equipment reviews

novoflex quadropod

Ideally a tripod should accompany the photographer everywhere, and also ideally the photographer should use it whenever and wherever possible. Photographers have a kind of love-hate relationship to tripods: They know that they achieve better images when they use a support, but they are also aware of the fact that, to be stable, the support has to be heavy and bulky. This makes even some professionals to avoid tripods whenever possible, when they expect to achieve similar image quality handholding the camera. My personal attitude to supports is similar. I don't avoid them but, even when I have one in my bag or in the car, I often don't come to use it. Only when I have planned in advance to use a tripod, for instance, for a landscape shot, I would always do it. In other cases, in the field, I would be moving around and often wouldn't have enough time to setup a tripod. So I wouldn't bother doing it. Sometimes I had been carrying the tripod all day long but didn't use it a single time.

Another problem with supports is that a nature photographer needs different kinds of them: one with a centre column — for landscapes, one compact and lightweight — for travel, a low one — for macro, a big and sturdy — for a long lens, and a monopod — for mobility... If one like me travels far from home and needs to reduce the size and weight of the luggage, he would leave all but one of them at home. Since I photograph only on trips or walking excursions, for me it can be only one tripod — but for all above mentioned purposes.

Novoflex QuadroPod helped me to solve these problems — though not entirely — and to improve my experience with a camera support. Having used the QuadroPod system for almost two years, I now feel that I have gathered enough experience to report it in a review.

the concept

The idea of a convertible camera support that would adapt to various situations is not new. Photographers have been wishing such tripods long time before the QuadroPod was introduced in 2009. Various manufacturers had been already offering monopods that could be converted to tripods (see, for instance, Trekpod by TrekTech or Manfrotto Self-Standing Monopod). There were also tripod models on the market with one detachable leg which could be used as a monopod (such as several models by 3 Legged Thing or Giottos Vitruvian). Some companies were selling trekking sticks that had a screw on top and could serve as monopods. Finally, Gitzo and some others came up with modular tripod systems (see Gitzo Systematic, for instance). Feisol, Giottos and many other companies developed compact foldable tripods. Others, such as Manfrotto and Giottos, were manufacturing tripods whose centre column could be reduced in size, reversed or completely removed according to shooting situation.

"Footprints" of a tripod and QuadroPod compared: The surface that QuadroPod will be actually standing on is much larger — twice as large as of a tripod. (Click to enlarge) Source: Novoflex

Novoflex, an innovative high tech manufacturer from Germany, developed a completely modular support system. It had four legs, and they called it QuadroPod. Because of that it can't be referred to as a "tripod" although it looks like one — that has one more leg. The company claims that the fourth leg provides additional stability because the the surface that QuadroPod is standing on is much larger than of a tripod (see the drawing on the right). Geometrically, the footprint of QuadroPod will be twice as large as of a tripod with legs of equal length.

Besides four legs, the QuadroPod concept is characterisid by an extreme modularity: There is no such thing as a customisable basic model of QuadroPod. Instead, Novoflex provides only components — bases, legs, clamps, etc. — that you can build your own camera support with.

construction and components

The core of a QuadroPod is a base to which the legs are attached. The manufacturer offers three models of them: with centre column (QP C), without it (QP B) and one that can be used both, with three and with four legs — the so-called "variable" base (QP V) (see pictures below).




Three models of QuadroPod bases (Click on the images to enlarge.) Source: Novoflex

I have the version QP B, i.e. the one without centre column. I have chosen it not only because it costs much less than the other two. The main reason was the possibility to use it at ground level. Today it is quite common for many manufacturers to offer tripods whose centre column can be removed or replaced with a short one. This allows the tripod to go very low — till the base will be almost touching the ground. In nature photography this feature is often required. Unfortunately, none of three models of QuadroPod has it. Sometimes I am missing the centre column, but more often I need a low working hight. Since the base QP B lacks the column, it can even with normal legs get as low as 10 cm.

The QuadroPod at the crater of Mount Gahinga (Uganda) standing on three legs. It could support my 5D Mark II with EF 17-40 mm f/4 IS L, but I had to take the camera off to make this shot.

