Travel + Wildlife Tripod - What do you use?

mrjoemorgan

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Keen to hear from other M43 members what tripods you use and would recommend. Not found many threads on this and trust your thoughts and advice WAY more than amazon reviews.

I do a lot of hiking and traveling, so looking for something that can go into the side pocket of my camera backpack. Want something light but not too light that it's not stable in the wind or when taking long exposures etc

Also looking for a good ball head that's good for wildlife photography with a long telephoto lens, so the ability to have friction control (so it can act a little bit like a gimbal)

Here is the shortlist from reading reviews and blogs etc.
  • Fotopro X-GO Max with FPH-62Q Ball Head
  • Sirui T-25SK T-0S Series Travel Tripod with B-00 Ball Head
  • Sirui T-1204SK T-S Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod
  • Manfrotto Befree Advanced Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod with 494 Ball Head
  • Oben CT-3535 Folding Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod with BE-208T Ball Head

Thanks in advance for your thoughts and wisdom.
 

Phocal

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I have the MeFOTO RoadTrip Carbon Fiber travel tripod and find it to work well. It's pretty light weight and folds up pretty small. I keep saying I am going to get that short center column so it can go completely flat but I have other things for that low so just have bothered. But it would be nice to have it. I actually don't mind the ball head that came with it and it's the only one I own (well I have some old huge ones from my film days). While I do use that ball head with the 300/4 or 150/2, I do have the Jobo Jr 3 gimbal for the bigger lenses and really like this gimbal. It's the perfect size for m4/3. I still have and use my old 3D printed skimmer pod but I got the Platypod Max a year ago for Christmas and have been using it and I really like it. I take it backpacking with the head from the MeFOTO as my tripod because it's small and easy to slip into the pack. The ability to strap it to things makes it very useful when backpacking and space is limited, it is a bit heavy though.
 
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Not being a wildlife photographer myself I expect that telephoto lenses are mostly used (which could be relatively heavy and need quite some stability) and more importantly I guess you would be preferably be standing upright and not bend over.

Luckily the m43 system isn't heavy, to begin with, but I guess a 300 f4 on a super-small travel tripod (Fotopro X-GO and Sirui T-25SK) would be pushing it.

I have a Sirui T-025x which comes close to the Fotopro X-GO and Sirui T-25SK.
The Sirui T-025x is my go-to travel tripod when photography isn't the goal of travel. I use it most with the Fuji X100t and it's a good fit.
But keep in mind this kind of super-compact/lightweight comes with some compromise. For instance, the Sirui T25sk only has a hight of 42.5" / 107.95 cm (without center column). I only would recommend the extended center column if there is not much wind and you really need the height (as it's not good for stability). In practice I most of the time set it up even lower as the lowest section of the 5-section legs are quite thin and don't help stability wise. As most travel tripods the legs in the most upright setting have a slightly less ideal angle (24° where a greater angle helps a lot when there is wind).
Keep in mind that I still love the tripod but you need to be aware of the compromise.

The other tripods like the Sirui T-1204SK and Manfrotto Befree Advanced Carbon Fiber Travel look to me as a better pick as 4 section legs will definitely be more stable than 5 sections (Oben CT-3535).
I have no hands-on experience with the Manfrotto but for the Sirui T-1204SK, you could pick the very good Sirui K-20ii ball head with friction control. Both could work well for your objective but I would take a very good look at the required height you need.

Or you could potentially go a different route and pick a very small tripod for general travel (I use a Manfrotto Pixi Evo2 and/or Sirui T-025x) and a bigger tripod. Because if I know my photography depends on a tripod (landscape / long exposure) I bring the full-size Sirui W-2204 with K-20ii* ball head. Huge but still somewhat packable (will fit in a carry on). It is certainly not the lightest at 2,1 kg including ball head but It is waterproof, gets up to eye level easily (without center column) and is rock solid.

