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Manfrotto Befree Compact Tripod Review

Shooting seascapes with the Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 17-40 and the Manfrotto Befree

The Manfrotto Befree Compact tripod is an affordable tripod catering for people not looking to break the bank with yet another photography accessory or for those looking for something light on their next trip. Coming in at[amazon_link asins=’B00COLBNTK’ template=’PriceLink’ store=’alexwisephot-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ b4541cc8-ffea-11e6-b74f-1b8225fab6ab’], the Manfrotto is lightweight (2.4kg/5.3), easy to carry and can support a reasonable camera load.

Manfrotto Befree Compact Tripod
Manfrotto Befree Compact Tripod in all its glory

The Manfrotto Befree tripod was my first entry into the compact tripod range so I was keen to write a review with the positives and negatives for anyone else looking to add something more portable to their gear. 

What makes a good travel tripod?

I’m the first to admit it – I treat my tripods terribly and I’m constantly reminding myself (and ignoring my own advice) that I need to take better care of my tripods rather than let them erode away from salt water. Over the last 10~ years I’ve worked through 3 tripods which have succumbed to death by salt water (not too bad I thought?) which has given me a reasonable understanding of what makes a good tripod (and how to waste money…)

So what makes a good travel tripod? I’ve touched on this in detail in a post where I compared some of the best travel tripods on the market before I purchased the Manfrotto Befree tripod but some of the key call outs from this post:

  1. Manfrotto befree travel bag
    Included with the Manfrotto Befree is this travel bag which you can conveniently sling over your shoulder

    Portability – A good travel tripod should be portable in both its size and weight. Generally you want something that’s no bigger than 20-24 inches when folded or more than 2.5kg in weight. The reason being is that you want something you can quickly store away in your carry baggage or strap to your bag. With normal tripods, some of these can be quite bulky which makes strapping to your bag quite difficult and awkward

  2. The Manfrotto Befree is tiny (ignore my pasty arms..!)

    Extend to a reasonable height – While not a deal breaker for me as I prefer to shoot from lower angles, your tripod should be able to extend to a reasonable height (good for when you’re stuck behind a viewing platform where there is a high fence blocking the view). Generally being able to extend to at least 50 inches without needing to extend the centre column is a good height. I prefer not to extend the centre column when I can avoid it as it’s not as stable in windy conditions.

  3. Ability to hold a reasonable load – You want something that can handle itself for different conditions whether that be supporting your camera with a lightweight wide angle lens all the way to a versatile zoom lens like the Canon 70-200. As an example, if you were to hold the Canon 5D Mark III and Canon 70-200 2.8 IS, this works out to be around 2.4kg. Most compact travel tripods are able to handle this load but just something worth noting and considering when looking at travel tripods as this is one area where they can really vary. 

With these items in mind, how does the Manfrotto tripod fare? To be honest, actually really well considering the price.

Manfrotto Befree Compact Travel Tripod

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  • Weighing in at 2.4kg or 5.3 pounds you barely know this is in your bag.
  • Coming in at[amazon_link asins=’B00COLBNTK’ template=’PriceLink’ store=’alexwisephot-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ 20554f82-008d-11e7-baf1-b3ee293d6cb5′], Manfrotto branded tripods don’t come much cheaper than the Befree range. This is great value for the money.
  • Holds a reasonable weight of 4kg making it more than up for the job of holding a heavy setup like the Canon 5D Mark III and Canon 70-200 which comes in at 2.4kg
  • Included travel case is useful for when travelling and on the move. Being able to store the tripod in a bag and put over your shoulder is handy as this thing is tiny. For comparison sake, have a look at the size difference compared to my shoe.
  • Centre column can be inverted for macro photography or to get low for unique angles

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  • Stability issues when the centre column is fully extended
  • Time consuming to pack away into travel bag
  • Ballhead is limited for panoramic photography. As a travel tripod you will be no doubt wanting to capture the occasional panoramic of a scene. Generally a 3 way tripod head (like this [amazon_textlink asin=’B014Q0RGK6′ text=’Manfrotto 3 way head’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’alexwisephot-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ 945bd8ed-008f-11e7-9969-71848c336c93′]) works better for panoramic photos where you’re able to fine tune the movements of the photo. 
  • No hook on the centre column to add weight to balance it in strong winds. With past tripods I would clip my camera bag to the tripod to add some additional support. Unfortunately this isn’t possible with the Manfrotto Befree but if you get creative I’m sure there’s DIY ways of adding a hook to make it more stable.

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 [amazon box=”B00COLBNTK” title=”Manfrotto Befree Compact Tripod” rating=”4″ reviews=”1″]

The Manfrotto Befree compact is a great tripod for the money. With some of the cons listed above, these are only natural trade offs that come with choosing to purchase a compact sized tripod. For some, having a tripod that is lightweight and portable will be enough to outweigh being constrained when it comes to panorama photography. 

