Carbon fibre tripods are great for the photographer on the go. Eight of the best rated…
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 flip side 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 wintry weather.
Some of the latest ‘travel tripods’ extend to a greater maximum operating height than competing full-sized models. To enable a relatively small stowage size, they generally have four sections in each leg rather than three. Models in this test group include the Benro Go Plus Travel, Kenro Ultimate Travel, Manfrotto 190go! and the Novo Explorer. Of these, the Benro, Kenro and Novo add another space-saving trick. Instead of folding them down in the usual manner, you can extend the centre column to its maximum height, and then swing the legs fully upwards so that the feet encircle the head. This typically saves an extra 20cm or so in the overall folded height.
To enable low-level shooting, all of the tripods on test feature multi-angle legs, so you can splay them wide and reduce the height that you’re shooting from. The limiting factor is the centre column, which will come into contact with the ground. To get around that problem, the Benro Mach3 and Novo tripods on test are supplied with a short, stubby centre column, which you can use instead of the full-length centre column. The Velbon has a centre column that’s split near the top, so you can simply unscrew the lower section.
Other tripods in the group have a pivoting centre column. Typically, this enables you to rotate it through 90 degrees and use the centre column as a horizontal boom. It’s ideal for low-level shooting and great for extreme close-ups. It’s also useful for shooting with ultrawide-angle or fisheye lenses, as you can avoid the tripod feet creeping into the image.
Of the tripods on test, the Kenro Ultimate Travel and both Manfrotto models enable the centre column to be used in upright or horizontal mode. The Benro Go Plus Travel and Vanguard tripods offer a greater level of versatility, as their centre columns can rotate through a 180-degree arc, being locked firmly at a number of angles along the way. Let’s take a closer look at what they have to offer.
Another bonus of carbon fibre is that it tends to be better than aluminium at soaking up or ‘damping’ vibrations