The ability to stand on three legs instead of four is another nice feature which is provided only in the model QP V. I already was at least once in a situation when I needed it for my QuadroPod which doesn't have it. In 2010, in Uganda, a friend accompanied me to the top of Mount Gahinga. I gave him a leg that he was using as a trekking pole. Finally he got too tired and had to turn back before we reached our destination. He went back with the leg which I was missing later — when I was photographing the landscape on top of the mountain. On the picture showed here, you see that the QuadroPod was standing on three legs. It could still support the camera with a wide lens, but I had to watch out not to shake it and had to hold it when the wind got stronger. Of course, if it had been a tripod construction or if the forth leg had been there, the QuadroPod were much more stable.

Due to its 4-leg construction, it isn't possible to find an equivalent to QuadroPod among tripods. Certainly, it can do the same job as the currently popular Gitzo GT5541 or any tripod with similar size and capacity. After QuadroPod had been announced, there were opinions in discussion forums that it may be heavier because of the fourth leg. No, it isn't: Compared to Gitzo GT5541 that has three legs and weighs 2850 g, even the heaviest QuadroPod with QP V base (3120 g) is only 330 g heavier. This weight isn't constant, however, and can be reduced to as little as 1080 g when the QuadroPod will be used for macro photography. In the following table weight and hight of all QuadroPod configurations is compared:

Weight (g)
without legs 860 1060 1080
with 3-segments aluminium legs 2780 2980 3000
with 4-segments aluminium legs 2900 3100 3120
with 3-segments carbon legs 2460 2660 2680
with 4-segments carbon legs 2560 2760 2780
with short legs 1080 1290 1300
with trekking poles as legs 1940 2140 2160
Working height (cm)
with 3-segments aluminium legs 10 – 155 27 - 182 10 – 155
with 4-segments aluminium legs 10 – 155 27 - 182 10 – 155
with 3-segments carbon legs 10 – 155 37 - 182 10 – 155
with 4-segments carbon legs 10 – 155 37 - 182 10 – 155
with short legs 7 - 26 34 - 53 7 - 26
with trekking poles as legs 10 - 145 37 - 175 10 - 145

The price of QuadroPod is also variable. The maximum configuration — QP V with 4-segments legs — would cost about 850 €, i.e. as much as a tripod of similar quality and capacity. For instance, the above mentioned Gitzo GT5541 is priced in Europe at 800 - 900 €. In US, the Novoflex products are usually more expensive, however.

A separate word should be said about legs. There are three kinds of them which you can combine with any of three bases: 1) normal legs — like in a tripod, 2) short legs — for ground level or table-top photography, 3) trekking poles. The "tripod" legs of Novoflex (called QuadroLeg) have 3 or 4 segments and are made either of aluminium or of carbon. A QuadroPod with carbon legs is 300-400 g lighter than with equivalent aluminium legs. Maybe Novoflex will extend the choice of legs in future. In the flyer introducing QuadroPod there was a picture of a very large leg, but for unknown reason it isn't available for purchase. If such legs would finally be released, QuadroPod may become interesting for those photographs who are looking for very high tripods.

My QuadroPod with 3-segments aluminium legs. I have chosen such legs because they are relatively inexpensive compared to carbon and quicker to set up than 4-segments legs. I take this lens usually when I go to the shooting location by car, otherwise I use trekking poles. (Click to enlarge.)

The short legs for table-top or ground level shooting (Novoflex calls them "QuadroLeg mini") have a very simple construction. They are 15 cm long sticks made of metal. On one end they have a rubber ball and an attachment screw thread on another. On these legs the least working height of only 7 cm can be achieved which is perfect for macro photography at the ground.

The trekking poles supplied for QuadroPod are made by LEKI Lenhart GmbH — a German company that manufactures the world best trekking and alpine ski poles. The sticks they make for Novoflex are identical to the LEKI model Sierra which appears to be discontinued, however. The sticks have three segments and a very comfortable and save locking system: The retracted segments are fixated at any height only through rotation.

Of course use can use any leg as a monopod if you mount a tripod head or a camera directly on it.

