Tabletop Tripod Comparison

Any number of companies sell cheap tabletop tripods, but only a few of the more expensive ones are sturdy enough to hold heavier cameras. I decided to try some of them out and see how they compared.

Weights are approximate, prices are subject to change.
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Photo Name Model # B&H Stock # Cost Weight Weight
(legs only)
3007 BO3007 $15 3.5oz 99g
--- Bogen extender
(shown above)
3007x BO3007X $18 3oz 85g
Minox 69309 MITPC $90
($50+ used)
4oz 113g
Basicball (blue) BBBLAU NOBBB $68 13.5oz 382g
--- Basicball
Leg Extenders
MPSET15 NOE6 $39 ? ?
Leica 14100 LETT $80
($50+ used)
7oz 198g
Ultrapod PD01020 ULUP1B $15 2oz 57g
Ultrapod II PD02010 ULUP2B $19 4oz 113g
--- Giotto
Compact Tripod
400200 GICTT $30 (w/head) ? ?
Thread Adapter
3/8 to 1/4
BO3358 $4.50 0.5oz 14g

Here they are all folded up.
Left to right: Minox, Bogen (legs & extender), Leica, Ultraclamp, Basicball.
The Bogen, Leica, and Basicball require a separate ballhead.

The first thing you probably want to know is, now that I've tried all this stuff, what do I actually use? My vote goes to the Bogen 3007 with the extender, and the Ultraclamp. When I'm traveling light, I use the Bogen legs with the ball joint from the Ultraclamp (with a thread adapter, 4th photo above), so I don't have to carry the extender or a separate ballhead. The Ultraclamp is relatively cheap and available at most camera stores, so I'd start with that. The Bogen legs are often bundled with the extender and/or a ballhead; I recommend buying the extender but you may want to select your own head. (The Giotto tripod listed above is a similar design, but I don't see any reason to choose it over the Bogen. See B&H's website for a photo.)

All Bogen products are made by Manfrotto, and are sold under the Manfrotto name (with different part numbers) outside the US.

Many photographers recommend the Leica tripod, because it's been in production for many years and they're familiar with it. It's sturdy and about the same weight as the Bogen with the extender, but it's very expensive and it folds to an awkward shape. Used ones show up on ebay fairly often, but they can still cost twice as much as the Bogen. You may see older versions that have slightly different castings, and are painted black instead of gray. Also, it's supposed to have rubber feet, but they're often missing (and not really needed). Leica makes an extra-tall ballhead specifically for this tripod (not shown here, I'm using a generic cheap ballhead), but again it's expensive.

A number of companies make tripods that are similar to the Leica design, at various levels of quality (and usually including a ballhead), but there are too many of them to list here.

The Minox tripod is a very clever design, and it's extremely compact (the two detatchable legs fit inside the largest leg), but also very expensive. It's sturdy enough for a full-sized SLR, but I had trouble getting the built-in ballhead really tight, which could be a problem with heavy lenses. The head is tightened by turning the largest leg, and it has a slot to insert a coin for extra leverage.

Sometimes you'll see used ones being sold with a special clip to hold the Minox "spy" camera, but it's just screwed onto the head, and is easily removed. There is also a small cable release screwed into the end of the smallest leg, but it has a very short stroke-- adequate for the Minox camera, but not long enough to trigger my SLR (which may explain why it's often missing).

For the heaviest cameras, look at the Novoflex Basicball-- it's rated to hold 25Kg, which is over 50lbs! It also weighs (and costs) twice as much as the Bogen with the extender. The head shown here is not included (a bigger one would fit better). The thread is 1/4-20 rather than the usual 3/8-16, but most heads come with an adapter. It also comes in silver, but for some reason B&H stocks it in blue.

You could get a used Leica tripod for less, but the Basicball is taller, and has extra threaded holes for attatching light brackets, which might be especially useful for macro work. They also make a set of leg extenders to make it even taller. It can be made lower/wider by screwing the legs into different holes in the ball.

The Ultrapod and Ultrapod II are clever designs but the legs flex more than I'd like them to. Their claim to fame is that they come with a velcro strap to attatch them to objects that are too large for the Ultraclamp or the Super Clamp (with the legs folded in). The ball joint is permanently attatched, but it's similar to the one that comes with the Ultraclamp.