Shooting seascapes with the Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 17-40 and the Manfrotto Befree
Shooting seascapes with the Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 17-40 and the Manfrotto Befree

After using the tripod a few times in different conditions from a windy afternoon at Cape Schanck (a seascape location) to walking around Melbourne on dusk taking long exposures, I’ve found the tripod to be a good all rounder and I’m glad I made the purchase. I’ve noticed when the tripod is fully extended with the centre column out, this can make the tripod feel slightly unstable and not something I’d be keen to leave the camera on unattended on in windy conditions.

Manfrotto befree ballhead
The included ballhead which comes with the Manfrotto Befree while good… Does have its limitations.

If being able to have the tripod extended to its maximum in windy conditions is important to you then perhaps a more sturdier and heavier tripod is more for you. But with that said though, I can’t think of how often I ever shoot with the tripod fully extended and I’m sure this is similar for most people.

So all in all, this is a great tripod and worth the purchase price for anyone looking for a lightweight tripod to take away on their next trip. 

By purchasing the [amazon_textlink asin=’B00COLBNTK’ text=’Manfrotto Befree through Amazon’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’alexwisephot-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ 1a12d0b2-0133-11e7-b715-d538e5bb178f’] not only provides you with Amazon’s competitive pricing but also supports my blog at the same time (costing you nothing :)). A big thank you if you do decide to purchase through my affiliate link.

If you have any questions about the tripod feel free to drop a message as I’d be more than happy to help.

Thanks for reading,

Alex

Posted on 7 Comments

Long Exposure Filters Buying Guide

Neutral density filters are a great way to get creative and explore long exposure photography. With most manipulation to a photograph happening during post processing, it’s a refreshing change being able to get creative in camera with the various effects of long exposure photography.  The purpose of this article is to give you an overview of long exposure filters, how they work and what’s best based on your budget. 

Personally I recommend the NiSi long exposure kit paired with the NiSi’s circular polariser for anyone looking for the perfect long exposure filter kit. Whilst a bit on the pricey side, you are getting high quality filters that won’t affect your image quality which can be an issue with colour cast issues which comes with other brands like Cokin or Hitech. 

What is Long Exposure Photography?

An example of where a neutral density filter was used to slow down a moving object while keeping surrounding objects sharp

Before we start talking about the pros and cons of different neutral density filters, let’s get back to the basics for a moment. Long exposure photography or slow shutter photography, is where your camera uses a slower shutter speed to blur moving objects in your shot while keeping other parts of your image sharp and in focus.

Let’s look at this with a real world example of a long exposure image from Flinders Street Station. By using a slower shutter speed, I’ve been able to blur the passing traffic while the rest of the frame is sharp and in focus. This is just one of  the various styles of long exposures you can capture. My long exposure photography ideas has many more styles for you to explore from waterfalls to dark starry night skies, long exposures can be used at any time during the day with or without filters. 

What is a Neutral Density Filter?

Circular or Rectangle? 

Example of a rectangle neutral density filter setup

If you asked me this question 2-3 years ago when the Lee Big Stopper and NiSi rectangular circular polariser didn’t exist, I would have suggested stacking a mix of both circular 10 stop neutral density filter like the B+W 110 10 stopper and a rectangle graduated neutral density filter like the Cokin Z-Pro .9 filter on top of one another.

It was a painful process where you would screw your strong B+W 10 stop filter on first, then screw the filter holder adapter, mount the filter holder on top of this and then finally, slide your graduated filter through the filter holder. Fortunately things have come a long way with neutral density filters and circular polariser filters coming in rectangle form which leads to left stuffing around.

The reason I personally prefer going rectangle is that it makes changing filters a breeze and your process isn’t slowed having to screw/unscrew filters to setup for a shot (not so much when your fingers are frozen!). Instead you’re able to just slide your filters in or out of the filter holder and you’re away (literally a 2-3 second job). Much better. But the old way still works with that said 🙂

Example of a circular neutral density filter

Quick and Easy to Change

But this isn’t just about me being a princess and feeling the cold, having the ability to quickly change and remove filters is great when shooting with the more stronger neutral density filters (like the 15 stop Lee Big Stopper). 

Due to the filter being so dark, you’re unable to look through the viewfinder and compose your image when the filter is attached. This leads you having to take off the filter to compose and focus your photo and then re-attach. There’s been many times when I’ve accidentally left the autofocus on after screwing my B+W 10 stop and Cokin graduated neutral density filters on and then lost my focus as the camera can’t find a focus point (due to the strength of the filter). This can be especially frustrating when using a rectangle graduated neutral density filter on top of a circular screw filter as you not only have to remove the circular screw filter but also the lens screw adapter and rectangle filter holder. Instead if you were using just a rectangular system, there’s no unscrewing to recompose your image but just sliding your filters in or out. Much more convenient if you ask me! 

Greater Control

Another issue with circular screw on filters is controlling the location of the GND transition. As the transition isn’t as pronounced it can sometimes be difficult to get the GND exactly how you want it especially in low light conditions like sunrise or sunset. For this reason, I much prefer using rectangle filters where the graduation is more pronounced and can be easier to slot into place regardless of light conditions.

