Review: Peak Design Travel Tripod
When it comes to tripods, the ubiquitous devices are one part of photography that doesn’t seem like it’s seen much innovation in the last couple of decades.
Sure, there are lighter models and designs that have more efficient leg locks, but most people continue to use big, overbuilt tripods that are a chore to unpack and extend and are often really heavy as well.
Camera manufacturer Peak Design has taken the challenge of redesigning the tripod with its Travel Tripod, which on the surface appears like a regular, albeit compact, tripod, but is still optimised for a full-frame DSLR and telephoto lens while also being absolutely packed with smart features.
So how have they done it?
First things first, this thing is small. PD says the TT is the same diameter as a drink bottle and the alloy model which I’ve reviewed here weighs in at a seriously lightweight (in tripod terms anyway) 1.56kg.
Yet it’s still capable of holding a payload of up to 9.1kg, can unfold to a full size of 150cm at its maximum height, and is just 38.5cm in its closed down state.
Take the tripod out of its included neoprene bag and you’ll likely notice the weight in your hand.
It doesn’t immediately scream lightweight, at least to me, but it is reassuringly solid feeling, and also quite striking in design – it feels like there’s no wasted space, with the legs neatly slotting alongside the centre column and the ballhead concealed under the top plate. None of the adjustment knobs protrude and the whole thing is made from a premium feeling matte black metal.
Peak Design includes its low profile (6.5mm deep) standard plate with the Travel Tripod, which will also match to other products in the PD ecosystem, including the company’s popular camera straps and Capture Clip.
The plate uses a 4mm hex bolt, and Peak Design has cleverly integrated both a 4mm and 2.5mm hex tool onto a neat mount that clips onto any of the tripod legs and is safely out of the way once the tripod is folded.
With this onboard, it means you always have the appropriate tool to tighten the feet, the leg angle adjusters or any of the locking levers out in the field.
It’s one of those features that just makes complete sense when you think about it, and the tool itself is also beautifully made, in fitting with the premium feel of the tripod’s design.
The legs can be extended quickly and retracted fast as well thanks to the smooth locking levers. At the base of each tripod leg is a rubberized foot, along with a 2.5mm hex bolt to allow for these to be tightened if needed. Peak Design doesn’t include spikes for the feet, but they can be purchased separately.
Once you open the tripod up, you need to undo an adjustment knob located neatly between two of the legs to extend the centre column before you can then move the ballhead around.
When you close the tripod down, the top plate ‘locks’ into the top of the legs and is then held in place, saving it from knocks and bumps in transit.
Below the top plate are two adjustment rings – the first with a lever, is to lock or unlock the plate to the ballhead and according to PD, will also reduce camera shake when engaged.
The second, which has a grippy texture, frees up movement in the ballhead. It’s a neat design that eliminates protruding knobs and feels very intuitive to use.
Perhaps the Travel Tripod’s coolest trick is the inclusion of a dedicated smartphone mount hidden inside the centre column.
To extract it, you first pull up a latch above the counterweight hook, lift the hook out and remove the folded down mount which is held in by a spring. This mount then fits around most smartphones and locks into the top plate without the need for the tripod plate to be used.
When it’s time to put it away, it’s simply a matter of taking the hook out again, folding it down and reinserting it into the centre column. The hook and mount are both magnetized which can help with cold, fumbling hands, and even if you remove the hook the mount won’t just fall out either as it’s held in place until you pull it out.
All in all, it’s a beautifully elegant design that is just cool – in the past I’ve always carried a separate smartphone mount but there’s really no need with this design.
That says, it does have one weakness. With the counterweight hook removed, there’s nothing stopping the centre column from lifting or dropping out entirely if the adjustment knob is loosened.
This is likely only ever a problem if you have the centre column reversed to allow the camera to be positioned close to the ground between the tripod legs and inadvertently turn the adjustment knob, but it’s something to be aware of.
Of course, if you always return the hook to its home, this won’t be a problem, so just don’t shove it in a pocket and forget about it.
And one last thing – kudos to PD for including a tiny waterproof manual with the travel tripod that tucks into the camera bag. It contained all the information I needed to get up and running and is a handy reference if you ever need to confirm how to setup the tripod in its myriad of different ways.
In the field
I tested the Travel Tripod with my heaviest setup, a Sony A7III and 100-400mm GM lens that together weigh a shade over 2kg, and as you’d probably expect it was rock solid, including at the beach during an incoming tide when the legs were submerged at times, and in windy conditions too.
Setup was quick and easy and the leg locks click in place with a reassuring clunk. The ballhead is smooth to rotate, and the addition of the visual icon showing the lock and unlock is great at a glance to confirm nothing is going to move.
It’s worth mentioning too that the included neoprene sleeve has a grippy rubber handle which would accept a variety of different straps, and it’s also got a waterproof zip which is a nice touch.
The wrap up
Peak Design continues to impress us with its cleverly designed photography accessories, and the Travel Tripod is no exception.
What’s refreshing about the Travel Tripod is it really feels like a piece of product design where there’s been a considered and thoughtful approach to refining an already established design.
Combine this with a top shelf build quality and truly impressive size and portability, and the travel tripod is an excellent option for photographers on the go.
At $699, the Travel Tripod is pricey, but when you consider the above, and the multitude of intelligent features that this has resulted in, it’s well worth the investment – especially when you consider how the Travel Tripod’s compact size allows you to take a tripod to places you otherwise might not consider packing one. I recommend it highly.
The Peak Design Travel Tripod is distributed in Australia by Blonde Robot. Find out more here.