The X1.1 Brian Evolution 2 from 3 Legged Thing is the first tripod I’ve used that actually made me smile when I took it out of the box. Maybe it was the metallic blue ball head, dubbed the AirHed 1, on top. Or perhaps it’s the copper-colored leg locks or the fact that one of the legs has a zipped-up padded sleeve with the brand name emblazoned on it in a comic-book-style font.
No, I think what really did it for me is that the fact you can actually take that particular padded leg off of Brian, as the tripod is known for short, make a few quick adjustments and turn it into a very effective monopod. Now that’s a pretty neat trick.
But along with making me smile, this carbon fiber tripod, designed by a small company based in Stagsden, England, impressed me with its versatility, thanks to its smart, modular design. Or as the folks at 3 Legged Thing, who are photographers themselves, would say, “We don’t make tripods. We make tripod systems.”
And it’s a very lightweight system, which is great for any photographer who does a lot of traveling (which includes most multitasking photographers these days). Brian also folds up to less than a third of its size, letting you easily stuff it into a photo backpack or even a large gym bag, and hit the road.
Don’t be fooled by its svelte and lightweight design, though. The tripod can support up to 17.6 pounds of gear while the AirHed 1 can hold up to 77 pounds. I put just about every big, pro DSLR body and long telephoto lens I have here at Havlik Industries onto it and this 3 Legged Thing stood rock solid, even outdoors in blustery December winds.
Along with the monopod trick, Brian has a removable, reversible, three-section center column you can extend up to nearly 7 feet high. While I wouldn’t recommend putting a DSLR with a telephoto at that height—too unstable—you could certainly mount a flash or a continuous light on top and use Brian as a light stand.
Conversely, you can pop that center column out, extend the legs while pressing the tripod down, and get it as low as just five inches off the ground, making it great for tabletop or macro photography. Brian’s legs can be angled in up to three different positions that you can set independently. This was a big help when trying to level the tripod on uneven ground at a local park while setting up some macro shots of flowers. There’s also a hook at the bottom of the center column to hang a counterweight for added stability. The AirHead 1 offers separate controls for locking pan-and-tilt rotations and two bubble levels.
While I liked that you can pretty much take Brian apart completely and configure it for a variety of shooting situations, keep track of all those parts and make sure you know how to put it back together. During my testing, I misplaced one of the friction locks while disassembling Brian, and it took me over an hour to track it down.
Also, though I liked the blue, black and copper color configuration of Brian, it might take some getting to used to for photographers who prefer their tripods and heads to be all black. 3 Legged Thing says it came up with the color scheme for Brian after running 10,000 images of the Earth through a spectroscope in Photoshop and coming up with these colors as the most common. A good answer but in the conservative world of tripods, there are some who might think Brian is a tad radical looking.
THE BOTTOM LINE
This extremely versatile and lightweight tripod from an oddball company based in a small town in England that I’ve never heard of is one of the best photo accessories I’ve tried in a long time.
3 Legged Thing X1.1 Brian Evolution 2
Pros: An extremely versatile and lightweight carbon fiber tripod with a modular design that’s configurable for a variety of applications
Cons: If you take Brian apart, make sure you know how to put him back together again