It has a few quirks but this is one of the best tripods and probably the best travel tripod around at the moment. It’s incredibly compact yet it extends to a sensible working height and though the legs may look spindly, the Peak Design Travel Tripod is capable of holding a substantial camera and lens combination still enough to shoot long exposures in a breeze.
Very stable for a travel tripod
Quick to deploy
Centre column needs extending slightly to give the head full movement
Hex wrench (supplied) required to attach and detach the quick release plate
High price - especially for the carbon fibre version
What is the Peak Design Travel Tripod?
There are two versions of the Peak Design Travel Tripod, one with aluminium/aluminum alloy legs and the other with carbon fibre legs. Aside from the leg material and their weight (the aluminium tripod is heavier), the two tripods are identical, but naturally the carbon fibre tripod costs a bit more.
What sets the Peak Design Tripods apart from others is their compact size when collapsed as the legs fold in very close to each other, making them very slim.
Maximum height centre column raised: 152.4cm / 60inches
Maximum height centre column down: 130.2cm / 51.25inches
Minimum height: 14cm / 5.5inches
Collapsed length and diameter: 39.1cm / 15.4inches, 7.9cm / 3.125inches
Although it’s a travel tripod, Peak Design quotes a maximum payload for the Travel Tripod of 9.1Kg or 20lbs. It’s the same for both versions of the tripod and it’s more than enough for most camera set-ups that I’m likely to use.
It also has 5-section legs which enable it to be collapsed down to 39.1cm in length and 7.9cm in diameter.
Despite its short collapsed length, the Peak Design Travel Tripod extends to a maximum height of 152.4cm with the centre column raised or 130.2cm with the centre column down. The shorter length is fine for me most of the time, but the centre column has to be popped up a little to allow the fitted tripod head to be tilted.
The tripod head has a unique design with the ball visible at the end of the centre column. It comes with a Peak Design plate, which will also fit into Peak Design’s Capture clip. However, the head is compatible with Arca Swiss-type plates.
Peak Design supplies a zip-closing soft case with the Travel Tripod. It has loops at either end to attach a strap such as the Peak Design Slide Lite.
The head is a little unusual and the centre column must be extended slightly before the ball head movement becomes available. However, the Peak Design Universal Head Adapter (£27.95/$29.95) is available as an optional extra to replace the top section of the tripod so a standard head can be mounted.
Build and handling
I’ve used both the carbon fibre and the aluminium Peak Design Travel Tripod and my experience of the two has been much the same, there are some slight differences. In terms of handling, the most significant of theses is that the aluminium version is 290g heavier. Aluminium tripods are also usually a little sturdier but Peak Design quotes the carbon fibre Travel Tripod as being 20% sturdier, but I’m unable to discern a difference in this respect
When the carbon fibre Peak Design Tripod first arrived, I had my concerns. I loved the way that it packs down really small and tight, but the extended legs seemed very spindly. However, perhaps because of their strange cross-section shape, they proved to be very sturdy – more on this later.
Perhaps because of the additional weight, the aluminum tripod legs seem a little more robust.
It took me a while to spot that there’s a 4mm and 2.5mm hex wrench clipped on the inside of one of the legs. That’s handy when you come to fit the quick release plate to the camera because the plate doesn’t have a convenient coin slot or handle.
This has proved very useful when swapping the mounting plate onto different cameras, but it’s fallen out of its holder a few times. If it’s pushed fully home, it stays put, but if it get’s nudged up a little, it’s prone to falling out if the tripod is inverted to extend or collapse the legs. I’ve actually lost the tool that came with one of the tripods and but for a keen-eyed friend, I would’ve lost the other one.
A bit more fiddling around and I discovered that if you pull down the collar around the hook at the bottom of the centre column, you can turn and remove the hook to release a phone holder. Conveniently, this holder snaps directly into the tripod head and holds a large phone like the iPhone 12 Pro very securely.
Returning to the small size of the Peak Design Travel Tripod, it slips easily into the side pocket of the average backpack. These are usually designed to hold a water bottle, and even those that are designed with a tripod in mind can often only house a couple of legs. The Peak Design Travel Tripod slips right in.
Because of that compactness and the fact that the carbon fibre tripod weighs just 1.27Kg, I have carried one with me on numerous walks on the off-chance I might need it. It’s a regular feature of my kit when I’m out for a day with my camera, or for a day of testing camera gear. On some occasions, I have even forgotten it was there.
When you come to use the Travel Tripod, the leg clips on one leg can all be flipped open easily in one movement, so it’s deployed and ready for use in moments.
Initially, I found the tripod head a bit on the fiddly side. It has two rings, one to lock the plate in place and the other to lock the head movement. At first, I always seemed to reach for the wrong one. However, when you locate the correct ring, both do their job well, locking the camera in place securely. After regular use, you get used the design and reach for the correct ring.
