Imaging on the Go: Peak Design Travel Tripod

Credit: Peak Design

The Peak Design Travel Tripod is cleverly designed tripod that’s all about portability. Available in either aluminum or carbon fiber, its five-section legs and Arca Swiss plate provide stability, though it may be a touch too short for some users. 

Plus: Compact design; portability; stability; integrated smartphone holder; Arca Swiss plate

Minus: Expensive; mid-height

To an astrophotographer, a tripod is everything—and the Peak Design Travel Tripod is more than most. Cameras come and go, and many night sky photographers can’t resist the lure of bigger sensors and higher ISO capabilities every few years. Tripods tend to be in for the long haul, largely because they’re expensive and, let’s be frank, rather dull. 

Not so the Peak Design Travel Tripod, which has tricks, innovations and hidden features galore that will excite even the most old school astrophotographers after the ultimate all-in-one tripod for astro-travel. 

More than anything else, the Peak Design Travel Tripod is about a smart, sleek design. It’s a travel tripod that packs down to 15.4 inches (38.1 cm) long when packed away, though the package’s width (or lack thereof) that impresses most; it’s a mere 3 inches (7.5 cm) wide. The three legs, the center column and the Arca-Swiss plate on top are perfectly in-sync with each other. There are no acrobatics when packing away the Peak Design Travel Tripod, and when it’s in its slim and ‘weatherproof’ padded carry case—which comes complete with straps for attaching it to a backpack—it weighs just 3.44 lbs (1.56 kg). 

An Arca-Swiss camera base plate provides a strong grip. Credit: Jamie Carter

When it comes to weight, there are actually two choices. Although they’re are otherwise designed in exactly the same way, the Peak Design Travel Tripod comes in both an aluminum version ($349.95, model number TT-CB-5-150-AL-1) and a carbon fiber version ($599.95, TT-CB-5-150-CF-1), the latter of which weighs 2.81 lbs (1.29 kg). Is anyone really going to pay an extra $250 to save 9.5oz (270g)? Perhaps, and according to Peak Design the carbon fiber version is 20 percent more effective at vibration dampening. Since the aluminium version is a much more real world purchase, that’s what we tested for this review. 

Some might balk at the Peak Design Travel Tripod’s maximum height of 60 inches (152.4 cm), which it reaches with five-section legs and its center column all extended to the maximum. With the latter retracted, it reaches 51.25 inches (130.2 cm). Either way, the tripod is a lot taller than many other travel tripods and, thankfully, it’s very stable even when extended. 

The five-section legs use lie-flat leg cams that flip smoothly and secure securely, and even the rather thin looking fourth sections (often a weak point in cheap tripods) appear secure and feature substantial, contoured, shock-absorbing rubber feet. The leg cams bunch up when the tripod is packed up, making it easy to release and secure using one thumb. That’s genius design. 

The Peak Design Travel Tripod can take a maximum load of 20 lbs (9.1 kg) and is optimized for a full-frame DSLR fitted with a 200mm telephoto lens, so it suits the average wide-angle astrophotography setup well. 

A 3-hour time-lapse star-trail using the Peak Design Travel Tripod. Credit: Jamie Carter

The design is so snug that the tripod’s center column does have to be pushed up slightly (using a flat dial rather than the typical lever) upon set up to give a little clearance for the clever — and very slim — Arca Swiss plate on top. It rotates and locks into position while a small camera baseplate is secured to the bottom of a camera using a hex key. That would normally be rather annoying, though on the Peak Design Travel Tripod a hex key is provided; it’s unexpectedly nestled into the inside of one of the tripod’s legs. More genius design. 

During my review, my own camera — a Canon EOS 6D wearing a particularly heavy Sigma Art wide-angle lens — proved the Peak Design Travel Tripod completely ‘droop’-proof. During a three-hour star-trail it was stable and I didn’t notice any droop or drag. 

If you want to keep the tripod as stable as possible, the bottom of that center column does include a load-hanging hook, and it’s here’s where another delightful design innovation comes into play. Releasing a secure twist-lock on that hook reveals a hiding place for a 2.75 inch (7 cm) long contraption that turns out to be a tiny collapsible smartphone clamp. It unfurls into a spring-loaded C-shape smartphone holder and clips right into the rails of the Arca-Swiss plate. In my test it held steady even the very largest of smartphones. Given the growing popularity of smartphone photography in low light, it’s yet another unique feature. 

Lightweight yet stable and with plenty of surprises, there are few tripods as enjoyable to use or as reliable as the Peak Design Travel Tripod. Just don’t look at the price. 

MSRP: $349.95/$599.95

Website: https://www.peakdesign.com/

About Jamie Carter

A science, travel and technology journalist for over 20 years, UK-based Jamie Carter writes for Forbes Science, Sky and Telescope magazine, the BBC's Sky At Night, Travel+Leisure and the South China Morning Post. He edits WhenIsTheNextEclipse.com, leads tours to see eclipses, and regularly tweets about stargazing (@jamieacarter) and eclipses (@thenexteclipse).

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