I'll be posting a series of articles on "How to Get Small" in assembling a professional photography kit. I've always enjoyed the challenge of doing more with less, and it's been particularly on my mind over the past year as I've spent a lot of time in faraway places, flying with laughably small luggage allowances, encountering unexpected gear-intensive photo opportunities, and exploring on foot or in crowded vehicles with way too many passengers.
Giottos YTL 9284
This is my new favorite compact, lightweight, inexpensive full-size tripod. My previous full-size was too big to pack in my luggage and too heavy to carry on foot for more than half an hour. Because I'm using lighter cameras these days, I didn't need something quite so overbuilt. But, I already had a travel 'pod and still wanted something over 68" (for group shots and portraits of tall people), under 24" (to fit in my suitcase), and less than 4 pounds (for carrying on public transit), all for a couple hundred bucks.
As it turned out, this was a very tall order. Most affordable middleweight "full-size" tripods top out around 65", and carbon fiber models that otherwise fit the bill are too expensive. I searched and searched and was about to give up when I discovered one tripod that met every requirement: Giottos' YTL 9284. It's my new favorite tripod. Without a head it weighs 3.8 pounds, according to my postal scale. It costs only $180 (without head). It opens to almost 70" with column extended, 57" without, and it collapses to just 20.5" in length. And, it has this unique fluted center column that makes the collapsed diameter much narrower than anything else I've seen. Super-portable. Every time I use it I marvel that it seems only slightly larger and heavier than my travel tripod.
The specs sold me on it, so although I couldn't find any reviews, I went to a store, checked it out, and took one home. After using it for a while, I like it even more. The column locking mechanism - a weak point on many tripods - locks firmly, releases easily, and, when released, allows the column to slide smoothly. The legs are more rigid than you'd expect, and there's no looseness or play anywhere. The length markings on the bottom legs are unexpectedly handy when lowering the tripod slightly after it's already set up. The finish is very nice, and the whole thing looks handsomer than most. Although no one spec seems particularly noteworthy, the combination of size, weight, and price is unique and a real treat. If you're searching for small and tall for cheap, this one's definitely worth a look.
B&H now sells this for $150!
Giottos YTL 9284 Unique fluted column enables a much smaller package