One backpacking trip I tried to lug a full-sized, eight pound tripod up the mountain, along with my other gear… including my full frame DSLR. Last minute, I ditched the bad idea and went with a better one, although ultimately the cheapy mini tripod I used on that trip very well sucked at doing its job.
Years have past, and while my gear set has gotten lighter, what to bring for support for nightshots is still something I struggle with. Over that time I’ve been cobbling a small collection of lightweight, “tabletop” tripods that are tiny champs when it comes to holding a point and shoot camera, or large DSLR.
Great for multi-day trips, they don’t take up a lot of room and still offer necessity for photographers wanting a little something for those cosmic photos after hours. The cameras I’ve been using these with on are a Canon 5D MkII (with various lenses), and a Canon G7X point and shoot. All mini tripods are shot next to the G7X for size reference, smallest to largest.
Manfrotto Large Pocket Support
One of my favorites of those I’ve tried, mainly because it’s a mighty little tripod. THE smallest tripod I own, The Manfrotto MP3 Large Pocket Support can actually withstand a Canon 5D MkII with Zeiss 18mm at most angles. For lighter cameras, the design does allow very steep angles for things like night shots.
The legs are very stiff, in the best way possible, and the mostly metal construction gives it a hefty feel and quality. Simply for those who want the smallest package…I never thought I would actually say this, but now that I own it, I’ll most likely keep it on me for every trip, needed or not.
The only thing that hurts is price; at nearly $30, I’ll find it worth it, but I know some will scoff.
One note, mine didn’t come with the mini screwdriver tool, so I contacted Manfrotto’s customer service email and within mere minutes, a human being was asking for my home address so they could send me the part.
A stand-out in terms of design, the Gekkopod supports all manner of devices. I opted for the version with GoPro mounts, which means this guy will hold that, mobile phones, or point and shoot cameras. Don’t be fooled by the cutesy design; its stiff arms actually hold the G7X at almost any angle needed, which means any camera lighter will be sturdy.
Just don’t expect fine control over angle as it does take a few minutes of coddling around each arm just to stay level. I would honestly grab this over the GorillaPod Point & Shoot. One thought, I’ve never needed to attach a camera to a tree limb or nearby pipe, though this didn’t secure itself as well as a GorillaPod.
JOBY GorillaPod Point & Shoot
I don’t remember how or when I got this, but be forewarned: only the smallest point and shoot or GoPro will be supported by its legs.
Sure, the GorillaPod Point & Shoot is small and very light, but it you want to angle your camera above, say 12 degrees, the top-heaviness brings it down. It couldn’t even handle the G7X at most angles. You’re much better off going with a model up. Also, like the Gekkopod, there’s no fine control with these spider-like tripods.
Deeply surprised upon first use, I think DSLR shooters will want to check this piece out first. Mostly metal, it can handle a full bodied DSLR and some 70-200mm lenses. A rotating ball head securely fit anything I put on it and did so at all angles. Overkill for any point and shoot this is a small tripod for big cameras. It is heavy for its size, but that point also attributes some stability.
At 35 bucks, it’s a bit of money for a small gadget, but the Oben TT-100 is well worth that much.
Pedco Ultrapod Grip
The biggest on this list, but also somewhere near the lightest. All plastic design makes for its feather weight, but I’m afraid some shooters might find their larger cameras a little top heavy at some angles, though not all; the Ultra-Pod II seems better suited for large point and shoots or micro four thirds cameras.
The wide legs do make a great base and certainly something you can toss in your bag or tie to the outside. Also, I really like the ball head with actuating arm which makes it easy to pinpoint your cameras center of gravity to make it more stable. The Ultra-Pod II is cheap too. At less than $20, why not?
Taken with the Oben TT-100 and a Canon 5D MkII with Voigtlander 28mm lens.
A few others…
I couldn’t try out every mini tripod, though here are a few I’ve been keen to test out:
- Cullmann Magnesit Copter – Sturdy looking and simple design. Looks solid but lightweight.
- Joby GorillaPod Micro 800 – Seems VERY small, though angle of tilt might be rather limited. My bet is wouldn’t hold much weight.
- Slik Mini Pro DQ – Looks very similar to my first mini tripod and for me, this design mimics large scale tripods too much without much benefit.
- Manfrotto PIXI – Does Manfrotto make anything bad? Looks solid but something about that ball head looks off…
Disclosure – I received products from Pedco and Gekkpod for the purposes of review. All opinions are my own and honest.