Introduction

Journey tripods are a bit like superzoom compact cameras. They provide the promise of extraordinary versatility, with out the scale and weight penalties usually imposed by extra specialised gear. They cannot do all the things however they’ll do sufficient – with out weighing you down – to make up for his or her limitations. There are lots of compact tripods on the market, most of that are very low cost, and carry out accordingly. You realize the type of factor I imply – in some unspecified time in the future you have been in all probability gifted one by a well-meaning relative at Christmas.

Additionally like superzoom compact cameras, there are only a few journey tripods which handle to be each genuinely gentle and moveable whereas additionally being genuinely good. And people which might be are usually relatively… spendy.

RRS Ascend-14 Peak Design Journey Tripod (CF) Gitzo GT1545T (legs solely)
MSRP $1450 $599.99 $469.95
Weight 3.2 lbs (1.45 kg) 2.81 lbs (1.29 kg) 2.34 lbs (1.06 kg)
Packed size 18.6 in (47 cm) 15.Four in (39.1 cm) 16.7 in (42.5 cm)
Packed diameter 3.Four in 3.1 in 4.Three in
Max top (heart column lowered) 48 in (122 cm) 51.25 in (130.2 cm) 51.2 in (130 cm)
Max top (heart column raised) 59.9 in (152 cm) 60 in (152.Four cm) 60.2 in (153 cm)
# Leg sections 4 5 4
Load capability 30 lbs (13.6 kg) 20 lbs (9.1 kg) 22 lbs / 10 kg
Head included Sure (integral) Sure (integral) No

As we speak, I wish to have a look at a product which has simply been launched into the higher finish of the journey tripod market (i.e., the actually spendy finish), from Actually Proper Stuff – the Ascend 14. Actually Proper Stuff (RRS) has been constructing a popularity for stable, elegant, no-compromise tripods, heads and plates for a very long time within the US, and in recent times RRS gear has began to turn out to be extra extensively out there to photographers across the globe.

The Ascend-14 is RRS’s try to make a actually proper journey tripod, which does not undergo from the identical compromises that we might usually count on on this class: versatile legs, low most weight ranking, or restricted options. Unspoken, however pretty clearly implied, can be a need to cater to the identical demand that made Peak Design’s Journey Tripod essentially the most profitable Kickstarter challenge ever, again in 2019.


Design

Just like the Peak Design fashions, the Ascend-14’s commonplace configuration options an built-in ball head and a non-cylindrical aluminum heart column, to permit the legs to fold flat towards it. This instantly makes each merchandise slimmer than your common compact tripod, whereas nonetheless sustaining the flexibility provided by an adjustable heart column (in case you do not thoughts a set apex and decrease max top, RRS already makes the cheaper TFC-14 Mk II). The middle column of the Ascend-14 may be divided into two sections, to save lots of weight (dropping the decrease portion shaves off about 150g) or to facilitate very low-level capturing.

In comparison with the Peak Design Journey Tripod (proven on the appropriate, with the Purell bottle for scale), the RRS Ascend-14 is fractionally fatter (with a packed diameter of three.4in in comparison with 3.1in) and longer when totally collapsed (18.6in in comparison with 15.4in).

It is also heavier than the Peak Design carbon fiber mannequin (1.45kg with the RRS Ascend head in comparison with 1.3kg for the PD).

Each the RRS Ascend-14 and Peak Design Journey Tripod supply a helpful most top. With their heart columns prolonged (proven right here) each can attain a rated most top of 60 inches.

I am six toes tall, and each of those tripods present sufficient top for comfy eye-level capturing. The Ascend-14, nonetheless, is noticeably extra inflexible when totally prolonged.

This picture of the decrease leg extensions of the Peak Design Journey Tripod (high) and Ascend-14 (backside) reveals clearly how a lot thicker the cylindrical CF tube used within the Ascend-14 is, in comparison with the lozenge-shaped tube of the Peak Design. This interprets to a particular feeling of elevated stiffness when the legs are at full extension.

To take away the decrease portion of the column, you push the tiny hook on the underside flat, then unscrew it. It takes a little bit of effort, and could be a bit fiddly (turning into very fiddly with chilly arms or gloves) but it surely works properly sufficient for one thing you in all probability will not do typically.

The ball head is somewhat uncommon. Mainly a scaled-up and refined model of the RRS BPC-16, the ball has an honest vary of motion (together with a drop-notch) and is tightened with a locking clamp. An integral panning platform sits on high of the ball, which may be locked with a small knob. The top encompasses a compact model of RRS’s standard quick-release lever clamp, which makes mounting and eradicating an Arca-style digicam or lens plate very fast and straightforward. The middle column is unlocked by way of a lever clamp too, making a complete of three such controls on the higher a part of the tripod (which is not essentially a very good factor, however extra on that later).

