Latest sample galleries
Latest in-depth reviews
The Tamron 50-400mm F4.5-6.3 Di III VC VXD boasts an impressive zoom range in a relatively compact package. How does it perform? We took a look.
Travel tripods are a bit like superzoom compact cameras. They offer the promise of extraordinary versatility, without the size and weight penalties typically imposed by more specialized gear. They can't do everything but they can do enough - without weighing you down - to make up for their limitations. There are a lot of compact tripods out there, most of which are very cheap, and perform accordingly. You know the kind of thing I mean – at some point you were probably gifted one by a well-meaning relative at Christmas.
Also like superzoom compact cameras, there are very few travel tripods which manage to be both genuinely light and portable while also being genuinely good. And those that are tend to be rather... spendy.
|RRS Ascend-14||Peak Design Travel Tripod (CF)||Gitzo GT1545T (legs only)|
|Weight||3.2 lbs (1.45 kg)||2.81 lbs (1.29 kg)||2.34 lbs (1.06 kg)|
|Packed length||18.6 in (47 cm)||15.4 in (39.1 cm)||16.7 in (42.5 cm)|
|Packed diameter||3.4 in||3.1 in||4.3 in|
|Max height (center column lowered)||48 in (122 cm)||51.25 in (130.2 cm)||51.2 in (130 cm)|
|Max height (center column raised)||59.9 in (152 cm)||60 in (152.4 cm)||60.2 in (153 cm)|
|# Leg sections||4||5||4|
|Load capacity||30 lbs (13.6 kg)||20 lbs (9.1 kg)||22 lbs / 10 kg|
|Head included||Yes (integral)||Yes (integral)||No|
Today, I want to look at a product which has just been launched into the upper end of the travel tripod market (i.e., the really spendy end), from Really Right Stuff – the Ascend 14. Really Right Stuff (RRS) has been building a reputation for solid, elegant, no-compromise tripods, heads and plates for a long time in the US, and in recent years RRS gear has started to become more widely available to photographers around the globe.
The Ascend-14 is RRS's attempt to make a really right travel tripod, which doesn't suffer from the same compromises that we'd typically expect in this class: flexible legs, low maximum weight rating, or limited features. Unstated, but fairly clearly implied, is also a desire to cater to the same demand that made Peak Design's Travel Tripod the most successful Kickstarter project ever, back in 2019.
Like the Peak Design models, the Ascend-14's standard configuration features an integrated ball head and a non-cylindrical aluminum center column, to allow the legs to fold flat against it. This immediately makes both products slimmer than your average compact tripod, while still maintaining the versatility offered by an adjustable center column (if you don't mind a fixed apex and lower max height, RRS already makes the cheaper TFC-14 Mk II). The center column of the Ascend-14 can be divided into two sections, to save weight (losing the lower portion shaves off about 150g) or to facilitate very low-level shooting.
|Compared to the Peak Design Travel Tripod (shown on the right, with the Purell bottle for scale), the RRS Ascend-14 is fractionally fatter (with a packed diameter of 3.4in compared to 3.1in) and longer when fully collapsed (18.6in compared to 15.4in).
It's also heavier than the Peak Design carbon fiber model (1.45kg with the RRS Ascend head compared to 1.3kg for the PD).
|Both the RRS Ascend-14 and Peak Design Travel Tripod offer a useful maximum height. With their center columns extended (shown here) both can reach a rated maximum height of 60 inches.
I'm six feet tall, and both of these tripods provide enough height for comfortable eye-level shooting. The Ascend-14, however, is noticeably more rigid when fully extended.
|This image of the lower leg extensions of the Peak Design Travel Tripod (top) and Ascend-14 (bottom) shows clearly how much thicker the cylindrical CF tube used in the Ascend-14 is, compared to the lozenge-shaped tube of the Peak Design. This translates to a definite feeling of increased stiffness when the legs are at full extension.|
To remove the lower portion of the column, you push the tiny hook on the bottom flat, then unscrew it. It takes a bit of effort, and can be a bit fiddly (becoming very fiddly with cold hands or gloves) but it works well enough for something you probably won't do often.
The ball head is a little unusual. Basically a scaled-up and refined version of the RRS BPC-16, the ball has a decent range of movement (including a drop-notch) and is tightened with a locking clamp. An integral panning platform sits on top of the ball, which can be locked with a small knob. The head features a compact version of RRS's popular quick-release lever clamp, which makes mounting and removing an Arca-style camera or lens plate very quick and easy. The center column is unlocked via a lever clamp too, making a total of three such controls on the upper part of the tripod (which isn't necessarily a good thing, but more on that later).
|A conventional platform head configuration is also available for the Ascend-14, and the platform head (with integrated column) can be purchased separately for $250 (which is how much you save if you select that configuration in the first place).
