Sometimes in our photographic pursuits using a tripod just isn’t possible. But when that happens you’ll still need something stable to help minimise the risk of camera shake. In this group test we’ve pitted 6 of the best alternative camera supports to see which offers the best value for money.
Best Alternative Camera Support: 01 Hama Table and Clamp Tripod 004003
This design looks simple yet effective, based on an adjustable clamp that can attach to a table-top or other surface up to 4cm thick. At the top, a ball head enables full rotation, as well as landscape- or portrait-orientation shooting.
Furthermore, a pair of additional rods slide out from the bottom of the clamp and screw into the side, acting as legs for optional free-standing support.
While the Hama is suitable for compact cameras, the head of our review sample wouldn’t clamp firmly enough to support the weight of an SLR with standard zoom lens.
What’s good: Lightweight at 270g; firm clamping action for attaching to table-tops.
What’s bad: No maximum load stated; it’s not up to SLR use.
Our verdict: Only worth considering for compacts or small system cameras.
Best Alternative Camera Support: 02 Fat Gecko Triple Mount
The meaty Fat Gecko is designed to stick to any smooth surface, via three industrial-strength suction cups. An advertising image shows a hefty DSLR outfit fixed to the outside of a car for stills or video shooting on the move, which could be something to emulate if you’re feeling gung-ho.
And for when three cups is overkill, one arm and cup is easily removed for streamlined convenience.
There are six points of adjustment, including a ball head, so the contraption can be tailored to almost any position. Maximum load is rated at 5.5kg. Extras include a vibration damping rubber washer in the camera attachment.
What’s good: Well made and versatile, with a generous maximum load rating.
What’s bad: Only works if you have a smooth and fairly flat surface available.
Our verdict: This high-quality mount is particularly well suited to action shooting.
Best Alternative Camera Support: 03 Joby Gorillapod SLR-Zoom and Ballhead
Various versions of the Gorillapod are available: this is the second-strongest with a maximum load rating of 3kg. For heavy cameras, there’s also the Gorillapod Focus, with a 5kg rating.
In all cases, the premise is the same. There are three legs, each of which is constructed as a row of flexible joints.
This enables use as a table-top tripod, or for the legs to be wrapped around any convenient object to give support. A quality ball head is included.
A nice touch is that the quick-release plate has a spirit level at the rear, which you can use even when not mounted on the Gorillapod itself.
What’s good: Enormously versatile; quick and easy to set up; nice ball head.
What’s bad: Quick-release plate requires a coin for fastening to a camera.
Our verdict: A top-quality support that’s highly flexible, but in a good way.
Best Alternative Camera Support: 04 Manfrotto Pixi MTPIXI-B
Suitable for compact cameras and CSCs, the Pixi can also accommodate SLRs up to a weight of 1kg. The idea behind this mini-tripod is that the contoured legs fold inwards to form a comfortable handgrip.
When splayed, the legs offer firm support in table-top mode. However, there’s no height adjustment as the legs only lock in their fully open position.
The built-in ball head has a sprung clamping mechanism, which is released by pushing in the Manfrotto-badged button.
The Pixi works well, but the mounting plate is spongy. This makes the support wobbly for heavier cameras in the given weight range.
What’s good: Works well as a handheld video support and basic table-top tripod.
What’s bad: Mounting platform lacks rigidity for cameras approaching 1kg in weight.
Our verdict: Well-made and smartly finished, but best for lightweight cameras.
Best Alternative Camera Support: 05 Manfrotto Pocket Support Large MP3-D01
Folding completely flat for storage, this largest edition of Manfrotto’s Pocket Support is only 81mm long and takes up little space in your bag.
The three fold-out feet rely on friction-locking rather than clamps, enabling rudimentary positional adjustments of the camera.
The range of adjustment is limited and doesn’t allow for portrait-orientation shooting. Fitting an additional small ball head would add versatility.
The claimed maximum load rating is 1.5kg but, when fitting a camera of this weight to our review sample, the feet gave way due to insufficient friction.
What’s good: Extremely compact; folds flat for stowage; only weighs 70g.
What’s bad: In our tests, the feet lacked sufficient friction to support a 1.5kg camera.
Our verdict: It’s a neat idea, but adjustable friction mechanisms would improve usability.
Best Alternative Camera Support: 06 Pedco UltraPod II
Broadly similar to the Manfrotto Pixi, the UltraPod II can be used in handheld or table-top mode, thanks to its three fold-out legs.
For handholding, it’s not quite as comfy as the Manfrotto, but benefits from a Velcro strap that you can tie around your hand for added security.
This also works well for attaching the support to railings or other objects.
In tripod mode, the legs give solid support but, also like the Manfrotto, the platform of the ball head is wobbly with heavier cameras.
On the plus side, the head mechanism gives a good range of adjustment, and the maximum load rating is a hefty 2.7kg.
What’s good: Generous load rating; wide-ranging adjustment; handy Velcro strap.
What’s bad: Wobbly camera platform can be an issue, especially with heavier SLRs.
Our verdict: A versatile and well-made support, but the platform lacks rigidity.
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