There comes a time in every landscape/travel photographer’s life when having a great travel tripod becomes a must.
I started out on a cheap ($10) tripod, and while it served it’s purpose far beyond expectations, I finally got to the point where I needed something that worked. I mean really worked.
After a lot of research, I finally settled on trying out the Zomei Z699C.
Certain other brands of tripod were too far out of my budget range, and the Z699C was the only portable carbon fiber tripod I could afford that seemed light enough for what I needed.
If you’re looking for one of the best budget tripods for your money, you’ll be interested in reading this review.
After three years of use, here’s what I found:
Zomei Z699C | Specs
- Durable – it just doesn’t seem to break.
- Very quick to set up.
- The legs are independently adjustable and the twist-locks work smoothly.
- The ball head works perfectly
- Supports plenty of weight.
- Excellent price point.
- 2-years manufacturer warranty.
- A little heavy for my needs (though still quite light compared to other tripods its size)
- I wish it went a little higher.
- The monopod legs seems a little “off” and I need to adjust for it.
First, let’s get the specs out of the way:
- Material: 8-Layer Carbon Fiber tubes
- Weight: 3.3 lbs (1.3 kg)
- Maximum Height: 60″ (1524 mm)
- Folded Height: 15″ (350 mm)
- Max Load: 33 lbs (15 kg)
- Leg Lock Style: Twist lock
- Ball Head: QZSD-06 (aluminum; max load 6 kg)
- Monopod Conversion: Yes
- Adjustable Leg Angles: Yes
The Zomei Z699C is surprisingly well-built considering its light weight and (relatively) low price point.
I’ve literally carried it all around the world and on numerous backpacking trips. Not once has it shown any kind of damage. This is with strapping it onto the outside of numerous packs without its case, throwing it into overhead compartments – you name it.
The twist locks open and close easily, though they take a bit of practice to get them tightened perfectly the first time (not too tight and yet not loose).
The only issue I’ve had is that one of my lower locks has a bit of sand in it that I can’t get out, so its action is a bit rough.
To be fair, though, I’ve unintentionally immersed all three bottom locks multiple times in sand while shooting beach scenes. After all of that only one lock is mildly grainy.
While some complain that the ball head seems a bit cheap, for me it works perfectly. The action is smooth, it locks and releases easily, and in general functions just as expected. Sure, there’s no bar for panning, but as I’m not a videographer this hasn’t really bothered me.
In fact, the only complaint I’ve ever had is that even at just 3.3 lbs (1.5 kgs), the Zomei Z699C still feels heavy.
[Editor – Having a heavier tripod isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since a heavier tripod does provide more steady support – case in point, the Peak Design Tripod.]
Maybe because I’m often on long treks where every ounce counts, but I’d still rather get something lighter eventually.
For this price point, though – I couldn’t be happier.
Size & Handling
Delightfully, I found the Zomei Z699C to be extremely versatile. The maximum height of 60” (152 cm) has been more than enough for most of my endeavors.
At the other end of the spectrum, the fact that you can invert the central column and hang your camera low to the ground for macro shooting gives it quite the added bonus.
Folded up, the Zomei Z699C is extremely compact, coming down to just 15” (38 cm). That’s pretty amazing, really, especially for how sturdy it is. It’s still a bit bulky for me – I’m a backpacker, after all – but I suspect that I’d be sacrificing a fair amount of stability with less bulk.
Speaking of sturdiness, I honestly have no complaints. There’ve only been a couple of times in all of these years that I’ve hung anything on the center-column hook for added stability, and I’ve shot in a number of windy situations.
Even with the center column fully extended, the Zomei Z699C has never felt wobbly or unstable in any way.
The legs have a couple of different angles they can be set at. I find that the tighter angle doesn’t lock as fully as the wider angle, so I tend not to use it as much – at least if I’m not needing the full height. That is one small annoyance I’ve found.
Another one is that the monopod leg seems to be either at a slightly different angle or a different length than the other two legs. On even ground, I’m always having to adjust for it, either at the ball head or the legs. (On uneven ground it doesn’t really matter much as I’m already having to adjust for the terrain, so it’s automatically dealt with.)
I love how quick and easy the Zomei Z699C is to set up. On flat ground, I can set up this tripod and be ready to shoot literally in less than a minute. That’s literally allowed me to catch some shots I wouldn’t get otherwise.
