Recommended Small and Lightweight Tripod
Recommending a tripod really depends on usage.
I have eight tripods of varying sizes, acquired over the years, including four Really Right Stuff tripods (preferred) and five Gitzos (which I rarely use now): the GT0530, G1228, G1325, GT3540XLS, G1548.
Update July 2011: I no longer recommend most Gitzo tripods for professional use. Besides falling apart with nearly a month to repair, and overpriced non-functional models, the Really Right Stuff carbon fiber tripods are much superior in build.
Ultra light — GT 0531
The GT 0530 (about $469) has three (3) leg sections, which is generally preferable to four, for increased rigidity. It is a high quality all-around choice. Gitzo has revised it to the GT0531, which is pretty much the same.
This is a compromise tripod:
- Height is only belly button high.
- Weight bearing is no problem, but a big camera can be very top-heavy, and thus prone to tilting over and smashing your camera and lens.
- It’s awfully nice to have something this light.
- Watch out for vibration from wind.
Height and weight
Weight with head is what counts. Heavier than I’d like, but very light as such things go. Light enough to hang through a belt on one’s pants for easy access.
Weight: 667 grams (as weighed) Max height: 42.1" / 107cm Folded length: 20.9" / 53cm
At 667 grams (1.5 lbs), it is light enough to hang through a belt loop to be available when you need it, and not even noticed until then
Height is about belly button high, a serious compromise.
One head I really like is the Acratech GP-ss. It is a full featured and very well made compact ballhead whose controls generally provide better knob and lens clearance than the RRS smaller heads.
That rises to 851g (1.9 lbs) with the diminutive (and minimal feature) Really Right Stuff BH-25 head. The BH-25 requires care with a DSLR, so stick with something a little bigger for most uses.
A head that fits nicely on it is the Really Right Stuff BH-30 + B2-Pro II = 338g. With that combo, weight is 1189 (2.6 pounds), which falls safely into the ultra light category and very easy to carry.
The diminutive Really Right Stuff BH-25 has minimal features, but it requires extra care with a large DSLR (flop), so I find it not as versatile. Perfect for the Leica M9 however, and it weighs only 184g with clamp, so it cuts the total weight down to 667 + 184 = 851g.
You can use a large DSLR on this tripod with care—I do—but be careful about it flopping over.
Unlike older Gitzos, the legs do not rotate. This makes it possible to lock or unlock the legs in any order, leading to much faster setup and takedown of the legs. This is a great feature!
Locking/unlocking each section is also easier, since one doesn’t have to over-tighten one section to avoid twisting. Setup/takedown is a time-waster with a tripod, hence it is a high priority for those who shoot-and-go.
In the field
This is a good choice for a compromise between tall and sturdy vs lightweight. It can handle any large DSLR without difficulty, but should not be used for 200mm and longer lenses, it has too much resonance. This is true of all tripods in its range, don’t screw around with a tripod this size for 200mm and longer lenses, though the consumer grade f/3.5 - f/5.6 ones fare better than the higher quality pro lenses.