Most versatile low-cost mini-tripod
For years I used a PedCo Ultrapod II ($18), which I bought at REI in San Francisco. At the time it was an REI-branded version; it survived years of being mounted on a motorcycle and many trips abroad until I gave it away to a good friend who fell in love with it. I recently went to replace my Ultrapod and looked at the previously reviewed Gorillapod extensively. Compared to my old Ultrapod, though, the Gorillapod seems fiddly, heavy and expensive. I re-ordered the Ultrapod II from Amazon, and am once again really pleased with it.
The Gorillapod is probably a bit better for mounting on the top of a pole (as pictured in the ads). But for mounting on the sides of poles, trees, chairs, as well as setting upright on rocks, tables, suitcases; for quick and accurate adjustments, and for supporting both light and heavy cameras securely (strapped to a motorcycle handlebar at high speed driving through the Bay Bridge tunnel between Oakland and San Fancisco–see photo), I like the Ultrapod best.
There’s a difference between the Ultrapod and the Ultrapod II, I think the former is lighter and smaller, but less robust. I’ve only ever owned the latter. I used my first Ultrapod II with a Canon Powershot digital camera, a medium-sized model that would be large by today’s standards. That’s the camera I mounted on my motorcycle handlebars.
The Ultrapod II has legs with triangular cross-sections for rigidity. In the collapsed positions, the tripod’s legs nicely cup a pole or handlebar. Using the (very securely built-in) Velcro strap, I was able to firmly attach the tripod to my handlebar grips. Because the tripod was mounted directly to the handlebar grip, my hand curled around both for added security while driving.
Now I use the Ultrapod II mostly with a Flip Mino HD, which is extremely small and light. I occasionally use it with a Nikon D40 digital SLR, which is bulky but still reasonably light. The Ultrapod II does an excellent job of holding both cameras in all kinds of settings (tree branches, rocks, chair legs, suitcases), and it’s also excellent as a table-top tripod. And it’s particularly on tabletop and other flat settings where I think the Ultrapod is really much more stable than the Gorillapod. When I was doing a lot of toy photography and animation, that stability on flat surfaces helped tremendously.11/26/18
(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2009 — editors)