Broadly, the overall design is very similar to what we have seen in most travel tripods with a short folded length. We have five leg sections that reverse fold around a two section center column and head. We aren’t breaking any new ground here. While the reverse folding system typically creates a short folded length, the overall volume of the folded package remains high. In this case especially so due to the use of over-sized twist locks. More on this later.
The build quality on the Leo feels pretty good. Don’t expect the same level of fit and finish as the higher end tripods, but the quality is above average for tripods at this price point. The metal parts are all nicely anodized. All moving parts are well greased and move smoothly. I have no complaints or concerns from a build quality perspective. It is worth noting that the build quality of the Leo intuitively feels better than similar tripods because of the additional weight in the metal twist locks. Humans perceive dense objects as having higher quality. In this case though, there is no apparent benefit to this added weight.
The center column has two sections, secured by the same twist locks as the legs. Normally I really dislike multiple center column sections on a tripod, but in this case, its not so bad. The tube diameters of the center column are larger than that of the legs, providing decent rigidity. The overall tripod is rather compact, and so even with both center column sections fully extended, the camera does not get farther above apex than we see on larger tripods with a single section center column. The weak legs of the Leo remain the limiting factor in stability. The relative stiffness of the center column doesn’t diminish the inherent negative effects from increased torque and inertia caused by raising the camera so far above the apex.
The center column can be removed and reversed for low angle shooting. It can also be screwed onto one of the leg sections to make a monopod. 57″
The leg locks are the standard twist type. Here though 3LT claims significant innovation.
3 Legged Thing’s unique Parallel Locking system provides better leverage, and greater rigidity, without the hassle of accidental disassembly.
Lets break this down. The design of the twist locks are indeed different, but not dramatically so. The action of compressing a plastic shim between the two leg sections is, like every other twist lock, how it works here.
The actual twist lock itself is over sized compared to most. Typically we see a relatively thin walled piece of metal covered in a rubber grip. Here, the metal wall of the twist lock us much thicker. The larger diameter does allow the user to provide more torque when twisting the lock into place. However, I have no evidence that more torque actually helps make the tripod stiffer. Past testing has shown little to no benefit to twisting the locks down super tight. The problem with these larger twist locks is that the thick wall
Small rubber feet are included with the Leo, and spikes are optional. The feet thread into the bottom leg section via a 1/4″-20 threading. While 3/8″-16 is more standard for feet, this larger threading wouldn’t fit into the narrow bottom tube, so 1/4″-20 it is. Using the smaller threading helps save weight, thought that is clearly not the priority here. The included feet have a small rubber gasket to prevent dirt and water ingress when installed. This is a nice touch that I haven’t seen on too many tripod models.
The top plate of the Leo is a solid piece of aluminum. The width of the top plate is on the small side, but perfectly acceptable for a travel tripod designed to accept compact heads. This is also a deliberate design decision to allow the legs to neatly nest against the head when folded up. On the Leo we find some of the available negative space is taken up to provide some strap or carabiner mount points. Cute. In addition to the main 3/8″-16 thread for the ball head mount, the top plate is tapped with six 1/4″-20 threads, which 3LT says can be used for mounting a variety of accessories. Technically true, but not while a head is attached. I honestly cannot see a use for them.
The angle selectors are of the pull tab type, and are not spring loaded. When pulled out, they have to be manually pushed back into place. The tabs are nicely greased and held in place with a teflon washer, so move smoothly. On reverse folding tripods I prefer spring loaded angle selectors so that you can save a couple seconds every time you set up and take down the tripod.
Carbon Fiber Quality.
The carbon fiber quality on the Leo appears to be a unidirectional weave type, and as far as I can tell, of reasonable quality. The tubes are so narrow and the rest of the tripod weighs so much, that it is difficult to infer how the quality of the carbon fiber compares to the Leo’s competitors. Its probably fine, and the least of the problems on this model.