Really Right Stuff Ascend-14 Review

Comparison & Conclusion

Contents

After completing this review, I am left with mixed feelings on the Ascend-14.  It is a beautifully constructed tripod that achieves its design goals.  The stability performance of the Ascend-14 is very good, but not at the level we have seen from other RRS tripods that allows it dominate its own segment and transcend usability across multiple others.  Often RRS tripods have been so stable for their weight that they managed to be respectably useable outside the category for which they were designed, significantly improving their value proposition.  The Ascend on the other hand is a much more specific tool.  There are some minor flaws in the design, such as the inability to swap between the integrated head and a universal platform and insecurity of the center column at full extension.  At this price point, that may be difficult to accept.  If the Ascend is the specific tool you need however, it works brilliantly and is an absolute pleasure to handle and use in the field.  I don’t hesitate to recommend it.  

Pros

  • Very compact for a tripod with a center column
  • Exceptional Build Quality
  • Very good stiffness
  • Center column cam lock very easy to use

Cons

  • Price
  • Center column unstable at full extension
  • Integrated head cannot be swapped for a universal 3/8″-16 compatible platform
  • Mediocre damping

Compared To:

For a more complete list, see the volume weighted travel tripod rankings page.  The specifications below reflect the legs only, and not the included head, if applicable. 

 RRS Ascend-14RRS TFC-14Gitzo GT1545T TravelerPD Travel Tripod Carbon
Stiffness Nm/rad850.01071.0792.0518.0
Damping Js/rad0.140.160.280.17
Height in (cm)48.0 (121.9)47.2 (119.9)51.3 (130.3)50.5 (128.3)
Weight lbs (kg)3.0 (1.361)2.332 (1.058)2.319 (1.052)2.388 (1.083)
Folded Length in (cm)17.2 (43.7)17.2 (43.7)16.8 (42.7)14.2 (36.1)
Folded Volume (L)1.91.72.11.2
Price$1150$835$600$600
From top to bottom: Gitzo GT1545T, RRS TFC-14, RRS Ascend-14, PD Travel Tripod
From right to left: Gtizo GT1545T, RRS TFC-14, RRS Ascend-14, PD Travel Tripod

Gitzo 1545T – The Gitzo is here as the premier example of the reverse folding design.  If you are more concerned with the folded length of the tripod as opposed to the overall folded volume, a reverse folding design is likely going to be the better choice.  The Gitzo is nearly as stable, lighter, and less expensive.  Its just a bit bulky.

RRS TFC-14 – The TFC-14 is nearly identical to the Ascend aside from the integrated center column.  The TFC-14 just has a solid metal apex and so is cheaper, lighter, and a bit more stable.  If you don’t care about the extra height and adjustability the center column provides, the TFC-14 is clearly the better choice.  If those features are important to you, the Ascend can provide in a package that is just barely larger.

Peak Design Travel Tripod – The PD Travel Tripod re-defined what was possible in a compact travel tripod with its release in 2019.  To date, the RRS Ascend-14 is the only other tripod to approach such slim form when stowed and so comparisons between the two came immediately.  Ultimately it isn’t that complicated.  The Ascend is about 60% stiffer than the PD and feels much more robust in its build quality.  The PD is about 2/3 the size of the Ascend when folded and more than half a pound lighter.  The Ascend ranks higher on the standard travel tripod rankings, while the PD sits higher on the version that weights for packed volume.  If you use the Peak Design ecosystem of anchors and capture clips, the PD Tripod will integrate better with your gear.  Similarly, if you use the RRS ecosystem of plates and lever clamps, the Ascend will be better.  There is no obvious winner here.  If you need the stability (and can afford it), get the Ascend.  If you need the portability, get PD.

Who is it for?

If you need a very compact travel tripod with the added height and adjustability of a center column, and the most stability possible, the Ascend-14 is likely the best option for you.  If you can compromise on any one those qualities there is likely a better option available at a much cheaper price.  In fact, you could buy two different high end tripods for the price of the Ascend.  If you are a no-compromise kind of user though and are willing to back that up with your wallet, the Ascend is going to be the best option out there.

 

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