This trades off some of the size and weight benefit of the Ascend head in favor of a conventional mounting platform for whatever head you care to add. The RRS BH-30 (shown here) is a nice match in terms of size, but there are several high-quality heads available.
From the spider down, the Ascend-14 is a pretty conventional carbon-fiber tripod, albeit an unusually small and well-made one. The Ascend 14's leg extensions have really solid-feeling twist locks, and removable rubber feet. As you'd expect, the legs can be angled outwards in 3 positions, the outer of which allows the tripod to sit almost flat to the ground. The overall feel and finish of the tripod is excellent, and small vents in the cups that hold the legs to the spider allow air in and out of the tubes when the legs are extended and retracted. It's a small thing, but it makes a positive difference to the smoothness of the operation.
So what does the additional $850 over the Peak Design carbon-fiber travel tripod buy you? In a word - stability.
It might sound silly, but from the spider down, the Ascend-14 feels like a big, sturdy conventional tripod that has simply been miniaturized. Where the ribbonlike lower leg sections of the Peak Design tripod are slim and the whole thing feels rather 'whippy', the Ascend-14 feels good and solid even with all of its legs fully extended, and dampens vibrations noticeably better. To be fair, the Peak Design model gets a lot more rigid with its lower leg extensions collapsed, but it also, obviously, gets a lot shorter, too.
In use, the Ascend-14 lives up almost entirely to my hopes for a tripod costing as much as it does
It's important to take manufacturers' claims of weight ratings with a large pinch of salt (there's no agreed-upon standard) but, by reputation, RRS's max load rating of 30 lbs for the Ascend-14 is likely to be conservative.
For context, 30 lbs of gear works out to roughly ten Fujifilm GFX-100 bodies. Obviously it would be ridiculous to put ten GFX-100s onto the top of a tripod (but if you feel like doing it, at least we know you can afford the Ascend-14). The point is that 30 lbs is a lot of weight, and it's unlikely that you'll be putting that much load on top of the head.
However, many photographers are in the habit of adding weight under the head for stability. In real-world use, I've slung 15lbs of stabilizing weight from the Ascend's lower hook with a Nikon Z7 and Z 70-200mm F2.8 VR S (~5 lbs) on top, and it's rock-solid. By comparison, Peak Design claims a maximum load rating of 20 lbs for its Travel Tripod, and with the same load (15 lbs underneath, another 5 lbs or so on top) everything stayed put at full extension, but even under load, the legs still felt whippy.
|This image shows a camera (equipped with an RRS Arca-style baseplate) locked to the Ascend-14. The lower lever clamps the ball in place, and the upper lever (just in shadow in this shot) opens and locks the jaws of the camera/lens plate. You do not want to get the two levers mixed up.|
In use, the Ascend-14 lives up almost entirely to my hopes for a tripod costing as much as it does. The only part of it which doesn't quite convince me is the head. Everything from the spider down is great, but in making the compact head as fully-featured as they could, RRS's engineers have, in my opinion, sacrificed some of the usability that has been a hallmark of popular RRS heads like the BH-40 and BH-55, with their large, easily-distinguished knob and lever controls.
Depending on the conditions in which you use it (specifically if you shoot outdoors, at night and/or in the cold), you might find that the Ascend-14's head is just downright fiddly. The lever clamp which unlocks the ball is very stiff out of the box (but this can be adjusted with a T9 Torx), and can be hard operate with gloves, while the panning lock knob is pretty tiny. Although convenient in theory, the nested allen wrench is very stubby, and can be hard to extract from its magnetic slot in the head.
There are two lever clamps on the head. They're quite close together, and you really do NOT want to get them mixed-up
The most potentially impactful issue though, in my experience, is the lever clamps. There are two lever clamps on the head, one for un/locking the ball, and one for un/locking the camera/lens from the top of the panning base. They're quite close together, and you really do NOT want to get them mixed-up. Presumably in an effort to prevent this, RRS has made sure that they face in different directions, and has given them a slightly different shape and feel.
Unfortunately, this has not stopped me several times from trying to unlock the ball to reposition a shot with my eye to the finder, and accidentally releasing my camera from the head. Now, before you say anything, I know this is user error. And I also know that over time, I'll get used to how the Ascend-14's head operates and I'll become a better, less error-prone user. But this isn't my first rodeo, and still, it's a mistake I've made a number of times since first venturing out with the Ascend-14.
|This composite image shows the three positions of the Arca-style quick release lever clamp which holds a camera or lens to the top of the Ascend-14. With the lever in the 'middle' position the camera/lens plate is still captive vertically, but is loose on the head and can slip back and forth in the groove. When the lever is in the fully open position (on the left in this image) the jaws of the clamp are fully open.
