Really Right Stuff TFC-14 Travel Tripod Review: Carbon fiber tripod is a perfect travel companion
posted Wednesday, January 10, 2018 at 8:00 AM EDT
I've been using Really Right Stuff's TVC-34L with BH-40 ballhead for years - you can read my review of that tripod here - and it is a fantastic combo. However, it's tall and can be heavy. This is no issue in many cases, but when I travel or am doing extended hiking, I have long wanted something lighter and easier to handle. That's where the Really Right Stuff TFC-14 Travel Tripod comes in.
If you want a smaller carbon fiber tripod from Really Right Stuff, your most compact and lightweight option is the TFC-14. This "Series 1" tripod collapses down to 17.2 inches (44 centimeters) long with a diameter of 3.4 inches (8.6 centimeters). The TFC-14 is 11% lighter and 15% more compact than the TCQ-14, which has a center column.
Key Features and Specifications
- Lightweight and compact carbon fiber tripod
- Weighs 2.3 pounds
- Supports 25-pound load
- Maximum height of 47.6 inches
- Minimum height of 2.8 inches
- Collapsed length of 17.2 inches
- Four leg sections
- No center column
- Stabilizing hand strap
- Reversible and removable mounting stud
- Twist locks
- Ratcheted angle stops
- Rubber ball feet
- $795 for the TFC-14
Design and Functionality
If you have seen or used a Really Right Stuff tripod before, then the TFC-14 won't offer any surprises. The patented carbon fiber weave itself is rather striking and is a very sleek dark gray. The tripod legs have four sections, which means there are three rubberized rotating locks of varying sizes. These locks are very easy to use and it takes only a small rotation to unlock the leg sections. As you move up the tripod toward the head mounting location, you find high-quality metal pieces including ratcheting metal angle stops to change the angle of the legs. The TFC-14's legs can actually extend essentially flat, allowing the tripod to get to a minimum height of 2.8 inches (72 millimeters). This is very impressive and allows for super low-angle shots, which can be impossible or time-consuming to pull off with other tripods I've used.
One of my only knocks on the TFC-14 is that its maximum height is only 47.6 inches (121 centimeters). This is high enough for me in most cases when shooting on flat ground, but it does limit the effectiveness of the TFC-14 when shooting on hilly terrain as I sometimes want to extend legs considerable to balance the tripod at a typical shooting height. This is a tradeoff, of course, when you want a lightweight and compact tripod. The TFC-14 collapses down to only 17.2 inches (437 millimeters) in length (without a head), which makes it very easy to travel with. My Really Right Stuff TVC-34L, for example, is not easy to travel with and requires me to bring my largest suitcase.
Despite its compact stature and lightweight design, the RRS TFC-14 remains very strong. It can comfortably support 25 pounds of gear, which makes it usable with basically any typical camera gear. It's impressive for a 2.3-pound (1,058-gram) tripod to be able to easily support 25 pounds and it's a testament to Really Right Stuff's excellent build quality and engineering chops. If you want to add a bit more stability, something I don't think is necessary except in windy conditions, the tripod comes with an attached strap which you can hold down to add stability or attach weights to help hold the TFC-14 tripod down.
One of my favorite aspects of Really Right Stuff tripods is how rugged they are and how easy it is to maintain them. On top of being able to purchase a variety of replacement parts from Really Right Stuff should something happen to your tripod, the company stands by its products with a five-year warranty and they make their tripods right here in the USA. Further, they are easy to dismantle for cleaning, which matters a lot to me as I regularly shoot in sandy seashore environments. I've yet to shoot in any conditions I wouldn't trust my Really Right Stuff tripod in.
The ability to quickly pull out and set up a tripod is very important to me and this is an area where the TFC-14 is particularly excellent. A quarter rotation unlocks and locks each leg section and adjusting the leg angle is a breeze. When you're ready to move along, it's of course fast to put the tripod away again.
I purchased my TFC-14 with the BH-30 ball head, which is the ballhead Really Right Stuff recommends. I opted for the BH-30 with a compact lever release. This means that I lose the level on the head itself, but it is also very small. The BH-30 has a 15-pound load capacity and adds about three inches of height. The base diameter is only 1.6 inches and Really Right Stuff has engraved degree marks on the base, which is nice.
Unlike the larger BH-40 ballhead on my TVC-34L tripod, the BH-30 doesn't have a tension setting adjustment. You can lubricate the ballhead, but Really Right Stuff recommends leaving it alone and letting it naturally loosen a bit over time. I found that out of the box it was a bit tight, but it's better for it to be that way than be too loose. The adjustment mechanisms are easy to rotate and work fine, even when wearing gloves.
The TFC-14 and BH-30 combination is lightweight, compact and very versatile. It's a great travel tripod and an excellent companion for hikers.
The TFC-14 excels as a compact, lightweight carbon fiber tripod. It is very well-made and easy to use. This great build quality does come at a significant price as the TFC-14 costs $795. That is a lot of money for a tripod of any size, let alone a small one which stands at less than four feet tall when fully extended. Plus, you need to add a ballhead. In my case, I got the BH-30 with compact lever release, which costs $295. If you want a bag for the tripod, that'll cost $65. Best case scenario, you're looking at a bit over $1,000 for a TFC-14 tripod setup.
You are essentially paying the price of a nice camera for the legs you use to support your gear. The bottom line here is that the Really Right Stuff TFC-14, with good care and maintenance, will last you a very long time and will ensure that you capture sharp shots in a variety of conditions for many years. Is it worth the investment? That depends on your budget and how you want to spend it. There are many good tripods available for less money but there are very few tripods which can challenge the Really Right Stuff TFC-14 in terms of quality and ease of use.
What I like:
- Phenomenal build quality
- Compact and lightweight
- Very easy to set up and adjust
- Can be made very short for low-angle shooting
What I dislike:
- The maximum height is a bit short for working on uneven terrain