Tamrac ZipShot

As a photographer I’m always on the move with a heavy bag full of gear and I’m always looking for ways to lighten my load, especially at those times when weight is crucial like trips into the backcountry. I’ve found all sorts of ways to take a few pounds off here and there, but one thing I always end up needing is a small tripod/lightstand. I always take a tiny Ultrapod 1 with me which weighs only a few ounces and allows me to set a flash comfortably on the ground or strapped to a tree. It’s only drawback is that if I don’t have a tree or other object to strap it to and I want to get a light off the ground I’m out of luck. I’ve used many different small lightstands and cheap flimsy tripods but they all seem to be awkward to pack and heavier than what I need. Until now.

There is now a tiny lightweight tripod (11oz and 15″ folded) that seems to be working for me. It’s the Tamrac ZipShot, and not only is it small and light, it’s also really quick to set up and take down.

Tamrac ZipShot closed

It’s basically a small ballhead mounted on three 44″ tent poles, so setting up means just undoing the two straps and giving it a shake. And even the straps are quick and easy, no fumbling with twistlocks or cam and lever locks, just two pieces of shockcord with knots in one end.

Tamrac ZipShot strap detail

I’ve used it for most of a season now, and as a real test I’ve used it on almost every job I’ve been on since June. Sometimes it’s a light stand for a flash or two, and sometimes it holds my GoPro so I can record behind the scenes action, but it’s been well used, and it’s still going strong. It’s not perfect, there are some little quirks to it for sure, but in the last 6 months of use I’ve found only two weaknesses with it, and they’re workable. The first one is the ballhead.

Tamrac ZipShot ballhead

The ballhead works, but it’s really hard to get it tight. Not really a problem with a little GoPro on it or even a single SB800, but if you’re not careful to tighten it down as far as it will go and then some it tends to flop over. I found this especially noticeable when using it with two SB800’s..

Tamrac ZipShot with 2 Nikon SB800’s

The other issue is the legs. They’re plenty strong enough, I’ve used it with two Nikon SB800’s many times and even my Elinchrom Ranger Quadra head without any problems. The issue is that they’re not really adjustable, so if you’re on uneven ground (I usually am) the tripod tends to sit an angle. And that means the ballhead now has to hold the flashes at an angle to keep them straight, which brings us back to problem number one. On really uneven ground I’ve often folded one section of one leg up (about 14″) to give it one short leg and that works, you just have to be really careful not to damage the lightweight aluminum tent pole or it will never go back together again.

These are the only problems I’ve had with it so far, and they haven’t been enough to discourage me from using it constantly. If you’re looking for a really light easy to pack lightstand to take on trips I would definitely recommend this guy. I paid about $50 for it from B&H, but it you google it you can probably find a better price online somewhere now. Here are the specs:

– 3 lb Load Capacity
– Weighs Only 11 oz (312 g)
– Folds to 15″ (38cm)
– Extends to 44″ (112cm)
– Snaps Open in Seconds
– Lightweight Aluminum
– Ballhead Included

One small disclaimer: see that 3lb Load Capacity, while I’ve had no problems putting two Nikon speedlights on it I definitely wouldn’t want to put an SLR on it. Or anything else expensive that weighs more than 3lbs, the ballhead does flop over sometimes, and it it’s on uneven ground that could very easily cause something heavy and expensive to crash into the ground…