The skinny silver knob on the lower left of this image is the release knob for the head's panning movement.
There are two potential solutions that I can see which don't involve me undergoing forced reeducation - one is for RRS simply to replace the quick-release clamp for the camera plate with a boring, traditional, but ultra-reliable screw-knob. The other is to employ a button-lock on that upper lever clamp, which would prevent accidental opening. That's how Acratech's quick-release levers work, and while it would add some additional complexity for the engineers, it would prevent accidental extension of the lever while not slowing down deliberate operation.
So - you've got $1,450 burning a hole in your pocket (lucky you). Should you spend it on the Ascend-14? That depends. Typically I'd recommend that serious photographers looking for a set of lightweight sticks consider Gitzo's well-established Series 1 'Traveller' range as the prosumer gold standard. The current high-end GK1545T-82TQDUS legs and head combination, while considerably less slim than the Ascend-14, still represents a good compromise between size, weight and load capacity, for $699. That's what the Peak Design Travel Tripod (carbon fiber version) will cost you, too, and despite the compromises that I've mentioned, the PD is a serious and justifiably popular contender.
There are plenty of decent options available these days for less money, too. The (very) new Sirui ST-124 and ST-125 look particularly interesting, offering a pretty high maximum weight rating of 12 kg (26 lbs) for a very attractive price of $249 for the legs only. That's pretty close to the Ascend-14's load rating, with the usual caveats about such figures.
|When choosing a tripod for travel, length and weight are important to consider, but just as important in some situations is diameter. Most travel models with an integrated center column are rather chunky, but the RRS Ascend-14's center column is shaped so that the tripod's legs can fold almost flat against it, keeping the diameter of the folded tripod to a mere 3.4in.
The lightest that the Ascend-14 gets is with the integrated Ascend head (not shown here), with the lower section of the center column removed. In that configuration the tripod weighs 2.87 lbs (1.3 kg).
So we all know that you don't need to spend $1,450 to get a good quality travel tripod. But the Ascend-14 isn't just a really good travel tripod, it's a really good tripod, full stop. It's small and slim enough to be used for travel, but strong and rigid enough (and versatile enough) to replace a larger tripod for most purposes. In fact since receiving my review model from RRS, I've barely touched my normal tripod, a midsized RRS TVC-24 MK2.
The high cost of the Ascend-14 can't be ignored, but it needs to be put into context
The high cost of the RRS Ascend-14 can't be ignored, but it needs to be put into context. Of the truly compact travel tripods that I've tried (which naturally isn't all of them, and I would like to check out the new Sirui models), the Ascend-14 offers the best combination of size, weight, features and quality. For a product that can satisfy so many requirements, $1,450 doesn't seem entirely unreasonable.
When it comes to the two available configurations, personally I'd take a little more packed length and a little more weight in exchange for a little more usability, so if you gave that $1,450 to me (which I am fine with, by the way - pm me for my Venmo details if you're feeling generous) I'd probably go for the legs with the platform column, and put the rest towards a compact ball head.
Sep 16, 2022
Sep 6, 2022
Aug 25, 2022
May 26, 2022
The Tamron 50-400mm F4.5-6.3 Di III VC VXD boasts an impressive zoom range in a relatively compact package. How does it perform? We took a look.
What’s the best camera for around $2000? These capable cameras should be solid and well-built, have both speed and focus for capturing fast action and offer professional-level image quality. In this buying guide we’ve rounded up all the current interchangeable lens cameras costing around $2000 and recommended the best.
What's the best camera for shooting landscapes? High resolution, weather-sealed bodies and wide dynamic range are all important. In this buying guide we've rounded-up several great cameras for shooting landscapes, and recommended the best.
If you're looking for the perfect drone for yourself, or to gift someone special, we've gone through all of the options and selected our favorites.
Most modern cameras will shoot video to one degree or another, but these are the ones we’d look at if you plan to shoot some video alongside your photos. We’ve chosen cameras that can take great photos and make it easy to get great looking video, rather than being the ones you’d choose as a committed videographer.
Although a lot of people only upload images to Instagram from their smartphones, the app is much more than just a mobile photography platform. In this guide we've chosen a selection of cameras that make it easy to shoot compelling lifestyle images, ideal for sharing on social media.
|_SDI2370bw by rick decker|
from Crashing Wave
|IMG_750-16662-2 Dusty drive by Jill Hancock|
from Daylight Pictures of Modern Trucks in Action
|2019_0720_163302AA by old shutter bugger|
from In The Style Of EDWARD WESTON's Sitll Lifes
|Winter Days by DaveN01|
|Annas Hummingbird over Mexican Sunflower by Fishchris|
from A Big Year - Birds 2022
Peep some pixels from the hefty 100 megapixel files created by the new Hasselblad X2D 100C, as we prepare our DPReview TV review of the camera.
