Having cameras with me for more than a decade, I have taken tens of thousands of photos. My first tripod was purchased around the same time as my first camera, but it was used not more than ten times. It was a cheap entry-level tripod, made by some kind of alloy, lightweight and with a standard yet basic ball-head, standard studs, nothing more. I placed my Canon 350D on it without any problem.
My daily shooting does not need a tripod. Hiking and shooting on daytime, usually hand-hold is more than enough. Shooting Cats and animals (but not birds), a tripod is not the essential equipment. Taking photos with family, I am usually the one who holds the camera or just shot on iPhone in recent years.
Last winter, I started trying to shoot at night seriously, and that is the place for a tripod. I found that my baby entry-level tripod could not fulfill my needs. My current main camera is Canon 5DmkIV, and my lens is not only the 24-105 Kit Lens anymore. My old tripod could hold the camera in landscape position, but not the portrait angle. My camera will rotates downward slowly due to the weight. So the tripod is unusable.
A year ago, Peak Design launched its Tripod project. I just wanted to click the preorder button, and even being the Peak Design fanboy, I hold by purchase. First, the price, for someone who doesn't use the equipment every day, a tripod pricing hundreds of dollars may be too expensive. Second, Hex-key. I highly doubt about using an extra tool to connect the camera and the tripod, since it was promoting itself as a travel tripod. Therefore, I did not order the product. After 12 months, after many people review the retail units, and I really wanted a tripod lately, I bought it finally.
Before discussing the function, let's talk about the money first. This is an expensive product for me. Comparing my entry-level tripod, Peak Design Tripod priced from US$350 is just sky-high. If we comparing it with the professional tripod, US$350 is on the lower end of the price range. It is in fact at the funny middle ground between basic and professional items.
Talking about the look of the tripod. This is no doubt the best tripod I have even seen. No matter what is your taste, you may like the look or not, the manufacturing quality of Peak Design's product is no need to be worried. Surprisingly I found some tiny dried glue on the gap of the upper section of the legs. I used a black ink pen to slightly paint a thin line to cover it.
So, let's talk about function. One of the major factors of a tripod is weight. I have tried both Carbon Fabric and Aluminium version in the camera store. The two versions have no different other than their weight (or you could side the carbon fabric one is a little bit tougher if you use the tripod as a baseball bat). In the factsheet, their differences are just serval hundreds of grams, in reality, I could easily feel a huge difference just hold by my hands. The Aluminium version is my choice due to the cheaper price ($350 vs $600).
I have brought the tripod to my last 2 short hikes and feeling comfortable speaking all it's good and bad. The build quality is top of the class, while the legs look thin and could blend with a bare hand, it is surprisingly stable after expanded all the tripod. The camera is very stable on the tripod and this is the most important of a tripod, no matter the legs thin or not. Peak Design also said the way how its legs expand is unique and super fast, but I do not think it is a new design. expanding is fast and smooth because the connection point of the legs is perfectly built. Speedy settling the tripod is good when hike.
There are also many people praising the hidden mobile phone holder. I think it is good, yet not a deal-breaker. It is just a bonus for this tripod.
The deal-breaker, for me, is the truly unique design ball-head. It is so compact and flat, easily controlled by one hand. I could just rotate the top ring to lock the camera on the tripod and rotate the bottom ring to lock the position. the lock feels very secure. I tried it with my 5DmkIV with 70-200/4, and it is stable as a rock. The camera clipped on the top of the tripod easily and lock both the camera and its position with 2 fingers, this is just an amazing workflow and the biggest strength of this tripod. The lock is solid and the camera will not slowly rotate downward like my previous cheap tripod even on portrait setting. Some people complain about the limited angles when setting up in portrait, which I am totally fine with that. The adjusting angle is limited in one side of the portrait setting, but it is so easy to turn the camera to another side and get the remaining angles. Since the lock / unlock is so quick with the ring, turning the camera is just a matter of second.
While Peak Design Tripod is great in many areas, it was not perfect. As mentioned above, replying to a Hex-Key to get the job done is bugging many people including me. Peak Design has clearly heard this complaint and all they have done was including the Hex-Key in the package. The Key was just clip on one of its legs, and I just accidentally got it fell on the ground in my first hike with the tripod. Requiring an extra tool to use the tripod is contradict with what Travel Tripod means, which is the target Peak Design marketing this for this tripod. The Hex-Key Clip is apparently an afterthought, and do not match the overall elegance design of this product.
Conclusion, Peak Design Tripod is a good product, besides the Hex-Key problem. The quality match worth its price. This is not a tripod for video shooting but a great one for still photos. Look and Design is nearly perfect, using it is fast and smooth. If you need a tripod for travel, you will not be disappointed. If you are upgrading from some entry-level-tripod like me, you will not be disappointed, either.
If you interested in the equipment I used, please check the links below:
- Shimoda Action X30 Backpack ----- https://amzn.to/2SJXdwC
- Peak Design Tripod ----- https://amzn.to/2IajlhD
- Peak Design Everyday Backpack Zip ----- https://amzn.to/33IEAQ1
- Canon 5D Mark IV ----- https://amzn.to/2SJXz6q
- DJI Mavic 2 Pro ----- https://amzn.to/33IKaC3
- GoPro Max ----- https://amzn.to/3nxqPvs
- Manfrotto PIXI Mini Tripod ----- https://amzn.to/2SECuKI