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Review: SmallRig Lightweight Travel Tripod AP-01 (3987)

The good

Overally, the tripod is very solid, relatively light (1.3 kg) and feels like it would be good for smiting The Enemies of Journalists. It has a few useful features:

  • The main 3/8th inch mounting thread is retractable and spring loaded. You can push it down to expose an inner 1/4 inch thread. So you can attach pretty much anything to this tripod without an adapter.
  • There are handy 1/4 inch mounting threads build into the top of each leg, which you can use to attach bits of gear to the tripod without adding weight to the camera.
  • The tripod legs extend out into three locked positions, including one near-horizontal, allowing the camera to be placed at ground level. So although this model doesn't have a center column, you can still get low shots.

The bad

Firstly, there are three screws on the underside of the mounting platform, which can be tightened to secure the head in place. After my first day with the tripod I discovered that two of them had dropped out. WTF, SmallRig? Fortunately, they don't seem to be necessary, the head will stay on just fine with hand tightening.

Secondly, the documentation for this product is poor. Yeah, it's just a tripod, but there are a couple of features that may take you some time to discover, because they are not obvious:

  • You won't know about the retractable 3/8-1/4 thread until you take the head off and poke it with a finger.
  • To extend (unlock) the tripod legs into a wider position, you need to pull down on the silver clasp at the top of each leg. At first glance the clasp seems solidly fixed to the leg and it's not obvious that it has this function. You also need to pull the leg in a bit from its locked position first, otherwise the clasp won't move.

Lastly, my unit has a defect: The spirit level on the supplied head is hopelessly misaligned. It's completely useless, which speaks of poor or non-exisistant quality control. The head is otherwise usable but leveling is a feature I rely on heavily so I feel quite annoyed. I don't know if this is a general problem with all heads or just mine, but I would suspect a fair proportion of them are out of whack.

Overall, I think the tripod is pretty solid. If you can live without the unnecessary tightening screws and a possibly useless spirit level, it's reasonable value for money. But it feels like nobody actually took this product out into the field and tried to use it

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