The Peak Design Travel Tripod is an ultralight tripod design with a built-in inverted ball head. This head is great for keeping the size and weight down to a minimum, but it does lack some of the functionality, and a little of the stability that can be offered by a standard ball head. As such, many people might want to attach their existing head to the Travel Tripod, and for this Peak Design created the Universal Head Adapter which sells as a $30 optional accessory.
This adapter replaces the entire built-in head and the top few inches of the tripod’s centre column. It’s also possible to install it onto the tripod without the centre column if you want to shave a few more grams off the weight of your setup, or want to get your camera closer to the ground. The adapter is made from aluminum and feels extremely solid.
Installing the Universal Head Adapter
Installation takes just a few seconds as long as you still have your tripod tool handy, or a similar set of hex wrenches. Flipping the standard head to the side reveals a hole, and inserting the wrench into it allows you to remove both the head and the top section of the column in one piece.
To install the adapter, simply reverse the process by inserting the wrench into the centre of the 3/8″ stud. Make sure you tighten it well at this point. On my first installation I did not, and it left a little wiggle in the setup once I put it to use.
Removing the built-in head and replacing it with the Universal Head Adapter shaves about an inch off the height of the tripod, and it also saves a little weight, in the short term. Of course both of these benefits are negated by the need to install a ball head which will no doubt be heavier and taller than the original built-in head. You certainly aren’t choosing the route of using the head adapter if size and weight are a priority, but you can improve upon the stability and ease of use by using a regular ball head. Something like the Acratech GXP (review), a personal favourite of mine, doesn’t add a huge amount of weight to the setup, but gives your a 50lb load rating and more precise control over your camera while positioning it. Including the important-for-many-people feature of a dedicated panning base.
If your ultimate goal is creating the lightest possible tripod setup then you might as well stick with the original built-in head, you won’t make a lighter overall setup with this adapter, even if you use the smallest and lightest ballhead on the market. However, in most cases I am willing to sacrifice a little bit of weight to get some added stability, and that is certainly something you can do if you pair this head adapter with a really great ball head. You’ll also be able to add dedicated panning control if you use a ball head that has a pan lock knob – an absolutely essential feature for the panoramic photographers out there.
Another benefit of this setup is that the ball head is ready to go once you set up the tripod legs. One of my admittedly very few complaints about the Peak Design Travel Tripod, was the need to very slightly raise the centre column in order to actually use the built-in head.
Overall, I’m very happy with the Universal Head Adapter and I foresee it staying on my Travel Tripod most of the time. The original built-in head is a great cost-saving measure if you can’t afford a great ball head just yet, and it’s a great ultralight solution when every gram counts, but my overall experience with the Travel Tripod was improved once I got back to putting my favourite ball heads on it.