Travel tripods: 5 carbon fiber kits reviewed
|The carbon fiber tripod group, jockeying for position in the arctic conditions of the cold weather test.|
Comparisons and conclusions
Separating these carbon fiber tripod kits into smaller groups for comparison is a difficult task. All of them balance various criteria such as weight, height, features, and price, and any photographer will put their own needs and desires into the mix when considering them for camera support. So, here we compare them based on their physical sizes and capacities, with the Gitzo and Sirui on the lighter side of things, and the 3 Legged Thing, Feisol and MeFoto being compared for heavier duty.
Gitzo Series 1 Traveler vs. Sirui ET-1204
In one of the more unusual comparisons, the two tripods at either end of the price scale battle it out with similarly thin legs and minimal sizes and weights. When we consider that the new Sirui has lever locks and a budget-oriented design, while the Gitzo has all the latest innovations from decades of refinement, this comparison may not seem entirely apples-to-apples. In any case, the features and functions tell the story.
|The solid Gitzo design and a one-piece, cast hub allow for greatly reduced vibrations and lower weight.||The Sirui shares its basic design and many parts with its stablemates, which is not always a bad thing.|
|Gitzo's single knob, compact head with gigantic quick release leaves a lot to be desired in the head department.||The very basic Sirui dual-knob, compact head works well enough, but has some parts that are too big.|
These two tripods have very different ways of doing things (which includes the lever locks vs. twist locks), but end up with almost the same result. The Sirui has a better head and higher load rating, while the Gitzo has 7 more inches in height and rock-solid build quality. Of course, both brands make many other tripods to compare and contrast to, but the tripod to beat in this comparison is the Gitzo Series 1 Traveler. Gitzo simply knows how to make tripods legs with a great combination of engineering and design, backed up with a world-class record of reliability. However, when it comes to compact ball heads, let's just quietly pass on the Gitzo offerings.
In the end, we recommend the non-kit option of the GT1544T legs (~$600) and a full-featured travel head, perhaps even one of Sirui's excellent ball heads, such as the K-10x. Yes, the Gitzo is an expensive proposition, but it may be the last travel tripod (of this size) you'll need to buy. We've no doubt the Sirui is an excellent choice for many, but when it comes to light-duty travel tripods, the original is still the best.
3 Legged Thing Eddie vs. Feisol 3441SB vs. MeFoto GlobeTrotter
The remaining three tripods boast substantial leg tube diameters and comfortable (sometimes excessive) extended heights, along with some unique features for each model. 3 Legged Thing's Eddie lives up to its namesake as a capable showman, with some wonderful details and only a slight sense of hollowness in the performance.
The Feisol 3441SB may weigh less than the others, but it extends to incredible heights, and is still a very solid platform at more reasonable levels. Finally, the MeFoto Globetrotter, even in its 'titanium' finish, compares to the other two as the almost-boring, everyman mix of carbon fiber and aluminum, but with decent height and very solid construction on its side.
|3LT's not-too-subtle Eddie can go very low, and still hold a lot of weight.||Small, thoughtful features abound on the Eddie. The zip-off leg muff is one.|
|Feisol believes traveling doesn't mean compromising height. 6 feet is tall!||With big knobs, and a simple design, the CB-30D is a small, but good head.|
|Tight construction, and a fine finish for a low price are MeFoto hallmarks.||The Q2 head has its issues, but it does the job and will appeal to a certain number of photographers.|
If you do a lot of low-to-ground photography, but still like to stand out from the crowd, then the 3LT Eddie is the robust travel tripod for you. Perhaps you need to reach high heights (as a light stand) and still shave off every ounce, then the Feisol 3441SB will definitely fit your specific needs.
However, if you don't go to these physical extremes in your photography and travels, we feel the MeFoto GlobeTrotter strikes the best balance between packable size, robust build, and generous capacity, with the most reasonable price in this group of three. Any of these three tripods can take larger cameras and lenses when traveling, but the MeFoto inspires the most confidence when doing so, and that's something that goes beyond the specs and marketing blurbs.