Been looking for a travel tripod for quite a while now, and finally settled on one. I could’ve gone with something more expensive, lighter, carbon fiber, etc., etc., but that would have shot my bill up by at least a hundred bucks. I read reviews about the Gitzos and others that sounded pretty amazing, but the prices would’ve put an equally amazing dent in my pocketbook.

Opteka FTR56

Opteka FTR56

My second choice was going to be one of the Benro Travel Angels, which start around $150. They got pretty good reviews and I’ve been happy with the quality of my Benro monopod (though I can’t say it gets that much use), but I’m a sucker for a cheap deal, so…

I went with the more generic Travel Angel knockoff, the Opteka FTR56. Coming in at a third of the price of a Travel Angel (and a sixth of a Gitzo), I couldn’t resist giving it a shot. It came in yesterday and I ripped apart the packaging to get a look at this thing. First thing I noticed was the heft. Since I knew going into it that it had a smaller max height than my current 60″ Dolica Proline, the heaviness was unexpected.

After taking it out of the box, I was pleasantly surprised to find it came with a shoulder bag, and was much shorter than the box itself. Folding down to an amazing 15″ it’s at least 7″ shorter than the Dolica. Much easier to manage on a day tour of a new city. Perfect.

15" folded

15″ folded

So how does it fold down to such an amazingly small size? Expanding out to 54″ (including a quick release ball head), you would expect it to be a lot larger folded down, but the legs have release buttons that let you fold the legs up 180 degrees around the ball head. The legs also have five extension tubes, allowing it to collapse down a lot smaller than a normal three or four leg tripod would. The problem with this? Inherently, the more tubes you have collapsing in on each other, the smaller the tubes will get on the lower limbs, leaving the last extension levels a bit flimsy (or flimsier than normal). Despite all of this, the fully extended tripod is still pretty sturdy and will certainly do in a pinch when the full height is needed.

The legs don’t clamp with the usual locks, though. Instead, Opteka opted (sorry) for twist-locks on each segment. While this may just be something I need to get used to, it’s a bit of a pain in the ass right now. I figure, if I carry the tripod in the shoulder bag all the time, I don’t really have to tighten the locks when it’s folded up.

So that’s all for now (other than the black gunk that got all over my hands from the rubber feet, but eh). We’ll see how she does under pressure.