A Perfect Union of Form and Function: 3 Legged Thing Bucky Tripod

Essentials is a series featuring products we’re currently lusting over in quick, bite-sized posts. Today, we’re looking at 3 Legged Thing’s Bucky Tripod.

For photographers that shoot landscapes or long exposures regularly, a reliable tripod is an essential tool in their arsenal. Most photographers only care that a tripod is stable and functions without fail. A tripod is a tripod is a tripod, right? What else is there to be said? With the just-announced 3 Legged Thing Bucky tripod, the British photography accessory maker is trying to elevate a tripod beyond a mere utilitarian device while expanding its functionality. To top it off, they want it to look great too. We had the opportunity to test drive the 3 Legged Thing Bucky Tripod along with the new AirHed Vu ball head before their release today. Both the tripod and ball head are part of 3 Legged Thing’s new Legend line of tripods and accessories. While the Bucky tripod and the AirHed Vu ball head certainly make for an excellent pairing, do the functions follow the form? Let’s find out.

Tech Specs

Tech specs for the 3 Legged Thing Bucky Tripod and Airhed Vu Ball Head taken from the official press materials:

3 Legged Thing Bucky Tripod

  • Premium carbon fiber travel tripod with a huge working height range. As robust and stable as Pro Range tripods but weights less.
  • Constructed from 8 layers of 100% pure carbon fiber and aerospace-grade magnesium alloy.
  • All three tripod legs are detachable, allowing the Bucky Tripod to be converted into table-top or small form factor tripods when adapted using 3 Legged Thing’s “interchangeable footwear” accessories:
    • Heelz: Stainless steel spikes, designed for concrete and hard surfaces.
    • Stilettoz: Stainless steel long spikes to elevate above rocky or mucky surfaces or for anchoring into softer ground.
    • Clawz: Stainless steel grips for use on ice, rocks, and slippery surfaces. Also for use on malleable terrains like sand and snow.
    • Vanz: Designed to be used in place of tripod legs to convert Legends and Pro Range 2.0 tripods for table-top use.
  • Each tripod leg includes five collapsible section sections.
  • Tripod legs feature anti-rotation locks.
  • O-Pads provide better grip than conventional tripod leg locks.
  • Rapid latch levers allow for easy tripod leg angle adjustments.
  • Aerospace-grade magnesium alloy Airflow Canopy (base of ball head mount) features contoured cutouts to reduce weight while maintaining strength and integrity.
  • Load capability of 30 kg / 66 lb
  • Available as tripod only or in a kit with the AirHed Vu ball head.
  • Colors: Earth Bronze (with Blue AirHed) or Metallic Slate Grey (with Slate Grey AirHed)
  • Bucky Tripod Legs SRP US $399.99 / £379.99
  • Bucky Tripod Kit SRP US $499.99 / £449.99

3 Legged Thing AirHed Vu Ball Head

  • Precision engineered ball head with a viewing panel enabling users to see the ball head’s internal mechanism.
  • Constructed from aerospace-grade magnesium and aluminum alloys.
  • Includes a bubble level that can be used to level the tripod before attaching a camera.
    • Color-coded knobs help differentiate the clamp knob (copper-colored) from the ball control and panning knobs (black-colored).
  • Supplied with QR Octa octagonal Arca-Swiss compatible quick release plate with standard 1/4″-20 camera mounting screw.
  • Smooth 360° panning base allowing users to create wide panoramas.
  • Clamp can be detached from the rest of the ball head and attached directly onto the Bucky or Ray tripods (and other devices with a 3/8″-16 thread mounting screw.)
  • Load capability of 40 kg / 88 lb
  • Weight: 366 g / 12.9 oz
  • Available as AirHed only or in kits with 3 Legged Thing Bucky or Ray tripods.
  • Colors: Ocean Blue or Metallic Slate Grey
  • AirHed Vu SRP US $169.99 / £149.99

On paper, the 3 Legged Thing Bucky Tripod may seem like any other carbon fiber travel tripod on the market. Like the Transformers, however, there’s more than meets the eye here. The 3 Legged Thing Bucky Tripod is available in either Earth Bronze (with Blue AirHed Vu ball head) or Metallic Slate Grey (with Slate Grey AirHed Vu ball head). Both the Earth Bronze and Metallic Slate Grey tripods are adorned with orange accents to give them an extra pop of color. Other tripods look positively dull by comparison in their obligatory silver or black colorways. Each element on the Bucky tripod was undoubtedly the result of meticulous attention to detail. The fit and finish on the Bucky tripod are amongst the best we’ve seen in any tripod reviewed here at The Phoblographer. All of the twist locks on the tripod legs and the center column come equipped with 3 Legged Thing’s uniquely designed O-Pads rubber grips, making it easier to tighten and loosen the twist locks when deploying or retracting the legs or center column.

