Reviews |SmallRig FreeRover Carbon Fiber Photo Tripod Kit AP-100 review

SmallRig FreeRover Carbon Fiber Photo Tripod Kit AP-100 review

Compact, Innovative Design Meets Versatile, High-Quality Photographic Needs

SmallRig FreeRover Sony A7 IV

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Our Verdict

The SmallRig FreeRover Carbon Fiber Photo Tripod Kit AP-100 reflects the recent shift in travel tripod design pioneered by the Peak Design Travel Tripod. Gone are the lightweight, flimsy, and cheap models that once flooded the market; in their place, a new wave of high-quality travel supports has emerged. The overall design and quality of the manufacturer, typically SmallRig, feature beautifully finished metalwork mixed with carbon fibre tubes.

In use, the FreeSpeed Rotate design enables a single twist to extend or retract all leg sections, operating similarly to a hiking pole. Additional features such as the decent-sized bag hook, Arca-compatible base plate, and standard foot options make this a commendable choice.


  • Lightweight yet robust design
  • Versatile shooting capabilities
  • Innovative FreeSpeed Rotate adjustment


  • Limited maximum height
  • Complexity for beginners
  • Centre column difficult to remove from head

What is the SmallRig FreeRover Carbon Fiber Photo Tripod Kit AP-100?

The SmallRig FreeRover Carbon Fiber Photo Tripod Kit AP-100 is a mid-range travel tripod designed for both photography and videography. Its overall build and choice of materials mirror those used by the popular Peak Design Travel Tripod. Although it bears a resemblance, SmallRig has innovated as usual to distinguish this product.

The standout feature of this tripod is the FreeSpeed Rotate design, which allows a single twist lock to release and tighten all leg sections simultaneously. This design significantly speeds up both setup and packing.

Similar designs have been seen previously by Benro and Manfrotto, but the quality of application here is definitely a notch higher, with the tripod feeling solid and stable in use.

The design is tailored for travellers or those seeking a lightweight and user-friendly tripod for all types of image capture. Priced at $239 / £239 at the time of writing, it sits in the mid-range of travel tripods, competing directly with the more expensive Peak Design Travel Tripod and similarly priced Neewer TP62.

SmallRig FreeRover ground height


  • Material: Carbon Fiber, Aluminum Alloy, Stainless Steel, ABS
  • Product Size: 490.0 × 76.0 x 76.0mm
  • Storage Length: 49cm
  • Weight: 1380g
  • Max Load: 15kg (Tripod), 8kg (Tripod Head)
  • Height Range: 13 – 150cm
  • Features: Multi-Angle Legs, Quick Release Hook, One-Click Central Column Lock

Build and Handling

The SmallRig FreeRover Carbon Fiber Photo Tripod Kit AP-100 is immediately striking with its carbon fibre tubes, sizeable twist grips, and compact ball head on top. Initial impressions are excellent, with the quality of the design and finish really standing out.

Examining the tripod, several features instantly catch the eye. Starting at the top is the compact ball head, featuring an ARCA Swiss-style base plate. A large twist lock secures the plate in place.

Below this lock is a lever lock that releases and secures the small ball head. Unlike some competitors, this ball head can be used even when the central column is fully retracted. The lever lock design is well-made, but, like the Arca Swiss base plate lock, it feels a bit primitive.

Working down to the crown, there are the leg angle adjusters. These simply pull out to unlock, allowing the leg angle to be adjusted. A nice touch here is the sprung angle adjuster locks, which automatically snap back into place once released.

The most innovative part of this tripod is the mechanics behind the leg locks. At first glance, the four-leg sections with three twist locks seem standard, but then you’ll notice the last one is slightly larger and trimmed in gold. The other two grips are machined metal, adding to the overall feel of quality. When erecting the tripod, simply twist this leg lock, and the other two will also release.

In our review sample, this mechanism worked well but did take a couple of weeks to loosen up a bit. The speed of the mechanism when setting up and packing down the tripod really can’t be faulted.

At the base of each leg is a small rubber foot, which can be removed to reveal a spike, making things neat.

The final part to consider in handling is the removal of the central column. This, like most, involves removing the bag hook, which features a quick-release button for fast removal. Then, at the end of the bag hook is a wrench used to unclamp the top of the central column from the column itself. Once removed, the top of the central column is placed back into the crown, allowing the tripod to be lowered to ground level.

In terms of overall build quality, the design and finish are excellent. However, some elements, such as the Arca base plate and how it’s secured, along with some of the lever locks, feel a bit primitive for a tripod that demonstrates so much innovation in other areas.

