Over the years I have tried a lot of ways to hold my camera stable. Only recently have I invested in sturdy tripods that cost more than I ever thought I'd pay but are are still inexpensive compared to what many photographers use. I opted, instead, for the lighter, less expensive alternatives. And, for as much as I used them, that was okay. I've tried monopods and gone through two or more of them. I've gotten and used various GorillaPod tripods, too. I still carry around with me a little tripod my brother-in-law gave me some thirty years ago. Add to these a variety of other things to hold my camera upright and I have quite a collection of tripod-like devices.
Any type of system to hold your camera steady is quite often essential if you are trying to capture images in low light, for example, at night. Some kind of holding system for your camera is, naturally, necessary if you want to be in the shot yourself. So, let me share with you the tripod, or as I like to classify them, the camera support systems or devices I have in my collection. I've compiled the list because I tend to take several of these items with me on trips and never use them all. So, I'm trying to figure out which one or two always deserve a spot in my bag and which can safely stay home.
MeFoto RoadTrip Tripod - this tripod is the sturdiest and priciest one I have ever owned. At $180-$200 (depending on vendor) it is still relatively inexpensive compared to similar but higher end and lighter tripods. I like how it folds up to only 15.4” (39 cm) and fits in a nice carrying case that comes with it. Despite that small packing size, the RoadTrip extends to a sturdy 61.6” (156.5 cm) height! I also like that one leg of the RoadTrip can be removed and used as a monopod.
MeFoto DayTrip Tripod - after my experience with the MeFoto RoadTrip, it was easy to decide to purchase this smaller MeFoto model. At a mere 9.4“ (24 cm) folded length, this tripod is easy to even stick inside some camera bags! It does extend only to maximum height of 24” (61 cm), but it is quite solid and at that height can be placed on a table, wall, or something similar if you need more height. The real beauty of the DayTrip is how small it is for carrying. It retails for $99.
Canon Monopod 500 - this is a handy monopod that collapses nicely to a length of 21.5" (54.6 cm) and in five sections extends to a maximum length (height) of 64.5" (164 cm). Sells for only $38. I like a monopod especially if it can collapse as small as this one so you can usually fit it in a standard suitcase. Not as good as a real tripod but easier to have with you and it does help with vertical movement stabilization.
LolliPod - this was a bit of a whimsical purchase because I thought the LolliPod was cool. Very lightweight, the tripod is made and sold in/from Great Britain for around $55. Collapsed the LolliPod measures 12.6" (32 cm) and will extend to a maximum height of 44.4" (113 cm). I bought this tripod knowing it was primarily for use with lightweight cameras which seemed fine for my light mirrorless micro4/3 bodies. With a payload limit of 14.8 oz. (420 grams), it will hold my little Panasonic GM-5 nicely but even my Olympus OM-D E-M1 with a small lens is a bit risky. It is a nice piece to carry in my camera bag because of its lightness and collapsed size, but it is best used with small cameras, smartphone's (with a smartphone holder with a 1/4-20 mount), or flash units. I have used it with my E-M1 and a pro lens but mainly with me holding onto the tripod and the tripod extended very little.
SunPak Travel Lite Tripod - I got this fairly lightweight travel tripod at BestBuy some years ago. Think I paid around $70 for it. Has a nice case, but leg sections are pullouts with small pop out holders so a bit wobbly. As a small travel tripod it was a decent buy but there are better options now. I can't find it for sale anywhere so I assume it's no longer sold but SunPak does have other small, travel tripods. I now use it for holding lights.
Joby dSLR GorillaPod - I got this flexible Joby tripod when I had my Canon 60D so it works with almost any of my camera gear. I tend to always have it in my bag "just in case" and find I currently use it more than any other support system on this list. This particular model appears to now be unavailable but similar options are. In 2009 I paid $32 for mine.
Joby Mini GorillaPod - this very little, flexible tripod takes up so little space that I always have it stored in one of my little Eagle Creek bags with my "must have" items (e.g., band aids, hearing aid stuff, etc.). It's fine for holding my smartphone in a holder and even my Panasonic GM-5 camera. I sometimes use it to hold a recorder or my small Nissin i40 flash. Current models sell for around $20.
PedCo UltraPod - this is the 30-year tripod my brother-in-law Jim gave me. Versions of it are still sold for between $11 and $24. The long attached hook and loop strap and the tripod's small size make it handy to always have with you. Versatile in a little different way than the mini GorillaPod, I'm always torn which one to take with me and usually take both because they're so darn small!
Platypod Pro System - the newest of all of my support devices, the PlatyPod is very simple and very cool. At $50 it's certainly not cheap, but it is made of quality material, takes very little room, and provides a unique approach to holding your camera or flash.
HandlePod - I first saw this clever camera holder reviewed by Heather Broster on the Mirrorlessons web site she and her partner maintain sometime ago, but only recently purchased it. I haven't put the Hanlepod to the test much yet, but the few times I have, I found it to be quite useful. It sells for $30 and is perfect for small, mirrorless cameras, including even my E-M1 with the 12-40mm pro lens attached.
So, what do I use most of the time? Nothing. Sad but true. I have all of these support options but tend, still, to simply handhold my camera! But seriously, when I do need to support my camera, it varies which of my many options I use. If I'm shooting video with my Olympus OM-D E-M1 then I always use the MeFoto RoadTrip. Hands down. I always have the PlatyPod Pro stand, the two Joby GorillaPods, and the UltraPod in my main camera bag. I also tend to pack the LolliPod as well because it's so light and short. Since I got the Handlepod, I've also been bringing it too. It is pretty versatile and useful as it can be used in a variety of ways to hold a camera. However, I need to determine just which support is always worthy of packing and which can be safely left home.