Peak Design Travel Tripod review
At first glance, the Peak Design Travel Tripod is a small, sleek, slender tripod that looks as great as it functions.
But as with most things Peak Design, dig a little deeper and you’ll find that the company has once again taken something mundane in the photography world and over-engineered the hell out of it to make it fantastic.
The Travel Tripod is feature-packed, thoughtfully designed, and dare I say it, sexy, tripod.
Yeah, that felt a little weird; who calls a tripod sexy? But as someone who appreciates thoughtful and well-considered design, this modern take on the classic 3-legged tool both functions well and looks great doing it.
Travel Tripod specs
Let’s get the typical stuff out of the way first.
The Peak Design Travel Tripod when collapsed measures 39.1cm tall, but a tiny 7.9cm wide. We’ll talk about this later in the review, but know this; that’s a big deal.
Fully deployed, you’ll get a max height of 152.4cm out of this 5-sectioned tripod.
It can handle a maximum capacity of 9.1kg, which is more than enough for any bulky DSLR + the biggest lens you can find.
A little about my usage of tripods
These numbers are essential for me as a travel photographer and a self-proclaimed minimalist and optimiser. I’m always on the hunt for the smallest, lightest, sturdiest, most reliable tripod I can get my hands on. Weight and size is always a massive factor for me, and I’m happy to pay for the convenience, so long as it fits nicely in my suitcase.
Previously that was the Sirui T-025.
And while that tripod was great and got the job done as a travel tripod, the folded dimensions of 35cm x 8.5cm, max deployed height of 139cm and maximum load of 5kg means that the Peak Design Travel Tripod for me is smaller to carry AND saves space in my suitcase, while also providing pro-level features like a huge maximum capacity, eye-level shooting, and significantly faster deployment (more on that in a moment).
All this to say right upfront of the review, Peak Design have done a great job with the Travel Tripod, and it’s my first pick for when I need a tripod on any shoot.
The ball head
But let’s go from top to bottom as to why it’s my new travel tripod.
The ball head is unlike anything else on the market.
Other tripods have multiple knobs, sometimes for pan, sometimes for tilt, sometimes you forget what they’re all for and end up screwing up your compositions.
The Travel Tripod has just one single adjustment ring for all directions of adjustment. That’s it—one ring to rule them all (sorry, I couldn’t help myself).
This makes any type of adjustment you need super quick and super easy.
Rotation on both the ring and the ball head movement itself is smooth and jank-free, allowing for super-fast portrait orientation adjustment too.
On the top of the ball head, you’ll find a cute and useful bubble level embedded into the top plate, as well as a quick-release for your Arca-Swiss compatible plates.
The quick-release is neat, as it’s not only genuinely quick to secure and unsecure your camera, but located just above the adjustment ring is a rotating lock to make doubly sure that your camera isn’t going anywhere.
All of these little features combined make the ball head a pleasure, but most importantly, confidence-inspiring to use.
There are only two minor complaints I have about it.
The first is that there’s no pan-only control, so video creators will have to either freehand this control or purchase the universal head adapter and add your own pan-enabled ball head to get the job done.
The second thing is that accessing the ball head adjustment requires you to lift the ball head so that the centre column can provide a little bit of clearance.
This particular issue is a design tradeoff, as the ball head tucks in between the legs when it’s packed down, giving a much more compact footprint when you’re travelling with it.
While I understand the tradeoff and kind of accept it, but I can’t help but wonder if there’s a way that we could have the best of both worlds; keeping the same level of compactness, while also being able to rotate without a raised centre column.
Probably not; otherwise, they probably would have done it already. In any case, I can live with it as it is. It’s not a big deal.
Here’s where things get really compact.
Rather than the traditional cylinder-shaped legs that most tripods have, Peak Design has opted for a form-fitting design that looks more like a hexagon.
This design means that the legs fit into one another, providing not just a broad surface area for stability, but also removing the typical dead space between the legs most cylindrical designs inevitably have. The result of this is a leg design that both saves space and is thick enough to provide significant support for your heavy camera gear.
The legs also have a 4 stage adjustment utilising lever-action cams at each stage.
These cams are surprisingly smooth to lever open and closed. I’m quite used to and quite fond of the classic rotating operation most tripods have, but after having used these on the Peak Design Travel Tripod, I can see why they went with this design. It’s nice.
Deployment is lightning quick. From packed to completely deployed, Peak Design claims they can unpack in just 9.8 seconds. In my testing, I couldn’t ever break 12 seconds (and god, the competitive side of me really tried. Please teach me your ways.), but I mean damn; even 12 seconds to fully deployed? Anything under 20 is crazy fast anyway.
The Travel Tripod can go into an underslung mode by taking the centre column out and reversing its input.
This mode is super useful for things like super low shots, or tricky angles you can’t get otherwise.
In addition, there’s also a low mode, where the legs can come out to an almost flat angle, and by removing the main portion of the centre column, you can get some real Spiderman action down low.
To make things even more flexible, you can separately purchase an Ultra Light Conversion Kit which allows you to remove the bottom three sections of the legs and replace them with feet, effectively giving you an ultra-light (0.77kg for the Carbon Fiber, 0.85kg for the Aluminum) tripod. This is excellent if you’re backpacking and don’t need the extra height but need the stability.
The little details make all the difference
At this point in the review, it’s easy to call it a day. After all, the basics have been nailed: a light, compact tripod that has all the pro-level features you could want from weight handling, stability, deployment speed, deployment height, ball head compatibility–all of it.
However, the things that take a product from good to great are all in the details; the little bits of consideration, time and attention that occasionally go unnoticed and unappreciated.
The Peak Design Travel Tripod has a lot of these thoughtful considerations, my favourite being:
A high-quality hex key
Yes, they redesigned the standard hex key you get with so many Peak Design products. It’s completely over-engineered, and they totally didn’t need to do it, but they did, and it’s friggin’ awesome.
Secret mobile holder
Underneath the counterweight hook lies a secret mobile holder that fits in the ball head perfectly.
It’s a super discreet adapter that has magnets to attach the holder and the counterweight hook so that you don’t lose either of them when you’re fiddling around down there.
Again. Why? Don’t know. But it’s completely over-engineered and utterly delightful.
Centre column knob
The knob that you use to control the centre column not only tightens and loosens the column, but the actual knob itself tucks away via magnets so that you can reduce its profile when you’re not using it.
It’s kind of hard to explain in text, but trust me, the first time you see it in action will bring a smile to your face.
I only ever give glowing reviews to products that deserve it, and Peak Design has done it again with their Travel Tripod.
Not only does it fold up to be significantly smaller than just about any other pro-level tripod on the market, it does so while being light, extremely feature-rich, and good-looking to boot.
The price is fantastic too; many pro-level tripods such as the Gitzo line have models that are in excess of $1000USD+; however, the Aluminum version of the Travel Tripod is just $350USD.
If you’re in the market for a top-spec tripod, look no further than the Peak Design Travel Tripod.