3 Legged Thing X5a Tony Evolution 2, £220
Just when you thought all tripods were basically the same, along comes Tony. Typical of 3 Legged Thing designs, the legs swing up to a vertically upright position, putting the head between the feet to reduce the overall length when folded. In this case, it's just 56cm even with the head fitted (reviewed separately). Another neat trick is that one of the legs is detachable and can be combined with the removable centre column, to form a highly effective monopod.
Considering its big-boy maximum load rating of 12kg, the Tony is fairly light in weight at 1.7kg. This is partly thanks to its main construction material being magnesium alloy rather than the more usual aluminium. In other respects, the tripod is more conventional, featuring three-section legs with twist locks, rather than the clip locks that are more common nowadays. There's zippered comfort padding on one of the upper leg sections and a bubble level on the shoulder to aid levelling, plus the best 'free' tripod carrying bag we've ever seen.
Setup speed is a little slow, as you have to rotate each of the legs and lock the required angle setting before use. The centre column is also at its maximum extension when the tripod is folded down, so this usually needs adjustment as well. However, all adjustments are wonderfully smooth and, once set up, the Tony is extremely rigid.