As primarily a travel photographer, a good, sturdy, but light and compact tripod is absolutely essential for my work. My personal travel tripod is the Oben CT-3565 with the BZ-217T ball head. I became a big fan of the Oben travel tripods several years ago when I got the Oben CT-3561, which I reviewed a few years back.
There were a few things I really loved about my first Oben tripod. First and foremost, it folded up very small to easily fit in luggage or on any backpack. Second, it was very lightweight, but sturdy at the same time. Those are the main things I love about this latest Oben model, which I have been using for the past several months. There is a lot more to consider, and I consider this latest model a big upgrade, which holds true to the essence, but improves upon, the earlier model I have.
Head Type: Triple action ball head
Base Mount: 3/8-16 thread
Camera Mounting Screw: 1/4-20 Screw
Quick Release Plate: Type Arca-type
Friction Control: Yes
Independent Pan Lock: Yes
Bubble Level: Yes
Vertical Tilt: -90° to +40°
Load Capacity: 20 lb. (9.1 kg)
Maximum Working Height: 61.7 in. (160 cm)
Max Height without Center Column: 53.6 in. (140 cm)
Folded Length 15.2 in.: (38.7 cm)
Monopod Height 64.1 in.: (163 cm)
Materials: Carbon fiber
Weight: 3.2 lb. ( 1.45 kg)
Leg Lock Type: Twist Lock
Leg Positions: 3 Positions
Independent Leg Spread: Yes
Leg Sections: 5
Removable Leg to Monopod: Yes
Tripod Feet Features: Retractable, spiked
Center Column Length Standard: 11.7 in. (29.7 cm)
Low Angle: 3.25 in. (8.2 cm)
Center Column Extension Type: Rapid
Center Column Features: Ballast Hook
Let’s Start with the BZ217T Ball head
The Oben CT-3565 tripod comes standard with the BZ-217T ball head. I generally try to not buy tripod-ball head combos because the ball head is usually pretty bad quality. This is not the case at all with the Oben combinations.
I have nearly a dozen ball heads in my closet that I have tried out over the last decade. Some of these ball heads I have will set you back $400 and they just collect dust because they don’t perform as well as my two favorite ball heads, one of which was the Oben ball head that came with my CT-3561. It has been through more and lasted better than any of my other ball heads, which is incredible for the value. The new BZ-217T ball head from Oben is even better.
My favorite part about this ball head is that it is very sturdy for a very slim profile. The ball head has four knobs that all work beautifully. The most impressive part is the friction-control knob. It blows away most tension knobs i have used, making it so you really have precise control over how you want the ball to rotate.
Overall, I think this is probably the best “throw-in” ball head you are going to get when purchasing a tripod, and rivals many stand alone ball heads that will set you back $150 or more. I am a big fan.
The Portability of This Tripod is Ideal
As mentioned above, the compact size of this tripod is its biggest draw for me. The tripod legs have five sections, while larger tripods have four or even three sections. There are drawbacks to having five sections that we will discuss below, but they are far outweighed by the compactness of this tripod in my opinion. The five legs that slide inside of each other make it so the tripod is very compact when all the legs are collapsed.
The other feature that helps this tripod be so compact is that the legs are reversible. This means they can rotate 180 degrees so the ball head is between the legs. This makes it so the entire length is limited to the length of the legs. This all leads to an incredible folded length of just 15.2 in. (38.7 cm).
As an example to how portable this tripod is. I recently went on a trip by car and just threw the tripod in the car without hooking it onto my backpack. When I got to the first location where I needed to attach my tripod, I realized I didn’t have the tripod straps needed on that particular backpack. Luckily, my laptop compartment was empty and I was able to fit the whole tripod inside the backpack for my hike. That was incredible to me and saved me from having to ditch my tripod as my arms would be full carrying a kid.
This Tripod is Lightweight
My second favorite thing about the tripod is how light it is. The carbon fiber legs go a long way, but I have had plenty of carbon fiber tripods that are not this light.
It weighs 3.2 lb. ( 1.45 kg) so it still isn’t the lightest tripod out there, but it is pretty close. I actually like that it is very light, without being so light that it is unavoidably flimsy.
The Height of the Tripod is a bit Lacking, but Adequate
The maximum working height of 61.7 in. (160 cm) with the center column and 53.6 in. (140 cm) without the center column means this tripod is a bit on the shorter side. Again, this is a necessary trade off for the compact size of the tripod, which is a trade off I will make 90% of the time I use a tripod and 100% of the time I travel.
Having the extra height can be nice on occasion, but I mostly shoot low to the ground or about eye level (or slightly lower with this tripod). Because of that, I am not personally bothered by the shorter height on this tripod.
The Tripod Boasts Impressive Stability
The stability has actually improved quite a bit in this model from my older Oben travel tripod, which was still plenty sturdy. With five tripod leg sections, it is unavoidable that the last leg is going to be quite skinny. Given that, I expected this tripod to have a little more bounce and sway with the legs fully expended. That is not the case.
In good conditions, there is absolutely no unsteadiness in this tripod. True, it may not hold up as well as a ten pound, $800 tripod when it comes to heavy winds or crashing waves, but it will blow away any cheap tripod you try.
The Tripod is Easy to Use and Comfortable
Ease of use with a tripod for me usually comes down to three things: 1) portability; 2) Weight; and 3) Leg locks. The portability and weight have been discussed above and are great for the tripod’s ease of use.
The leg locks on the tripod are also really great. I was originally worried about having five twist locks on each leg since that would mean doing 15 locks every time the tripod was fully extended, but it is not an issue at all. The locks easily loosen and tighten with just one twist, and it is actually really easy to tighten or loosen all five at once when they are close together. This means the tripod is actually really easy to use.
Another thing I find really easy to use is rotating the legs. I actually really like that there is a bit of stiffness to the legs. Of course you can loosen them if you want, but I like that they work well even when you have them stiff as they tend to hold steady a little more and don’t flop on your backpack or when you are carrying. I like being able carry by just holding one leg instead of all three.
Finally, the ball head is also really easy to use. The adjustment knobs have nothing unusual if you have ever used a ball head. It is easy to attach a camera, and there is a nice bubble level as well.
The Tripod Feet Work Well, but Lack Long Spikes
The feet on the tripod are a plus and minus for me. On my last Oben tripod, there were really nice spikes covered by a rubber top that was removable. This was really nice for using on the sand or where I needed a spike. However, one of the reasons I wanted to upgrade my travel tripod is that I lost one of the covers that had become a bit loose over the years.
The CT-3565 got rid of the rubber caps and now has a twist knob that either exposes or hides the spike. I like this feature quite a bit since I don’t have to worry about ever losing the cover. The only downfall is the spikes are not very long, which means I will have to buy third-party spikes for use in the ocean, where the tides cause the sand to sink on you.
The CT-3565 is hands-down my favorite travel tripod. It isn’t a cheap tripod by any means, but it also doesn’t come with the crazy price tag of the super high-end tripods. When you add in that it comes with a really good ballhead that you will actually want to use rather than replace, it is a really good value. This may not be the ideal fit for dedicated landscape photographers that shoot out of a car in terrible conditions, but if you like to travel, want a portable, lightweight and high quality tripod, I don’t think you can go wrong with this combo. To see the current price, head on over to Amazon.