SmallRig FreeRover single leg twist


Alongside the usual stack of features such as weight and height, this tripod displays several areas of real innovation, making it a great choice for travel or everyday use.

During testing, the tripod was used with several baseplates from a range of manufacturers, including 3LT. These baseplates, as well as Cages from SmallRig, fitted the Arca clamp on the tripod head precisely, and the locking mechanism underneath secured them tightly.

A nice feature is the bubble level under the plate, which enables you to ensure the tripod head is level before mounting the camera. One downside of the head is that while you can tilt and roll, you can’t pan while maintaining the level, which can be restrictive if you shoot panoramic images.

When out and about, you want a tripod that is as versatile as possible. While panoramics might not be ideal, getting down low for abstract vantage points or macro shots is easy. The central column is quick to remove and adjust, allowing the tripod to drop to a minimum height of just 13cm. Even at this low height, the ball head still offers a good range of motion.

The adjustment in height is made possible by the four-section legs, which, along with the central column, enable a good range of heights, from almost full height at 150cm down to 15cm. These leg angles allow you to select between 23º, 55º, and 83º, offering a good range of options.
The standout feature is, of course, the FreeSpeed leg lock release system. This enables a single twist per leg to release and lock the legs. As previously mentioned, this mechanism is similar to hiking poles and makes setup and takedown extremely quick – a great solution when you’re out on hikes.

The small rubber feet at the base of the tripod proved highly effective in use, providing exceptional grip on everything from concrete and wooden floors to sand. A nice feature of these feet is that they can be unscrewed to reveal small spikes. Although the spikes are small, they seemed effective when inserted into softer ground.

SmallRig FreeRover Release head


The SmallRig FreeRover Carbon Fiber Photo Tripod Kit AP-100 is a compact travel tripod. As such, there are a few compromises in use, which become apparent if you’re accustomed to using a full-height tripod.

However, on the flip side, the compact size and lightweight nature mean you’re far more likely to have the tripod with you every day than one of the larger supports.

Throughout the test, I used the tripod in a variety of locations and for different purposes. The first was in a professional environment as a second tripod to hold cameras and lights as necessary. For this use, the speed of setup, lightweight construction, and quality of build all stood out, as did the comments about it being heavier than it looks. While this travel tripod is light, at 1.38kg, it is slightly heavier compared to other travel tripods of its size, but this additional weight is in line with other tripods of this style.

In use around the studio and on location shoots, the tripod felt good and stable, if slightly lacking in height.

Taking the tripod out on a landscape shoot, the 150cm max height was adequate for occasional use rather than professional-level; you do need that extra height. However, the build quality and stability of the tripod (with the central column down) were impressive, and the tripod was fast and easy to set up and use to compose the Sony A7 IV for the shot. The lack of panoramic rotation was a bit frustrating, although a less accurate rotation by releasing the entire ball head is possible.

For added stability, attaching the bag to the bag hook was easy enough, and the large hook was a real asset.

Throughout the testing period, I used the tripod on a mix of professional shoots and weekend hikes. I found that while I liked the tripod, it is definitely one that I would categorize in the enthusiast’s arena. The build quality is excellent and provides almost everything you could want if you’re looking for a solid outdoor-use tripod that’s lightweight to carry but offers the support you need when you need it.

For professionals, the lack of height at 150cm and no panoramic rotation limits its use.

SmallRig FreeRover full height

Final Thoughts

I really like the SmallRig FreeRover Carbon Fiber Photo Tripod Kit AP-100, although I would particularly recommend it to enthusiasts of all levels rather than professionals. The build quality throughout is excellent, and this is reflected in its use.

What really appeals to me is the fast leg action when setting up, which means you don’t need to annoy the rest of the family for too long as you set up and position the tripod to take the pictures you want. OK, it still takes a few seconds, but it’s amazing just how much time this mechanism saves.

Another nice feature that I initially needed clarification on is the Arca Swiss clamp release. This large twist lock beneath the clamp initially feels a bit primitive, but then, in use, it really highlights how simplicity can often be the best solution.

When it comes to packing down, the tripod is nicely compact and comes in a very nice fabric carry case to help keep things neat. On the back of a backpack, it does add weight, but the tripod is relatively slimline and is equivalent to other travel tripods of this quality.

Overall, this is a great choice if you’re looking for a tripod to accompany you on your travels or a good hike. There’s enough here to make it a worthwhile purchase, especially considering the quality of the build and materials used. However, do keep in mind that at 150cm and without the ability to pan, it could be a little restrictive.

SmallRig FreeRover bag