What Strength Level?

For this image I used a graduated neutral density filter to darken the sky

Neutral density filters come in all levels of strengths from blocking out 1 stop of light all the way up to blocking out 15 stops with the Lee Big Stopper. Deciding on what strength neutral density filter to use depends on your scene in terms of light conditions and what you are trying to achieve. 

If you are simply looking to balance the sunset sky against the land then the strength of your neutral density filter will depend on the light conditions at the time. If you’re shooting at the start of the sunset when there is still strong light, this is when you would look to apply a stronger strength neutral density filter. Towards the end of the sunset is when you would look to pull out a weaker strength neutral density filter as the light starts to fade. 

From personal experience – I’ll generally use my 10 stop filter for the first 15-30 minutes of the sunset but will put it away as the light starts to fade. I find as the light rapidly fades the filter really struggles to capture enough light and you’re left having to increase your ISO to accomodate the low light conditions which introduces unwanted noise. At this point I’ll either use a 6 stop neutral density filter or just shoot wide (F22~) at the lowest ISO possible (ISO 50) to get the slow long exposure times I’m after.

Using a 10 stop neutral density filter allowed me to capture this 5 minute exposure during the day

If you are looking to get creative with your photography and capture long exposures during the day (we’re talking exposure times of a few minutes) then this is when you will pull out the stronger 10+ stop neutral density filters like the Lee Big Stopper or NiSi 10 stopper.

By using these filters which block out a significant amount of light, you won’t be able to see through the viewfinder when the filter is applied due to the strength of the filter which can make composing a bit tricky. 

What is a Graduated Neutral Density Filter?

How soft, hard and reverse graduated neutral density filters are best applied.
How soft, hard and reverse graduated neutral density filters are best applied.

The difference between a graduated neutral density filter and a solid neutral density filter is that part of the filter will be neutral density (dark) and then transition into transparent (clear). The transition from dark to clear comes in different variations including soft edge, hard edge and reverse graduated neutral density filters which I briefly describe below:

Soft Edge GND

NiSi Soft Edge Graduated Neutral Density Filter

The top part of the filter is 100% neutral density and gradually lowers in strength to 0%.

This is my preferred type of filter and is best applied where your horizon level is uneven and you may have objects appearing above the horizon level. Generally if there are objects above the horizon which become darkened by the soft GND, you can generally dodge (brighten) this back in Lightroom/Photoshop to bring back the detail.

Pros: Great for scenes where you have objects sitting above the horizon as you can position the filter at 90° to avoid the object on the horizon
Cons: The gradual transition can be soft so occasionally you will need to stack multiple soft edge filters to get your desired effect

Hard Edge GND

NiSi Hard Edge Neutral Density Filter

The top half of the filter is neutral density and does not gradually transition to clear like the soft edge graduated neutral density filter. Hard edge graduated neutral density filters are best used in seascape photography when balancing the exposure from the sky to the land.

An example of how not to use GND filters. Notice how the filter has darkened the cliff? A big no no!

For best results, I only use hard edge graduated neutral density filters when there isn’t any objects on the horizon (i.e. surrounding cliffs). The reason being is that any objects on or above the horizon will darken which will lead to a loss in dynamic range to your final shot which can be difficult to recover in Lightroom/Photoshop.

Pros: Works great when there are only clouds above the horizon to darken the clouds nicely
Cons: The sharp transition from dark to clear makes these limited to scenes where there are no objects (i.e. cliffs) above your horizon

Reverse Level GND 

NiSi Reverse Graduated Neutral Density Filter

The reverse level graduated neutral density filter goes from clear at the top, to dark in the middle and then to clear again.

Think of a reverse level graduated neutral density filter as the ideal filter for when the sun is just about to pop on the horizon.  These aren’t as common as other graduated neutral density filters but can be handy when trying to capture the sunburst effect as the sun dips below the horizon.

Pros: Best used for sunset or sunrise photography when the sun is sitting on the horizon
Cons: Only effective when there is a sun bursting on the horizon so they become quite a specialised filter for the price

Are Neutral Density Filters Still Relevant as Technology Advances?

Most definitely!

There are some effects like day time long exposures or shooting directly into the sun on sunset which is only made possible by using neutral density filters like the Lee Big Stopper or NiSi graduated neutral density filter kit. Sure, you can imitate some of these effects in Photoshop with lots of image stacking but it’s not quite the same as capturing the image in camera. 

As technology has advanced I must admit that I’ve found myself using my graduated neutral density filters less as camera sensors have become more forgiving and post processing techniques have evolved with exposure stacking. Not only are sensors coming with higher megapixels but also with greater highlight and shadow recovery which means that you can sometimes get by without needing to use graduated neutral density filters.

