Monday, 17 October 2011

Fotopro Mini Tripod (M-5 MINI)

A Mini tripod! oh that makes me laugh!  What is it for?  The kids from the iconic 1989 film "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids"?  These things surely have no purpose for any photographer that actually takes photos. Same goes for anything calling itself a Table top tripod.

While checking the forums trying to find out if anyone uses these, I see lots of comments like:

I've thought about table top trip pods for low light shots or when I want to be in the shot but always conclude that I just won't use it. I rarely see a location where there's a place that I can set one up and get the shot I want.

I found that my mini tripod worked better as a vertical grip then as a tripod and after a while it got left behind

Some more positive comments are like this:

I always carry a mini tripod in my travels, for those night shots. Very handy, and as I want to travel light (camera gear-wise), it's a perfect fit for me.

Excellent for taking pictures of small objects or closeups.

The rest of the people just say that they use gorilla pods

But come on! a MINI tripod surely has no real use if you already have a TRIPOD!. Loads of cameras come with tiny mini… Micro tripods which are no bigger than a cigarette and totally useless. I have had several of them. The only times I have used them is when setting up a camera on a SHELF to film me while doing something for youtube (see here) . But that was because I couldn't be bothered setting up my full size tripod.

Ok so some people use it as a macro photography tool. When I say people I mean tools use it as a tool. I have shot a lot of bugs in my time and a lot of jewelry and again never used a Mini tripod see examples
and here  

I truly laugh/feel sorry for people who actively go out and buy these things with their own money.

Now here is where I tell you how I have been converted and I think this other thing from Fotopro is amazing and is worth the money blablabla I am sure you are thinking. Well no…..

Sorry. I still find no use of a MINI tripod as a …. tripod. I can't see me ever making space in my camera back to have that so I can set it up on a crappy table to take a group shot or to get really close to some food. A macro lens on a mini tripod will result in me having such a small depth of field that I cant see from the front to the back of a pea, never mind a whole plate!  It is also never going to be holding a camera and lens much bigger than a Nikon D300 and kit lens or it will fall over.  I guess you could spread out the legs wider but then your camera is actually only a couple inches above ground level.  Surely there are not that many photographic situations where you need that.

So unless you have some use for a Mini tripod as a tripod I will have to leave that to you as I can't promote that at all.


This is where I start to kiss its ass.

The Fotopro M-5 min comes with a "all intents and purposes" BUM BAG!

Yes, these are the most uncool things in the world. Never will you see a Brit ever wearing one. Only tourists, and ……. actually…. I have only seen tourists wear them. But this bumbag is GENIOUS!  Well it might not be a genious bumbag but a genious… me! You see you can stick one of the legs in to the bumbag and shove the other 2 extended legs into your side and bingo you have a camera that is standing on its own with no need for you to hold it in anyway.

This gives you the amazing ability to have 2 hands working the controls of the camera while your body works as the tripod, movement rig, and stabilising rig!
You now have control over manual aperture and focus while your body acts as the dolly for your shots.

See video

So where this Tripod rocks is not as a tripod at all but as a camera holding and stabilising rig, possiblly never to be used as a tripod in its life, (certainly with me that is!)

Ok so now we have figured out its purpose in life lets get to testing it.



Its pretty light, I am unsure what the going rate is for a mini tripod is but in anycase it is small and light. fits in your bag or around your bum.   In total this weighs in at 827g and that is it with its Ball head. It feels like a good little rock in your hands. not so light that you would forget about it but also not so heavy that you would want to leave it behind.

Its tiny, Its meant to be, It fits into my over the should camera bag. (see video above)

And as you can see it is half the size of a Nikon 70-200mm lens
in its folder up size it is only 15cm big, and once you extend it to its max it is 41cm.
So yes it truely is a MINI tripod


Even when fully extended it barely gets bigger than a normal tripod in its folded up status.

and try not to laugh when you see it standing against a normal tripod when the normal one has not got its legs extended. 

Construction quality:
This is what surprised me the most, this is not made to be a toy, it is built very, very professionally! the legs are solid metal as are all the screws and other parts. The extending of the legs is through a twist mechanism which is new to me and even with a good beating that I have given it, it has survived exceptionally.   It really is the case that when you take this out, it feels professional.

