An affordable travel tripod
All photographers know a sturdy tripod is an essential piece of kit in order to get pin sharp photographs time and time again. Sturdy tripods are large, heavy and cumbersome and whilst this is fine for day trips out and about in your home town, it is not ideal for international trips where you have to transport your tripod by air.
When buying a travel tripod all the normal “how to choose a tripod” rules go out the window. The ideal tripods have to be light, small and portable. However, a travel tripod also needs to be sturdy enough to support your digital camera, lens and filter so there are compromises to be made when buying a travel tripod. The trick is to get the lightest and smallest but sturdiest travel tripod, which is not an easy task.
The amount of travel tripods on the market is small, so there is not a great deal of choice. The majority of travel tripods on the market are also very expensive, and many cost more than a very good and sturdy ‘proper’ tripod, which is ludicrous. Fortunately, you don’t have to spend a small fortune on a travel tripod and there is an affordable travel tripod that is as good as travel tripods that are two or three times its cost. The cheap travel tripod I refer to is the Vanguard Nivelo 246BK, which at under £60 is an absolute steal.
The Nivelo 246BK is absolutely perfect for travel photography. When folded up the Nivelo 246BK measures in at a tiny 30cm, which means it can be packed away in a small rucksack and carried on in hand luggage. Failing that the Nivelo 246BK can be stored in your wife’s handbag or simply carried in your hand. The Nivelo 246BK weighs in at a very slim 600g, making it exceptionally light.
The Vanguard Nivelo 246BK folded up is absolutely tiny. To show just how small this travel tripod is it needs to be photographed next to a 30cm ruler. You have to see this tripod to believe how small and compact it is.
Despite its tiny size the Nivelo 246BK extends to a height of 1m. This obviously isn’t as high as normal tripods, but it is plenty high enough for taking images of landscapes, seascapes, buildings and architecture and most other things you are likely to want to take travel photographs of. The main limitation of the 1m maximum height is it is too short for most portrait photographs. So, if you want to take photographs of your wife, girlfriend or family you are going to have to put the tripod on a higher platform or revert to take handheld images.
Extending the legs on the Nivelo 246BK is very easy and simply involves a quick twist to unlock the legs, pulling the legs out and then another twist to lock the legs in place. Extending the Nivelo 246BK from it collapsed state to fully extended takes less than twenty seconds. In fact, it takes longer to actually screw your digital camera on to the head plate.
The view from the trout restaurant. In order to get this image and turn the water milky I had to create a long exposure, which was achieved using a ND filter. In order to keep everything sharp I needed to mount my EPL1 on the Nivelo travel tripod. Without the tripod this shot would not have been possible.
Once up, the Nivelo 246BK is quite sturdy although you do have to be careful what digital camera and lens combination you use on it. The Nivelo 246BK is great for small compact system cameras like my Olympus EPL1 and small 14mm f2.5 Panasonic pancake lens, but it was not sturdy enough to keep my Panasonic 45mm – 200mm zoom lens properly locked up. When it comes to other types o digital camera I wouldn’t like to use my digital SLR camera with it as I don’t think the Nivelo 246BK is man enough to take a small entry level digital SLR camera, let alone a heavy professional grade digital SLR camera. Vanguard claims the Nivelo 246BK is suitable for digital cameras and lenses up to 2kg in weight, which is a bit much in my opinion. Based on my experience with the Nivelo 246BK there is no way this travel tripod will deal with this amount of weight.
The Kosem restaurant in Dalyan, Turkey at night. Without a tripod this image would have been impossible to capture. Night time provides some wonderful photograph opportunities and a travel tripod is essential in these circumstances.
A nice feature of the Nivelo 246BK is the moveable central column that can be angled down towards the floor, which is great for flower photography and taking photographs of other things on or close to the ground. Another nice feature is the 360 degree rotating head, which makes panoramic shots a breeze and the side to side tilting function is also a nice touch. In order to keep your horizons straight and level the Nivelo 246BK has a 4 way spirit level on the digital camera plate, which is another nice touch.
So would I recommend the Nivelo 246BK travel tripod?
If you use a compact system digital camera with a small lens, or a standard point and shoot camera then I would definitely recommend the Nivelo 246BK. This travel tripod is small, light and very portable. When used with smaller digital cameras it is sturdy enough to allow you to take pin sharp photographs each and every time. With the Nivelo 246BK travel tripod you can take those night time shots of your travel destinations and those other types of images that require longer exposure times, safe in the knowledge your image is going to be pin sharp.
Compared to the competition the Nivelo 246BK travel tripod represents the best value for money. It may not be as good quality as its competitors but at this price you can’t really complain. Besides, the travel tripods made by the competitors aren’t any sturdier than the Nivelo 246BK.