There’s nothing funnier to me than seeing a massive set of sticks propping up a tiny DSLR. Nowadays, it’s no longer necessary to break your back to achieve stable shots and smooth pans. Most “video” tripod packages you’ll find online are bulky making them hard to transport long distances and difficult to set up quickly. They might be sturdy, but no use to you if you can’t get the shot you want because you’re too busy fidgeting with the tripod.
One of the key factors during my search was to find a tripod that was as compact and light as possible. It also needed to be versatile and easy to adjust so I could raise and lower the sticks in one quick movement. I was looking for a tripod that would last, so quality was of upmost importance and with that usually comes a higher asking price. The best sticks I found for the job were Gitzo’s Traveller GT154 series.
The GT154 series is incredibly light and compact but also extraordinarily sturdy when setup. Made from carbon fiber, the sticks weigh only 2.2 lb and hold a load capacity of up to 17.6 lb. Gitzo was one of the first companies to design travel tripods with legs that fold back over the central column and this one is no different. Completely folded up the tripod is just 16.7 in. which is small enough to fit onto a backpack or store in your carry-on luggage.
With any tripod, you want it to extend to a comfortable shooting height while standing and it doesn’t disappoint. At it’s tallest the tripod extends to 58.66 in. with the center column out. Personally, I like to keep the column down in the base as much as possible to keep everything stable. A nice hook is included in the bottom of the column that you can pull out and hang your bag or a weight to help keep your shots sturdy. You also have the option to remove the center column and turn it upside down for those of you looking to shoot low to the ground.
This particular tripod does not come with a video head so you will need to find a suitable smooth action pan head that can do the job. Manfrotto is a very popular brand among filmmakers and they produce some of the best video heads at an affordable price. I settled on Manfrotto’s entry level fluid head, the MVH500AH, which is perfect for DSLR video. It’s not the lightest and most compact video head. In fact, it looks pretty awkward on top of these Gitzo sticks, but I’m sticking with Manfrotto until I find a more suitable solution.
A leveling base is standard on all video tripods and you’ll want to make sure you have one on your own. People rave about the Acratech Leveling Base and I had to see why. The price seems steep at first, but I haven’t thought twice since I laid down the money. It’s not only lightweight, it’s also extremely well-built and easy to use. A single knob allows you to tilt the base 15 degrees in any direction which helps compensate for uneven ground. The gimbal is also oilless and greaseless so it doesn’t attract dirt or sand which can become extremely annoying if you shoot outdoors.
I can’t argue that this is the most affordable travel tripod solution, but it definitely is the best. The tripod will cost about $525, the fluid head about $150, and another $150 for the leveling base which adds up to a grand total of about $825. That may seem like a lot compared to cheaper alternatives, but there’s something to be said for an extremely portable, easy-to-use tripod that simply works no matter where you bring it.
I used to hate using tripods on my own because they were heavy to lug around and set up quickly which kept me from shooting steady, candid shots. This tripod has completely changed my shooting style and definitely improved my videos. I bring it with me wherever I go and never notice the extra weight.