A before and after with the easy to use Graduated Filter in Lightroom

Quite often I’ll apply the same effect in post using Lightroom’s graduated neutral density filter. Sure, this won’t work for every situation (i.e. when you’re shooting directly into harsh sunlight) however for other situations where you’re simply looking to emphasize the colour of a sunset sky, Lightroom’s graduated neutral density tool works great allowing you to decrease the brightness of the sky as you would with a normal graduated neutral density filter. 

Can the a digital workflow fully replace physical neutral density filters? I’ll leave that to another post but in my opinion, no, not at the moment anyway. 

Choosing Neutral Density Filters

Which Filter is Best for You?

Using a graduated neutral density filter allowed me to properly capture the light bursting on the horizon

Anyone who is serious about landscape photography needs a graduated neutral density filter and at least one strong neutral density filter in their bag. There’s a couple of reasons to why I recommend this:

  1. Flexibility in quickly changing light conditions – Having a strong neutral density filter in your kit allows you to continue taking long exposures in the later stage of a sunrise or early stage of a sunset. I’m not sure about you but there’s been many a times when I’ve photographed a sunrise and stuffed around in the dark for too long and only found a good spot to photograph as the light started to become stronger. At this point of the sunrise, it becomes harder to take a long exposure due to the amount of light hitting your camera meter. By having a strong neutral density filter available, I’m able to put this on my camera and still obtain the effect I’m after like the nice blurry movement of waves crashing against a rock
  2. Balancing harsh light in a scene – We’ve all been there, the sun is beginning to set and you want to capture an image just before the sun dips below the horizon to capture that burst of the suns last light. Unfortunately your camera has other ideas and will struggle to expose the image. This is where a graduated neutral density filter comes in handy and helps you balance the exposure of the harsh sunlight against the land
  3. Creativity – We can’t all be blessed with great light against jaw dropping locations so sometimes it takes a bit more to get that shot. In these situations sometimes I’ll experiment with a strong neutral density filter to capture a long exposure to add a bit extra to the image, whether that be the blur of passing clouds or the movement of the water. 

Neutral Density Filter Buying Guide

Showing the difference a strong neutral density filter like the Lee Big Stopper can do to your scene with this long exposure image

So taking these reasons to why I love neutral density filters, here are some of my favourite neutral density filters available at the time of writing. Unfortunately neutral density filters don’t come cheap but I’ve tried to make all attempts to include a range in different price brackets.

Like most things in life, it pays to spend and get the best you can afford as this will ensure superior image quality.With the midrange and budget price brackets, the filters aren’t perfect and can introduce colour cast to your image (a purple tinge) when using multiple filters at a time. Part of the reason the high end filters are more expensive is that because they don’t have any colour cast issues like the cheaper filters. 

My recommendation for people looking at the different price brackets and unsure – If you’ve used neutral density filters before and know they will form an essential part of your kit, just buy properly the first time. If you’re sitting on the fence and haven’t used them before, start off with the more affordable range first to see if you get a taste for them before splashing the cash. 

High End

NiSi and Lee are the producers of the best filters in the high end market. For many years, Lee had a firm grip on the market but in recent years, NiSi have started to make a presence with their filters which are slightly more affordable than the Lee range and offer just as good, if not better, quality than the Lee filters. Plus I’m a sucker for Australian based products.

If you want a great set up, I would strongly recommend the NiSi long exposure kit with comes with the required adaptor, a 6 stop and 10 stop neutral density filter. Add a circular polariser and graduated neutral density filter and you will have yourself a very nice kit. 

Yes I agree it is a lot of money to spend on filters but with this setup you will be fully equipped to photograph long exposures during the day, waterfall photography and for sunrise or sunset photography. The perfect kit for a landscape photographer. 

[amazon_link asins=’B01EZ5VCXE,B00MNSS130,B00M24Y6MU,B00KL5PHAC,B00XCHFJMW’ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’alexwisephot-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ f80d1787-f75f-11e6-84e7-75c10fbbc909′]

Budget

For those that don’t want to break the bank on the premium end of the market or aren’t sure whether neutral density filters are for them, I’d recommend a mix of filters from a strong long exposure like the B+W 110 10 stop neutral density filter (great for capturing daytime long exposures), a Hoya circular polariser for assisting with reducing the glare and getting a longer exposure time for photographing waterfalls and lastly, a set of Cokin Z-Pro graduated neutral density filters

Contrary to what others say, the Cokin Z-Pro filters are actually good bang for buck provided you know the constraints of the filters. As an example, if you stack all three graduated filters at once, you will get some harsh purple colour cast coming through the filters meaning an unwanted purple colour at the top half of the frame which you may or may not want. I’m assuming you may not want… Although I may have cheated a few times and used the colour cast to my advantage for dull sunsets… 

[box type=”info” style=”rounded”]If you really want to experiment with long exposure photography on the cheap why not DIY a neutral density filter with welding glass?[/box]

[amazon_link asins=’B000T95Q8I,B00485ZJB8′ template=’ProductGrid’ store=’alexwisephot-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ f8a4868c-fae7-11e6-80b2-f907ad690a64′]

Examples of Long Exposure Photography

Examples of different long exposure photographs
Examples of different long exposure photographs

Some of my favourite long exposure photographs are of water (I love the sea if you can’t already tell by expanding the image to the right) but there are plenty more options whether it be long exposures of traffic at night or capturing the movement of clouds at a location over the period of 5-10 minutes (creates a cool effect!).

