Tripods are great. They are great piece of gear for taking amazing pictures. And they are great - well, physically too. So it ain't much fun to carry them around, especially when you want to travel light or not to look like a photographer. I had been torn apart by this clash of interest and I was either sweating under the load or regretting the missed photos. Only until I explored the new world of mini tripods. After exploring the variety of options, I purchased the Basic Ball mini tripod from Novoflex. After six months, I am ready to share my experience...
What is a mini tripod?
Mini tripod is a compromise by definition, an attempt to provide sturdy camera support in minimal package. Manufacturers approach this design challenge from various angles, but these are the objectives I expect the mini tripod to fulfil:
- Sturdy camera support
- Portable and lightweight
- Easy to operate
1) Sturdy camera support?
The German contribution to mini tripods is a beautiful piece of machined aluminium that nails the core physics of stability. The less moving parts, the more sturdy tripod you get. The construction is efficiently simple: three solid legs are screwed into the base. Just like that.
Nothing moves and the metal parts are rock solid. Novoxlex rates the safe payload to 25kg, which I have no reasons to doubt. To mount the camera, I grabbed my unused Manfrotto 494 ball head, which is the weakest part of the setup, with payload of just 4kg. Yeah, just temporary solution...
The tripod legs can be screwed into the Basic Ball base in several ways, but for maximum stability forget the maximum height setup: my heavy D800 is then pretty clumsy. The other three heights are rock solid, no worries.
2) Portable & lightweight?
When disassembled, the Novoflex Basic Ball mini tripod is extremely portable. Because the base and legs are separated, I can actually store them in different compartments of my camera bag and use the space efficiently. And the mini tripod weights only 390g (without the ball head)!
3) Easy to operate?
Yes, very much. The assembly is quick, just screw the legs into the holes in the Basic Ball. The interesting feature is the ability to screw the legs into different holes and thus tilt the tripod for better stability or adjust to an uneven terrain.
This is a mini tripod, so you must be ready to compromise. One sacrifice is obviously the height. With this tripod you have to operate either close to the ground or look for objects to place the tripod - rocks, car bonnets, walls, etc. In case you cannot find anything like that on your location, you are stuck. Second trouble I experienced is actually not the fault of this Basic Ball tripod, but the ball head I use now. As Manfrotto 494 has no quick release plate, I have to screw the camera on. Pretty fine for landscape photos, but no good for portrait orientation.
I took the Novoflex Basic Ball tripod for my three weeks trip to Sri Lanka and I was very happy with it. The low ground clearance was sometimes challenging, but sometimes worked also to my advantage (read about the photoshot in the cave temple). As it is extremely light and portable, I didn't have any problems to carry it around all the time. Of course I had also my trusted Gitzo tripod, but I found carrying it all day long in the heat annoying. So I grabbed it only when I was sure I would need it. Otherwise, the Novoxlex Basic Ball did the job.
If you are looking for a portable and very light travel companion, this may suit you well. I found the Novoxlex Basic Ball mini tripod very useful in situation when i was just not sure if I would need a tripod and lazy to carry my Gitzo just for the case. And sometimes it's quite a fun to look for creative ways how to place it high up...