BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: Best Photographic Equipment to Buy : Best Camera Tripods

Photography Question 
Paul D. Carter


What is a good tripod for traveling? I need a sturdy and safe travel tripod that can be packed in a carry-on bag on airlines that will support at least a standard 50mm lens or a wide angle 19-35 mm lens. I am afraid of small tripods that are travel size that may not be able to properly support the camera. Thanks.

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7/8/2008 4:43:39 AM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Greetings Paul. This subject has been discussed here a lot and as you might guess, opinions on this particular issue vary equally, a lot. Do a search (top right-hand corner) under "tripods" or even "travel tripod".
Best solution is to find a big camera store to go to - i.e., Samy's in L.A. or B&H in NYC, and look at models with and without supplied heads. IMHO, first consider the tripod legs themselves and portability vs. stability under the weight of present and future cameras you may get. Then think about what head to put on it - say, a ballhead and perhaps add a quick release to that and your camera. I always recommend Gitzo for those reasons I mentioned, plus durability, fixability if necessary, and supplied items like spikes for dirt, variety of materials, and warranty (if you ever needed it). I like Linhof Profi ball heads with quick-release plates but there are a lot of those available too.
My Reporter model Gitzo has lasted 29 years in heavy use. I also have a Gitzo Monopod, nice for hiking, and a Studex for studio work. Manfrotto, ad infinitim, are also good.
Take it light.

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7/8/2008 1:15:51 PM

Carlton Ward
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/13/2005
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  Hi Paul,
Mark made a good suggestion to go to a camera store and look them over. See how they feel and function to determine what will work for you.
I have a Manfrotto 3021 Tripod w/Manfrotto 468MGRC2 Magnesium Hydrostatic Ballhead & Manfrotto 322RC2 Pistol grip head, and a Manfrotto 676B monopod w/Manfrotto 3229 head.
This tripod is light enough for me to carry on my 8-mile hikes through the woods and is flexible and so far has been sturdy enough for my needs. I carry my tripod with me everywhere I go.
The 322RC2 Pistol grip head is quick and easy for small lenses, but for my 70-200mm and 100-400mm, I needed more stability and the Manfrotto 468MGRC2 Magnesium Hydrostatic Ballhead does handle the weight. The pistol grip goes for about $120 (if I remember correctly) and the 468MGRC2 sells for about $350.
I will probably get a sturdier Gitzo tripod sometime soon as I am doing more portrait work now. Good luck with your decision Paul - carlton

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7/8/2008 9:01:08 PM

Dawn Penso
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/6/2005
  Hi Paul - Don't know where you're going but in London and most European cities you won't be able to use the tripod in the streets. If you are coming this way, you might therefore like to consider a table top size tripod or some other form of support. Or even leaning on a lamppost. Enjoy your trip!

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7/15/2008 9:07:13 AM

Alan N. Marcus   Hi Paul,

When traveling, I gave up on tripods. Got chastised at museums and in the streets. I looked at many a monopod and settled on the one at Wal-Martís photo department. Maybe $20 US, it telescopes and fits in my luggage. I put a rubber foot on it purchased at a hardware store. Now it doubles as a walking stick. Got chastised again and temporary held by security at the Vatican.

Not as good as a tripod by along shot but Ö. It works somewhat!

Alan Marcus

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7/15/2008 9:39:55 AM

Howard J. Sheffield   Hi Paul
I just finished a wildlife cruise in Alaska where I carried a just purchased Gitzo carbon fibre 4 leg that was packed in my suitcase with a Really Right Stuff ball head. It was the best move in tripods I have ever made. Check them out. Also I take a monopod from Wal Mart that cost about $20. It doubled as a walking stick and pod where the tripod didn't go.
Howard Sheffield

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7/15/2008 10:29:03 AM

Bob Fately   Paul, you have already seen som egood advice - I agree with the Monopod concept at times and have a Gitzo 4-section leg tripod (with Acratech ballhead) which I travel with when possible. But there is another alternative to consider - a strong ball head and legs plus a vice-grip. Let me explain:

Check out the Leica "large ball & socket head" (no model number per se) and their "Tabletop Tripod with Folding Legs" - these are not cheap items but I've had mine for over 30 years and they hold up well. They are quite compact, able to hold 5 pounds of gear, and can be used as a wall support if you merely press the unit against a wall or other raised item.

Further, you can get a 1/4" threaded bolt welded to a Vice-grip type of locking pliers - and attach the ball&socket head unit to that. In this manner, you could lock the pliers onto a park bench or fire hydrant or other solid support and have a very strong stand. Of course, a full-sized tripod has more flexible placement options, but in cities and other areas where they are verboten it is worth considering something like this.

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7/15/2008 12:56:30 PM

Carlton Ward
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/13/2005
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  Paul & everyone,
I received a tip from Jim Zuckerman that I will implement on my trip to Europe next week (with Jim Zuckerman)

The tip is to take off the ball head from the tripod and set the ballhead w/camera on the floor or tabletop and this will give you stability & NO Tripod for the "No Tripod Allowed" areas.
My Manfrotto 468MGRC2 Ballhead is heavy enough it should work well for this with a remote shutter release. I will see how this works and report back.

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7/15/2008 10:54:02 PM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005

I plum forgot about your going to Europe this summer. Have a wonderful trip, post some shots when you get back and travel safe.

Don't forget to hollar when you get down to this neck of the woods.
Bon Voyage !!! :>))

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7/16/2008 9:17:03 AM

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