An honest review of the HEIPI 3-in-1 Travel Tripod in pursuit of the best budget tripod for Mirrorless Cameras.
Over the years of working as a professional adventure travel photographer, I’ve used and tested dozens of lightweight travel tripods in the field.
While, for a long time, these lightweight tripods didn’t offer the stability required to fulfill the needs of heavier, professional mirrorless camera systems– things have changed recently thanks to better construction materials and unique innovations in design.
One such innovation is the unique 3-in-1, three-pillar central column tripod offered by HEIPI’s impressive Kickstarter and Indigogo project. So, when they offered me the opportunity to review this budget tripod for my mirrorless camera setup, I was admittedly a little excited.
- About the HEIPI 3-in-1 Travel Tripod
- The HEIPI Travel Tripod Specs
- What to Look for When Buying a Budget Tripod for Mirrorless Cameras
- Review of the HEIPI Tripod using a Professional Mirrorless Camera System
- Verdict: Is the HEIPI the Best Budget Mirrorless Camera Tripod?
Full transparency: HEIPI sent me this tripod free of charge for review. However, as always, all opinions are my own, and I personally test all of my gear thoroughly before making any recommendations.
About the HEIPI 3-in-1 Travel Tripod
HEIPI's tripod is a lightweight, carbon fiber travel tripod that on the surface, looks similar to the very popular Peak Design Travel Tripod. However, after closer inspection, you'll notice that this tripod incorporates some very unique and innovative features, and is very much a brand-new design.
- 3-in-1 System - integrated a main tripod, a removable sub tripod, and a removable ball head
- Unique three-pillar central column - the sub tripod extends out to serve as a three-pillar column, increasing stability
- Sturdy 50mm low-profile ball head - high quality, pro-grade ball head with panoramic pan (click or mute) and accommodates arca-swiss plates & portrait shooting
- Unique leg locking levers - strong and quick-release clips for carbon fiber leg extensions
- Adjustable leg angle adjustments
- Rubber & spiked feet
Many of the features, including the pro-quality ball head, carbon fiber construction, and large weight capacity definitely aren't typical of budget mirrorless camera tripods and are typically features you'd need to pay a premium price for.
Others, like the removable sub-tripod and the three-pillar center column are the first of its kind in photography tripods like this.
The HEIPI Travel Tripod Specs
- Maximum Load: 25 kg (55 lb)
- Maximum Height: 150 cm (59.44")
- Folded Height: 44.4 cm (17.48")
- Weight: 3-in-1: 1.4 kg (3.1 lb) |
- Main tripod weight with head: 1.2 kg (2.65 lb)
- Price: $399 ($319 for early backers)
The specs supplied are directly from the manufacturer and at first glance, are very impressive and certainly not typical of tripods in this price range.
The maximum load is extremely impressive, and in all honestly, I wasn't able to test it to this capacity. However, I did set this tripod up with my Canon R5 mirrorless camera & heavy 100-500mm RF telephoto lens (roughly 2.1 kg, or 4.6 lb load), and it did feel very solid, at least with the center column collapsed to the base.
The maximum height of this tripod reaches just over 1.5 meters, or 5 feet, which is typically more than adequate for most landscape photographers shopping for tripods in this price range.
In terms of portability, its folded height is just a little longer than my current favorite travel tripod, the Manfrotto BeFree Carbon GT. However, in real-world scenarios, what's more important is the overall packability. Similarly to the Peak Design Travel Tripod, HEIPI have managed to trim down the fat, making the packed diameter just 69 mm (2.7 in), which overall, makes it much easier to stow in a backpack.
What to Look for When Buying a Budget Tripod for Mirrorless Cameras
Before I get into the HEIPI camera tripod review, here are what I believe to be the most crucial features when shopping for a budget tripod for mirrorless cameras.
- Portability - weight & packability are important to many hobby and professional landscape shooters who need to carry their compact tripod for extended distances.
- Stability - refers to how still the tripod can hold the camera & minimize shake, how easy & smooth the tripod head handles heavy loads, and the overall strength of the tripod legs
- Versatility - refers to unique features, flexibility to incorporate different angles & camera orientations, minimum & maximum height, and overall ease-of-use
- Durability - the overall build quality and expected performance of the tripod over time
In my review below, I'll cover all four of these points to help you decide if this is the best lightweight tripod for you.
Review of the HEIPI Tripod using a Professional Mirrorless Camera System
I've been using this tripod now for three weeks on a couple of different shoots. While this isn't a lot of time to really get a grip on the long-term performance of the tripod, it's given me a good understanding of what I can expect out of it.
Below is my honest opinion about how the HEIPI stacks up against the other premium and budget tripods I've used in the past. The photos are all from the most recent shoot at a forest waterfall in Australia.
The HEIPI camera comes with an included water-resistant carry case, which at first impression, has a premium feel to it. While I don't usually use these, it was an added bonus that I wasn't expecting out of a budget-friendly tripod.
The first time that I took it out of the case I was very impressed. The design is extremely compact and reminded me of the popular option from Peak Design, one of the most portable and lightweight travel tripods– although with a price tag that doubles HEIPI's.
Due to how compact this tripod is, it feels just as heavy in the hand as other carbon fiber tripods like the Manfrotto BeFree GT Carbo– although it technically is lighter by a few hundred grams. However, as I mentioned above, when it cuts this close, counting grams isn't really a good measure of portability. In terms of overall packed size, the HEIPI is much slimmer than the Manfrotto, but slightly longer than the Peak Design.
