, providing greater rigidity when everything is tightened. This sub-tripod is of a fixed-leg design which is great for low-level work; as the sub-tripod slides into the main tripod, it also features the ball head. This ball head can be removed and bolted onto the main tripod or other accessories, such as sliders.
Each part of the tripod is exquisitely made with a real feeling of high quality. What also makes it stand out is the clean lines, everything is tight with no gaps, and when fully packed down, you can take a firm grasp of the circumference of the tripod in one hand.
This compact sizing makes it extremely easy to handle, and while the packed size is small, unpacked with the ultra-stiff centre column, it easily reaches full height.
The HEIPI W28 Travel Tripod is one of the most innovative tripods I have seen and used, and a break from the high-end tripods that the company has produced in the past, I’m already excited to see what else they can produce.
At present, after a solid month of use as my main go-anywhere tripod, I have to say I’m impressed. It has everything that I need, and that ball head is impressive. The HEIPI is as solid and flexible a travel tripod as I have used.
Packed height: 44cm
Full height: 150cm
Max payload : 55kg
Smartphone adapter : Built in
Accessory connectors : 6 1/4-inch
I’ve split this test into three; standard tripod, mini tripod and universal ball head system.
Before I start, I’ll point out that, unlike other travel tripods, there is nothing flimsy or weight-cutting in the design; it’s just a very solid and compact travel tripod. So while it is lightweight, it’s lightweight in as far as it’s lighter than a full-sized tripod and a similar weight to a decent travel tripod, not light in the way of a cheap travel tripod.
I point this out because everyone who has had a look has stated that it’s heavy or rather heavier than it looks. But that is because it looks small, and you expect it to be lighter – it is, in fact, 200g lighter at 1.2kg than the Manfrotto BeFree at 1.4kg, so it is light and only feels heavy because it’s small when packed down.
Opening the Main tripod out, the carbon legs appear from behind the Sub tripod legs that hang down from the canopy in the same way as a standard centre column.
The Main tripod legs are five sections and extend the full height of the tripod to 128cm, and with the centre column extended, this reaches 150cm, which is not bad for a tripod that packs down to 44cm.
The leg sections are held in place by metal lever locks, and a single hand can grip and release an entire leg lock array easily in one go. When relocking, each gives a satisfying click when locked back, but I found you must check that these are all properly secured before use.
At the top of each leg is a leg angle adjuster; these could be easily missed, but a quick push and enable three different angle options. A sprung ratchet system inside ensures each angle locks in position. Under the tripod canopy is a bag hook if additional weight needs to be added.
Around the canopy is a rotating ring that locks and releases the Sub tripod. Releasing enables you to draw the tripod height up to the full 150cm, and locking it back in place creates a firm base with markers on the Sub tripod highlighting just how far it can be raised before it’s unsafe or removed. A quick-release safety mechanism here would have been a nice touch, but there’s no need if you pay attention to the WARNING wording on the legs.
The ball head is larger than most travel tripods and beautifully designed with built-in features. A small knob on the side enables you to rotate the head through 360º and gives a small click for each 10º of rotation; this is a nice feature, however, if you don’t like the click, then loosen the small Allen Key bolt, and the click will be no more.
The main ball release is a single leaver, and while this works well and fits the tripod’s design, it doesn’t have the fitness you see with the Vanguard or 3LT tripods. In cold weather, the small size of this release lever can be a little fiddly compared with a more common knob style. In use, however, it works just fine, just not quite as ergonomic.
Finally, the camera can be mounted to the tripod with the large Arca Swiss compatible base plate or a cage or other Arca Swiss compatible plate. The solid build of the tripod instantly pays off, and everything feels very secure.
What stands out here is that raising the centre column feels sturdy; there’s none of the usual waver you can get from a single centre column design.
The support offered is exceptional, and it’s a real pleasure to use. The steadiness makes it an ideal partner for the LEE ELEMENTS series of Variable ND filters, as it supply’s the right amount of support for long exposures. The lightweight and small size make it ideal as an everyday tripod as well as a travel model.
The other small feature worth mentioning are the rubber feet; unscrewed from the base of the leg section, a spike is revealed, which can be unscrewed and used. It’s a very clever hidden feature.