The legs also have foam grips on the top sections, which is good for gripping when you are opening and closing the legs, and at the end of the legs you have some big chunky (well it looks that way) rubber feet.

It also has a weight hook at the side if you want to weigh it down (see photo below) however I can't imagine a situation where you would need that…. unless you were doing some kind of long exposure time lapse in-car dashboard mounted montage video something…. either way limited in its use/need.

It is quoted that it is rated to hold up to 3kg on top, and for me that has worked out fine for me to shoot with a Nikon D700 and 105mm macro lens. no problem.


This tripod has very good leg angle adjustment hinges, just like those found on its big brother version the C5-i or the MGC-684 which is a nice touch, and it comes with a ball head.  
Its legs can be adusted so that each section can be put in one at a time giving you a variable height.
you can also remove the centre column and make it smaller or put it upside down for super low level photography, (highly unlikely you will ever do that)

For those of you who forget quickly, there are instructions on the legs advising you which way to twist the feet so that you lock or unlock the legs to extend. 

The ball head also comes with angle markers so you can accurately tell which degree you are shooting at.  good if you are doing very low down panoramic / stereoscopic images.

There is a hole in the bottom, this means you can actually attach it to the 3/8th screw on top of your tripod. Again cant see me doing that many times in my life but hey, its another option.

How could it be improved?

The ball head could be more robust in how it attaches to the top screw of the legs. When I kept on rotating the camera counter clock wise the ball head would be what rotated off not just the ball.
This proves a little tiresome so maybe  you will want to put your own head on the minipod. 

Fotorpro M-5 Mini Vs Manfrotto FigRig

Ok so here is a little comparison review of using a Fotopro Mini against the Manfrotto 595B Figrig

First: cost difference
Fotopro = £65    Vs    Figrig = £200

Ok so that is a big difference.

Fotopro Mini Pod Pros: 
Cheap in comparison, 
small, fits into a camera bag. 
Is also a tripod, and if you set it down it wont fall over
Frees up hands for crash zoom effects (focus and zoom pulling)
Gives arms a rest.
Can be used for long time.
Added security of still having camera strap wrapped around neck
Video screen at eye level.
Can quickly take camera out of bumbag and shoot from new angle
Can detach very quick from camera by switch lever on ball head plate.
Reduces vibration and camera shake
Can use whole body as rotating device = smoother turning.

It has to be attached to your body, 
Will suffer movement from when you breathe
You wont be able to run
Wont fit perfectly on skinny people
Can't adjust the height and rotation easily / smoothly
May give sore neck if worn for a long period of time (as yet not verified)


Figrig Pros:
Can adjust camera height and rotation very quickly and easily
Can have it at ground level and above head height very easily
Very simple to use.
Can mount mics, lights, monitors etc easily.
Can run with. also maybe ski with.
Spungy hand grips at the side so dont suffer from the cold metal.
Gives good stabilisation, massive reduction in shake/vibration

Will always need a hand on the rig, no double control over focus and zoom or aperture and controls etc.
Expensive for what is really just a steering wheel.
Makes you look a little silly.
When you put it down it falls over.
If holding for a long time your arms will get sore, especially with heavier camera
Doesn't fit in camera bag, or even on outside of bag.
Not as easy to remove camera from.

In the end there is definitely situations where each device would be the far preferred tool for the job.  What I can't endorse is the shocking cost of the Figrig, where at around £200-£250 for a 'steering wheel' it is never going to be good value for money.  What you can do is download some instructions and make a home made one for about the same cost as a pizza.  That way cost effectiveness is well and truly achieved.

The Mini on the other hand is the only thing I can find on the market that is going to give me two hands for working the camera controls (impossible in this video before) , giving me the ability to do Crash zooming, Jaws style Vertigo zooming/push pull / dolly zoom effect where you can also keep track of the focus not just the zoom.

It may also be the first thing i can use where I can now give my camera to my girlfriend and as she wont have to hold the camera there will be no danger of her accidentially brushing past the microphone or complaining that her arms are getting sore and then just pointing the camera to the ground!  For that reason I am buying this! just so I can hang it round my girlfriends neck!

This product gets a final score of 7/10 on the Dom Bower approval rating scale

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1 comment:

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