(Sure, in a well-scouted and planned shoot you shouldn’t need quick set ups, but sometimes I’m just traveling, not knowing what I’ll run into. That, or fantastic light will come out of nowhere and disappear just as quickly…)
The quick release plate that’s included with the Zomei Z699C is also quick and easy to use. In fact, it’s probably the easiest mount I have for my camera, literally only taking seconds to attach to the camera and to the tripod.
Lastly, the feet of the tripod can either be contoured rubber for flat surfaces or and metal not-quite-spikes for outdoor and/or uneven surfaces. Most of my tripod shooting is outdoors, so I keep the spikes out, but there are times when I need to not score up floors inside and I’m happy it’s just a minor adjustment.
Overall, I really like how this tripod handles. And while there are times when I wish it were just a little bit taller, the fact that I really don’t want any more weight keeps that from being a real complaint.
Leg Locks & Joints
When originally looking for a lightweight travel tripod, twist lock legs were one of the requirements. When used correctly, they’re infinitely quicker to set up than the flip locks. It was one of my key considerations when looking at the Zomei Z699C.
I know a lot of people prefer flip locks: they’re pretty dummy-proof. You always know when they’re locked.
Twist locks, on the other hand, are harder to tell when they’re locked so it’s almost inevitable that you’re going to forget one at some point. The key is put a bit of weight on it with your hand before loading up your rig.
The cool thing with twist locks is that you can loosen every joint on one leg with just one hand. It makes it super quick to set up. The same goes with taking it down.
Once you’ve retracted all the legs the locks are once again in line and easily tighten with one hand motion. (You do have to tighten each joint separately when setting up, as when the joints are extended the locks are no longer close enough together to get in one hand movement.)
I’ve been told that the Zomei Z699C has some of the best legs available at its price point. I can’t argue with that. Over the years they’ve always worked perfectly for me, at least when user error wasn’t a part of the equation. (Forgetting to tighten one of the locks, etc.)
The legs glide smoothly, the twist locks turn easily, and the joints grip particularly well. Over time, I’ve noticed one of my joints getting a bit sticky, but considering the various elements I shoot in, I’m surprised there aren’t more issues.
Incredibly, the one joint that ended up with sand in it still functions perfectly. It’s a bit gritty, but not impaired in any way. Also, the fact that there’s only one lower joint with sand in it is amazing. I’ve been in a number of wet sand beach moments, including having small sneaker waves catch me.
Overall, I’m quite pleased with the leg joints and how they’ve served me over the years.
The ball head that comes with the Zomei Z699C is a pretty simple affair. One adjustment will put your camera at just about any angle you could need, with a cut out on side for positioning the camera 90 degrees from horizontal.
Around the base of the head are clearly marked compass bearings so you can mark off your angles when doing any panoramas or any other type of photography that needs clear angle demarkations.
I’ve always been amazed at how nicely the quick release plate fits onto the head. It’s quick, easy, and absolutely no guess work as to whether the camera’s locked in or not.
The ball itself rotates smoothly and without a hiccup. I’ve read that the “cheapness” of the ball head is a “con” for the Zomei Z699C, but I honestly haven’t had any problems with it. Sure, it’s plastic, but if it works, it works.
The lock on the ball head also functions just as expected. It doesn’t need to be overly tightened to lock securely, and just a bit of loosening allows you to adjust things. At the same time, I’ve never had the ball head slide on me even once when it was locked, and I don’t crank it down particularly hard.
The only thing I can think that’s missing is maybe one more 90-degree slot. There was a time or two when it would definitely have been helpful. Otherwise, I really couldn’t ask for more.
Value for Money
Right now you can find the Zomei Z699C for under $120. That’s a considerably better price than I paid for it years ago, or even in 2017 when I had to replace a stolen one.
Is it worth it? I’d say absolutely. It’s nearly impossible to find a another carbon fiber tripod of this quality at this price point. I certainly didn’t.
Zomei Z699C Review | Final Words
In conclusion, the best I can say about this tripod is that when my car got broken into and my last Zomei Z699C was stolen, I had absolutely no qualms about immediately getting another.
Sure, I did a little research, but nothing I saw out there made me want to buy anything else (in that price range).
While I don’t really have a lot of experience with nicer tripods – the Zomei Z699C is the nicest I’ve ever owned – it’s done just about everything I’ve ever wanted from it.
Sure, at times I needed it to reach a little higher and I’d love for it to be lighter and even more compact, but I know that’s a lot to ask.
All in all, highly recommended for anyone looking for a travel tripod in this price range. You won’t be disappointed.
Usnea Lebendig is a travel and landscape photographer who loves trekking in the wilderness, exploring other cultures, and using photography for social activism.