Discovering the 3Pod Flashpoint Flat-Folding P5CFH Tripod (Review)
3Pod Flashpoint Flat-Folding Tripod (P5CFH)
Formal Name: 3Pod P5CFH 8X Carbon Fiber 5 Section FlatFold Tripod with K2 BallHead
*This price is currently $199.95 with $50.00 instant rebate savings and free shipping.
There are a few things that you’ll never hear anyone say. One of those things is, “I have plenty of space, so adding another large, three-dimensional object to my overpacked car is fine with me.” You’ll also never hear a professional or prosumer photographer say that “Another 20 pounds of equipment that’s difficult to carry is no problem at all.” Nope, you’ll never hear those words from anyone. You know what you’ll hear from a photographer about the Flashpoint Flat-Folding Tripod? The word “Wow” will be part of what’s said. As for additional words of exclamation, superlatives, and odd sounds of joy–one can only speculate.
I’m still lugging around an old painfully heavy, bulky, noisy–yes, noisy tripod from the thrilling days of yesteryear–or the 1980s as some people call them. Obviously my old clunker is durable but it weighs a ton and only collapses so far. It’s clumsy to carry. It’s clumsy to work with. It is almost impossible to level. And it generally drives me nuts to use it.
So, you ask, why haven’t I bought something newer and better? Well, to this I can only say, it’s a mixture of laziness and of not wanting to spend $300+ for a bang up tripod that is probably not that much better than my old one is. The only part that might be better is that many higher end tripods have bubble levels on them so that leveling is easier. As for weight, forget about it. I don’t want to trade a bulldozer for a tank.
Adorama, of course, has the answer to my problem. Adorama has just the remedy in its lineup of affordable, lightweight, durable, sturdy, fully adjustable tripods that not only feature built-in bubble levels but they’re also flat when you fold them. Flat, as in two-dimensional. Yes, I know it sounds strange but it’s true. Flat tripods. The flatness aspect goes against everything you know about tripods, doesn’t it?
Well, these beauties fold flat and come with their own carrying cases. The whole thing looks like a soft sided Clarinet case. And it’s about the same weight as a loaded Clarinet case. All cased up, the tripod measures about 15″x7″x2.75″. The case is actually 7″ at one end and approximately 5″ at the other, so it really looks like a Clarinet case and not a tripod at all.
Inside the case, you’ll find the flat-folding tripod base, a K2 hydraulic Ballhead with standard 0.25″ screw mount, a shoulder strap for you shleppers out there, the user’s manual, tools (two hex key wrenches), and a velvet Ballhead cover to protect your bubble level. The case itself is a heavy duty nylon with reinforced double zippers–think expensive luggage style materials here. It also features internal padding and soft material on the inside to prevent damage from accidental drops and random mishaps during packing or traveling.
At its shortest, unextended height, the tripod is a mere 12 inches tall. The Ballhead adds another 14 inches to the height unextended. However, if you need to get down a little closer to the action, you can adjust the tripod legs downward so that the overall height is only 19 inches.
The middle leg of the tripod has this heavy duty padded hand grip on it for easy manipulation and repositioning of the tripod. The Ballhead also has its own carrying strap so that you don’t have to carry the case on location, unless you want to carry it to and unpack at your destination.
Photographers and their assistants will love the quick setup of this tripod. The legs are quick release, quick tighten and have five height selectors. Fully extended Ballhead and leg angles at their maximum, the tripod stands at just over 56 inches, which means that even at my height (6’2″), a mounted camera is at a very comfortable eye level.
You can position the legs at three different angles and all independent of one another. The same goes for the heights of the extensions. This can provide you with an almost infinite array of possibilities for unusual but stable camera shots. As is suggested by its name, the Ballhead can be used to place your camera at any angle from horizontal to vertical.
The whole assembly is handsome as well as sturdy. The equipment has been tested with camera and accessories at weights up to 20 pounds. That means that your camera, on board flash, umbrella, microphone, lights, or just about anything else you can think of will not be too much for this tripod.
Its strength comes from its carbon fiber construction. In case you don’t know about carbon fiber materials, here’s an excerpt from Wikipedia on the topic:
“The properties of carbon fibers, such as high stiffness, high tensile strength, low weight, high chemical resistance, high temperature tolerance and low thermal expansion, make them very popular in aerospace, civil engineering, military, and motorsports, along with other competition sports. However, they are relatively expensive when compared to similar fibers, such as glass fibers or plastic fibers.”
The leg releases are easy to use in both directions and the feet are large and padded for added stability. However, if you don’t like the padded feet for use on turf, for example, remove them to reveal spikes. Although you’ll have to use a bit of force, the feet simply pull off, push on–no screwing and unscrewing.
The tripod also features a compass, 360-degree head rotation, two levels, and a removable quick-release plate with universal mounting screw.
This tripod does everything but snap the picture for you. Knowing Adorama, they probably have an accessory for that as well.
I consider this tripod to be for outdoors and for travel. It’s weight and capacity dictate that it will work well under just about any condition or application. Location photographers and filmmakers will like this little tripod. No, it’s not suited for large equipment but you really wouldn’t expect it to be for under $150, now would you?
Carbon fiber is well-suited to more extremes than any of your other equipment so don’t worry about environmental conditions causing you any problems at all.
The only problem I found with this tripod is actually one of its features: weight. I know what I said about weight earlier but the problem is that this tripod is so light that your camera is going to be a bit top heavy, which becomes more obvious when the tripod is fully extended. This won’t be a problem unless conditions are breezy. Then it gets a little “iffy.” It might be fine but I’m just too paranoid to let go, walk away and use a wireless remote in anything but a gentle breeze.
That said, you can adjust the legs to give a wider stance and provide more stability even in fairly high winds. It’s just a word of caution mostly to let you know that this is not a 30 or 40 pound beast that will withstand windy conditions. Additionally, the compass seems not to be great. I’d either leave it off or upgrade it a bit to be really useful.
The 3Pod P5CFH flat-folding tripod is a well-constructed, well thought out, versatile tripod that’s easy to travel with and easy to carry.
Why it’s frugal: If you have a need for multiple tripods in your travels, this one could cut that need down to just one. Frugal doesn’t always mean dollars saved but can also mean space, weight, and pain on those long walks to distance locations.
Recommendation: If you need a light duty, durable, versatile tripod, this one is very good. Buy it but stay out of the wind.