In terms of overall portability, the HEIPI is very lightweight and compact when folded down, and certainly holds up in this regard against some of the premium tripods for mirrorless cameras.
Furthermore, once we got on-site, the quick-release flip locks felt very solid and opened up quickly. This allowed for full extension of the carbon fiber legs in around 10-15 seconds, which felt intuitive and made the overall experience of setting the tripod up a breeze.
The #1 Photography Accessory
Enter the Peak Design Capture Clip. I've used this for years to quickly clip my camera to my backpack's shoulder strap. This is the most comfortable way to carry a camera and will save your neck a ton of strain.
Of course, one of the most crucial elements of a tripod is how well it holds our mirrorless cameras and limits any movement during long exposures.
Testing the Ball-Head Mount
I was thrilled to see that the HEIPI ball head accommodates Arca-swiss-style plates, which is a common industry standard and compatible with the Peak Design Capture Clip, an accessory I use every day on outdoor shoots.
The lock is quite unique, using a dual-safety system that requires a twist and lock toggle to ensure a secure mount and stable connection to DSLR and mirrorless bodies.
Testing the Stability at Full Extension
In order to get a good grasp of the overall stability, I extended the legs and 3-pillar center columns to their absolute maximum height of 1.5 meters. This process is accomplished by loosening the center column ring and sliding the sub-tripod up.
This is something that I usually don't do on lightweight travel tripods like this, since there is usually some level of shake and vibration.
This process is quite easy. However, the first time I did this I loosened the ring completely and pulled the sub tripod completely out, dropping the ring. This is quite easy to do, but avoidable thanks to a warning sign at the end serving as a good indicator of where to stop.
After moving the tripod around and shooting the waterfall at a few different angles, I was incredibly surprised, this is a seriously sturdy tripod for its weight. This is largely thanks to the innovative three-pillar center column, which I'm definitely a big fan of. The HEIPI also has rubber feet and sturdy leg locks, making the overall stability very impressive, even at maximum extension.
However, in all honesty, when doing long-exposure work, I would still prefer to lower this tripod's center column to at least half when shooting with heavy mirrorless camera setups like the Canon R5 and RF 15-35mm f2.8L– or especially with heavier telephoto lenses.
Below I tested the performance of the tripod for different use cases to determine the overall versatility.
The 50mm low-profile ball head is quite impressive for a relatively budget-friendly tripod. The fluid head is easy to loosen and fasten thanks to a small lever on the side. Overall, there is very little to complain about and the ball head functions smoothly and holds heavy cameras well.
Furthermore, the small knob on the side enables photographers to pan easily. This is also great for small adjustments and for video work. There is an audible click every 10 degrees which I wouldn't really use personally, but it feels quite nice to use. This can also be muted for smooth panning shots.
Another feature I was thankful to see is the ability to position the camera in a portrait orientation, which I use very often on landscape shoots.
Tripod Performance at Different Leg Angles
The carbon fiber legs have three different angles, allowing photographers to spread the load over a larger distance and achieve greater stability. I tested each position and each felt good.
However, I did notice that when I had the legs sprawled out to the widest position, I was unable to use the counterweight hook as it would pull the legs outward.
Testing the Sub Tripod
Sliding the center column out completely enables photographers to use the sub tripod as a separate, smaller tripod with the ball head attached. This is great as it eliminates the need to carry small tripods like the Joby Gorillapod.
The sub tripod is very lightweight and surprisingly sturdy. Similarly to the main tripod, it features the ability to adjust leg angles at three various degrees.
At first, I thought that this was a feature I wouldn't use much, but ended up using it quite a bit due to how easy it is to attach and detach.
While the maximum height is important, sometimes photographers just need that super low perspective. While this can be accomplished with the sub tripod, sliding the columns upside down enabled me to get the camera even lower.
This is a unique feature that I wasn't expecting out of an affordable tripod like the HEIPI.
Below are some photos of the tripod setup in reversed position. I found it fun to use this position to capture some unique perspectives, and of course, flipping the image in post.
Other Unique Features
The overall versatility of the HEIPI carbon fiber tripod was quite surprising, offering loads of features and options that would even surprise professional photographers.
Below are some more unique features.
- Hidden spiked feet - screwing off the rubber feet reveals a metal spike, providing greater stability on sand, ice, and snow.
- Counterweight hook - useful to add additional support to the tripod by hanging a small camera or accessory bag underneath the central column
- Phone mount - there is a phone mount that pulls out of the main arca-swiss attachment plate. Personally, I wouldn't use this but I'm sure it's a unique feature that would attract many.
Durability is tough to review after using the tripod for only three weeks. However, the overall carbon fiber material and built quality definitely makes this product feel like a high-quality tripod comparable to many other's I've used.
Carbon fiber is a very lightweight, rigid, and strong material, and not typically a material found on options for a tight budget.
Verdict: Is the HEIPI the Best Budget Mirrorless Camera Tripod?
As you can tell from the review, I'm very impressed with the HEIPI travel tripod. While it's not the cheapest tripod for mirrorless cameras, it is a much better choice than other options at this price range, especially when compared to the offerings from more established brands, which usually are trimmed-down aluminum tripods.
Overall, the unique features and ability to store a small, removable tripod within a very compact form factor make this very convenient to carry around and use for outdoor and landscape photography. Furthermore, the stability is very impressive and feels more rigid than my expensive $1000+ tripods at full extension, which is quite mind-blowing.
I have absolutely no trouble recommending the HEIPI and I'll continue using it in my photography kit. Will it hold up? Who knows– I'll continue to test it and update this article over time.