Fotopro is a tripod and camera accessory manufacturer based in Zhongshan, China. Fotopro isn't as well known as some other tripod manufacturers, but produces a wide range of tripods, which are generally well reviewed.
This review is of the Fotopro X-Aircross 3 Lite. A very lightweight (0.81kg) but sturdy carbon fiber travel tripod, with a ball head rated for 4kg, and an innovative fast leg locking mechanism. This is one of four versions of the Aircross 3 line, which also includes the 0.94kg Aircross 3 with a 10kg capacity ball head, Aircross 3 Video, and Aircross 3 Lite Video. At the time of writing, the Fotopro X-Aircross is the lightest tripod available that can support a mirrorless camera and reach at least 1.5m in height.
The Fotopro X-Aircross 3 Lite was purchased from my own funds.
My requirements were for a very lightweight (approx. 1kg) travel tripod, with reasonable height (>1500mm) that could support a lightweight mirrorless camera system (<1kg) on forthcoming travels to Europe. It will also replace my cumbersome secondary tripod that I use to support LED panel lights and flashlight/torches on some photoshoots.
This review has been updated after the aforementioned European trip.
The specifications for the Fotopro X-Aircross 3 Lite tripod are as follows:
Weight - 0.81kg
Max height - 1512mm
Min height - 103mm
Packed width - 71mm
Packed length - 400mm
Ball head capacity - 4kg (Arca Swiss compatible)
Leg sections - 5 (carbon fiber)
I was able to find the Fotopro X-Aircross 3 Lite tripod on Aliexpress for US$133 (AU$222+GST). The slightly heavier X-Aircross 3 was approx. US$20 cheaper. Product links are in the conclusion.
Legs and Central Column
The Fotopro X-Aircross range of tripods feature an innovative, and very fast leg locking mechanism. Along with the use of carbon fiber, this locking mechanism allows for some of the weight saving compared to other travel tripods. This mechanism has been further refined in the 3rd generation. Instead of multiple twist or flip locks, only the feet of the legs need to be twisted. The feet are twisted 4 clicks left to fully release, and then the legs can be pulled all the way out. To lock, turn the feet back to the right. If you only want to extend 1,2, or 3 legs, then turn the respective number of of clicks (e.g. 1 click will unlock the lowest leg section only), extend the legs, and then lock. The same process is required to un-extend the legs when packing up. It is possible to lock with partial leg section extensions for fine adjustments.
This design of leg lock allows for very fast deployment. This is really useful for cityscape photography when the photographer is regularly moving between locations. However adjusting after deployment is tricky as you can only lock and unlock by adjusting the feet, which may not be good if the feet are wet or muddy. On my flip lock tripods, I usually make fine adjustments using the highest lock, which is more ergonomically convenient.
The Aircross 3 Lite's legs do not fold backwards during storage, which again allows for faster deployment. The 400mm folding length is very compact. The X-Aircross 3 has a "legs folding back" design, and folds to a tiny 360mm. The rubber feet are well designed and grippy, but cannot be swapped out for spikes. There are 3 leg angles, adjusted by a clip.
The central column is also carbon fiber, and has two segments that can be unscrewed. The maximum tripod height with the centre column raised is 1512mm. Whilst good enough for my purposes as a secondary and travel tripod, this isn't high enough to be used as my primary tripod. In my home city of Brisbane many riverside walkways have high railings to prevent wayward cyclists ending up in the water. This means that 1630mm is the minimum acceptable height for me to use regularly in my home city. I'm not aware of any tripods that weigh less than 1.3kg that can reach this height.
Minimum height is just 103mm with the centre column removed and legs at the widest angle. The central column cannot be inverted, but this is a feature I would very rarely use anyway. The centre column is in two parts, which can be unscrewed or completely removed for low to the ground work.
Stability was very good. In fact, the central column is the most stable I have ever used, and far more stable than the Peak Design Travel Tripod which has some wobble in the central column. During testing for long exposure light painting, with exposures up to 3 minutes, I experienced zero camera shake. This was in light winds (<20kph). I have also setup the tripod in winds with moderate (40kph) gusts and there was also no noticeable camera shake. As long as you aren't using this tripod in high winds or with fast flowing water around the legs, then you should be fine. I also had no concerns with stability when the ball head was in portrait position.
One of the differences between the X-Aircross 3 Lite and X-Aircross 3 is the ball head. The X-Aircross 3 has a more traditional photography ball head rated for 10kg. The X-Aircross 3 Lite has a FPH-32Q inverted ball head rated for 4kg. There is no standard to ball head ratings, but from personal experience I would keep the combined camera and lens weight below 33% of the rated capacity. This may vary based on weight balance between the camera and lens. My current heaviest camera/lens combination (Canon R8 and RF 24mm f/1.8 lens) is just 800g, which is just 20% of the rated capacity. For medium weight camera/lens combinations I would consider the X-Aircross 3 version instead.
The FPH-32Q inverted ball head is not of a traditional ball head design, and has some design similarities with the Ulanzi Zero Y and F38 travel tripod ball heads. The central column has to be raised slightly for the ball head to be able to be moved for anything other than pan. The ball head has a flip lock that allows for 360 degree rotational movement and tilt (approx. 45 degrees). There is no friction control of the ball head with the flip lock, which really means the ball head is either locked or loose. Tension can only be adjusted with a hex key. Personally I prefer conventional ball heads, such as the ball head on the X-Aircross 3. .
