I often ponder the best ways to improve my photography. As a self confessed gear addict the easy answer would be to buy a new lens but I know in my heart that, while it would be fun, I could spend my money more wisely.
In recent weeks I've come to the conclusion that if I was to purchase anything it should be a new tripod. So often I come across potential images which either need or would benefit from using a tripod but the sheer size and heft of my current Manfrotto model puts me off from carrying it over any distance. As a result, more often than not it stays at home or in the boot of my car.
I've been doing some research and had initially been tempted by a Giottos model which offered a truly light weight and portable option. However, closer inspection and some review reading made me wonder whether it would ultimately frustrate me with its lack of height and ability to support heavy lenses. A few weeks back I took a look at Gitzo's travel tripod offerings when I found myself in Harrison's Cameras in Sheffield. These were more impressive but also bank bustingly expensive so I discounted this idea in the absence of a lottery win!
Finally, my thoughts turned to a British company, 3 Legged Thing who are based in Stagsden, Bedfordshire. I first came across them at the Focus on Imaging show in Birmingham in 2012 where their CEO, Danny Lenihan, demonstrated their latest offering to me. I remember being very impressed at the time but couldn't quite bring myself to part with the cash at the show, especially as I'd already bought a flashgun that day.
Three weeks ago I made the short drive over to the Chicken Shed (as 3 Legged Thing affectionately called their headquarters in Stagsden) to take a closer look at their products and, inevitably, came away a good few pounds lighter but clutching my new tripod - a Brian X1.1.
I should explain about Brian's name... From the very beginning of 3 Legged Thing, when they launched in 2011, they have had a quirky and refreshing approach to marketing. All their tripods are named after rock guitarists (mine is named after Brian May from Queen) so as well as Brian they offer Keith, Eric, Tim, Dave and Eddie. Add to this their marketing strapline, "They came from Stagsden" (suggesting they sell some kind of aliens!) and quirky marketing videos (which invariably feature various members of staff dressed up as chickens!) and here we have a company with a refreshing sense of humour and who are willing to laugh at themselves.
Don't let this distract you from the quality of their products though. All their tripods and monopods are the result of careful thought about what is actually needed from a tripod and beautifully executed. Evidently I'm not the only person to think this as their products have won many awards, including this year's 'Innovative Imaging Product of the Year' and 'Tripod of the Year' awards.
Coming back to Brian, he's made of carbon fibre, with a vivid blue head (the Airhed 1 model) and comes in a great protective case with a handle and shoulder strap. In common with models from several other companies, the tripod legs rotate through 180 degrees, meaning that they can be folded up around the head to make the tripod more compact for transport. Compared to my old Manfrotto model, Brian is about half the weight and approximately two thirds of the length when folded up - a big consideration when the purpose of buying a new tripod was to pick one that I will actually feel inclined to carry around with me. Even better, despite the fact that Brian is advertised as a 'travel tripod' the legs are rated to carry 8kg of equipment (which will more than cope with my camera and longest, heaviest lens) while the Airhed 1 is rated for a whopping 35kg. On top of that, you can use Brian to shoot from just five inches off the ground up to a vertigo inducing two metres - that's what you call flexibility! Another perk is the ability to use one of the legs as a monopod (which, again, is infinitely lighter than my clunky Manfrotto monopod) and you can even remove the tripod's centre column to reduce weight further for travel.