About 95% of Earth's oceans haven't been observed. Researchers at MIT have built a battery-free, wireless underwater camera that may help scientists explore more of the oceans.
Drone manufacturer DJI has moved its staff into an innovative and masterfully-designed new building in Shenzhen, China. Here is a first look.
We (metaphorically) sat down with Brandon Faith of Baggen Photos to ask him a few questions about what it's like to photograph motorsports events with his Crown Graphic large format camera.
Sony's new 320GB and 640GB 'Tough' CFexpress Type A cards are due out next month and while the 640GB card will offer the most storage of any Type A card to date, it doesn't come cheap.
Adobe's Photoshop and Premiere Elements apps make editing photos and videos easy for users of all skill levels. The latest versions add more editing tools, more AI features and improved performance.
The Sony FX30 is an explicitly video-focused camera, but could its technology herald a refresh of the company's APS-C stills line-up? We have a look at what that might mean.
The lens offers a constant F2.8 aperture through a rather unique focal length range for full-frame camera systems. It’s expected to be available starting October 27, 2022 for $699.
Can AI overcome the physical limitations of smartphone sensors and lenses? A Qualcomm executive thinks so, thanks in large part to improvements in processing power, hardware and artificial intelligence.
We're starting to see cameras offering 'open gate' video recording, so what is this tool and when is it useful?
The Sony FX30 is a 4K/120p-capable Super35 / APS-C cinema camera that wants to take the battle to the likes of Panasonic's GH series.
Sony's FX30 Super35/APS-C Cinema Line camera is effectively a crop-sensor version of the company's full-frame FX3 camera with sensor-based image stabilization, oversampled 4K/60p capture and '16-bit' Raw output and more.
If you've ever wanted to become an action figure, Hasbro is providing you the opportunity with its new 3D-printed Selfie Series action figures.
When you store photos on the cloud, you expect them to remain safe for a long time. However, some Google Photos users were scared over the weekend when they realized that their photo libraries had become corrupted.
DALL-E's Outpainting feature uses AI to expand existing images and artwork. Ad agency Ogilvy Paris has used Outpainting to expand Johannes Vermeer's famous painting, 'The Milkmaid.'
iOS 16.0.2 addresses, amongst other bug fixes, a problem wherein the second-generation sensor-shift image stabilization tech was causing camera shake issues in some third-party apps.
For the past eight years, the Library of Congress has been working on figuring out the subjects in a large collection of film, TV and music photos. Many of the mysteries have been solved. However, 17 photos have eluded the LC's best efforts, and the public's help is needed to help put names to the final unknown faces.
After having to pull the initial firmware update last month due to an issue that caused some units to stop working, Sony has re-released firmware version 1.1 for its a7 IV full-frame mirrorless camera.
Sigma's latest wide Art-badged prime for full frame is capable of some stunning landscapes. Check out a new batch of sample photos in the gallery.
Winners for this year's annual Comedy Pet Photo Awards have been announced.
While visiting the team in Seattle, Chris and Jordan attempt to eat some chowder. It's difficult. Also, this week they are puppets.
Meike has released its first adapter for Nikon Z cameras. The new MK-EFTZ-B adapter allows Nikon Z users to attach Canon EF and EF-S lenses to their cameras, complete with autofocus and automatic exposure functionality.
The Canon 5D Mark II was released in November 2008. Since then, a photographer used theirs to capture nearly 2.3 million images, which is an average of about 450 photos per day if they shot every single day. The camera is still going strong for its new owner.
Capture One for iPad users cvan now connect their camera, wired or wirelessly, to their iPad for quick image transfers without the need for memory cards and readers.
Digital film scanners can be pricey, so Lomo's latest scanners let shooters do it themselves. Whether you have a digital camera, or simply a smartphone, there's a DigitaLIZA that'll work with your kit. But are the results any good? Let's find out.
The Leica Q2 'Dawn' is the same camera on the inside, but features an all-black paint job and a special Japanese-woven fabric wrap produced by Japanese brand, Hosoo.
It's been a while since we've encountered a lens with a normal to super-telephoto range, how do the photos from the Tamron 50-400mm F4.5-6.3 look? Take a gander.
Also new is a built-in screen for checking the battery and shooting mode, as well as a Quick Launch feature for iPhone devices.
Venus Optics' Laowa 58mm F2.8 2x Ultra-Macro APO is available for Canon R, Leica L, Nikon Z and Sony E mount camera systems.
Kubrick had three of the ten Zeiss Planar 50mm F0.7 lenses Zeiss produced re-engineered to work as cinema lenses. Kubrick is most known for using these lenses in a candlelit scene in his Oscar-winning film, Barry Lyndon.