Tiny tripods - once in a while I just can't get my job done without one. I have tried a few different versions over the years, and some are more useful than others. Here is what I have learned.
First of all, why bother with a small tripod?
The enemy of good architectural photography is distortion. When using wide-angle lenses, the closer an object gets the more distorted it looks. The easiest way to reduce all of the ugly stretching and distortion is to back up, and get some distance between you and the subject. That means that almost every time I shoot, my tripod is crammed up next to a wall, or shooting through a door just to get the camera as far back as possible. Once in a while my regular tripod is too big to place in the corner, I might want to place the camera on a countertop in a kitchen or a bathroom or on a piece of furniture and here is where the tiny tripod shines.
I have tried three different styles, a low-flat version, a tiny compact version and a height adjustable version. The most important feature of all of these tripods is stability. These tripods might look like toys but they need to be able to hold a full frame DSLR and a heavy lens without flinching.
My low-flat tripod is a Kirk Low Pod. The low-pod is really well constructed and is as stable as a rock. The only issue is that it is heavy and not as portable as it could be, so it never really makes it on location with me. Even though it rarely goes out, I do really like it and I use quite a bit for macro work.
My tiny compact tripod is a Feisol TT-15 Mark 2 Carbon Fiber Tabletop Tripod. The best thing about this little guy is that it is so compact and lightweight, I can easily bring it with me anytime I shoot. The legs are adjustable, but I am not comfortable using the highest setting loaded down with my 5Ds and a 24mm tilt-shift, it feels too top-heavy. Though I am afraid that the camera might tip on the highest setting, this is not due to the tripod's sturdiness, this thing is absolutely stable when used in the lower settings and even rivals the low-pod for rock solid-ness. If I could do it all over I would probably skip the low-pod altogether and go for this, even for macro work. Since this tripod is less steady on the tallest setting, you are left with very little height adjustability. So little that I wouldn't consider height adjustability as a feature of this tripod.
The third tripod I have tried is a the Vixen Optics Berlebach Mini Tripod. This tripod is made of wood, it is small, lightweight, has a nice small footprint and is quite adjustable in terms of height. The reason I like the height adjustability is that the height allows me to put the camera on a countertop without seeing the bottom of the cabinets overhead. The build quality is great and very stable. The larger size accomodates a DSLR well and I feel comfortable using this tripod in any of its configurations.
So which tripod is best suited to architectural photography? The adjustability of the Berlebach makes it the obvious choice, however it is larger and more cumbersome than the Feisol. I am just guessing but I would estimate that I use a tiny tripod for one in 50 shots, so the best solution is one that you don't have to think about, it is just there when you need it. In this capacity the Feisol is the best option, it is so small you can pack it on every shoot with relatively little cost in effort carrying it from location to location.
Do you have a small tripod you find indespensable? What features do you find most useful? I would love to hear from you.