Super Test: Carbon tripods
When it comes to tripods, you can’t beat carbon fibre for a touch of class and weight reduction. Matthew Richards searches out the best buys
Support your DSLR in style with new lightweight carbon legs
For most photographers, the perfect tripod should offer solid support with a lofty maximum operating height, yet fold down reasonably small for stowing away, and it shouldn’t be overly heavy. After all, nobody wants to lug around more weight than they need to. Big, heavy tripods are often left at home when we go out on a shoot, making them completely useless. The flipside is that small, lightweight tripods that are easy to carry can have a disappointingly short operating height, as well as being comparatively flimsy and prone to vibration.
When it comes to the choice of material for tripod legs and, in many case the centre column as well, carbon fibre has distinct advantages over aluminium. It’s impressively rigid yet lighter in weight to the extent that most ‘full-sized’ carbon tripod kits (including head) are about 20 per cent lighter than their aluminium counterparts. In some cases, however, the weight saving can be as little as 10 per cent, and it can be negligible for very small tripods.
Another bonus of carbon fibre is that it tends to be better than aluminium at soaking up or ‘damping’ vibrations, which can be a problem when shooting outdoors in breezy conditions, or next to a road that’s busy with traffic. Carbon fibre also feels less cold to the touch than aluminium when shooting in the colder wintry weathers.
The lines of distinction between full-sized tripods and ‘travel’ tripods have become increasingly blurred recently. Indeed, some ‘travel tripods’ extend to a greater maximum operating height than competing full-sized models. Ultimately, you’re best off looking for a tripod that has the features you need and, with that in mind, we’ve picked out some of the most attractive buys on the market.