[box style=”rounded”]Looking for ideas to plan your next shoot? Give my long exposure photography ideas post a read for some ideas and inspiration[/box]

Most of the images in the right image were made possible by having neutral density filters which allowed me to take 5~ minute long exposures during the day. They allowed me to turn an otherwise dull scene into something different and unique from the effect of a long exposure (like the pylons beneath the jetty).

End

I hope this buying guide for long exposure filters has been useful and answered some questions. Please don’t hesitate to reach out via my contact form if you have any questions as I’d be more than happy to help where I can.

Thanks for reading,

Alex

 

Posted on 8 Comments

Best Travel Tripods for 2017

Planning your next holiday? Having a travel tripod is a great purchase for those low light sunrises!

After lugging a regular bulky sized tripod on my recent roadtrip to Perth, I got home and immediately started researching a travel tripod that’s less bulky and lightweight while still acting as a good support for my camera when taking long exposures.  

[amazon box=”B00COLBNTK” description=”Be sure to read my review for more details and thoughts on the Manfrotto Befree.” rating=”5″]

Manfrotto Befree Compact Tripod
Manfrotto Befree Compact Tripod in all its glory

I’ve put together this post for anyone wondering how I landed on my decision for the Manfrotto Befree and what else is out there on this competitive market. The [amazon_textlink asin=’B00COLBNTK’ text=’Manfrotto Befree Compact Tripod’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’alexwisephot-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ 4190e5ca-013c-11e7-bf4a-49aed99e1130′] is available from Amazon for [amazon_link asins=’B00COLBNTK’ template=’PriceLink’ store=’alexwisephot-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ 2e4fe4bf-013d-11e7-b27f-f594165ee6c8′] 

What is a travel tripod?

With airline baggage limits becoming more and more expensive (Australia’s airlines start at $35 for each additional bag), it’s easy to look at the tripod and think to yourself, do I really need to take this awkward and heavy thing away for my trip? By not taking your tripod, it means you miss out on taking really long exposures or shooting in low light conditions like at sunrise or sunset. This is where the travel tripod comes in with something that is more lightweight and easier to travel with.

Travel tripods don’t differ too much to regular tripods where they come with the standard three legs and a mounting head which the camera is mounted. Where they are different to a regular tripod can be the materials and mounting heads used to save on space and weight which we will look to explore in this article.

Having a tripod is essential for 30 sec long exposure photos like this one

What makes a good travel tripod?

So what makes a good travel tripod? I took my time to dig deep into travel tripods, tried them out and came up with this selection of my top five tripods based on different criteria. Simply put, a good travel tripod should be portable, affordable and adjustable. It should fit into your camera bag with ease while at the same time be stable and flexible to support your camera in all conditions.

Be compact

A good tripod unit should have about 24 inches length when folded (preferably less than 20 inches) and a total weight of about 1.3kg-2.5kg (2.8 lbs – 5.5 lbs).

The Manfrotto Befree is tiny (ignore my pasty arms..!)

The second thing you should consider is the size of the tripod when you fully unfold it. A tripod with many leg segments will squeeze down to a smaller compact unit when fully folded. This directly determines what bag you’ll have to use. If the tripod can’t fold into a small unit you may have to use a large travel bag instead of a camera bag.

Extend to a reasonable height

When stretched out, it should extend to atleast 50 inches before the center column is stretched out (preferably 60 inches when the head is mounted). This will let you extend the tripod to an average eye level height of around 60 inches without necessarily needing to extend center column.

The importance of not needing to extend the centre column comes down to stability in windy conditions. It’s worth noting that the tripod will be least stable when the center column is fully extended and more stable when all the components have not been stretched out.

Quality legs 

As the sun sets and the light fades, it can be difficult for a hand-held photo. This was a 0.8 second exposure with a tripod which would have been near impossible hand held to get the same level of detail!

When it comes to tripod legs, there are two camps – the aluminium and the carbon fibre camps. Personally, I’m too rough with my tripods and don’t put in the time to properly maintain them like removing the salt after a coastal shoot which can limit the lifespan of the tripod.  With the price of aluminium legs being significantly cheaper than carbon fibre legs, I’ll continue to shoot with aluminium until I can get a good maintenance process in place.

But for those of you that do properly look after your gear, carbon fibre does have its benefits. It goes without saying that carbon fibre legs are lighter than aluminium but more importantly, have a better strength to weight ratio over aluminium which is ideal when travelling.

