There isn’t usually a lot of innovation in tripods. Occasionally we’ll see new materials being used, like the introduction of carbon fibre, or improved mechanisms to make things work more smoothly and easily. The HEIPI tripod, though, seems to rethink the whole concept of a travel tripod, by splitting the centre column into three for not only more stability when it’s raised but also to act as a second mini tripod.
It’s an interesting design that’s currently launching on Kickstarter. It allows you to essentially always carry two tripods with you wherever you need to go but takes up the space of only one. It uses patented quick lever locks on the legs which are made from carbon fibre to keep things as light as possible. It packs down to only 44.5cm, weighing 1.35kg and extends up to 150cm (or 59″).
So, what makes it a 3-in-1 tripod? Well, according to the manufacturer, it’s essentially two separate tripods in one, and the ball head is the “3” bit. I’m not entirely sure a detachable ball head counts as a contribution towards a “3-in-1″ given that you can remove the head from most decent tripods, but that’s what they say. The ball head, which we’ll get out of the way first, features an Arca Swiss quick release and a 3/8”-16 socket underneath for screwing onto a tripod – like just about every other Arca Swiss compatible ball head.
But what makes this product particularly interesting are the tripod legs themselves and the centre column – which can be a separate mini tripod. I often find myself taking two tripods out with me when I head out to explore the wilderness. Usually, it’s a larger lightweight tripod like the Gitzo Legende (review here) and a smaller tripod for getting low down to the ground like the Leofoto Ranger LS-223CEX. This would potentially replace both of those.
One of the big problems with a lot of tripods is the centre column. A single cylinder that pops up from the centre of the tripod to give you a little more height. Except for more expensive tripods, like the Gitzo mentioned above, these are usually pretty wobbly. As a consequence, most photographers never even use them. They just act like the feature isn’t even available when they whip out their tripod.
As you can see in the image above, though, the HEIPI tripod takes a different approach. The usual centre column has been replaced by a three-legged central support system. This means more points of contact and more stability when it’s raised up. These three separate pillars each increase stability and prevent the camera from wobbling in different directions. And when it does wobble, it should come back to a steady rest much more quickly than a single centre column tripod. There’s a demonstration on the Kickstarter campaign showing the difference in wobble between the two types of tripod.
And speaking of two types of tripod, that centre column can be removed to form a second mini tripod, allowing you to shoot two cameras simultaneously, or to get even lower down to the ground than the regular tripod allows (the reason I also carry my Leofoto tripod). Obviously, once you remove the centre column from the main tripod, it doesn’t quite have the same height as it would if the centre column were still in place, but depending on your needs, that may or may not be an issue.
The centre column acting as a separate tripod, though, gives you more options and more versatility. You can travel to faraway lands with the whole unit in your suitcase and if one day you decide you want to travel small and light, you can just take the centre column tripod out with you. Or, if you’re exploring a scene and decide a low viewpoint is best, you can separate the two and capture from a lower angle.
And as you can see in the image above, you can mount the centre column upside down on the main tripod, too. This allows you to still get low with the main tripod for those close-up ground and macro shots. This feature in itself is not unique to this tripod, but it’s nice that it’s able to do it – as many can’t.
I have to admit, I quite like the HEIPI concept as a whole. I’m happy enough carrying my Gitzo and Leofoto tripods around on location, but this would take up less space in the bag.
If you want to find out more, head on over to Kickstarter. Pledges start at $299 for the super early birds, which is $100 off the $399 price once they go regular retail. Shipping is expected to begin in January 2023.