As I mentioned earlier, Peak Design supplies a neat little bag with the Travel Tripod. This is slightly stretchy but it’s a snug fit. So snug, in fact, that you have to ensure that the tripod head is correctly aligned so that the centre column can collapse down fully before you can close the zip completely. Nevertheless, it’s handy if you want to travel very light with your camera on one strap and the tripod on another. On most occasions, however, I’ve carried the tripod without the bag and slipped into a backpack tripod/drink pocket.
As is traditional with a tripod review, my first test of the Peak Design Travel Tripod was to extend the three legs to their maximum length and settle it on the ground before trying to wiggle and wobble the legs. Naturally, there is a bit of give, but I was surprised by how stable it is. The carbon fibre and aluminium versions are indistinguishable in this respect – although naturally the aluminium legs feel colder to the touch.
After that, I started to use the tripod routinely for my photography and it coped well with everything.
Wanting to give it a bit more of a challenge, I took it with me to the coast and mounted the Nikon Z7 on it with the Nikon Nikkor Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S fitted. Wanting to give the tripod a fair chance and to keep everything balanced, I used the lens’ tripod foot and collar as the mounting point.
As the tripod coped with ‘normal’ exposures, I mounted a neutral density filter on the lens to take the exposure to 15 seconds in length. There was a pretty stiff breeze blowing, but the shots are completely sharp.
I was shooting with the centre column down and at the 110mm point on the lens, but it’s a very impressive performance, especially for a such a lightweight tripod.
I’ve also used the Peak Design Travel Tripod to support the Fujifilm GFX100S. As digital medium format cameras go, the Fuji GFX100S is pretty small and light, but it’s body still weighs 900g with a battery and memory card and the lenses are substantial. Nevertheless, the tripod was able to hold the camera steady enough to capture images of blurred moving water with exposures of between 1/3-1.8sec with a breeze that caused foliage to blur. I didn’t get a 100% hit rate, but it wasn’t bad. I even managed a few sharp images in portrait orientation, but this is more of a challenge as it tests your ability to tighten the quick release plate on the camera.
In fact, the only situation in which I’ve found the carbon fibre Peak Design Tripod wanting is when the feet are on a slick surface such as a tiled or wooden floor. If you press hard on the tripod’s shoulders, the feet slip and the legs start to splay slightly. Obviously, that’s not really a problem for photography because the camera weight is constant, but it’s something to bear in mind when you’re setting the tripod up. If you push down, you need to allow for the legs to creep back together before you take any shots.
The aluminium tripod fairs better in this regard and I couldn’t get the legs to slip.
Which version of Peak Design Travel Tripod should I buy, Carbon Fiber or Aluminum?
I’ve often been asked if I think the carbon fibre Peak Design Travel Tripod is worth the extra expense over the aluminium version. It’s a very fair question as the carbon fibre version is close to twice the price of the aluminium one. In terms of support, I don’t think there is much, if any, difference between the two – or not that I have been able to detect.
Weight-wise, however, the aluminium tripod weighs 290g more. That’s a difference of around 23%, but it’s less than a 500ml bottle of water weighs (500ml water weighs 500g). Picking up the tripods, the extra weight of the aluminium version is apparent, but what’s more interesting, is whether you can detect the difference in the weight when you’re carrying the tripod with other kit.
To test this, I loaded a backpack (the Wandrd Prvke21) with three cameras and four lenses and a few other bits. The combined weight of the gear and backpack camera to around 13lbs / 5.9Kg.
With the pack on my back, I then asked my parter to put one of the Peak Design Travel tripods into the tripod holder before removing it and swapping it for the other one to see if I could detect the difference in weight. To my surprise, I could instantly tell which of the tripods he had put in the pocket. So yes, the extra weight of the aluminium tripod is noticeable.
Whether you are prepared to pay the extra cost for the weight reduction, however, is another matter.
If you want the Peak Design Travel Tripod for its compact size and performance, and you don’t plan to carry it far on foot, then the aluminium version is the obvious choice. If however, you’re looking for a tripod that you can carry when you’re walking for long periods of time, or over long distances, then the carbon fibre version is the more appealing of the two if you can bear the cost.
I doubted the Peak Design Travel Tripod when it first arrived but it quickly showed its mettle. The head is a bit quirky and takes some getting used to, but it’s very compact and it locks the camera in place securely. And while the lower sections of the legs look very thin, both the carbon fibre and aluminium versions of the tripod are very stable.
After using the carbon fibre Peak Design Travel Tripod in a wide range of situations, I think it’s one of the best tripods I’ve ever used and probably the best travel tripod, but the aluminium one makes a great alternative at a much more attractive price.
Although it comes with an extra 290g in weight, it’s tempting to opt for the aluminium version to save over £200 / $200. Many photographers might be willing to accept that, but smaller people, and those who want to walk with the tripod a lot, may wish to look at the longer-term benefit and spend the extra cash on the carbon fibre version.
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