Velbon Ultrek UT-53D

The aluminium UT 53D has legs that fold upwards against the central column, making it exceptionally compact. Packing down to just 30cm, it has a better folded height to maximum height ratio than many of its competitors, and is the only one that may actually fit inside your bag rather than having to be attached to the outside, making it a great option for travel photography.

Velbon Ultrek UT-53D 

Velbon Ultrek UT-53D 

The Velbon is also different in that its legs have six sections rather than three. While this system allows it to fold down very small, it does impact on the tripod’s stability when fully extended as at only 11mm wide at the base, the legs are far thinner than those of those found on other tripods. This, and its lightweight construction, make it less stable in windy conditions, as well as weaker, rendering it better suited to lighter DSLRs and CSCs. That said, the legs do hold a significant weight without creeping.

The tripod extends using a twist release action rather than quick-release levers, and we feel this is a slightly inferior system, as not only are the rubber twist locks difficult to open once locked, but you have to twist the feet of the tripod, which are often muddy.

Overall, this is an incredibly compact and lightweight tripod that’s perfect for travel. It does have some weaknesses, but it more than makes up for them with its innovative space-saving system.

Ball head

The compact 1/4in-fit ball head on this tripod comes with two built-in spirit levels. There is only one release mechanism that controls head movement, so panning isn’t as easy as it is on some other heads. The lever loosens and tightens the ball in a quarter turn for quick and easy operation. The plate is well-designed but doesn’t have a safety release mechanism.


  • Street price: £119 (As of June 2016)
  • Weight: 1344g
  • Max load: 4000g
  • Max height: 156cm
  • Min height: 36cm
  • Folded height: 30cm
  • Folded width: 9.5cm
  • Leg sections: 6
  • Leg lock: Twist lock
  • Spirit level: Yes (2)
  • Horizontal column: No
  • Reverse column: No
  • Head type: Ball
  • Head attachment: 1/4in
  • Construction: Aluminium alloy
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This review was first published in the May 2013 issue of Practical Photography - download back issues here.