Last fall I began looking for a new tripod. I’d been using a Manfrotto legs and head for several years and it was time for something new – for a few reasons. While pretty sturdy, the Manfrotto isn’t light. Carrying it on the trail for several hours, the extra couple of pounds do make a difference. I was also getting a bit tired of the flip action leg locks that get caught on things. It wasn’t overly compact in the closed position so carrying it was more difficult and lashed onto the bottom of a bag it stuck out on the sides a fair bit and would get knocked around easily.
Wanting to lighten the load a little I decided that carbon fibre would be route I’d go with a new ‘pod. I started looking at the major contenders: Gitzo; Manfrotto; Induro; and others. For various reasons, none seemed to be what I was looking for. The name Feisol is one I’d seen mentioned a few times in the past and always with positive reports. Based in Asia, they now have a U.S. distributor. Their Traveler Tripod (model CT-3441S) with ball head (model CB-30C) looked like it might fit the bill. Compact when closed (the legs fold up around the head, making the closed length shorter than normal), lightweight (just over 3lbs for legs and head), good load rating (just under 15.5lbs – an EOS 1Ds MkIII + 600mm f4 L IS weighs in at just under 14.5lbs) and priced well ($399 includes legs, head, one QR plate and a carry bag). A hook that screws onto the bottom of the centre column for hanging ballast is also included. The legs come with neoprene wraps for carrying comfort. Given the positive reviews I’d seen from others, I decided to give it a go.
I had a couple questions before buying. The response from their U.S. rep was quick, cordial and directly addressed my questions. The online purchase was simple, confirmed quickly and the item was shipped quickly. A follow up email to request a tracking # was answered an a timely manner and the shipment arrived at my door on time.
The Traveler has 4 leg sections. Twist locks are used on the legs. Having used flip locks for many years, the twist locks took really no getting used to. A simple quarter turn and the leg sections can be extended or retracted. You do have to make sure the locks are twisted tight. If they’re not quite tight enough, trying to loosen a lower twist lock will result in the next higher section turning rather than the section unlocking. Not a big deal. Unlike many centre columns, the one in the Traveler is two sections. The same type of twist lock as on the legs works the centre column. The locks have well grooved rubber collars making them easy to get grip for turning. Fully extended, the unit doesn’t feel unstable at all. As noted above, there is a hook that can be added to the bottom of the centre column for hanging counterweight to increase stability if needed. The carbon fibre of the legs seems solid. The fit of the leg sections inside each other seems tight with no wiggling which would impact stability and, perhaps over time, stress the carbon fibre. Thumb levers at the tops of the legs make adjusting leg angles simple and speedy.
The head is small and lightweight but still very sturdy. The main locking knob works in conjunction with the friction control wheel to control the movement of the ball head and the turning of the head for panning. If the friction control wheel is fully tightened, the main locking knob can be loosened which will allow the head to pan while the camera remains in place. A single slot in the head collar allows for putting the camera on its side for vertical shots if you’re not using a long lens with a tripod ring. The head uses an Arca-style quick release system which holds the camera and lens very securely.
To get the Traveler into its shortest closed length, extend the main centre column section then fold the legs up 180 degrees around the column and head. Makes a nice, compact package.
My first outing with the Traveler was on a trek to the Finger Lakes region of NY State where I hiked in 5 state parks. I had to set the tripod up in a variety of configurations. Adjusting the legs to the proper positions was easy and took little time. The legs come standard with rubber feet that are pretty securely attached and I had no concern they would come off. I can’t say the same for my Manfrotto. The standard feet fell off regularly and I lost several of the accessory spike feet over the years. Two different types of spike feet are available for the Traveler, both of which screw securely into the bottoms of the legs so there should be no concern with losing those either.
I’m very happy with this ‘pod and head combination. It fits the needs I had when I started looking for something new and I think it’d be difficult to beat the price. On a price/value scale, it has to rate extremely high.
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