If there’s anything I hate about using a tripod, it’s the amount of time it takes to set up or change heights. But what if a tripod could switch from full height to tabletop or camera to smartphone in just a few seconds? Those are the questions Promaster asked when designing the Chronicle, a new convertible tripod launching on Kickstarter. The ProMaster Chronicle re-thinks the center column design, incorporating a tiny tripod in the center of a full-height tripod.
Why put a tiny tripod in the belly of another tripod? Because that tripod can then switch from full height to tabletop in seconds without adjusting the legs at all. That same tripod could then convert to a monopod or a monopod with a base for added support. That’s not the only unusual design feature in this tripod, however — it’s also hiding a smartphone cradle that’s impossible to misplace. When it comes to an all-in-one design, the ProMaster Chronicle thinks of (almost) everything.
Table of Contents
The Big Picture
Speed, stability, and flexibility are the name of the game for the ProMaster Chronicle. With a unique center column design that hides a second tiny tripod, this tripod has several different setups in one. The ProMaster Chronicle is a full-height tripod, a tabletop tripod, a monopod, a monopod with a base, and a video grip all in one. A unique ball head design allows the Chronicle to swap between cameras and smartphones without packing any extra clamps or accessories. The ball head, with its panning base and optional handle, also makes quick work of panning shots or quickly tweaking composition.
While that center column design is flexible, it limits the height and prevents it from rotating for flat lays. Photographers a bit north of six feet tall may not quite be able to get the tripod to eye level because the center column doesn’t add much height. The panning base also seemed to have spots that turned a little slower.
The ProMaster Chronicle is launching on Kickstarter, where backers within the first 48 hours can get the aluminum version for $239 (42 percent off retail) or the carbon fiber version for $319 (36 percent off retail).
For photographers that need to have a pro tripod one minute, than a content creation tool the next, the ProMaster Chronicle tripod’s versatile design makes it a great choice. I’m giving the ProMaster Chronicle four out of five stars.
- Unique center column design creates a wide variety of set-ups
- Includes both a full-height tripod and a tabletop tripod
- Converts to a monopod or a monopod with legs for added support
- No need to remove the camera; convert from full height to tabletop in seconds
- The phone cradle is built in, so you don’t have to remember to pack it
- Ball head with a panning base and optional pan handle allows for a wide range of camera movement and panning techniques
- Very sturdy
- The carbon fiber version is lightweight
- Center column design limits height (max is about 59 inches)
- Panning is a little sticky on one side, which can occasionally create inconsistent panning speeds
- Compact, but not as small as travel tripods
I tested the carbon fiber version of the Promaster Chronicle with the Leica Q3.
Two-in-one tripod monopod combinations are common, as are tabletop tripods that double as video grips. But the ProMaster Chronicle tripod combines those concepts. It’s a tripod and monopod, but it’s also a tabletop tripod, and grip completely separate from the full-length tripod legs. The design of the ball head that integrates the phone cradle — making it nearly impossible to lose — and meshes a ball head with a panning handle are also unique features.
The ProMaster Chronicle is a convertible tripod that aims to hit nearly all the possible uses of a tripod — and monopod — in a single product. It functions as a tripod, tabletop tripod, video grip, monopod, and monopod with legs. Oh, and it swaps between the camera-mountable quick-release plate and a smartphone attachment in seconds. And that’s just the legs — the ball head has an optional handle that allows it to function more like a video or pan and tilt head.
The ball head sits on a panning base, which is labeled in degrees of motion. Above that, the small knob locks this panning base, while the large knob locks the position of the ball head itself. The head has a panning grip on it, but if undesired, the grip can be removed. The quick-release plate slots in the top and is held on by a dial tightening the Dovetail mount. But remove that quick-release plate and unscrew a small knob at the side, and the top flips up and becomes a phone cradle. While I’ve used tripods with integrated phone mounts before, they usually involve screwing and unscrewing the mount in. This design is faster but also means that I’m less likely to lose the phone cradle since it’s built into the head itself.
The ball head sits inside what Chronicle calls a Flexor Multifunctional Center Column. Rather than just a metal tube that adjusts the height, the Flexor column can be removed from the legs entirely and used as a handheld video grip. Tug on the bottom of the column, and three mini tripod legs pop out. These legs create a small tabletop tripod and can also be screwed onto the end of the monopod leg. The tabletop tripod has a locking ball joint, which, when used on the end of the monopod, allows for quick angle adjustments by tilting the monopod.
The carbon fiber legs use four sections adjusted with twist locks with a removable rubber foot at the bottom. The legs have three different possible angles. One leg — the one with the grip wrap — can screw into the ball head to create a monopod, with the option of using the tabletop legs inside the center column as a monopod base.
The tripod includes a bubble level on both the legs and the ball head. The Chronicle ships with a bag, which also has an interior pocket for stashing any loose pieces and a set of Allen wrenches for tasks like removing the video arm.