The AirHed Vu ball head is perhaps our favorite element of the Bucky tripod. All the knobs on the AirHed Vu are knurled. This gives photographers added grip when tightening or loosening. The knobs are also color-coded in an attempt to mitigate potential disasters. The knob on the ball head’s clamp is orange while the ball control and panning knobs are black. When loosened, both the ball and the 360° panning base turn smoothly, allowing you to easily make precise adjustments when locking in your framing.

Thanks to its load capacity of 40 kg / 88 lb, the AirHed Vu will have no problem supporting most camera systems on the market. During our tests with the Bucky tripod, we regularly moved from one location to the next with our cameras still attached. We walked around with the tripod and camera combo like it was a suitcase. We also tried walking around with it like a walking stick. We even slung the combo over our shoulders when moving around. Not one knob loosened on its own. In fact, the camera remained precisely in the position we had left it in before us relocating.

The fit and finish on the Bucky tripod are amongst the best we’ve seen in any tripod reviewed here at The Phoblographer.

Perhaps the most unique characteristic that sets the AirHed Vu apart from other ball heads on the market is the window on its side. This gives photographers a look within the ball head’s internal tightening mechanism. While some may dismiss this window as an unnecessary bit of overengineering, we found it to be quite useful. Having a visual indicator for whether the ball has been securely tightened is an excellent alternative to torquing (or, more often than not, over-torquing) a knob down until it can’t be tightened any more.

Photographers who find themselves needing to position their camera up high as well as down low will appreciate the Bucky tripod’s impressive working range. When you need that extra bit of reach, the Bucky tripod can reach a maximum height of 1.89 m / 74.48 thanks to its extendable center column. When you need to take things down close to the ground, you can drop it down to a minimum height of just 11 cm / 4.33 in. While this is undoubtedly a useful feature, the 3 Legged Thing Bucky Tripod does suffer the same issue that plague all other travel tripods. The higher you extend it’s legs and center column, the less stable the tripod becomes. Consider investing in the optional “interchangeable footwear” attachments so you can anchor the tripod. They are also useful if you’re photographing in windy locations.

Some tripods allow you to detach one of their legs to be converted into a monopod. The designers at 3 Legged Thing took this ability to the next level, making all three legs on the Bucky Tripod detachable. This allows you to convert the Bucky Tripod into a small form factor desktop tripod by attaching the optional Vanz “footwear” accessory in place of the legs. With so many people socially distancing and working remotely from home, this is a welcomed addition for anyone using their cameras for teleconferencing or live streaming.

We only got to spend about a week with the 3 Legged Thing Bucky tripod and the AirHed Vu ball head before their release. However, we truly put it through its paces during this short period. We used it as we were photographing around New York City and even took it with us out to the East End of Long Island (getting it wet in the Atlantic Ocean in the process). The 3 Legged Thing Bucky tripod and the AirHed Vu ball head combo handled every challenge we threw at it without breaking a sweat. It’s been quite some time since we were this impressed with a travel tripod. It’s compact, lightweight, and has a fun design that gives it a bit of character.

All in all, the Bucky tripod and the AirHed Vu ball head were joys to use. Every element of the tripod and ball head are the result of 3 Legged Thing’s attention to detail during the design process. The fact that the company also remembered to give them playful yet great looking designs shows that they like to play as hard as they work too. We could definitely use more companies in the photography world like 3 Legged Thing.

The 3 Legged Thing Bucky Tripod is available sans ball head for $399.99 / £379.99, or together with the excellent AirHed Vu ball head as a kit for $499.99 / £449.99. If you’re in the market for just a new ball head, the AirHed Vu is one of the best we’ve ever used. It can be yours for $169.99 / £149.99. Check Amazon for availability. The 3 Legged Thing Bucky is a well-built travel tripod. It can reliably support your camera setup without weighing you down and looks pretty darn good while doing it. It’s a worthy investment for photographers who can afford it.

Pauleth Ip

Paul is a New York City based photographer, creative, and writer. His body of work includes headshots and commercial editorials for professionals, in-demand actors/performers, high net worth individuals, and corporate clients, as well as intimate lifestyle/boudoir photography with an emphasis on body positivity and empowerment. Paul also has a background in technology and higher education, and regularly teaches private photography seminars. When not working on reviews and features for The Phoblographer or shooting client work, Paul can be seen photographing personal projects around NYC, or traveling the world with his cameras in tow. You can find Paul’s latest work on his Instagram over at @thepicreative.