The Ultimate Ultra Compact Tripod For Traveling!

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18/02/08 – The Ultimate Ultra Compact Tripod For Traveling!

My goal when packing is almost always to get whatever I need packed into the smallest possible carry-on bag. This is a challenge that I face constantly. I hate checking bags, and I generally hate traveling with two bags as carry on. Why do I dislike two bags for carry on? I dislike it because it is one more bag I potentially need to be hauling while shooting something.

For years I have been searching for the perfect travel tripod. While I may not have found the “perfect” travel tripod I found a pretty damn good, and extremely cost effective, tripod that can meet a good portion of my quick-n-dirty travel needs.

To meet my needs for the past few years I have been using the Gitzo 0012 compact tripod, which was recently discontinued. The Gitzo 0012 is a compact profession tripod, it did a good job, but it was a bit big, it was not all that stable due to the restriction of the spread of the legs, it was heavy for it’s size and hard to shove inside a packed bag.

Recently I have been leaving my Gitzo 0012 behind and wishing I had a tripod that was compact, lightweight and that could easily be tossed into a bag. My solution was an answer that was in front of my eyes very often, but I believed to fall under the “to good to be true” category”……………….the solution? The Ultrapod II.

I know, the Ultrapod II looks like a toy, but I have tried it in various configurations with the Canon 1Ds and some lenses and it held the 1Ds in place, as advertised! These body & leg configurations where at the suggested weight threshold (and in some cases slightly over), according to the manufacturers suggested “maximum safe load.” The Ultrapod II has a small multi-directional ball head and can be used as short table top tripod, or it can be laid against a pole or a fence and secured tightly into place using the supplied lashing velcro strap. Playing with both the tripod and “lashed down” set ups I used my Canon 1Ds, with NP-E3 battery, the Canon 50f1.4 with the Canon EF-12II macro tube, as well as the Canon 85f1.8 and Canon 14f2.8. All of these set ups put the UltraPod II over the suggested “maximum design load” or 4lbs and close to or slightly over the “maximum safe load” of 6lbs.

I have been extremely impressed with this little tripod!

How does the UltraPod II stand up to the Gitzo 0012? Let’s see

Ultra Pod II
Cost: US$18.95
Folded Length : 7.5″
Weight: : 0.25lbs

Gitzo 0012 w/G1277M compact ball head
Cost of 0012: US$215 (now discontinued, the replacement is US$365)
Cost of G1277M : US$162
Folded Length (with head): 13″
Weight (with head): 2.1lbs

While the Gitzo 0012 has some great advantages over the UltraPod II, at a cost savings of US$358.05, a weight savings of 1.84lbs, and a space saving of 5.5 inches, I see the UltraPod II as a fantastic tool!

With many photographers, especially traveling photographers, using the smaller, lighter , lower center of gravity bodies, such as the Canon 40D/5D and Nikon D300 bodies, the UltraPod II is something I think everyone should explore.

I’ll admit it, there are times I need, and use a full-size tripod. I have a few in the basement that are long,heavy, have extremely heavy ball-heads, and they have their purpose………and that purpose is not to be easily carried around and used while shooting on the fly.

At under $20 , can you really go wrong with a compact travel tripod, that is versatile, has it’s own ball-head and that can support up-to 6lbs very easily?

Below is a a photo of the UltraPod II supporting my Canon 1Ds w/Canon 50f1.4 and Canon EF-12II extension tube and a photo of the UltraPod II all folded up next to the 1Ds with Canon 85f1.8 just to show the size of the item.

Happy Flying!

–Click The Images To Enlarge Them–


  1. I’ve used the older version I think (you got it free with a subscription to JPG magazine) and it did a pretty good job. I still love my ‘real’ tripod for overall use, but for form factor, etc, this thing is great!

  2. These things are great. It’s been really useful while traveling – particularly when shooting in places that aren’t really tripod friendly (like old churches around Europe). It’s very unobtrusive and let’s you capture low light shots.

    Two comments after using it for a couple years: One, keep an eye on the rubber feet (or glue them on), I lost one on the first trip with it. Two, if you don’t actually use the velcro feature, you can (non-destructively) remove it to make everything fold up much quicker and easier.

    Thanks for the tips – I’ve enjoyed following the blog!

  3. Have you tried the gorillapod? It seems like it could do all the things you suggested above, PLUS it has flexible arms for gripping stuff.

    I’d be curious to hear your opinion on that.

  4. Bill

    I have played with the Gorilla Pod, the heavy duty one. It is an interesting design, it can hold a significant amount of weight and I plan on getting one to take out in the next month or two so I can put it through it’s paces.

    The only thing keeping from the Gorilla Pod at this time is it’s size. The tripod it’s self takes up more space than the Gitzo 0012 and it’s ball head.

    From the little I have used of the Gorilla Pod I only have positive things to say. I used it with a 1Ds and an 85f1.2 with two EF-12 extension tubes stacked on it shooting a photo of a CF card. It held the weight!

    Happy Flying!


  5. Fish,

    Save yourself time & money on the Gorillapod as a camera stand. I have both the DSLR Zoom GP & the Ultrapod 2 and the latter is definitely a better device at even money. Consider that the UP is less than half the price its an easy victory.

    On paper the GP looks interesting but in reality its quite difficult to master getting the exact composition you want without it wiggling or moving in some undesirable angle. Its quite long & doesn’t compact nicely so its not travel friendly. I usually wrap it around my camera bag strap instead of fighting for space on the inside of my bag.

    Oddly enough, I end up using the GP more as a stand for a remote speedlight than a camera stand. Since a hotshoe flash can swivel & rotate on its own, it overcomes the difficulty I’ve experienced with the GP. In this respect its easier & lighter than a superclamp but still costs more.

    Thanks for a great blog.

  6. You can also consider the Manfrotto 3007 tripod ($17, 3oz, 90g) and a Giottos MH 1304 ($15, 2.6oz, 73g) ballhead. It seems much more professional than other mini-tripods. There is also an extension column Manfrotto 3007X for $21.

  7. Been using the ultrapod for years… My dad actually had one, kept it strapped to his bag all the time. When I got back into photography – that little bugger had disappeared 🙁

    Picked mine up from REI if I recall correctly…

  8. Guy

    I have considered the Manfrotto 3007 tripod and plan on road-testing one in the near future. This tripod is $50 not $17 though.

    I have not considered the Giottos MH 1304, as it is a ball head and not a tripod.


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