I don’t know about your family, but whenever my family gets together for a holiday, we try to take a group photo, if for no other reason than to look back at the old photos and see how young we looked, or how grown-up someone is now, or to remember someone no longer with us. Sure, you can take a selfie with a phone, but if the family’s too large to squeeze into an arm’s length photo – and you feel the way I do about those ridiculous selfie sticks – you’re going to need a tripod for a real camera.
Manfrotto, an Italian maker of many professional and semi-pro photo accessories, has some new travel size tripods that are easy to take with you where ever you’re going, to set up quickly, and to make taking that family or vacation photo easier.
We tried the Befree Advanced Twist Aluminum Travel Tripod And Ball Head Kit which weighs about 3-and-a-quarter pounds and comes with its own carrying bag. The tripod unfolds quickly and the legs can be locked in different positions using large twist locks that are easy to secure and release. With the legs fully extended and the center column fully raised, the Befree Travel Tripod stands just under 5 feet high, and that’s without your camera included. The camera, by the way, is screwed into an included plate that allows it to be locked onto the ball head quickly, and released even more quickly. The head has three knobs to hold a camera of up to 17 pounds securely. Under $190 direct or from several retailers, available with black, blue or red legs. A virtually identical tripod but with black lever lock legs is also available at the same price.
There’s also the Befree Live Aluminum Tripod Twist And Video Head which is another variation on the Manfrotto travel tripod but with a video head included. It’s a little heavier and can support a slightly heavier camera but the maximum height and other specs are just about the same, plus there’s the included carrying bag. The real difference here is the Befree Live Fluid Head which makes for smooth pans & tilts whether you’re using the video function of a DSLR or compact camera, or you have a small camcorder. There’s a quick-change plate that allows the camera to easily attach & detach from the tripod. An arm assists in camera movement, there’s a bubble level and even a small hook where the legs unfold to hang a camera bag or other weight for added stability. Because of the fluid head, this model is a little more expensive, at just under $240 direct or at camera retailers. There’s also the same tripod with lever leg locks (as shown) if you prefer them over twists.