Very long answer to just say: all tripods are a compromise: height/stability/packability/and price. But price isn't the biggest factor as even the most expensive RRS or Gitzo compact tripods won't outperform a bigger beefier class of tripods costing way less. I would recommend picking the top priority and look for the best specifications on the rest.

Edit: One additional remark on ball heads and friction control came to mind: there is a big benefit in using m43. I have dialed in the friction on my K-20ii ball head and now it works perfectly for all my camera/lens combinations. No need to change the friction between using the E-M1 with/without battery grip or when used with primes vs the 40-150mm pro. One friction setting just works in all situations which is super convenient!


* I would recommend specifically the second generation (k-20ii) of the K-20 ball head as the dial/controls are made of grooved metal and do not have a rubber coating (as was the case on the K-20x). The rubber coating on the controls can wear off or get slippery (over-time or in wet conditions).
 
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retiredfromlife

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Well as of recently I have three travel tripods.
First I purchased a Manfrotto Befree as I like the lever locks the best. I use this one for travel around Australia when I go by car and only do short walks and I do not plan to use the tripod.

For overseas travel I have two Sirui tripods. [both aluminium]
The A-1005 was the first one I purchased small and has a removable leg for a monopod. It ended up being too cumbersome to convert to a monopod and a bit big if I dont plan to use it. But this tripod is the smallest one I would recommend to use if you want a good steady tripod.
After my last trip away I decided the A-1005 took up too much room in my suitcase if I was only carring it just in case I needed it so I purchased their smallest one T005SK. This one has a really small head the B-00K. This one is not much difference in weight to the A-1005 but small and you can easily remove the centre post to get a really low shot.

I find the twist loks on the Sirui no where near as smooth as Manfrotto Tripods. I know a few people with BeFree tripods with twist locks to compare too.

For wildlife if I dont have to carry it far I have a Manfrotto 055 aluminium and the kit ball head. Really like this tripod. It has flip locks and is very nice to use.

I have a second tripod that could be used for wildlife that is also light enough to carry on day walks.
Last year I won [lucky door prize at camera show Darling Harbour] a sirui W-0204 with bakk head K10X that is a carbon fibre tripod. This one is light enough to carry but is a bit long to strap on a pack if the bush is even a bit thick as it will catch on everything. I got a hole in my pack where it bumped into many trees because of it's size on the side of my pack. but in open country it would be fine. The manfrotto 055 would be just as bad in thick scrub.

Well after all that semi usefull info I think out of all mine if you had anything bigger in lenses than the Panasonic 100-300 I would go for the Befree or Sirui T005SK as a minimum as both these sag a bit with the 100-300, but not too much.

The Sirui T005SK to me is a real compromise as it sags a bit more than the other two. To me this is the smallest tripod I would use apart from a tabletop tripod.

To me travel tripods and wildlife [with big lenses] sort of don't go together if there is any wind around and your shutter speed is not high.
 
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I find the twist loks on the Sirui no where near as smooth as Manfrotto Tripods.
I agree with the smaller Sirui tripods vs Manfrotto, but the Sirui twist locks on the bigger tripods are different and very good.

To me travel tripods and wildlife [with big lenses] sort of don't go together if there is any wind around and your shutter speed is not high.
Yes, it could be quite difficult to find the right balance in a travel size tripod for the purpose.
 

mrjoemorgan

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Thanks all.

@Phocal I was looking at the MeFOTO RoadTrip Carbon Fiber - seems highly regarded. How is the ball head that comes with it?

@roelwillems + @retiredfromlife - Agreed, travel tripod and wildlife tripod typically wouldn't go together, but I think with the lightness of the m43 system, I don't need a big sturdy tripod with gimbal, like I used to have with my DSLR kit. The majority of my tripod work is waterfalls and sunsets and landscapes etc. My current tripod is okay but its a cheaper Manfrotto and not very sturdy, a bit of wind and I can see movement in slow shutter images. For wildlife Ill likely only use it when in hides or sat down for long periods of time or shooting fast birds and want the stability. The ball head is the more important factor here.

