Review by Mark Degner
A good travel tripod has to be lightweight, compact when folded but reach a reasonable height when the legs are extended, stable, durable and reasonably priced. That’s a lot to ask for, and often in order to meet all of these criteria a photographer has to make some trade-offs. One possible option is the 3Pod P4CFH Carbon Fibre FlatFold tripod with the 3Pod H2 ballhead.
The first thing that a photographer will notice about the 3Pod P4CFH tripod is its flat design; when folded together, the legs lay flat in a row rather than the traditional triangular shape. This creates a compact shape that takes up less space and is more convenient to pack. However, this design means there’s no space for a traditional centre column, and as a result if you want to add the included centre column you must screw it on between the legs and tripod head, which then reduces the compactness of the tripod.
It has carbon fibre legs and a magnesium alloy body to keep its weight down to 1.1 kg while still having enough mass to be stable and sturdy. Adding the H2 ballhead adds another 380 g, bringing the total weight to just under 1.5 kg. With four leg sections, it has a very compact 44.5 cm (17.5 inch) folded length (54 cm/2.25 inches with the H2 ballhead), but when the legs are fully extended it reaches a height of 118 cm (46.5 inches)(127 cm/50 inches with the H2 ballhead). For shorter photographers who are around 155 to 160 cm (5’1 to 5’3) tall, the 3Pod P4CFH tripod has a perfect height, but taller photographers like myself will have to bend over when using it without the centre column. Adding the two-part centre column and fully extending it, the 3Pod P4CFH has a maximum height of 159 cm (62.5 inches)(167 cm/65.75 inches with the H2 ballhead).
The leg sections are relatively strong and stable. The twist-style leg-lock collars are easy to operate, allowing the legs to extend and retract smoothly and lock firmly in place. The legs have both retractable rubber feet with spikes. The outer section of the middle leg is covered in a durable foam rubber, which allows you to carry it comfortably and keep your hands from getting cold when the temperature drops.
Unfortunately, due to its design, it doesn’t have the ability to get really low to the ground, (only 23.5 cm without a head), and you can’t reverse the centre column to get lower. This limits some photographic situations that one might encounter, like wildflower and macro photography, but it’s one of those trade-offs that a photographer has to make when choosing a compact travel tripod.
Another great feature of the 3Pod P4CFH tripod is its ability to be converted into a monopod. Simply unscrew the centre leg from the tripod and either screw on the included tripod head mounting plate or the two-part centre column and you now have a monopod that can extend, depending on configuration, from 41 cm (16 inches) to 163 cm (64 inches).
The 3Pod H2 ballhead is a lightweight magnesium alloy ballhead with an Arca-Swiss compatible quick-release system (a quick-release plate is included). The ball rotates smoothly and the single locking and tension control knob offers good control and locks well in place. In addition, there’s a separate panning control knob and a single notch that allows for vertical camera orientation. Overall the 3Pod H2 ballhead is a great match for the 3Pod P4CFH tripod, and the two combined can support loads around 11 kg (22 lb).
The 3Pod P4CFH carbon fibre FlatFold tripod seems to be very well built and should stand up well to normal outdoor and travel use and abuse; in my testing, including very cold and snowy winter conditions, it performed very well. It comes with a padded carrying case, a cloth bag for the 3Pod H2 ballhead and a mini tool kit. Everything fits in the carrying case — I just wish the case was a little longer so that the H2 ballhead could be left on the tripod when putting it in the case.
With a price of $299.95 US, the 3Pod P4CFH Carbon Fibre FlatFold tripod with the 3Pod H2 ballhead package is not inexpensive, but I believe for all that you get it’s a reasonable price. It’s stable, versatile, lightweight and compact, making it a very good choice for hiking and travel photography.
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