A tripod is the literal foundation of an astrophotography setup, especially when shooting nightscapes, time-lapses and tracked wide-field images. There’s no point spending up to thousands of dollars on a high-quality camera and lens only to mount them on a shaky tripod.
While spending several hundred dollars on what seems like a simple mechanical device might seem excessive, I’ve never regretted the money spent on a good tripod. Unlike cameras, and even most lenses, a tripod will serve you for many years, if not decades.
But a solid tripod can mean a big and heavy one. Carbon fiber construction is a solution to combining strength with light weight. OPT’s new Radian tripod offers both traits in a package that is still reasonably priced for a carbon fiber tripod. After all, it is nice not to have to spend more than we have to!
Weight and Height
The Carbon Fiber Tripod is one of Oceanside Photo and Telescope’s house-branded Radian products. The tripod weighs 4.4 lbs (2 kg), about 1.1 kg lighter than the aluminum Manfrotto #055C tripod I’ve owned for years that I’d consider the Radian’s load-carrying equivalent. Carrying around the Radian tripod in the field, even with a tracker on it, is a real pleasure. Indeed, I’m delightfully surprised how light it is each time I pick it up.
Minimum length is 21.5 inches (55 cm), short enough to pack into a medium-sized checked suitcase for airline travel. It comes with a padded carrying bag as well, though the bag will not be long enough to accommodate the tripod with a tall head attached.
The legs have four sections, tightened with wide twist-lock grips. When fully extended the top of the tripod stands just shy of five feet (152 cm) above the ground, a little tall for most uses. I found extending only the second segment was adequate for many purposes, placing the tripod top 32 inches (81 cm) high.
However, even with three leg segments extended vibrations damped out immediately, in less than a second, with a modest load of a star tracker and camera. There was no wobble or play. Trackers always maintained polar alignment.
The feature I like about the Radian is its quick-release top plate. It clamps securely into the circular well, and has a standard 3/8-inch stud bolt onto which you can mount any tripod head, sky tracker wedge assembly, or small altazimuth telescope mount.
Buy a spare quick-release plate for each device you might want to use on the tripod. That makes switching from one purpose to another quick and easy, with no fussing with bolts and tools. The Radian has become my preferred base for the Star Adventurer tracker I turn to most often for wide-field tracked panoramas and single images, such as the image of the winter sky setting over the Alberta Badlands used for the featured image. The Radian’s light weight makes it easy to carry the rig to scenic spots.
As with most tripods, the Radian’s legs can be angled out wider, with three click-stop positions, giving the tripod a wider stance when needed or for low-angle shooting.
The only drawback I found was that you have to choose between screwing on either the rubber leg tips or the included metal spikes. Most tripods have the spikes built in, to be exposed by retracting the softer tips. With the Radian, the other set of leg tips have to be stored separately, risking forgetting or losing them.
There is also no rising center post, though for best stability that can be considered a plus. But it does mean changing the height requires adjusting all three legs, as does leveling the tripod. The top surface includes a bubble level.
The underside of the quick release plate has a hook for hanging a bag for added weight when needed. As shown, I purchased a Manfrotto tripod “apron” to hang between the legs, for a convenient spot to place odds and ends and keep items out of the dirt.
In all, OPT’s Radian Carbon Fiber has become my favorite tripod for most of my wide-field photography. It will also work well with a small altazimuth mount for a grab-and-go telescope. I highly recommend it.
Plus: Strong, steady, light and versatile
Minus: Legs require swapping tips
Summary: OPT’s house-branded Radian Carbon Fiber Tripod works well as a solid but light platform for a variety of uses: with tripod heads, star trackers, or small telescope mounts.
Who Is It For? Astrophotographers needing a light, portable tripod for a variety of applications.
MSRP: $370; $50 for spare Quick Release Plate