Long have photographers dreamed of an easy to assemble, lightweight tripod that can collapse to a size that you can literally fit in your back pocket. Carbon fiber has helped us with the weight a bit, but the perfect solution has yet to come along. When I read about Tamrac’s new ZipShot Tripod, I thought our prayers had been answered. Tamrac is a reputable company that specializes in carrying solutions – sling bags, backpacks and so on. In fact, I have owned several of their products over the years and would recommend the brand to anyone. So I felt that the ZipShot was worth checking into, and Tamrac/ZipShot was kind enough to provide a sample for our review. I have seen other similar solutions, but none backed by a company like Tamrac. But I was still skeptical, and after experimenting with the product for several weeks, I am sorry to say my gut reaction was once again correct. Our prayers have not been answered – we do not have a perfect solution for a camera tripod – but it does have it’s uses.
The construction of the tripod is not unlike that of a set of tent poles. Each leg is comprised of four sections with a narrower end and a sleeve end, and they are connected by a bungee. If you unwrap the bundling (also bungies), the legs drop to the floor, clicking into place as the tension kicks in. Unlike tent poles, the legs are fairly rigid once clicked into place. The feet are rubber and the top is a small, simple ball head. There is one lever to control the ball-head’s movement, even it’s lateral rotation. This was somewhat of an annoyance, many ball heads at least allow you to lock lateral rotation separately. But again, this is designed to be compact, and such controls might make the head bigger than necessary.
The ZipShot is advertised as being able to hold 3 pounds, which it can. What isn’t taken into consideration, however, is the distribution of the weight. My camera (a Nikon D80) is under the weight limit, even with my 185mm lens attached. With the 50mm attached, the mount seems fine. But if I stick the 185mm lens on the camera, there’s a lot of weight well in front of the mount. There is some definitive torque on the ball head where it meets the legs – the front-most leg clearly takes the strain as a result. Indoors, I might be willing to trust the tripod – unless there were people around that might risk bumping the tripod. But outside, I’d be afraid a stiff breeze might create some havoc.
Another annoyance was the fact that the legs are not adjustable. Again, I need to reiterate that this is designed to be compact and fast, and adjustable legs would certainly put a hindrance on that concept. But unless you’re using this tripod on flat ground, there is no way to get it stable. On a hill, the center of gravity is not in a good place, and tip-over is likely, even on gentle slopes.
All is not lost, however. This tripod is perfect for some uses that I’ve found. First, my wife’s camera – a compact point-and-shoot “pocket camera” – is well at home on this tripod. Why my primary tripod is overkill for a pocket camera, the ZipShot was perfect. It’s great for doing staged portrait shots with your pocket camera. Another use – though perhaps a little unconventional – was as an extension arm for your pocket camera. It’s simple…mount the pocket camera to the plate, angle it downwards as if it were pointed at the ground, collapse the legs (so they function as a monopod now) and pick it up. Set the timer and hold it out farther than arms length – and voila: no more photos with crammed in faces. Perhaps a more logical use is mounting your off-camera flash for remote triggering, like the photo at left (please excuse the image quality, clearly I couldn’t light this properly as my flash had to be in the photo). I think using it as a flash mount is perhaps the best use of this tripod. Actually, I held up this review for longer than I should because I was waiting for my flash to arrive (it was backordered) – I was confident that the tripod would be perfect as a flash mount. And I’m happy to say much hunch was dead-on correct. But for any of these purposes, the tripod is certainly useful. However, is it worth the cost?
The ZipShot is, as of this writing, about $45 USD at at Amazon.com. At that price point, we simply would not recommend the ZipShot unless you really need something this compact and lightweight. My hope is that Tamrac – who again I need to note is a reputable company – will expand their line of ZipShot tripods, and they will come out with a tripod that is a bit more useful. I would be willing to see them add some bulk to come up with a better solution. But for now, I would suggest that you wait. I wouldn’t recommend this product until one of its successors provides a better interface between the legs and the head and it offers at least one adjustable leg. Until then, this is not the answer to our prayers.