It can also be flipped over to 90 degrees for portrait photos. The ball head then allows for 360 degrees panoramic rotation on the axis that the ball head has been locked at. The panoramic rotation is controlled by a knob that is an extension of the plate release knob. Don't get them mixed up! The ball head is removeable, and needs to be screwed onto the central column tightly so as to not unscrew itself when panning.
The plate is claimed to be an Arca Swiss "compatible" design, with safety bolts on the underside of the plate to reduce the likelihood of a dropped camera if the grip is accidentally partially release. As Arca Swiss plates are the industry standard, it makes sense to purchase tripods that use this system. Unfortunately, whilst I was able to use the "low profile" Fotopro plate with my 3 Legged Thing Ball head, I was unable to safely use the 3 Legged Thing plate with the Fotopro ball head, as the grip could not be tightened adequately. So, compatibility with other Arca Swiss "compatible" systems cannot be guaranteed.
The plate's 1/4" screw for attaching cameras, can be screwed in by hand (with a flip up handle), coin, or hex key. I did find that for optimal tightness between the camera and plate, that I had to use the hex key. If the flip up handle was more robust, it may be possible to tighten adequately using the the handle alone.
The X-Aircross 3 Lite has some interesting additional features:
Two additional 1/4" thread holes for attaching accessories such as magic arms and clamps. This allows the tripod to additionally support other items such as phone, microphone, or lighting. You will however need to consider weight distribution. This feature is pretty much unheard on travel tripods at this price point and weight.
Hidden phone clip for attaching mobile phones to the tripod plate.
Hook for adding weight under the central column for extra stability.
High quality bag, that can be used over the shoulder, or as a backpack.
Two Hex keys for tightening the plate, ball head tightness, and other components. (These cannot be stored within the tripod).
One of the legs has a silicone grip for holding.
Available in Slate-Grey (tested), or Flame Orange colour options.
The X-Aircross 3 Lite has impressive specifications compared to its peers in the <1.1kg category.
The US$350 Ulanzi & Coman Zero Y and F38 Travel Tripods are 1.1kg, and have a higher max height of 1567/1590mm. These tripods appear to have glowing reviews from influencers and affiliate linking reviewers, but mixed reviews from users. It seems that these tripods are sold to the Western market with a large mark up, as they can be found from Aliexpress resellers for just over US$200. Neewer have also introduced the TP30, a very similar travel tripod to the Ulanzi, with a different ball head and 1600mm max height. The Benro Cyanbird Aluminium/Carbon with N00P ball head is a good contender at 1.05kg, goes up to 1550mm, and costs US$189 (though the Australian pricing is excessive at more than AU$412). The K&F BA225 can reach 1520mm, weights just over 1kg, is cheap at US$100, but has mixed reviews on build quality. Sirui have a confusing range of lightweight carbon fiber travel tripods <1.1kg and approx. 1500mm in height. These include the Traveler 5CX, T-024SK with B-00K Ball Head (T-0S), and new AT-125 with B-00K Ball Head (Traveler X-I).
The Sirui Traveler X-I is the most compelling of these options, and appears to have been heavily inspired by the X-Aircross with similar single lock telescopic leg design, 1540mm max height, 0.860g weight, 10kg rated ball head, reversible column, but a higher price tag than the X-Aircross range at US$199. Whether Sirui's first generation leg design can match Fotopro's third generation will have to be seen. Though given that Fotopro are also an OEM manufacturer, they may also manufacture other companies tripods that use this leg technology.
Fotopro products are mainly available at online retailers such as Fotoprogear, eBay, Aliexpress, Amazon, and few other online retailers in specific markets. The best prices I could find were on Aliexpress, but you also need to account for slow shipping times (approx. 3 weeks). Warranty claims on Aliexpress are often hit or miss, but there a warranty contact page on Fotopro's website. Fotopro have very few resellers in offline/"bricks and mortar" stores. I hope that Fotopro are able to improve their distribution/re-seller channels and engage with more reviewers so that more photographers are aware of their products.
Lightest full size tripod (>1500mm max height) with support for lightweight mirrorless or DSLR camera/lens combinations.
Good value for money.
Good build quality.
Compact fold down size.
Very fast to deploy.
Surprisingly very stable.
Two 1/4" screw holes to attach accessories.
Arca Swiss compatibility cannot be guaranteed (could not grip another manufacturer's plate).
Ball head flip lock control is "all or nothing" when it comes to tension.
Single locking mechanism is harder to finely adjust leg length after deployment.
No foot spike options.
Despite having a flip up handle, the plate still needs a hex key or coin to fully tighten to the camera.
Hex keys cannot be stored within the tripod.
I was very impressed by the Fotopro X-Aircross 3 Lite. It is a very lightweight, yet very stable travel tripod with decent height. You can put it in your suitcase with few concerns of exceeding airline baggage limits, or not having enough space for your clothes. The very fast deployment is useful for photographers who are always on the move. For medium to heavy mirrorless camera/lens combinations, or if you prefer conventional ball heads, consider the slightly heavier (but still very lightweight) X-Aircross 3. There are also video head options available as well. The X-Aircross 3 Lite's stability was very impressive for the weight, but obviously may be less stable than some heavier tripods. As long as you aren't using it in high winds or with fast flowing water around the legs, then you should be fine in most situations. Arca Swiss compatibility is somewhat debatable as the clamp could not be fully tightened on another manufacturers plate.
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