Photographing without a tripod is a bit like painting without a brush. Sure, being unrestricted can open the doors to greater creativity, but there are many situations (poor lighting conditions, night photography, time-lapses, focus stacking, etc.) where a tripod is essential.
The choice of the right tripod is often underestimated, especially in the early stages of photography, even though it plays a crucial role in achieving high-quality and professional results. A good tripod is an investment for the long term - it often outlasts the camera bodies themselves. Thus, it is vital to spend some time choosing the right one, paying attention to several key parameters from the get-go, like weight, load capacity, minimum and maximum working height, folded dimensions, and, of course, build quality.
Today, we will take a close look at two specific models from the British brand 3LT (3 Legged Thing) - Winston 2.0 and Jay, both in the "Darkness" edition, characterized by a beautiful matte black design. Both tested tripods represent a new generation of tripods, and 3LT did not spare innovative technologies on them.
To properly test their durability, I took them to the snow-covered slopes of the Slovakian Tatra mountains, Italian Apennines, submerged them in the waters of the Marmore Falls, and exposed them to saltwater during sunrise photography over the sea. All this to give you a clear understanding of which one is the right choice for you.
First, let's see what both tripods have in common.
To ensure tremendous rigidity and effective vibration damping, the legs of 3LT tripods are made of eight layers of 100% pure carbon fiber, which are cured for 3 hours at a temperature of 150°C, followed by stabilization phase for seven days at a temperature of 37°C. This careful process ensures maximum performance and long lifespan under various conditions.
A fantastic feature is the ability to completely remove individual legs and use them as a monopod or even as a boom arm (for a microphone, light, etc.). As additional accessories, 3 Legged Thing offers the Vanz Mini Foot kit, which allows the tripods to be easily converted into their "tabletop" version.
The locking of individual tripod leg segments is ensured by twist locks with rubber linings to improve grip (which worked perfectly during freezing days even when wearing thick gloves). The internal locks utilize premium nylon shims called “Chicken Lips”, which further increase strength and prevent individual locks from slipping.
Due to the increased load capacity (up to 40kg), the Winston 2.0 uses the “ParaLock” parallel lock system, providing even more torque and better grip when tightening for uncompromising stability.
The main differences lie primarily in the dimensions, leveling method, and intended use. So let's take a closer look at each of the tested models:
3 Legged Thing Pro 2.0 Winston with AirHed Pro DARKNESS
With a load capacity of up to 40kg (with a weight of 1.73kg, the load-to-weight ratio is an impressive 23:1) and a maximum working height of 185cm (194cm with the AirHed Pro head), Winston 2.0 ranks among the largest and most stable tripods on the market. You can confidently place the heaviest DSLR with a telephoto lens on it and head out into the wind, and it will support you under all circumstances, without the risk of tipping or losing balance.
Despite its impressive maximum working height, it remains highly flexible and aims to minimize its size for storage and transport. The trick is to fully extend the center column and flip the legs to the other side towards the head (which is then fully nested between the rotated legs). Thanks to the counter-folding three-section telescopic legs, it can be folded to a length of 61.2cm, making it relatively easy to carry.
The one-section center column is removable, allowing the minimum working height to be lowered to an excellent 14.6cm.
Generally, I am not a big fan of center columns (they can be more susceptible to vibrations during gusts of wind), and I usually remove them from tripods altogether. However, as mentioned at the beginning, 3LT has an excellently crafted carbon design, and even with the center column extended to about 60-70% in "field conditions," I did not notice any motion blur when reviewing the photos.
Winston 2.0 comes with the patented “Tri-Mount” working platform, offering one 3/8" and six 1/4” threaded holes for attaching a wide range of cameras. Additionally, the platform has three milled convex cones for attaching additional accessories, such as straps, 3LT Toolz multitool, etc.
Material: Carbon fiber
Folded height: 61.2 cm
Weight (without head): 1.73 kg
Maximum working height: 185 cm
Minimum working height: 14.6 cm
Maximum monopod height: 193 cm
Load capacity: up to 40 kg (depending on the leg angle lock - 23° -> 40kg, 55° -> 25kg, 80° -> 15kg)
Number of leg sections: 3
Center column: Yes
Maximum leg section diameter: 29 mm
Leg angles - 3: 23° / 55° / 80°
Winston 2.0 is available either separately or in a kit with the 3LT AirHed Pro ball head, which I had available during testing.
AirHed Pro is a robust tripod ball head made of aerospace-grade magnesium alloy, designed for very high loads. With a height of 88mm and a base diameter of 38mm, it can handle an impressive 40kg (with a weight of 323g), giving it exceptional stability and locking capabilities. A built in bubble level for perfect alignment of the composition will also come in handy.
