Peak Design start bold with their claim that tripods have always been too bulky, and as packing-conscious travellers we have to agree. Even the stripped down, carbon fibre types tend to waste precious case space due to the gap between the three folded legs.
It speaks volumes that the giants of the industry didn't solve that problem before, but they've left a gap for innovative upstarts Peak Design to fill. Quite literally. The starting point of this travel tripod is that its diameter when packed is much smaller than you're used to, which is as handy on a rucksack as it is in a suitcase.
But the minimalism doesn't end there. Where most ballheads seem to have half a dozen tension points, and multiple tiers between the legs and plate, Peak Design's ballhead is even more impressively reductive than their legs. A simplified twisting disc serves as a universal tensioner and the ball itself almost disappears within the mechanism.
The whole contraption extends 2cm above the legs (when packed down), compared to the 7cm+ of a market-leading competitor. And for all this the tripod still offers a maximum height of 150cm and maximum payload of 9kg.
Both of these design successes are down to a genuine ground up approach from Peak Design, resulting in real innovation. Other great touches include a stow-away smart phone adaptor in case you want to capture phone footage, removable centre-column (slightly fiddly, but the required allen keys are also neatly stowed), very neatly deployable leg extension, and attachment points for Peak Design's quick release strap attachments.
It also comes with a particularly nice case, which you might be entitled to expect considering the price. Last - and not least - even the QR plate is minimised, and is therefore much less likely to irritate (or leave a bruise) if left attached to the camera while hiking up a hill!
A slight downside is the weight - not as minimalist as the bulk. But there is a carbon fibre version which sheds 270g (1290g as opposed to the 1560g of this aluminium iteration), plus there is the option to strip out the leg sections and use as a short 'table-top' tripod, which often works just fine for hiking etc.
It's tempting to think 'why reinvent the wheel' when looking at a staple product like a tripod. Sometimes you don't realise what was broke until you see a fresh take on what is possible, and that's what Peak Design have done with their travel tripod; space-poor travelling photographers will realise what they've been missing, and any fans of good design will simply drool over the 'why-didn't-I-think-of-that' features.