Do super-super-lightweight tripods exist?

Are there are any "ultra-portable" tripods out there? I'd like to find one for backpacking that weighs 500 grams or less, but none seem to exist... there are tabletop tripods that weigh considerably less, and the full-size tripods that seem to bottom out around 1000g. But nothing in between?

I'm happy to sit down while photographing, but I'd like to make photos without needing a rock or log to put a tabletop tripod on, or a tree to strap one to.

In the spirit of a tripod is better than no tripod, I'd give up a lot. But I have not been able to find a product like this.

I would also be interested in directions for building one.

Clarifications

  • The 500g budget includes a complete tripod: both legs and head.
  • The goal is to support about 1.5kg (e.g., D90 + 18-200).
  • The 500g budget is for additional weight above and beyond what I'm already carrying. So, if an item I'm already carrying on a backpack can be repurposed or a new item substituted, only the net mass increase counts against the budget.

Answers 17

  • An alternative tripod that may serve your needs is the TrekPod. It might be the closest thing you are going to get from a weight perspective, but it has an interesting capability that may make its weight a moot point. The TrekPod XL weighs 630g (including the ball head), and is a cross between a tripod and a monopod. It can get up to 62" in height, but breaks down very small so it can easily be packed away. The real kicker: it can also double as a hiking staff! As a hiking staff, it wouldn't need to be something you have to stick in your pack, so the weight might not matter.

    I chose the Gitzo over this since I needed a full tripod with the flexibility that a full set of telescopic legs offered. The TrekPod is probably the lightest full-height tripod I've ever encountered, though. Its 130g over your limit...but maybe it will still work.


  • I have the same problem as you. For now, I have found this option: Velbon V-Pod at 275g and 1Kg rating. It appears that there is no other option under 500g...


  • When I needed a travel tripod, I also opted for a Trekpod. As noted, it doesn't meet the weight requirement, but it does double duty, which mitigated the weight, in my opinion.

    One of the alternatives I considered, by the way, was a Gorillapod. I know you specifically indicated that you didn't want to "strap the camera to a tree", but this might give you some positioning options to take advantage of material around you.

    If none of these options meet your needs, it might be worth stepping back a bit to consider your overall objectives. Others have mentioned some really nice carbon fiber tripods that miss your target by just a few hundred grams. If you're trying to get your entire pack weight down to a certain target, can you make that weight up elsewhere (lighter tent, lighter tools, etc.)?

    If weight is the ultimate goal here, it may also be worth considering the rest of your shooting package. What about the camera body? Would you be better off with a lightweight body (D40 or similar) on a really stable tripod, rather than a D90 on an unstable platform? What about the lens? If I'm not mistaken, the 18-200 weighs around 560g; would you consider something like a Tamron 18-250 (430g) in order to save 130g? (hint: if you wouldn't consider swapping lenses or bodies, then you're indicating that there are some places where quality is worth a few extra grams -- consider that with respect to the rest of the package).

    When I was in Canada this spring, I took some landscape shots where no tripod = no shot. In hindsight, I'm really glad I had the Trekpod along.


  • I am looking for a good lightweight tripod. I agree with @grm's answer - it is difficult to design a tripod with a weight of less than 500 gms.

    You can consider this 1kg Manfrotto Self Standing Monopod.

    Advantages:

    1) It has only 3 leg sections so you can set it up very quickly (with base three legs always fixed).

    2) Loading capacity is 12 kg...

    Disadvantages:

    1) Since the base three legs are always fixed, it affects portability.


  • The problem with lightweight tripods in my opinion is that they tend to be floppy. If you're using a decent sized camera that's not going to work, and hanging stuff off the bottom doesn't much help.

    For air travel, walking etc I leave the big stuff at home and take an Induro A012, which is a tiny 800g tripod with two-section legs. That does not meet your criteria. You could save 100g or so if you chopped the centre column (never use them). A decent head weighs a few hundred grams, and I'd add a proper quick-release system.

    That's more weight that you want to carry, but this is a serious alternative to the sort of floppy "accessory" table tripods you'll see. It will easily hold 1-series cameras and performs as well as any large "pro" tripod (I have several of those). The down-side is that you have to scrabble around on the floor a bit, but otherwise it's the only way to fly/walk.