The head comes with an Arca Swiss compatible QR – Octa plate (38 x 38 mm) with a 1/4"-20 stainless steel thread.
Its movement was perfectly smooth during the entire testing period, absolutely precise, and I did not notice a single problem with locking or stability, even with a fully extended telephoto lens.
3 Legged Thing Legends Jay DARKNESS – Born for Travel
The smallest and most versatile hybrid photo/video tripod from the top-tier Legends series, specifically designed to meet the needs of all travelers and documentarians.
Thanks to its five-section telescopic legs, it can be folded into a compact transport size of 40.5cm, making it easy to fit into a camera backpack or carry-on luggage.
Despite its more subtle construction (weighing 1.41kg), Jay still offers a very high level of stability and durability. With a load capacity of 14kg, it can handle most professional cameras and lenses without any problems.
Despite its compact dimensions, it reaches a maximum working height of 1.11m, and due to the absence of a center column, it can reach as low as ten centimeters. This can be wonderfully utilized for macro photography or playing with unconventional perspectives.
Material: Carbon fiber, aerospace-grade magnesium alloy
Folded height: 40.5 cm
Weight (without head): 1.41 kg
Maximum working height: 111 cm
Minimum working height: 10 cm
Maximum monopod height: 114 cm
Load capacity: 14 kg
Number of leg sections: 5
Center column: No
Maximum leg section diameter: 26 mm
Leg angles - 3: 23° / 55° / 80°
I was truly impressed with the “Rapid Latch” automatic locking buckles, designed for easy and convenient leg angle adjustments. Positioning and quick leg release were straightforward, even in freezing temperatures with winter gloves. The legs have 3 locking angles – 23°, 55°, and 80°, allowing you to easily adjust the tripod's height and spread according to the terrain and your shooting style.
An incredibly practical feature of the 3 Legged Thing Legends Jay DARKNESS tripod (and it must be said, very addictive) is its leveling base. This feature allows you to adjust the head's angle without changing the position of its legs. This is extremely useful for quick and precise leveling of the camera regardless of the terrain, whether you are shooting video or taking panoramas without fear of uneven horizons.
The leveling base has a contoured design and an integrated bubble level for precise alignment. On one side of the base is a securing lever for locking or unlocking the leveling element. The base friction is controlled by a dual-purpose D-ring on the bottom of the base, which can also be used as a point for attaching weight to increase stability.
Jay is available either separately or in a kit with the fluid heads AirHed Cine Standard and Cine Arca, allowing smooth and precise movements for video creation. In case of choosing an alternative, a threaded adapter can be used, which allows attaching any standard 1/4" or 3/8" head. Therefore, you are not limited in any way and can easily choose your own head according to your needs and preferences.
During the long-term test, both tripods experienced very harsh conditions, and even after months of use in snow, freezing temperatures, saltwater (note: It is worth emphasizing that after each encounter with seawater, I disassembled the tripod locks in the evening and thoroughly rinsed them in the shower. Saltwater is highly corrosive and can cause oxidation of tripod's metal locks and damage their threads.), and fine sand, they performed flawlessly. The legs smoothly extended and retracted, and the locks held perfectly.
In the first days of testing, there was occasionally a minor inconvenience when the entire legs loosened (as when converting to a monopod) when loosening individual leg segments to deploy the tripod. However, the situation was solved by tightening the upper leg segments more carefully.
As part of the packaging of both tripods, 3LT provides a protective padded case, with an extension strap for carrying and a storage pocket, in which you will find 3LT Toolz, a small multitool with an Allen wrench, a small flat screwdriver, and the best for last - a bottle opener.
Both tripods are currently being sold for - 446.49EUR for Jay and 379.99EUR for Winston 2.0 with the AirHed Pro Head kit (these are the recommended retail prices on https://www.3leggedthing.com). However, they are entirely different.
While Winston 2.0 excels in he field of strength and stability and will be your faithful companion for landscape, studio, and architectural photography (plus, for the mentioned price, you also get the AirHed Pro head with a load capacity of 40kg), Jay is designed to meet the needs of all travelers and videomakers with its compact size and unique leveling system.
The choice between these two models will ultimately depend on your specific photographic style and portability requirements.
But you can't go wrong with either of them. Thanks to their robust construction and durable materials, they will work reliably even in the most demanding conditions for a very long time. Simply put one of the best tripods I have ever used.
Happy shooting and until next time!