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During my trips when I do landscape photography, I often can't take my tripod. It's too big and too heavy. If the weight can be managed by buying a more expensive one, the size remains a problem.

There are plenty of very small tripods for sale, but they are intended for light point and shoot cameras, and will be inappropriate for a 1 Kg (25 oz.) DSLR with a lens like a 0.5 Kg (19 oz.) Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II. For example, the Cullmann mini-tripod 50004 has a carrying capacity of 0.5 Kg (19 oz.) and seems unstable enough to carry the camera with such lens.

Is there a small tripod for heavy DSLRs, taken in account that:

  • I understand that it will not be possible to use with with heavy and large lenses like a 1.5 Kg (55 oz.) Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II,

  • I have no intent to use the tripod in windy conditions,

  • It may be expensive,

  • It must be max. 30-35 cm. (12-14 in.) collapsed,

  • It doesn't have to be large when expanded,

  • Every of the three legs has to expand separately, so the tripod can be used on a non-flat surface like rocks or grass,

  • I don't expect this to be an excellent product which can replace a real tripod in any condition, but rather a light alternative to use when bringing the real tripod is not possible,

  • A monopod is not a solution.

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Just a quick note -- even if you never buy from them, the B&H Photo and Video website is an excellent filter for finding equipment. This page should help a lot: bhphotovideo.com/c/… –  user2719 Dec 29 '11 at 14:10
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6 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I think you want to be lookin' at the Joby GorillaPod lineup. The SLR-Zoom model (see also this question) holds up to 3kg, is 9.8" (by 2.4"x2.4"), and the three legs can be "extended" — or in this case, weirdly twisted — individually. It's also relatively inexpensive, but you'll pay extra for a ballhead (recommended!).

They also have larger and smaller models.

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When buying one of those, I highly recommend adding a ballhead to them. These are sold as a bundle or separately for the SLR-Zoom and Focus models and it makes it much much easier to point the camera exactly where you want it. –  Itai Dec 29 '11 at 16:52
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Since you don't seem too concerned with the size of the tripod when you're using it, I'd suggest looking into beanbag tripods, such as THE pod. They are much smaller than your minimum requirements (and can be made even smaller: I've heard of people who just bring an empty beanbag on their hike, and fill it with sand or gravel they find lying around when they're ready to take a picture). In addition to their small size, they're also fairly inexpensive.

A beanbag tripod doesn't have three legs, but can be used on an uneven surface (such as a rock or perhaps a large branch) because it doesn't have a rigid surface. They are closer to monopods than tripods (since they really only have one surface in contact with the ground), but I'm assuming you don't want a monopod because you don't want to have to be holding it while you use it: either for more stability for HDR shots or so you can set the self timer and be in your pictures.

I should note that I haven't actually used one, I just think they are kind of neat.

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I've used one in the last couple of days, and been impressed so far. –  Greg Whitfield Dec 30 '11 at 9:40
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If you want really small, under 8 inches long when folded. You could try the Pedco Ultrapod II. The claimed "safe" load is 6lbs, though I'm not sure what "safe" means exactly.

The three legs don't extend separately to work on non-flat surfaces, but it does comes with a ball head. When used with heavy lens you do have to arrange the legs so that the leading leg (as it were) supports the weight of the lens. With shorter lenses this isn't so much of a worry.

The velcro strap used to keep it all together in your pack can be used to secure it to reasonably sized posts/railings.

I've no experience with the Ultrapod II that's currently on the website as my, even smaller, Ultrapod I is still going strong after nearly 13 years.

http://www.industrialrev.com/ultrapod-ii.html

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Kirk Photo offers two very small tripods designed for large loads:

The Mighty Low Boy is a chopped Manfrotto 3001BN, only 11in folded, adjustable legs. It is not a tall tripod, but will hold tons of weight:

http://www.kirkphoto.com/Mighty-Low-Boy.html

They also offer a table top tripod, but that doesn't sound like it meets all your requirements

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Gitzo GT3320BS is the Gitzo's smallest tripod (35.0 cm only) with a load capacity of 18 Kg.

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Well, this isn't what you are asking about but it just may solve your problem.

Check the Manfroto 401N tripod strap. It goes over your shoulder and lets you carry the tripod on your back. I thought it was really dorky when I was gifted it but quickly learned to love it. It never leaves my tripod. Check out the 2nd picture on amazon, the main picture is a bit hard to understand.

Yeah, it doesn't make your tripod lighter but it does make it easier to haul around. Maybe this would help you.

Oh, and please read the instructions. I just could not get comfortable with it at all until I read the instructions!

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