Photo Name Model # B&H Stock # Cost Weight Weight
Ultraclamp PD05020 ULUC $22 5.5oz 156g
Super Clamp (w/stud) 2909 BO2909 $27 17oz 482g
Rt Angle Arm (w/stud)
For Super Clamp
2906 BO2906 $18 6.5oz 184g

The Super Clamp weighs three times as much as the Ultraclamp, but it's very sturdy (it was originally designed to hold studio lighting). The optional right-angle arm is heavy and expensive, but I've found it useful. The Super Clamp has interchangeable mounting studs (not visible here) for attatching a separate ballhead, and it's sometimes bundled with different studs for different purposes-- if you buy one on the web, read the description to make sure you know which mounting stud you're getting. Click here to see Bogen's brochure showing how the various accessories are used (print this in landscape mode as "fit to page"). Most Super Clamp components are also sold under the "Avenger" name, with different part numbers.

The Super Clamp can attatch to round objects up to 2" in diameter, or flat objects up to 1.5" thick. The ultraclamp is limited to 1.5" diamater, round or flat.

The Ultraclamp has a small screw under the ball joint that keeps it from rotating unless you loosen the thumbscrew underneath. This screw can be removed to install other heads, but be careful not to lose it.
The threads are 1/4-20.

Articulating Arm Systems

Photo Name Model # B&H Stock # Cost Weight Weight
Articulating Arm
2935 BO2935 $33 20oz? 567g?
--- Bogen
Magic Arm
2930 BO2930 $105 ? ?
--- Bogen
Variable friction Arm
2929 BO2929 $90 ? ?
Articulating Arm Set
F53-885 --- $39 15oz 425g
"Knuckle" (ballhead)
F53-887 --- $16 5.5oz 156g
3" Arm
F53-888 --- $10 3oz 85g
--- Edmund/PanaVise
6" Arm
F53-889 --- $11 6oz 170g

The "Magic Arm" and its variants are designed to hold a camera in unusual positions where you can't get a tripod or Super Clamp close enough. The long arms flex more than I'd like them to, but it might work OK with the self-timer. The "Articulating Arm" (shown here) has three separate joints; the more expensive "Magic Arm" has a single lever than tightens all three joints at once (but when you loosen it, the whole thing goes limp); the "Variable Friction Arm" is similar to the "Magic Arm" but can be partially tightened to make it easier to adjust (and for some reason it costs $15 less than the Magic Arm).

In some cases I have improvised camera supports from scrap lumber, using either the Ultraclamp (or Super Clamp), or just a 1/4-20 bolt through a hole to attatch a ballhead. Depending on what you're doing, this might be more rigid than the Magic Arm.

The articulating arm components from Edmund Optics (actually made by PanaVise) are an interesting alternative to the Magic Arm. They're heavy but the arms are shorter (and detatchable), so they don't flex as much, and I've found them easier to work with (they were designed to hold surveillance cameras). They're cheaper than the "Magic Arm", about the same cost as the "Articulating Arm". Threads are 1/4-20; I used an adapter to mount it to the Bogen legs in the photo.

Other lessons learned:

All threaded connections must be tight enough so that they don't come unscrewed when you don't want them to. I carry a pair of miniature "Channel Lock" (brand name) pliers to make sure I can get them apart again afterwards.
The standard mounting thread for tripod heads is 3/8-16, but many ball heads come with an adapter to use on 1/4-20 threads. It looks like you could remove it with a large screwdriver, but I've found that a coin fits better.

No tripod is perfectly stable, so use the self-timer or a cable release.

The "wall-pod" idea (holding a tabletop tripod sideways against a wall) works very well, and is a good way to get some extra height without carrying a full sized tripod. Be sure to hold the tripod and not the camera, so you don't accidentally move something.

A "clamp-pod" is only as stable as the object it's clamped to. If it moves or sways when you lean on it, be careful! In such cases, I've found that the 10-second self timer works better than the 2-second self timer, because it gives things more time to settle down (but a real tripod works even better). "Clamp pods" do work well when they're clamped to something stable. There are a number of other clamp-pods on the market, but they tend to be expensive and they're not any better than the Ultraclamp and/or Super Clamp.

The Bogen 3/8-to-1/4 thread adapter listed in the chart at the top of this page doesn't always come up on B&H's search results, depending on what keywords you use. Try searching for "euro adapter", or type in the stock # listed above.

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