If money is not an issue, carbon fibre provides you with a lighter and more durable set of legs but if you are constrained by budget, there is nothing wrong with a set of aluminium legs. Just don’t be like me and not maintain your tripod 😉

Mounting head that you can trust

Manfrotto befree ballhead
The included ballhead which comes with the Manfrotto Befree

For most people photographing with a micro 4/3, mirorless or light DSLR setup, the head which comes with a travel tripod will be more than sufficient. For those looking to shoot with a DSLR and telephoto or other heavier setups, you may want to consider a different head which is more sturdier and able to confidently hold the extra weight. With that said, if you’re looking at photographing with a heavy setup then maybe a travel tripod isn’t for you.

 

Top Travel Tripods of 2017

 
NameVanguard Alta Pro 263AB 100MeFOTO Aluminum Roadtrip TravelJoby GorillaPod SLR Zoom Tripod
Davis & Sanford Traverse TR553-P228Manfrotto BeFree Compact Carbon Fiber TripodManfrotto BeFree Aluminium Carbon Fiber Tripod
MaterialAluminium AlloyAluminium AlloyABS PlasticAluminium AlloyCarbon FiberAluminium Alloy
Leg Sections353533
Weight2.44 kg (5.38 lbs)1.6kg (3.6 lbs)551 g (1.21 lbs)1.2 kg (2.6 lbs)1.1 kg (2.4 lbs)2.4 kg (5.3 lbs)
Folded Length71.5 cm (28.125")39.1 cm (15.4")31.8 cm (12.5")30.5 cm (12")40 cm (15.75 lbs)40 cm (15.8 lbs)
Max Height1.73 m (5.67')156.5 cm (61.6")29.7 cm (11.7")134.6 cm (53")144 cm (48.4")144 cm (56.7")
Max Load7 kg (15.4 Lbs)8 kg (17.6 lbs)3 kg (6.6 lbs)4.5 kg (10 lbs)4 kg (8.8 lbs)4 kg (8.8 lbs)
Comes w/ Head?YesYesYesYesYesYes
Monopod?NoYesNoNoNoNo
Rating
Price[amazon_link asins='B003WKOENO' template='PriceLink' store='alexwisephot-20' marketplace='US' link_id=' 573902cc-c415-11e6-b1c1-132b618beef0'][amazon_link asins='B00BETIVWK' template='PriceLink' store='alexwisephot-20' marketplace='US' link_id=' 70ca6b45-c415-11e6-8301-ff634bc0eeae'][amazon_link asins='B002FGTWOC' template='PriceLink' store='alexwisephot-20' marketplace='US' link_id=' 7ee9fd79-c415-11e6-936c-a98ff4127599'][amazon_link asins='B00BTYOOXU' template='PriceLink' store='alexwisephot-20' marketplace='US' link_id=' 94c9cfe3-c415-11e6-bcd2-0742b688bf36'][amazon_link asins='B00M8RQKS4' template='PriceLink' store='alexwisephot-20' marketplace='US' link_id=' a65f00a5-c415-11e6-a9a1-776ec5dd6223'][amazon_link asins='B00COLBNTK' template='PriceLink' store='alexwisephot-20' marketplace='US' link_id=' 1e9a0d7b-013b-11e7-abf9-d3ab79a9dee1']
Having a sturdy tripod is essential if you’re planning on getting your feet wet!

If you are on a budget and want a multipurpose tripod, then the Joby Gorillapod at [amazon_link asins=’B002FGTWOC’ template=’PriceLink’ store=’alexwisephot-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ 7cfc9966-c422-11e6-8799-65fab2d2aedf’] is for you. It works well with a lightweight DSLR camera setup (think standard body and an ultra wide angle lens). Anything more and you might struggle.  

For those looking for something a bit more capable and the feel of a regular tripod then I would recommend the [amazon_textlink asin=’B00COLBNTK’ text=’Manfrotto Befree Aluminium compact tripod’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’alexwisephot-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ eb10468a-013b-11e7-8155-35f83a0e9be3′] which folds down to just 15.8 inches and weighs 2.4 kg (5.3 lbs)

Manfrotto Befree Compact Tripod (Aluminium)

[amazon_link asins=’B00COLBNTK’ template=’ProductAd’ store=’alexwisephot-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ 82e4b94f-013d-11e7-a21b-678f6936be78′]

Manfrotto befree travel bag
The travel bag which comes with the Manfrotto Befree

The [amazon_textlink asin=’B00COLBNTK’ text=’Manfrotto Befree’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’alexwisephot-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ 07fabe8a-013f-11e7-ab50-89ea852db988′] ended up being my pick for this review. As I’ve written a separate review on the Manfrotto Befree tripod in another post I’ll keep the detail short here but the reasons why I chose the Manfrotto Befree aluminium over the other tripods came down to:

  • Coming in at [amazon_link asins=’B00COLBNTK’ template=’PriceLink’ store=’alexwisephot-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ 37fcef46-013f-11e7-ab50-89ea852db988′] makes this an affordable tripod for everyone. 
  • The travel bag which comes with the tripod is great if you’re heading out for the day to take photos and want to sling the tripod over your shoulder when you’re walking
  • The weight of this tripod (2.4 kg or 5.3 lbs) makes this a good sturdy tripod that you feel confident with in windy conditions. Sure you could go lighter with the carbon version of the Manfrotto Befree which I review later in this post but for me, I just can’t justify that reduction in weight vs the price
  • The load capacity of the tripod of 4 kg makes this capable of holding anything (within reason of course!) 