In the next part of the test, I looked at the Sub tripod. To release the Sub tripod, you loosen the large ring around the canopy and then withdraw, and that’s it; it’s all essentially ready to go. The ball head is already in position, so switching from Main to Sub takes no more than ten seconds. The legs of the Sub tripod are fixed and made from Aluminium with leg angle adjusters enabling a choice of three different heights.
In use, the lightweight design of the Sub tripod is simply superb, especially with the full-sized ball head enabling plenty of flexibility. While the Sub tripod is a great feature, a small feature elevates it further. On each leg is a small 1/4-inch thread into which accessories can be attached. It’s inspired and enables you to mount lights, friction arms, microphones etc. These threads align with thread on the canopy when everything is slotted back together.
The final part of the test focused on the ball head. Again, this design tries to be different and works for the most part. I’m not keen on the lever release; it works, but I prefer a more traditional knob.
Moving away from the lever, the size of the ball makes it extremely easy to position, and when locked, the head locks good and tight, which means that it has a load capacity of up to 55kg, which is substantial.
The head, as mentioned, is Arca Swiss compatible, which works well, being fully compatible with all accessories I tried with it; including the SmallRig Black Mamba cage. What is different is the release and lock system that they have designed. Click the base plate in and it automatically locks, and then to release, twist the lock around the head. At first, I was a little cautious of the design, but over the testing time, I have to say I have grown to love it.
The ball head also has some hidden features; the first is the bubble level, which is less of a hidden feature as it’s in plain sight before the camera is mounted, but covered once the tripod is in place. It would have been good to have a system where this level was visible even with the camera in place. Saying that it’s probably viewable with small-bodied cameras. The other feature is hidden beneath the base plate. With base plate removed a Smart Phone holder can be extracted. You wouldn’t see it unless you knew it was there; pull up, slot your Smartphone in and off you go, a very expensive smartphone tripod.
Finally, lock the pano knob and twist, and you can remove the head from the Sub tripod. As a note, an Allen key bolt can be tightened to stop the head from being removed from the Sub tripod; I recommend this. However, it does stop the three in one point of the tripod.
With the head removed, it can be used on sliders or any accessory with a 3/8-inch thread. I have to say that despite the lever lock of the ball head, the head itself works incredibly well. Fixing the head to YC Onion Chocolate Cheese slider and the head integrated nicely, what made the system work was the quick-release system that is effectively similar in action to the Manfrotto Move mount. Through this test, I only had one head, so the system’s usefulness is limited, but switching from tripod to slider with one head style has obvious benefits.
At the end of the test, the HEIPI W28 Travel Tripod proved effective as a travel tripod with a huge amount of flexibility across a range of disciplines.
The HEIPI travel tripod is a formidable first tripod packed with features and innovation that breaks away from much of the traditional design I’ve seen from manufacturers. The team at HEIPI has managed to create a tripod that is well on the way to being one of the best on the market, and already stands above almost all other travel tripods out there.
There are a few small niggles, such as making sure the leg locks are all correctly closed and locked. I found that an extra push-click check is required for the first month of ownership, or at least until things start to settle down and loosen up.
Then there’s the fuss of attaching the ball head to the main legs; you need to ensure that the hook is being pushed up as you screw in the head and then ensure the sub tripod release ring is tightened to lock everything rock solid, I’m picking really as these things are really small issues. Likewise, there’s a bit of flex in the carbon legs and joints of the sub tripod but nothing more than you would expect unless you were looking at these things really critically.
In the end, the HEIPI W28 Travel Tripod is a great all-around travel tripod. It packs down small and enables you to carry a proper tripod wherever you go. The small Sub tripod hidden as the centre column is inspired, so if you want to travel even lighter than that already light full HEIPI, you can – you could even leave your camera at home and use your Smartphone with the hidden smartphone holder, all very clever.
The other feature that I like is the accessory connectors. There are six in total, with three on the main canopy and three on the sub-tripod legs. When all components are together, the threads should align, although a little wiggling was needed!
As travel tripods go, this is, at present, one of the best that I have seen, offering plenty of flexibility and stability when and where you need it.
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