There are times when a big, burly tripod just isn’t necessary or even practical. Fortunately, there’s a new tripod on the market by Benro that provides many of the same benefits of a full-size tripod but in a lightweight, compact package: the MeFoto Travel Tripod with Ballhead.
I’ve been using the MeFoto tripod for several months and have found it to be a useful addition to my camera kit. When not in use the legs fold up and around the center column and ballhead to create an extremely compact package measuring about 12.5” in length. At its widest point, it’s only 3.75” across when folded and the whole thing weighs less than 3 pounds. Toss it in a suitcase or backpack and you’ll hardly even know it’s there until you need it. And yet, for a tripod that packs down so small, the MeFoto tops out at a respectable 51” at maximum extension.
Overall, I’m impressed with the MeFoto. It’s well built and durable, twist locks on the legs operate smoothly and lock securely and frankly, it’s damn attractive. The ballhead is small but fully featured with independent pan and head locks as well as an integrated bubble level. It uses a standard Arca-Swiss style quick release plate, which is very unusual (but awesome!) for a ballhead of such a petite size. The ballhead action is smooth and clamps down tight with a quick twist of the head lock knob. Speaking of knobs, they’re all coated in rubber, which gives them a nice soft-touch feel and a secure grip.
The MeFoto Travel Tripod is rated to support up to 8.8 pounds. I’ve no doubt it is capable of such a feat but in practice, you’d be asking a lot of such a diminutive tripod. I don’t think the ballhead would have a problem supporting the weight as once it is locked down, it takes a whole lot of muscle to make it budge. The lower leg sections are fairly spindly and the tall center column that is in a permanent “up” position are the weak links. To be fair, this isn’t so much a criticism as a warning. I don’t think any serious photographer with a pro DSLR and lenses would buy the MeFoto with the intent to use it as their primary tripod. I have mounted my Canon 5DMKII with battery grip and 24-105mm lens on the MeFoto and it did not topple under the weight. In fact, it worked just fine. There wasn’t so much as a hint of a breeze, I used mirror lock up and I did not extend the upper center column – all of which were factors in creating sharp images with a heavy rig on such a dainty tripod.
If the MeFoto wasn’t designed for use with full size DSLR’s and heavy lenses, what is it good for? We’ve used it dozens of times to support a Canon S95 for family self-portraits. You know those cheesy photos you see everyone doing at the national park signs? Yeah, that’s us. Got an advanced point and shoot or a lightweight mirrorless camera? This is a perfect tripod for you. I don’t think it would have any problem supporting a lightweight DSLR with kit lens, either. It’s an awesome compact travel tripod for any trip where luggage space is at a premium. Bring it on a motorcycle or bike trip, pack it into the included carrying case and sling it over your shoulder while you’re strolling around town, or find a corner of your car trunk to stow it in so you’ve always got a tripod with you.
The Benro MeFoto tripod retails for $139 and I can’t think of a better place to pick up one than from the great folks at Outdoor Photo Gear. For that price you’ll get the MeFoto tripod, ballhead and a carrying case with adjustable shoulder strap. The verdict: Use the MeFoto Travel Tripod as intended and you won’t be disappointed. Feel free to push the limits every now and again with a full-size DSLR, if necessary. All in all, I think it’s a great little tripod at a reasonable price.