  • In cases where my Gitzo GT1530 is too heavy for travel I bought a used Gitzo GT0027 which is very light with 0.94 pounds, folds to neat 11.8 inch which even fit inside my smallest photo backback.
    The main limit is max height with 28 inches, which does not bother me. As head I use a GH1780, which is light but sturdy.

    This combo works good enough for me with either the D700 or D90. Of course, when I need maximum stability I'll use mirror lockup and a cable/remote release.

    Only drawback of the GT0027: no ALR (Anti Lock Rotation), which, if you are used to it, is really annoying not to have. There is a more modern version of the GT0027 (it might be the GT0531 someone else mentioned), which has ALR but is slightly heavier, I think.



  • There is a class of tripods known as table-top tropods.

    For a compact camera, or even a small compact system camera with a pancake lens, I use the Hama Mini Tripod. It sells for £2.50, has a mass of 47 g, and is about 11 cm high.

    For a slightly larger/heavier setup (such as this), I find that the Manfrotto PIXI EVO 2-Section Mini Tripod works well. It has a mass of 270 g and is very stable with my setup. It's a much more advanced tripod than the Hama Mini Tripod, but still cheap compared to most normal-sized tripods.



  • A 1kg tripod is really light and I doubt it's possible to construct something lighter that is usable for anything except carrying around. I don't know what other stuff you are carrying around with you, but I suggest you rather try to restrict the rest of the load. Carrying a 1kg tripod is really not a problem if you are serious about photography IMHO.


  • There are lightweight tripods. I recently purchased a Gitzo Mountaineer GT0541 tripod. Its fairly expensive at $500, but it only weighs 1.7lbs, or 780g. I know its not quite 500g, but still very light weight as far as tripods go...one of the lightest weight tripods I could find. I think Gitzo only makes one tripod that is just a tad lighter at 720g, but it is also several inches shorter.

    The GT0541 is one of Gitzo's carbon-fiber 6x line, and has some nice features. It has a decent load capacity of 11lbs (4990g), rises to a maximum height of 56" (1.42m) (with center extender and without a tripod head attached) with 4-section legs, and allows a minimum height of about 10" (2.54cm) when you remove the center extender and set it for ground-lock.

    Adding a Gitzo ball head probably adds about another 3 inches (7.62cm) to its height, putting it at nearly 60" (1.52m) tall (I have not yet purchased a Gitzo head, and my current head adds about 3.5-4", but weighs more than the whole tripod by almost two fold.)

    From some recent experience, without my old head attached, this tripod is EXTREMELY lightweight, and is a dream to hike around with. I have been searching for a Gitzo head to go along with it, and I know they have some very nice, very light-weight heads that weight in around a pound (450g) (probably less, as 1lb is the shipping weight), although I can't give you any more details than that yet as I haven't actually purchased one and hiked around with it.



  • Tamrac makes a very lightweight tripod called the ZipShot, it's only 11oz (312g) but does not carry much weight, 3 lbs (1361g) by manufacturer spec., this will carry a small DSLR with a light lens, but don't expect it to do miracles. Regarding height it is only 44" (112cm) tall so it is somewhere in-between a tabletop and a full size tripod. Might be worth checking out if weight is that more important than stability.


  • Are you already using a walking stick? If so, converting it into a monopod is probably your lightest option.

    There are a couple of options here and here (although the second one might be a challenge to adapt to a larger camera)

    This tutorial from instructables looks pretty nifty too if you're hiking with a partner who also has walking poles.



  • I've had this Slik Compact for years. It's 572g and is only rated for 1.24kg, but it comes very close to meeting your spec. It's very basic and a bit of a pain to set up with so many leg segments; mine is an earlier version that had twist-lock legs rather than the clamps pictured. Still better than no tripod at all.


  • Do you need something that will put your camera a couple feet above the ground, or do you just want something stable and flat for your camera? There are some bean bag tripods available, like at www.thepod.ca, that will give you a stable, level surface for your camera. Those come with tripod mounts, and I've heard (my sister used one with her Canon G9) they work well.

    You could go the DIY route, too; I've read online that some people just make a small pouch and fill it up with pebbles or dirt when they are ready to take a picture then set the camera on the bag. That gives you an ultra-lightweight surface, since you only have to carry the outer material with you; although of course the tradeoff is the time it takes to fill the bean bag every time you want to take a picture.


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