How hard can it be? Constructing a small tripod for your camera or smartphone shouldn’t be rocket science. But unfortunately there is plenty of garbage on that market.
What do you need a mini tripod for, then?
A real tripod is of course preferable and I recommend a carbon fibre tripod for easier transportation, but there are also times when a mini tripod is the right alternative.
I have always had a mini tripod myself. Most of us don’t bring a real tripod just because we may need it. It’s not logical to carry a big and heavy tripod if you’ve bought a small and light camera to fit your pocket, so you can bring it wherever you go. So you should have a similar tripod to match your camera.
The time is in general passé, when you used a mini tripod as support against a wall or similar for exposures longer than 1/30 second. Today’s image stabilizer technologies will take care of most such situations, allthough a tripod may still be handy when shooting with strong zoom lenses in poor light.
No, nowadays it’s mostly about getting exposures for a second or more in order to get:
- the right motion blur when shooting objects in movement
- nice effects on water in motion
- sharp night images of high quality
- night images of traffic
- images of yourself through remote control or timer
Those of us who always like to carry a camera can have good use for a handy, small and light tripod, in case we should come across a motive that will only work with a long exposure. And if you bring your camera to the party, hoping you might get a nice night image on the way back home, you should also have a small tripod in your pocket.
So we picked some typical mini tripods from China to see how they worked. And this is how we evaluated them.
- Minimal size. Are they at all convenient to bring?
- Maximum size. Is it big enough to do any good?
- Weight. Light is good if you are going to keep it in your pocket.
- Stability. It’s nice if it can produce sharp images
- Durability. Is the quality good enough?
- Usability. Can you attach it to posts or different objects?
It should be noted that this test only applies to the tripods tested, though some conclusions can be made to the kind of tripod.
This is an ordinary tripod, but very small in size. It is very steady, but also weights a lot. One advantage is that the legs can be extracted to a proper height (46 cm) and also widely angled for increased stability. This tripod will easily hold even a big and heavy camera.
Unfortunately it not very small. It’s too big for the pocket and it weights too much, almost one kilo (950 grams). And it has quick release system that requires turning a knob several times. If you use one hand to unscrew the camera you have to choose if you want to hold the camera or the tripod with the other hand. This would have been okay with a full size tripod, but it is not so good for a mini tripod.
This tripod cost quite a bit and we think that if you need a bag to carry it, you may prefer to bring a light full size tripod instead. For this reasons we don’t recommend this tripod.
This tripod, made in china, comes without a proper brand name. How good can it be?
Really good actually. On one hand it’s not possible to extract the legs to make it larger, but on the other hand the bend and twistable legs are quite strong. With a wider angle and broader base it’s quite stable, even though we can’t recommend it for a heavy DSLR. The head is a bit too weak, especially if you want to attach the tripod to a post or similar.
The joints in the legs are sticky so it is easy to attach the tripod to a post or bar, if it’s not to large. An ordinary lamppost will do, however. And there is also a quick release system that is really nice. You can release the camera with a button and there is a little plastic screw that can be used to secure the camera from release by mistake.
At first impression it seems very plastic, but it has proved quite good even so. It’s not the smallest tripod but the weight is low (160 grams). In other words, this is a nice companion to your compact camera.
This is probably a cousin to the above tripod. It has no brand name, it’s very plastic but still not bad. It’s a pistol grip that can be twisted into a table top tripod. The legs are in hard plastic and it seems quite reliable. It’s also very light and reasonable compact.
The pistol grip is useful if you like to shoot video with your light compact camera or smartphone. It may be difficult to keep the camera steady with your fingers and the pistol grip makes it easier to avoid trembling.
We think this is a nice complement to your smartphone, especially if you like to take videos.
This kind of tripods seems quite popular today and yet we really hate it. It’s not compact when not using it and this particular tripod was very weak. One leg broke, but we could fix it by forcing the joints back together. It can be attached to a post or bar of some kind, but both the legs and head is too week even for a reasonably light DSLR.
It looks similar to blue portable mini table top gripping tripod above, but in function it’s just not good enough.
It is available in three different sizes and we tested the middle size. I haven’t tried the original Gorilla tripod, but I hope it is of better quality this is a poor copy. However we believe a mini tripod should be easy to carry, and this model is the same size whether you area carrying it or using it. Most of the time that means its often to small when using it and too big for your pocket.
We don’t recommend this tripod at all.
Conclusions from this exercise
In this test we also tried an ordinary very common type of tripod of the cheaper kind. It looked very much like a mini tripod we already have, since many years, and that we like rather much. It’s lightweight and small when contracted. But this particular tripod was a real disappointment. We’ll update when we find something in better quality.
The fact that devices like these are really simple makes it actually hard to make an evaluation from just images and information. You might even get the impression that since they are so simple, there is plenty of cheaper products on the market that is no good at all.
On the other hand – the trick is to find price worthy products and sometimes even better products and to pay less for it.