I’m very happy with the purchase of my Manfrotto Befree tripod but like anything, it’s not perfect and I cover off some of the minor issues with the tripod in my indepth review.

You can order online at Amazon for [amazon_link asins=’B00COLBNTK’ template=’PriceLink’ store=’alexwisephot-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ 3d7b879c-0140-11e7-b77d-09bb973cedfd’]

Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB 100 

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Due to its size and weight, the Vanguard VEO 235AB sits between a travel and regular tripod and is comparable with other tripods on the market. However the Vanguard has some key features which makes it better than some of its competitors.  One of the things that appeal to me the most about the Vanguard Alta Pro 235AB is the way in which the legs fold around the centre column.

With most tripods, the legs fold around the center column, however with the Vanguard, the center column is designed to fit between the legs reducing its size when fully folded.

When folded, the Vanguard measures an impressive 21.1 inches. The center column is very flexible and works well for getting those tight angles allowing you to shoot from 0 and 180 degrees which works great with low and high angles of photography.

Other features that makes it a favourite choice are; a 7 kg (15.4 Lbs) carrying capacity, a maximum height of up to 58 inches, five-section legs made of strong aluminium and an easy to operate ball head.

A couple of things worth noting about this tripod is the weight and size which to my point at the start of the article puts it in a grey area between travel and regular tripod. The tripod weighs 2.44 kg (5.38 lbs) which is relatively heavy compared to other options in the market. It also measures 21.1 inches when folded, this length may not readily fit into your bag.

You can order for one on Amazon at [amazon_link asins=’B003WKOENO’ template=’PriceLink’ store=’alexwisephot-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ 573902cc-c415-11e6-b1c1-132b618beef0′]

MeFOTO Aluminium Roadtrip Travel Tripod

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MeFoto is a relative newcomer to the market launched by Benro; a Chinese manufacturer who have quietly been chipping away in the photography industry for years now. Benro are making a bold entrance into the photography market with the MeFOTO range which are both affordable and provide a different offering to competitors.

The MeFoto Aluminium roadtrip travel tripod can collapse down to a mere 15-inch piece that weighs just 1.6kg (3.6 lbs) yet it is capable of supporting up to 8 kg (17.6 lbs) when fully extended to its maximum height of 64.2 inches. More than enough to hold the weight of a Canon 5D Mark III and Canon 70-200 2.8 IS which comes in at around 2.4 kg (5.2 lbs).  

The secret to self portraits like these aren’t someone standing there pressing the trigger for me… Instead it’s a tripod with the camera on a self-timer.

One thing I love about the MeFOTO is the ability to transform the tripod into a full-sized monopod. This is handy for impromptu shoots where you don’t need a tripod fully extended and just need something to stabilise. Additionally the MeFOTO comes with rubber coated spiked feet and an Arca-type quick-release ball head with a panning lock, a bubble level and a wide tilt range. Great value for the price.

It’s worth noting that when researching the MeFOTO, there was some feedback from reviews where when the legs are fully extended that the tripod can lose some of its stability. To be honest, I rarely shoot fully extended as I don’t like shooting at the human eye level but if this is an issue for you, you’re best to attach your camera bag to the center column which will add some stability to the tripod.

Available on Amazon at [amazon_link asins=’B00BETIVWK’ template=’PriceLink’ store=’alexwisephot-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ 70ca6b45-c415-11e6-8301-ff634bc0eeae’]

Joby GorillaPod SLR Zoom Tripod

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An article about travel tripods wouldn’t be the same without mention of Joby’s GorillaPod range. While admittedly they aren’t for everyone, they do serve a purpose for people looking to save weight and space.

The Joby GorrillaPod Zoom is a small travel tripod with a load capacity of 3 kg (6.6 lbs) which is well suited for smaller camera setups like the Micro 4/3, mirrorless or lightweight DSLR setups. The tripod has twistable legs which can be molded to work in different environments as long as the camera is light in weight. The entire package including the head weighs just 551 g (1.21 lbs) which is easy to carry around.

Having a tripod is essential if you’re planning on visiting waterfalls on a holiday

It’s stability on rugged surface is achieved by many leg joints with foot grips and rubber-coated rings which allows the tripod to easily grip onto things. The Joby GorillaPod Zoom is definitely the best travel tripod when it comes to its flexibility size however does come with some flaws. When trying to use it on unique angles (i.e. wrapping it around a pole), the weight of your camera can make things tricky. This is where a lightweight camera excels with this setup but you’ll be challenged with more bulkier setups.

