Shibuya Station

Shibuya Station

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The MeFOTO RoadTrip (My Impressions)


When making the move to Hong Kong, I knew mobility was going to be a priority so prior to the move, I began looking at new tripods.  The goal was to find a tripod that offered the best balance in weight, folded compact size and cost.


I came across the MeFOTO series of tripods online and at a local camera shop in Los Angeles.  Having researched a number of different tripods, the compactness and weight of this setup is what made me want to give it a shot.

I bit about how I use tripods… By and large, I don’t.  I am largely a handheld shooter and with a Leica rangefinder now being my primary camera, I am able to shoot street scenes wide open, at high ISO’s and low shutter speeds with pretty good results.  Where I felt I needed a good tripod was to shoot city and landscapes, the latter of which I have an interest in but admittedly do not shoot a lot of.   At the time, I felt like I would be more inclined to utilize a tripod if I found one that was small and light enough to haul around on my daily photo walks.

MeFOTO offers a series of tripods varying in size and weight.  At a closed length of just 15.4 inches, I opted for the RoadTrip series which is not actually the smallest in the lineup.  I also shoot with pro-sized DSLR (Canon 1Dx) and felt like the smaller backpacker series was too much of a compromise in stability.  The RoadTrip also comes in Aluminum and Carbon Fiber versions along with various anodized colors.  I opted for the Carbon Fiber version with the Titanium finish.





The RoadTrip comes with a handy and well-made travel case.  Also included are set of spiked feet that can easily be swapped out for the rubber feet that are pre-installed on the tripod.



Another clever feature of the MeFOTO Series of tripods is the ability to detach one of the legs (the padded one) and remount the ball head on it to make it a monopod.  When hiking the trails around Hong Kong, its come in handy as a walking stick and gives me a semi stable platform to shoot from.  This has been especially useful when shooting some of the Black Kites (birds of prey) that are local to Hong Kong.

Detached leg can be used as a monopod

The RoadTrip does a great job of offering a stable platform for being such a compact tripod.  The heaviest camera and lens combination that I have used on it is the Canon 1DX with 70-200 2.8.  One word of caution is that with that kind of weight and long exposures, I did find some issues with sharpness so there are limits you should be aware of.  One great feature to help give you more stability is a spring-loaded hook on the bottom of the center column.  When extended, you can hook your camera bag or any other weighted ballast that will significantly add to the rigidity to the platform.

Unfolding the tripod is a bit of a cumbersome process due to an inverted leg design.  To unfold the tripod, you have to unfold the legs 180 degrees and push in the locking tabs.  This then exposes the center column, which is in the extended position.  While you can certainly shoot with the column in that position, maximum stability requires that you lower the center column so that the ball head rests just above the legs.   This is the tradeoff that you must be okay with in order to get the folded length down to 15.4 inches and one that I have struggled with.


Pros:
  •  Lightweight
  • Included Case
  • Included Spiked Feet
  • Sturdy Platform (when using compact mirrorless cameras)
  • Built-in Level

Cons:
  • Camera Plate Requires Tool to Install and Remove
  • Unfolding the tripod requires flipping the legs 180 degrees and repositioning the center column.  It is clear that this design is necessary in achieving the ultra compact design but I am finding more and more that it’s an annoyance when preparing the tripod for use.


Removing the camera plate requires a coin or tool to remove (negative feature)
Included ball head includes a bubble level and rotating scale

Final thoughts

The MeFOTO is a great little tripod.  It is very well made and is easily transportable.   While it will not replace my heavier duty tripod, it’s a great alternative when mobility is important.   While size was the most critical factor for me, I think I would actually rather give up a few inches in favor of a design that requires fewer steps to unfold and extend the legs.  The design of the camera plate is also not something I am thrilled with as I would like the ability to add and remove the camera plate by hand rather that using a coin or tool to do so.  This however should be easily remedied by adding a quick release mechanism to the camera plate (which hopefully the folks at MeFoto will do on future versions).   After 4 months of use, I do not have plans on searching for another lightweight and compact alternative and the RoadTrip will remain a part of my mobility kit.  Its size, weight and stability are good enough to overcome any minor faults that I find with it.

Thanks for stopping by!

Jasen


Specifications:

MeFoto C1350 Specifications (RoadTrip Series)
Material
Carbon fiber and aluminum alloy
Load Capacity
17.6 lb (8.0 kg)
Maximum Height
Column extended: 61.6" (156.5 cm) @ 24° leg angle
Folded Length
15.4" (39.1 cm)
Center Column
Rapid-type, sliding action, 
Folded Length
Attaches to leg section to convert to full size monopod
Leg Sections
Independent Leg Spread
5
Yes
Leg Lock Type
Twist
Spiked Feet
Included (interchanable)
Weight
3.1 lb (1.6 kg) including head
#Mefoto #tripod