There are times when a big, burly tripod just isn’t necessary or even practical. Fortunately, there’s a new tripod line on the market by MeFoto (a Benro brand) that provides many of the same benefits of a full-size tripod but in a lightweight, compact package: the MeFoto Travel Tripod with Ballhead.
I’ve been using the MeFoto BackPacker, the smallest tripod in the line, for several months and have found it to be a useful addition to my camera kit. When not in use the legs fold up and around the center column and ballhead to create an extremely compact package measuring about 12.5” in length. At its widest point, it’s only 3.75” across when folded and the whole thing weighs less than 3 pounds. Toss it in a suitcase or backpack and you’ll hardly even know it’s there until you need it. And yet, for a tripod that packs down so small, the BackPacker tops out at a respectable 51” at maximum extension.
Overall, I’m impressed with the BackPacker. It’s well built and durable, twist locks on the legs operate smoothly and lock securely and frankly, it’s damn attractive. The ballhead is small but fully featured with independent pan and head locks as well as an integrated bubble level. It uses a standard Arca-Swiss style quick release plate, which is very unusual (but awesome!) for a ballhead of such a petite size. The ballhead action is smooth and clamps down tight with a quick twist of the head lock knob. Speaking of knobs, they’re all coated in rubber, which gives them a nice soft-touch feel and a secure grip.
The BackPacker is rated to support up to 8.8 pounds. I’ve no doubt it is capable of such a feat but in practice, you’d be asking a lot of such a diminutive tripod. I don’t think the ballhead would have a problem supporting the weight as once it is locked down, it takes a whole lot of muscle to make it budge. The lower leg sections are fairly spindly and the tall center column that is in a permanent “up” position are the weak links. To be fair, this isn’t so much a criticism as a warning. I don’t think any serious photographer with a pro DSLR and lenses would buy the MeFoto BackPacker with the intent to use it as their primary tripod. I have used my Canon 5DMKII with battery grip and 24-105mm lens on the BackPacker and it did not topple under the weight. In fact, it worked just fine. There wasn’t so much as a hint of a breeze, I used mirror lock up and I did not extend the upper center column – all of which were factors in creating sharp images with a heavy rig on such a dainty tripod.
If the MeFoto wasn’t designed for use with full size DSLRs and heavy lenses, what is it good for? We’ve used it dozens of times to support a Canon S95 for family self-portraits. You know those cheesy ones you see everyone doing at the national park signs? Yeah, that’s us. Got an advanced point and shoot or a lightweight mirrorless camera? This is a perfect tripod for you. It’s an awesome compact travel tripod for any trip where luggage space is at a premium. Bring it on a motorcycle or bike trip, pack it into the included carrying case and sling it over your shoulder while you’re strolling around Paris, or find a corner of your trunk to stow it so you’ve always got a tripod with you.
The MeFoto BackPacker tripod sells for $139. For that price you’ll get the BackPacker tripod, the ballhead and a carrying case with adjustable shoulder strap.
The verdict: Use the MeFoto as intended and you won’t be disappointed. Feel free to push the limits every now and again with a full-size DSLR. All in all, it’s a great little tripod at a reasonable price.
You can see the entire MeFoto line in the OPG store here: MeFoto
Learn more about Bret, view his images, his workshops and his gallery in Moab here.