So for travel/landscape - I need a strong sturdy tripod that won't shift in the wind. And for wildlife - I need a good ball head with friction control.

Sounds like the Manfrotto Befree is a popular choice. I hear the ball head that comes with it isn't great and needs replacing, so ill have to look into ball head recommendations.
 

Phocal

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Thanks all.

@Phocal I was looking at the MeFOTO RoadTrip Carbon Fiber - seems highly regarded. How is the ball head that comes with it?

@roelwillems + @retiredfromlife - Agreed, travel tripod and wildlife tripod typically wouldn't go together, but I think with the lightness of the m43 system, I don't need a big sturdy tripod with gimbal, like I used to have with my DSLR kit. The majority of my tripod work is waterfalls and sunsets and landscapes etc. My current tripod is okay but its a cheaper Manfrotto and not very sturdy, a bit of wind and I can see movement in slow shutter images. For wildlife Ill likely only use it when in hides or sat down for long periods of time or shooting fast birds and want the stability. The ball head is the more important factor here.

So for travel/landscape - I need a strong sturdy tripod that won't shift in the wind. And for wildlife - I need a good ball head with friction control.

Sounds like the Manfrotto Befree is a popular choice. I hear the ball head that comes with it isn't great and needs replacing, so ill have to look into ball head recommendations.
I honestly thin it's the perfect tripod for me. I also disagree with the need for a travel and wildlife tripod, one can and does fill the need of both. Take my tripod for example. It is more than sturdy enough for 15-30 minute exposure (probably longer, just haven't done any longer than 30 minutes) and light enough for travel. The only problem is that you either have to bend over to use it or use the center column, which isn't as steady. I could have gotten a higher one but than the weight goes up and I have had no problems with using it with the center column fully collapsed (it's why I need to get the short one since I never extend it). I don't need anything more sturdy for m4/3, but I do still have a big sturdy aluminum one from my film days if I ever need something super super full frame sturdy.

For wildlife it is perfect. It's light enough that I don't mind adding it to my pack when heading out for the day and it's more than steady enough for the 300/4. I don't feel like you need a super steady photograph for wildlife, it's more something to hold the lens when you get tired. The ball head with the MeFOTO I find more than adequate for the 300/4 but I do prefer the Jobo Jr Gimbal just because of the movements you tend to do while following wildlife. The Gimbal is actually pretty light, but I don't always take it because a lot of times I know I will probably not use it.
 

mrjoemorgan

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Thanks @Phocal that's good to know. I found a MeFOTO GlobeTrotter 64.2" Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod on eBay second hand for a great price, it seems very similar to the Roadtrip. It's a tiny bit heavier and goes a little taller.

Might get that and then find a good ball head to pair with it.
 

Phocal

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Thanks @Phocal that's good to know. I found a MeFOTO GlobeTrotter 64.2" Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod on eBay second hand for a great price, it seems very similar to the Roadtrip. It's a tiny bit heavier and goes a little taller.

Might get that and then find a good ball head to pair with it.
I went back and forth on size when I got mine. I went with the one I got for it's collapsed length. My Anja photo backpack has these pockets on the side that go the full length of the pack and I wanted a tripod that would fulling fit inside. Hate carrying tripods external of the pack because they catch on everything.
 

Acraftman

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I have a mefroto Q1 with the ball head the upside to it is its 151/2" collapsed so it fits in my carry on with my camera gear, it also has the detachable leg that can be used as a monopod and comes with rubber and spiked feet. I recently bought the mc-20 teleconverter for my 40-150 and picked up a telescoping rifle support for like $10 at academy it weighs probably less than a 10 oz extends from 20 to 72" and has a Y type support that comes in handy when I just want a quick tele shot while hiking.
 

oldracer

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I have a Benro carbon "Travel Flat." This is kind of an unusual design where the legs fold flat instead of folding into a sort of cylinder. (http://www.benrousa.com/travel-series/travel-flat.aspx#C2182TB1) with a monopod conversion leg. It's a brilliant design and saves gobs of carrying space but like other such unusual designs from time to time it doesn't seem to have gotten traction in the marketplace. They are around, though.

