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

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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.

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