You can combine any of the legs with each other. For example, you can attach two normal legs and two macro legs to one base, if you need to put position camera near a table: The two short legs can stand on the table while the long legs will be standing on the floor. You can replace one or more legs by clamps. Since the legs are attached through a standard 1/4" screw thread, you can attach anything that has such a screw thread to the same points. When all legs are attached, you can still mount other equipment that has either 1/4" or 3/8" thread on additional wholes that a base has on its sides.


The QuadroPod is very sturdy and stable — maybe more than any three-leg support (as its manufacturer is claiming), but maybe, not. To tell it, I would have to make a comparison test with a top-class tripod of another manufacturer and to load a very heavy gear. I haven't done such a test yet because I have neither a sample of a different tripod nor suitable gear to achieve a maximum load. I just can say here that, when used with normal (i.e. aluminum or carbon) legs or short legs, the QuadroPod is at least as sturdy as any tripod in this price and size range I ever had a chance to try. There was a video on Youtube recorded on Photokina 2009 where a representative of Novoflex was standing on QP B with macro legs. The weight of that guy was over 100 kg! I didn't try the same with my QuadroPod though I weigh much less. I believe, however, that a QP B base on short metal legs can support that heavy weight. The long aluminium or carbon legs obviously would not be that sturdy. One piece of them looks and feels like a leg of a large tripod, but if four of them are used, the QuadroPod will certainly be able to support a very heavy load.

My QuadroPod standing on trekking poles. As always on uneven ground, the perfectly horizontal position of the camera has to be achieved with a ball head or a leveling plate. (Click to enlarge.)

It is difficult to judge about the maximum capacity of QuadroPod when it is used with trekking poles. The possibility to use trekking poles as legs was the most important reason for me to choose this support system. When I am trekking in mountains or in any other difficult terrain, trekking poles are a great help, particularly when I have to balance with the heavy photo equipment on my body. I use my QP B more often with trekking poles than with normal legs because of that and because they are light and much more compact. As for other legs, Novoflex doesn't provide any official information about maximum load capacity of trekking poles. LEKI guaranties that their poles would hold over 140 kg each. If so, there is no danger that they would break under any weight a photo camera or a lens can provide. However, I have an impression that, since the poles are thin and resilient, when they are retracted to full length, they don't give such stable support as the normal legs. Anyway, when I mount a camera with a telephoto lens, i.e. a weight of about 3 or 4 kg, shakes a little when I push it with my hand. It makes their use with heavy telephoto lenses virtually impossible. When normal legs are used, the base with the same load doesn't shake at all. In the field, on natural ground, a QuadroPod on trekking poles stands very stable. The poles have spikes on the ends that can go quite deep into the earth. This provides additional stability to the QuadroPod.

After Novoflex introduced the QuadroPod concept, there was much skepticism all over the photographic community regarding the stability of a four-leg construction. Many people were pointing at the fact that if all legs of a chair aren't touching the ground, the chair will be shaky. This is true only for construction with legs that have constant length and whose position can't be adjusted. In QuadroPod all legs can be moved separately and their length can be changed. Therefore, it is easy to achieve that they all stand on the ground. According to my experience, on extremely uneven ground, the stability of QuadroPod can be even easier achieved as of a tripod. Of course, as with any tripod in this case, if the position of the camera has to be absolutely horizontal, you would need to level it with a ball head or a leveling plate.

The damping capability of QuadroPod appears to be extremely good: I didn't notice any significant difference in shakes caused from mirror hit during my tests on stone floor when the equipment was mounted directly on it and on a ball head, i.e. damping didn't increase much when there was a head. See my review of Novoflex Classic Ball 5 for further information.