A standard platform head configuration can be out there for the Ascend-14, and the platform head (with built-in column) may be bought individually for $250 (which is how a lot you save if you choose that configuration within the first place).

This trades off a few of the measurement and weight advantage of the Ascend head in favor of a traditional mounting platform for no matter head you care so as to add. The RRS BH-30 (proven right here) is a pleasant match by way of measurement, however there are a number of high-quality heads out there.

From the spider down, the Ascend-14 is a fairly typical carbon-fiber tripod, albeit an unusually small and well-made one. The Ascend 14’s leg extensions have actually solid-feeling twist locks, and detachable rubber toes. As you’d count on, the legs may be angled outwards in Three positions, the outer of which permits the tripod to sit down nearly flat to the bottom. The general really feel and end of the tripod is great, and small vents within the cups that maintain the legs to the spider permit air out and in of the tubes when the legs are prolonged and retracted. It is a small factor, but it surely makes a constructive distinction to the smoothness of the operation.

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Efficiency

So what does the extra $850 over the Peak Design carbon-fiber journey tripod purchase you? In a phrase – stability.

It would sound foolish, however from the spider down, the Ascend-14 appears like a giant, sturdy typical tripod that has merely been miniaturized. The place the ribbonlike decrease leg sections of the Peak Design tripod are slim and the entire thing feels relatively ‘whippy’, the Ascend-14 feels good and stable even with all of its legs totally prolonged, and dampens vibrations noticeably higher. To be truthful, the Peak Design mannequin will get much more inflexible with its decrease leg extensions collapsed, but it surely additionally, clearly, will get lots shorter, too.

In use, the Ascend-14 lives up nearly solely to my hopes for a tripod costing as a lot because it does

It is necessary to take producers’ claims of weight rankings with a big pinch of salt (there is no agreed-upon commonplace) however, by popularity, RRS’s max load ranking of 30 lbs for the Ascend-14 is more likely to be conservative.

For context, 30 lbs of drugs works out to roughly ten Fujifilm GFX-100 our bodies. Clearly it will be ridiculous to place ten GFX-100s onto the highest of a tripod (however in case you really feel like doing it, at the very least we all know you may afford the Ascend-14). The purpose is that 30 lbs is lots of weight, and it is unlikely that you’re going to be placing that a lot load on high of the pinnacle.

Nonetheless, many photographers are within the behavior of including weight below the pinnacle for stability. In real-world use, I’ve slung 15lbs of stabilizing weight from the Ascend’s decrease hook with a Nikon Z7 and Z 70-200mm F2.eight VR S (~5 lbs) on high, and it is rock-solid. By comparability, Peak Design claims a most load ranking of 20 lbs for its Journey Tripod, and with the identical load (15 lbs beneath, one other 5 lbs or so on high) all the things stayed put at full extension, however even below load, the legs nonetheless felt whippy.

This picture reveals a digicam (geared up with an RRS Arca-style baseplate) locked to the Ascend-14. The decrease lever clamps the ball in place, and the higher lever (simply in shadow on this shot) opens and locks the jaws of the digicam/lens plate. You don’t want to get the 2 levers combined up.

In use, the Ascend-14 lives up nearly solely to my hopes for a tripod costing as a lot because it does. The one a part of it which does not fairly persuade me is the pinnacle. All the things from the spider down is nice, however in making the compact head as fully-featured as they may, RRS’s engineers have, for my part, sacrificed a few of the usability that has been a trademark of standard RRS heads just like the BH-40 and BH-55, with their massive, easily-distinguished knob and lever controls.

Relying on the circumstances wherein you utilize it (particularly in case you shoot open air, at night time and/or within the chilly), you would possibly discover that the Ascend-14’s head is simply downright fiddly. The lever clamp which unlocks the ball may be very stiff out of the field (however this may be adjusted with a T9 Torx), and may be exhausting function with gloves, whereas the panning lock knob is fairly tiny. Though handy in idea, the nested allen wrench may be very stubby, and may be exhausting to extract from its magnetic slot within the head.

There are two lever clamps on the pinnacle. They’re fairly shut collectively, and you actually do NOT wish to get them mixed-up

Probably the most doubtlessly impactful situation although, in my expertise, is the lever clamps. There are two lever clamps on the pinnacle, one for un/locking the ball, and one for un/locking the digicam/lens from the highest of the panning base. They’re fairly shut collectively, and you actually do NOT wish to get them mixed-up. Presumably in an effort to stop this, RRS has made certain that they face in numerous instructions, and has given them a barely completely different form and really feel.

