My experience with tabletop tripods, or sometimes called mini-tripods, started by accident when I purchased my first SLR camera, the Canon EOS Rebel G. Back then, I had gotten myself a copy of Popular Photography magazine and started to scope out a good deal on a Rebel G kit. Eventually I bought the kit from a less-than-scrupulous mail-order shop on the East coast (see my "Where to buy cameras?" article elsewhere on this site). The kit package that won my money included the camera body, a lens, two CR123 batteries, a roll of film, and a tripod.
Interesting enough, when I received the package, it was a small container. I had thought the dealer had forgotten to ship the tripod. But when I opened the box, I found a small tabletop tripod inside. I laughed at myself for falling into the technical wording trap that my brother and I used to play on each other when we were little. That's when I learned that adults play it as well.
Since then I have owned several tabletop tripods. And they are now part of my photograph-making tool bin. I find them useful for many situations: 1) Shooting tabletop models; 2) shooting from a low-to-the-ground perspective; 3) carrying to a dinner-party with your compact camera; and 4) placing slave flash. When you run out of photography uses, yon can always use a tabletop tripod to hold up trinkets and ornaments.
In this article, I will attempt to describe the different tabletop tripods that I own, what they look like, their advantages and advantages. Through this exercise, you will be able to determine if any of them are worth owning.
I call the Flexible Mini Tripod the spidey legs or octopus legs, because it reminded me of the flexible octopus-like tentacles of Dr. Otto Octavius, a villain from Spider-Man comics. It is the tripod that came out of the small camera package that arrived at my door; it is the first mini tripod I owned.
As its name implies, you can bend its three legs into any shape or height you like, meaning you can easily position your camera gear at any height and angle. The hard part is keeping your camera there. Due to its flexible legs, cameras that are fairly heavy will push down on it, changing its frame. SLR camera will generally not work on this tripod, unless you have a lightweight plastic body and a lightweight plastic lens.
To attach the camera on this tripod, you'll have to continuously thread the tripod head into your camera's tripod mount. You cannot mount your camera on this tripod vertically. Three rubber feet at the end of the octopus-like legs keeps the tripod from skidding across the table. A pen clip allows you to carry it in your shirt pocket.
The X - Mini Pod is made by an OEM and marketed under various generic names. It has a small tilting head that is lockable with a latch. There eleven discrete tilting positions. However, several degrees of play at each tilting position plagued this tabletop tripod. During use, you will have to constantly adjust the tripod until you get the framing right.
The tripod head has a rotating screw knob so that you can attach the camera without rotating the camera or the tripod. This rotating tripod mount screw also allows you to mount the camera in any direction relative to the tabletop tripod.
Its construction is purely out of plastic with the exception of its three rubber feet and its metal mounting screw. The plastic really contributed to its lightness. But its lightweight curses it to be a less steady support when used with heavier equipment, because the heavier camera makes the combination top heavy.
The X - Mini Pod raises you camera to approximately six inches in height. When collapsed it looks like a flat pack of pens. Although the tilt head and the rotating screw allow you to mount a camera vertically, its lightweight construction prevents it from being useful unless the lightest camera is used.