There is one issue with all legs that looks as a serious design flow to me. It is the way the legs are attached to the base. As I already mentioned, they are screwed in with a 1/4" thread. However, as easy as it can be done when you are attaching the legs, as easy they are unscrewed when you will be adjusting their length afterwards. Personally, I find this extremely annoying. I wished that there were some kind of fixation mechanism preventing unscrewing.

conclusion and recommendations

Although the variable base and the one with a centre column have their advantages, I still consider the version QP B better suitable for nature photography. Unless you need a centre column for the type of photography that you do, I'd recommend the QP B because it is lighter, more compact and allows to set up your camera almost at ground level. The QP V is also good but it costs 1/4 more. So you should ask yourself if its capability to stand on three as well as on four legs is worth the money. I'd wished that there were only one model of QuadroPod instead of three that had all the features. I don't get the point why do the three versions exist when most photographers would like to have a combination of them. A perfect QuadroPod base should have at least a removable centre column, i.e. it should be possible to use it without it. The other feature — use with three legs — is nice but not that important since there is a huge variety of tripods to choose from for someone who prefers a camera support on three legs.

A QuadroPod can't walk by itself: When it is assembled, it has to be carried like any tripod. (Click to enlarge.)

A downside of a QuadroPod with QP B that is worth to mention is that it may be difficult to adjust its height quickly. Since there is no centre column, to position the camera higher or lower, you need to change the length of each leg. Of course, the same should be done with any tripod that has no centre column, too, but in QuadroPod it is one leg more. Since I have a QuadroPod with QP B, I do this annoying work. To change the height, I need to remove the camera if it was already mounted. Then I put it again on the QuadroPod, check if the frame composition is alright, and if it isn't, repeat the procedure. All this costs time that so valuable in the field. So, if you are not going to use a heavy camera-lens combo nor to shoot macro, and want a QuadroPod, it could be wise to get a QP C base.

After you have read all above, you are probably thinking if QuadroPod is what you need. As always when choosing from a vast variety of expensive alternatives, you have to consider a number of pros and cons. Probably the biggest downside of QuadroPod as of all modular products of Novoflex is the availability of components. To have a modular equipment makes sense only if you can always get the parts you need. If there is no Novoflex dealer in your country, you either would have to spend big money and to purchase all parts of QuadroPod system at once — i.e. bases, legs, arms, etc. — or to be prepared that you would be missing some in future. If something would get broken, it may be impossible to get a replacement also because Novoflex may discontinue the production of QuadroPod soon after you purchased it. I had to feel it recently when Novoflex without any warning discontinued the production of macro flashes soon after I got parts of that system and was going to purchase the rest. However, I had a very good experience with the service of Novoflex: When a flash adapter refused to work, they replaced it immediately, without questions.

I am not very optimistic when it is about use of high-quality innovative modular products manufactured by small companies in little quantities. The long-term existence of such products and even of their manufacturers is too uncertain. Maybe because it is an ultra small company or maybe for other reasons, the marketing policy of Novoflex is very strange. Considering the exceptional quality of their products, their prices are understandably high. I don't think that the sales of such expensive equipment as QuadroPod can be a self-runner. Nevertheless, there is no real marketing attempts, the advertisement is very poor, and it even seems that Novoflex isn't interested even in returning customers since they don't attempt to keep contact to buyers and to hear their opinion. This my judgment may sound harsh but I would dare it, having purchased already quite a lot of Novoflex products. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend every single item produced by Novoflex if it has to be used separately, but you should think twice if you are going to purchase a whole bunch of interdependent items.

Ironically, the modular construction of QuadroPod is of disadvantage in certain situations. When the QuadroPod it is disassembled, it can be much easier transported as tripods — particularly, if you use the legs as trekking poles. You can use two of them for your own support and give the rest another person, if someone else is accompanying you, or carry the two sticks yourself, if you are alone. The base can be in your backpack, too. That's it! However, in practice, you need a ready-to-use camera support all the time when you are in the field. So, once you have assembled QuadroPod, you will carry it around all the time as every cumbersome tripod. The downside I am talking about is actually the lack of clear advantage over a tripod in terms of portability when you are on location.

If my critique on Novoflex and QuadroPod sounds serious to you, you may find a camera support that will suit your needs among tripods. Just have a look at Gitzo, Feisol or Manfrotto products. If you still think that QuadroPod may perfectly meet your needs, look if its following advantages are still convincing you:

These were the reasons for me to choose QuadroPod and now, having had it for almost 2 years, I still don't regret this choice.

February 2011