KIT CHECK: LEO by 3LT
I travel. I travel a flipping lot. It's my passion, it's my job; It is a fundamental element of my work and my recreation. In fact, over the past few years, travelling has become my life.
Around 6 months ago I joined the 3 Legged Thing Pro Team and was promptly introduced to Winston (see photo). Winston is a beauty. Winston is a beast. Hands down, Winston is the best damn tripod I have ever owned, and ever wanted to own ... he's strong and light and flipping cool and I still haven't written a proper piece about him yet because ... well, because I haven't. Anyway, I'm not here to talk about Winston today, even though I can stand on top of him and hang from below him ... I'm here to talk about his little brother, Leo.
Whilst packing for a L O N G stint on the road working on the UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup I tried to pack Winston, a few times in fact ... and being the beast that he is, I just couldn't make it work. He's pretty well travelled so far (Oman, Greece, Fontainebleau, Italy and Lancashire), but these trips were all undertaken with a photography focus. This stint was to be for commentary, with photography taking a back seat for a few weeks and with packing space extremely limited I was forced to leave him at home. Gutted. Long story short, I really wished I had him with me on a number of occasions, there were a so many shots I could've got with a tripod but had to miss (I did try the old, balance on a wall technique ... didn't work). So yes, I missed having him there and almost immediately after that, Danny (3LT boss man) felt my pain and sent LEO to the rescue.
* * *
Fast forward a few weeks to present day (ish) and I arrived back in England. LEO was wrapped up and waiting for me in the living room and the first thing I did was open up the package and check him out. Needless to say, my first impressions were good. The design language all pretty much the same as his big brother, just in a significantly smaller set up. And yes, I know what you're thinking, 'after a 7 week away period the first thing you wanted to do was check out your new tripod?' – Yes. I am that obsessed with gear. What's more, I had to take him out for a test run.
The following day I went out into the Lake District for a run. Travelling always makes me feel lethargic and tearing through the mountains as fast as my pasty white legs will take me definitely re-energises me. I packed LEO and the camera in the car for when I had finished. Langdale was the venue of choice; running through rivers, bogs and snow (not to mention a sprint of the classic scramble Jack's Rake from Stickle Tarn) it was a classic Lakeland outing. Following my lung bashing and leg thrashing I hopped back in the car and headed over to the wonderful Blea Tarn which was in a significantly less-wintery state than its Stickle-named cousin across the valley. This would be a perfect place to find out how LEO would fare in a real outdoor environment.
NB: This isn't a full review by any means, we've been out together once ... consider this a quick look or an overview of his highlights.
He's light. Really light. 3LT are calling him the "first ever professional micro traveller" ... fair play, because he weighs a smidge over 1700 grams (head included). As if his featherweight status weren't enough, he's miniscule too. Folded up ... he's 350mm long (a tad longer than your standard school ruler) and will fit into the side bottle pocket of pretty much any rucksack or camera bag with ease. Love it.
In my experience of outdoor gear (and as you will probably know, it's vast), the biggest problem with "lightweight" kit is that what it boasts in weight (or rather, rather, the lack of it) it sacrifices in durability. Lightweight usually means that it lasts less time and is just weaker in general. It's a compromise that you have to accept. Thankfully, that is not the case with LEO. 100% pure, 8 layer Carbon Fibre and strong enough to take a 30kg load, which is more than x30 Canon 5d mk iii bodies ... or think of it like this ... it's 10kg HEAVIER than the standard luggage limit on an Easyjet flight. Hell yeah, LEO is strong.
The Arca Swiss head seems to be a 'love it or hate it' type feature with tripod users. In my experience, it is because people have been using it incorrectly. Anyway, more on that story later ... I'll do a specific article/video on that another time. For me, I love the Arca Swiss plate/head and the AIRHEAD SWITCH on LEO makes me love it even more.
AIRHED SWITCH is the newest head from 3LT and it is brilliant. For gloved fingers and clumsy hands, it does away with the screw-tight knob and replaces it with a open/close lever – as well as including a sliding lock to prevent accidental opening. Wonderful. It's easily adjustable depending on desired tension. All I can say is, it feels super secure and straight out of the box, it just works.
The head is also adjustable with a twist lock knob for the ball joint and also a pan lock too ... it's also fully removable from the tripod. Mint.
LOW RIDER or HIGH FLYER ?
The intuitive (and self explanatory) para-lock height adjustment system is the same as on Winston, so I won't go into too much detail here. Let's just say it's extremely secure and easy to use. LEO comes with legs in four parts, and also a double adjustable central column too – giving plenty of height options. At his tallest, he's a lofty 1.31m, not including the actual camera, or head ... AND I have opted to attach 3LT Stilletoz to the set up too, to give him another inch as well as a more stable base.
At his shortest, the legs open out to an almost horizontal position and allow you to shoot pretty much at ground level (12cm off the floor), allowing for some creative and inventive angles.
Another feature I love, as seen on all of the 3LT range (including my first 3LT piece, Rick) one of the legs screws off to become a monopod. Genius.
Easy adjust also means easy clean. It is possible to dismantle LEO to allow you to spend some quality time together and give him a really deep clean. There is a video of that process on the Rick article too.
Another element that I feel is often overlooked in all camera gear design ... (Peak Design & 3LT not included) ... aesthetic. Everyone is putting very similar looking stuff out there; it's either black and military looking, grey and military looking, or just crap and cheap looking.
3 Legged Thing stray far from that norm and produce beautiful equipment. All of their tripods stands out from the crowd and look flipping brilliant. I am a firm believer of having good looking kit ... even if it is just from the point of view of a client/future client thinking something I use "looks cool", it's all positive reinforcement/subliminal messaging ... maybe it's just wishful thinking.
Anyway, look at LEO. He's a bonny lad, don't you agree?
This is the part you will either love ... or hate. Number crunching. Here are some key stats that underpin what LEO is all about.
1.44kg / 3.18lbs (with AIRHED SWITCH 1.72kg)
120mm / 4.75"
1310mm / 51.5"
350mm / 13.75"
30kg / 66lb
23°, 55° & 80°
Over the coming weeks and months I am going to putting out significantly more regular writing ... expect more reviews, a series of journals and even a smattering of creative writing too.
I'll even be introducing some video elements as well.
Until then. LL