Traditional travel tripods are straight and stiff--the stiffer the better. But these small portable tripods take an unconventional approach in being bendy.
More and more I’ve found myself using tiny tabletop tripods at travel tripods, even for my DSLRs. They just so much small and lighter, and while you certainly lose height, they’re infinitely easier to pack and take with you. And besides, there are a lot of situations where you can find makeshift platforms on railings or rocks or seats that can add a little height. So, in practice, I can usually make these small tripods work.
I’ve had two of these in regular rotation in my kit. One is the Really Right Stuff Ultra Pocket Pod. It’s tiny, strong, and beautifully made, but that high quality comes at a cost–the price starts at $200 and goes up, depending on which head you choose with it, if any (I use it with the BH-25 Pro ballhead). The other is on the opposite end of the price spectrum–a small tripod with flexible legs by Lammcou. It’s a similar size (but a bit larger) and it has three legs, but otherwise, it’s quite different. In place of the usual solid, rigid legs, its legs are flexible and bendy, designed to hold their shape when bent or wrapped around something. In that, they’re much like a Gorillapod, although where the legs of Gorillapods consist of a string of bulbous joints, the Lammcou tripod’s legs are fully enclosed and narrower. But they still hold their shape quite well if you wrap it around things.1
The Lammcou tripod isn’t the only one available in that style, and you can find variations of it sold under different brand names.
Spivo also makes one. Some time ago I tried out one of Spivo’s GoPro selfie sticks that does things a bit differently than your typical selfie stick. The folks at Spivo reached out and asked if I’d like to try out their version of the flexible tripod. So I recently took it with me on a trip to London. I was mainly using it with some smaller cameras like the Sony RX0 and Sony a6500, but it would work equally well with a smartphone (it comes with a universal spring clamp) or action cams like GoPros.
In broad strokes, there’s a lot that’s similar between the Spivo and the Lammcou. They’re roughly the same size, with legs that are about 9 inches (23cm) long when extended, each has three flexible legs, and work much the same way. But the Spivo does have a few improvements and tweaks that explain its higher price. For one, it comes with a better ballhead. It also has a locking mechanism to control the angle of the legs.
Ballhead. It comes with a small, light-duty ballhead. There’s a single tightening screw on the side. This is very much a lightweight ballhead for small cameras and phones. But because the head is removable, you can also use it without the ballhead or attach your own, heavier-duty head if you’re using a larger camera. The stud on the top of the legs is a standard 1/4″-20M thread.
Locking Dial. There’s a red dial around the top of the legs. That serves as a lock for the angle of the legs. The larger notch is for a wider, lower stance. The smaller notch is for a taller, narrower stance. Of course, the legs themselves are also flexible, so it’s really only controlling the angle at the top.
One issue I did run into is that the feet are not especially grippy and can be prone to slipping. They’re just plastic caps. So I found myself being particularly mindful of that risk.
The most obvious scenario is to use it as a small tripod. But it also comes in handy as a short grip handle, whether you’re shooting selfies or just need a little extra reach. With all three legs together, it’s thin enough to hold comfortably in the hand. When using it this way, I like to twist the legs together to make it stronger and more rigid.
These small, flexible tripods are ideal for something like a GoPro or small mirrorless setup. In most situations, they’re not really suitable for larger, heavier DSLRs or mirrorless cameras with longer lenses attached. With those, the issue is not just the bend, but there is also some natural flex in the legs, and the combination can be prone to the feet slipping.
But using flexible legs has its attractions. Joby pioneered this space several years ago with their GorillaPods, but I like these newer, sleeker versions better because they’re smaller (narrower, mainly, and therefore are less cumbersome to pack in a small camera bag) and, in my experience, hold their shape better.
While it’s not a perfect solution when rigidity is crucial, such as for long exposures or time-lapse in breezy conditions or with a heavier camera, there are also advantages to this approach. Specifically, its flexibility. And I don’t just mean in the bendy way. It can easily handle not just uneven surfaces but can also be wrapped around poles and posts or threaded through fencing. And when you’re on the go, that opens up many more opportunities for finding unconventional yet stable shooting platforms. And they’re so small, that there’s really not much downside to just keeping it in even smaller camera bags.
You can get the Flexible Tripod Grip directly from Spivo.