The Joby Gorillapod SLR Zoom is available on Amazon for [amazon_link asins=’B002FGTWOC’ template=’PriceLink’ store=’alexwisephot-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ 7ee9fd79-c415-11e6-936c-a98ff4127599′]

Davis & Sanford Traverse TR553-P228

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A relative unknown compared to some of the other brands mentioned in this post, the Davis and Sanford’s Travers travel tripod is a quiet achiever. The tripod is nice and compact folding into a just twelve inches and weighs just 1.2 kg (2.6 lbs) which makes it great for anyone looking to cut down on space and conveniently fit into your baggage.

The Davis & Sanford Traverse comes with an Arca-type ball head with double control knobs and a fast release plate. When fully extended, it stretches to 53 inches and can support up to 4.5 kg (10 lbs) which is ideal for nearly all camera setups.

When researching this tripod to purchase, some of the feedback I read was along the lines of the legs sometimes being difficult to fold or extend because of the collars used on every leg. For me this wasn’t a deal breaker especially with its compactness and ability to support generally most camera setups on the market.

What put me off the Davis & Sanford Traverse was more the lure of the other brands on the market. We are so spoiled for choice with with the Manfrotto and MeFOTO providing great quality tripods for competitive prices. I don’t think you can go wrong with any of the 3 brands and at the end of the day, it comes down to how much you can afford and your personal preference.

The Davis & Sanford Traverse TR553-P228 is available on Amazon for [amazon_link asins=’B00BTYOOXU’ template=’PriceLink’ store=’alexwisephot-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ 94c9cfe3-c415-11e6-bcd2-0742b688bf36′]

Manfrotto BeFree Compact Carbon Fiber Tripod  

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Manfrotto have been an industry leader in the tripod game for a long time. One of their newer offerings is the Manfrotto BeFree compact carbon fibre tripod which looks great and performs even better.  

The Manfrotto is a beast of a tripod and comes with legs that extend to a maximum height of 48.4 inches. When the center column is fully extended, the tripod can reach 56.7 inches. The tripod can also provide a minimum working height of 13.4 inches. A great feat for a portable travel tripod.

When fully folded, the tripod measures just 15.75 inches and weighs 1.1 kg (2.4 lbs) making it one of the most portable travel tripods ever made.  This is made possible by the tripod using carbon fibre compared to the other tripods in this review using aluminium.

Having a tripod makes long exposure photographs like these possible. Getting yourself a light weight travel tripod can really make the difference between average and good holiday photos.

The Manfrotto BeFree can support up to 4 kg (8.8 lbs) when fully stretched which makes it more than capable of holding most camera setups. Like other tripods reviewed here, the Manfrotto BeFree comes with a ball head with an aluminium alloy quick release plate. The legs have a diameter of 22mm and can spread at either 51 degrees or 25 degrees to ensure stability of the tripod.

The only downside to the Manfrotto BeFree Compact Carbon Fiber Tripod compared to other tripods in this post is the cost. The Manfrotto BeFree Compact Carbon Fibre Tripod comes in at a price of [amazon_link asins=’B00M8RQKS4′ template=’PriceLink’ store=’alexwisephot-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ a65f00a5-c415-11e6-a9a1-776ec5dd6223′] But really, this is pretty standard for a good quality carbon fibre tripod. You are getting some serious value for money with this one.

Wrap Up

I hope that this article has been helpful in providing some guidance on how to evaluate travel tripods and the best travel tripods out there. The way the travel market has evolved in the last years means we are blessed with so much choice and almost comes down to personal preference if you’re willing to spend around $100-200.

Thanks for reading,

Alex

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Why are Canon Lenses White?

When I bought my Canon 350D back in 2006, digital photography was starting to boom (yep – I jumped on the bandwagon) and it was rare to see someone toting a DSLR and lens combo worth more than my first car like we commonly see today. Coming from a relatively small town and with digital photography only just starting to take off, seeing a white Canon lens always caught my eye and  left me salivating from a distance over a lens that could fetch upwards of $10k!

$12k for a lens. Bargain.
< span=""> href=”http://amzn.to/2aCpwpU”>$12k for a white lens with a fancy red ring? Bargain.

So why are some Canon lenses white?

Real answer? Marketing. Company answer? Lowering heat.

Creating equipment that is recognisable provides instant brand recognition for Canon. See a a white lens a mile away or while you are watching a sports event on TV? You will know it is a Canon lens. Sure, if you know photography equipment, you would be able to pick out a high end black Nikon lens. They (Canon) want people to know when people are using their gear rather than their competitors to create brand awareness.

But according to Canon, it is not all about the marketing and there is some logic behind why some Canon lenses are white. As lenses contain glass elements, these expand with heat which is generally not a problem with smaller compact lenses due to the amount of expansion being small. But when your larger lenses come along like a Canon white series lens, these often have larger glass elements which utilise elements made of fluorite which is much more sensitive to heat than your standard compact lens.  For this reason, Canon uses the white surface to reflect the sunlight which helps keep the lens cooler in warmer/extreme conditions.

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Landscape kit

The contents of my photography bag..

I wouldn’t have a clue how to work the compass, it’s all there for looks baby.. Continue reading Landscape kit