Starting Photography : Don’t buy a Travel Tripod

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Ever get caught up with the traveller tripod series? Ever since Gitzo launched their traveler tripod series, the photography world has suddenly gone crazy over foldable traveler tripods. And even more so are the brands competing to produce smaller tripods that can be extended to be as tall as possible.

But how small should we go on a tripod? And why are small tripods bad for your photography?


Why we say don’t buy a travel tripod? : it’s the size

The problem of a foldable tripod isn’t its folding, the lever release nor the screw locks, but the size. With many tripod brands pushing for smaller tripods as a unique selling point, the question is, do we actually need smaller traveller tripods?

Recent ads on traveller tripods show them as short as 34 cm folded. However, that translates to only about 115 to 120 cm extended. Now, for an average Asian man photographer who stands at 160 to 170 cm, the tripod should ideally be about 135 to 150 centimeters without the ball head and camera fixed on.

don't buy a travel tripod


Did you know that the Center Column matters?

However, due to the these traveller tripods being on the short side when extended, we would need to definitely extend the center column. And doing so, we suddenly introduce vibration into your tripod.

According to the detailed markins vibration test, every single bit of your tripod matters, even if your residential expert photographer tells you otherwise. The detailed test, which was done using a laser vibrometer also agrees with our other article, on why you should avoid cheap tripods.

If you click on the link, you would notice that on the sample Gitzo tripod, without the center column, you would get a higher natural frequency and a narrower envelope. This results in a stiffer system.

Now, in that test, the center column was not extended. However, if we were to extend the center column of the short traveller tripod, we can be sure the vibration amplitude would be longer and stronger. That would translate into more camera shake, and like what we wrote on why you should not buy a cheap tripod, camera shake causes even the best cameras and lenses to not perform at it’s best ability.

travel tripod 3
What happens if you extended the Center Column?

Now, imagine if you have a D3 and a 24-70 or a 70-200 and you carry a Gitzo traveler tripod or a competing solution from some China brand due to weight. And then you noticed your shots aren’t as sharp as you are used to? Even with a remote trigger and high ISO settings, your shots are still affected by the DSLR mirror vibration.

markins center column


What should I do?

  • For best results, best is to buy a larger tripod that extends to about ten to fifteen centimeters from your eye level, as for the reasons mentioned above.
  • Do not use the center column if possible. Even better if you could replace it, as that will cut the vibration on the tripod.
  • If you are travelling and absolutely need a light tripod, be ready for compromises in image quality.
  • Consider mirror-less systems, such as the Olympus Pen series and the Fuji X series.
Leo Koo

Leo Koo

Founder, Writer, Tech Evangelist at TechGarage
Avid techie. Excited about Photography, Technology, Ecommerce and Jesus. I write on TechGarage.my. Follow me at Google Plus
Leo Koo