Sadly, this has not stopped me a number of occasions from attempting to unlock the ball to reposition a shot with my eye to the finder, and by accident releasing my digicam from the pinnacle. Now, earlier than you say something, I do know that is consumer error. And I additionally know that over time, I will get used to how the Ascend-14’s head operates and I will turn out to be a greater, much less error-prone consumer. However this is not my first rodeo, and nonetheless, it is a mistake I’ve made quite a few occasions since first venturing out with the Ascend-14.

This composite picture reveals the three positions of the Arca-style fast launch lever clamp which holds a digicam or lens to the highest of the Ascend-14. With the lever within the ‘center’ place the digicam/lens plate remains to be captive vertically, however is free on the pinnacle and might slip forwards and backwards within the groove. When the lever is within the totally open place (on the left on this picture) the jaws of the clamp are totally open.

The thin silver knob on the decrease left of this picture is the discharge knob for the pinnacle’s panning motion.

There are two potential options that I can see which do not contain me present process pressured reeducation – one is for RRS merely to exchange the quick-release clamp for the digicam plate with a boring, conventional, however ultra-reliable screw-knob. The opposite is to make use of a button-lock on that higher lever clamp, which might stop unintentional opening. That is how Acratech’s quick-release levers work, and whereas it will add some further complexity for the engineers, it will stop unintentional extension of the lever whereas not slowing down deliberate operation.

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Conclusion

So – you have received $1,450 burning a gap in your pocket (fortunate you). Must you spend it on the Ascend-14? That relies upon. Sometimes I would advocate that severe photographers in search of a set of light-weight sticks contemplate Gitzo’s well-established Collection 1 ‘Traveller’ vary because the prosumer gold commonplace. The present high-end GK1545T-82TQDUS legs and head mixture, whereas significantly much less slim than the Ascend-14, nonetheless represents a very good compromise between measurement, weight and cargo capability, for $699. That is what the Peak Design Journey Tripod (carbon fiber model) will value you, too, and regardless of the compromises that I’ve talked about, the PD is a severe and justifiably standard contender.

There are many first rate choices out there today for much less cash, too. The (very) new Sirui ST-124 and ST-125 look significantly fascinating, providing a fairly excessive most weight ranking of 12 kg (26 lbs) for a really engaging worth of $249 for the legs solely. That is fairly near the Ascend-14’s load ranking, with the same old caveats about such figures.

When selecting a tripod for journey, size and weight are necessary to think about, however simply as necessary in some conditions is diameter. Most journey fashions with an built-in heart column are relatively chunky, however the RRS Ascend-14’s heart column is formed in order that the tripod’s legs can fold nearly flat towards it, holding the diameter of the folded tripod to a mere 3.4in.

The lightest that the Ascend-14 will get is with the built-in Ascend head (not proven right here), with the decrease part of the middle column eliminated. In that configuration the tripod weighs 2.87 lbs (1.Three kg).

So everyone knows that you do not want to spend $1,450 to get a very good high quality journey tripod. However the Ascend-14 is not only a actually good journey tripod, it is a actually good tripod, full cease. It is small and slim sufficient for use for journey, however robust and inflexible sufficient (and versatile sufficient) to exchange a bigger tripod for many functions. In actual fact since receiving my evaluate mannequin from RRS, I’ve barely touched my regular tripod, a midsized RRS TVC-24 MK2.

The excessive value of the Ascend-14 cannot be ignored, but it surely must be put into context

The excessive value of the RRS Ascend-14 cannot be ignored, but it surely must be put into context. Of the actually compact journey tripods that I’ve tried (which naturally is not all of them, and I want to take a look at the brand new Sirui fashions), the Ascend-14 affords the perfect mixture of measurement, weight, options and high quality. For a product that may fulfill so many necessities, $1,450 would not appear solely unreasonable.

In relation to the 2 out there configurations, personally I would take somewhat extra packed size and somewhat extra weight in trade for somewhat extra usability, so in case you gave that $1,450 to me (which I’m superb with, by the way in which – pm me for my Venmo particulars in case you’re feeling beneficiant) I would in all probability go for the legs with the platform column, and put the remainder in direction of a compact ball head.

What we like

  • Distinctive construct high quality
  • Helpful most top
  • Excellent max load capability
  • Slim sufficient to tuck into aspect pocket of a backpack
  • Very inflexible, even at full extension
  • Versatile (platform column choice, accent toes and so forth.)

What we don’t like

  • Expensive
  • On the heavy aspect in comparison with competitors (however does embrace a head)
  • Ascend head may be fiddly, particularly with gloves
  • Twist locks slower to function than clips
  • Hook on heart column may be very small

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