I sold off the Benro ball head that came with it and use an Acratech with their lever type clamp. Light weight, very smooth, and quick to mount/demount a camera. The lever locks, so its difficult to accidentally drop the camera, unlike the RRS lever.
 

ac12

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Also looking for a good ball head that's good for wildlife photography with a long telephoto lens, so the ability to have friction control (so it can act a little bit like a gimbal)
IMHO, a ball head and gimbal are two very different heads.
I have ball head and later got a gimbal head, because the ball head just did not do what I needed to do. For what I was doing, I NEEDED a gimbal head, NOT a ball head.
  • The ball head moves in ALL axis at once, including leaning/flipping over to the side (L/R horizon tilt axis). Because it lets the camera lean to the side, I rarely got a level image. So I had to shoot wide, to leave enough space around the subject, to level the image in post.
  • The gimbal moves in H and V axis in a more controlled way, and importantly, the camera won't lean to the side. So once the tripod is leveled, all my images are level.
For tracking a moving subject, I find that a gimbal is MUCH easier to use, than a ball head. Primarily because it does not let the camera lean to the side, as I tracked the subject.
To make my ball head easy enough to track a moving subject, the camera easily leaned to the side also.

If you think you may want a gimbal head, make sure that the tripod you get has a removable head, with a 3/8 inch stud, so that you can swap heads.

Warning, a gimbal head is rather bulky.
 

mrjoemorgan

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Thanks @ac12 for the insight - yep two very different systems. Gimbal is large and heavy and overkill for what I need. For Wildlife its either something for the camera to rest on, or if I'm tracking, then I put the ball head on the side into the slot, undo the tripod ring on the telephoto and have it give the flexibility of tracking. Its not the best, but sometimes when I needed to be steady it works (and is much smaller and lighter than a gimbal)
 

ac12

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Thanks @ac12 for the insight - yep two very different systems. Gimbal is large and heavy and overkill for what I need. For Wildlife its either something for the camera to rest on, or if I'm tracking, then I put the ball head on the side into the slot, undo the tripod ring on the telephoto and have it give the flexibility of tracking. Its not the best, but sometimes when I needed to be steady it works (and is much smaller and lighter than a gimbal)
Cool idea.
Never thought of trying something like that.
I got to try it now.
 

mrjoemorgan

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Cool idea.
Never thought of trying something like that.
I got to try it now.
The only downside depends on the size of your camera setup and tripod used, you can hit your hands on the legs or get a little stuck in movement as its all so close to the tripod head.
 

ralf-11

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forget the cheap tripods as you will wind up buying them twice

get the Gitzo Traveler and the Markins ballhead made for it
 

teacher447

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Thanks @Phocal that's good to know. I found a MeFOTO GlobeTrotter 64.2" Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod on eBay second hand for a great price, it seems very similar to the Roadtrip. It's a tiny bit heavier and goes a little taller.

Might get that and then find a good ball head to pair with it.

I'm using the Mefoto globetrotter CF. It is not the lightest tripod around but it is sturdy. The largest lens that I have use on it is an old Canon 85-300mm 4.5 with my M5 mark l. I purchased it from a chinese web site on Aliexpress for $220. They make a 4 legged Globtrotter model which is not sold in the US. It 's a bit longer when collapsed, but it should be a bit sturdier.
 

mrjoemorgan

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One thing I have always wondered is weight v sturdiness. Shooting with the EM1.2 and 7-14mm or 12-40mm means there is not much weight on the tripod. Pair that with the 2.6lb tripod and some wind, is a 10-second exposure going to just blur?
 
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Phocal

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One thing I have always wondered if weight v sturdiness. Shooting with the EM1.2 and 7-14mm or 12-40mm means there is not much weight on the tripod. Pair that with the 2.6lb tripod and some wind, is a 10-second exposure going to just blur?
It can, that's why if it's windy I just hang my pack from the hook on the bottom of the center column.
 
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