The Chronicle isn’t small enough to be considered a travel tripod. This is partly due to the fact that the legs don’t reverse to fold over the head. But it’s not terribly large, either. Folded, it measures just under 23 inches. The carbon fiber version weighs 4.19 pounds and can hold 22 pounds of gear.
One of the downsides of the center column design is that it doesn’t add very much height because you can’t raise it past those tabletop legs. This also means that it’s a four-leg section tripod yet doesn’t quite fall under the travel category. It fits in the included bag nicely and isn’t terribly large, but may be more cumbersome to strap onto a backpack or fit in an airline carry-on. I would describe it as compact, but I wouldn’t use the term travel tripod.
The Chronicle still had plenty of height for me — I’m about five foot two — and even without using the center column at all, the tripod was a bit too tall with the legs fully extended. Taller photographers may not be able to squeeze enough height from the tripod. The max working height is about 59 inches, which is just under five feet.
What the Promaster Chronicle lacks in portability, it makes up for in stability. With only three leg sections, it’s pretty sturdy at full height. It’s not foolproof, but it feels a bit sturdier than the tiny four leg section travel tripods that I’ve used in the past.
In high winds or to walk away from the tripod as it records for an extended amount of time, the second angle spread setting for the legs adds even more stability and peace of mind. This takes away some of the height. But it also takes away some of the worry that an animal or human could accidentally bump into it and knock it over. With the angled legs, I can kick at one of the legs, and the camera isn’t going to take a tumble.
After owning a twist-lock monopod that would randomly shorten as the locks came undone while I was using it, I’ve been an avid supporter of flip locks. But, I wasn’t terribly bothered by the twist locks on the Chronicle. If I double-check the locks on the monopod, I could lean my weight into it without the legs shortening. Of course, if the locks aren’t quite tight, the legs will shorten with a lot of pressure put on them. That’s the downside to any twist lock is that the speed you gain is negated by the process of ensuring the locks are tight, where flip locks make it visually obvious that the locks are tight.
My only complaint on the build quality — outside of flip locks being my personal preference — is that the panning tended to stick on one side. If you’re being really picky or shooting video, you may notice the panning speed isn’t entirely consistent 360 degrees around.
Ease of Use
Most tripods can function similarly to tabletop tripods if you leave the legs short and wide. So why even bother adding separate tabletop legs? The answer is speed. You can leave the regular tripod legs at the desired height, slide the center column out without even removing the camera, and quickly pop out those tabletop legs. It’s just as simple to reverse the process. Switching back and forth between height adjustments on a more traditional tripod is annoying and time-consuming. Those tabletop legs can also be used to add stability to the monopod mode, a feature that’s typically reserved for dedicated monopods and not the convertible type.
Another thing I hate is looking for the little cradle attachment that allows me to use my phone with my tripod. With the Chronicle, the cradle is built in — you can’t lose it unless you break it off. That’s one less thing to pack. But it also hints at who this tripod is made for. The flexibility screams content creator. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. If a photographer wants a tripod that will shoot astro but will also hold the phone for a behind-the-scenes video to feed the algorithms, the Chronicle has that flexibility.
At the same time, that flexible center column design is less flexible in other ways. It doesn’t rotate to shoot flat lays. If you use the second widest leg angle setting, you can still turn the camera to the ground using just the ball head movement and still not get the tripod legs in the shot with a 28mm. Again, the center column design also limits the height.
One of the best parts about the chronicle is how fast it is to switch to different setups. All it takes to go from a full-height set to a tabletop is unlocking one knob and a quick pull. You don’t even have to remove the camera. To go from camera to smartphone, it’s just a twist to release the quick plate, unlock the phone clamp, and slide the phone in. Monopod conversion is slightly longer — unscrew the leg that has the textured grip, unscrew the ball head, then mix the single leg with the ball head.
Who Should Buy It?
If you need to switch modes from full height to tabletop, from serious photographer to content creator in seconds, then buy the ProMaster Chronicle. The designs is unique and versatile, but while it has a handful of tools for content creation, it’s also plenty sturdy enough for hardcore photography as well. The speed of switching from full height to tabletop, from camera to smartphone, is what sets the tripod apart from other options. That, and the ability to convert to not just a monopod but a monopod with a three-legged ball base.
If your eyes sit more than 59 inches from the ground, you’ll likely want to skip the Chronicle and go with a traditional design where the center column can add more height. If you need to fit your tripod into a carry-on bag or want something to hike with, there are also more travel-friendly options on the market.
Promaster lists the following specifications for the carbon fiber version of the Chronicle tripod:
- Maximum working height: 59.05” / 150 cm
- Minimum working height: 8.25” / 21 cm
- Folded length: 22.95” / 58.3 cm
- Maximum load: 22 lbs. / 10 kg
- Weight: 4.19 lbs. / 1.9 kg
- Cold weather performance: -4 degrees F / -20 degrees C
- Handle weight: 3.13 oz. / 89 g
- QR plate weight: 1.13 oz / 32 g
- Height 3.94” / 10 cm
- Base diameter: 1.97” 5 cm
- Weight 3.88” / 9.84 cm
- Maximum phone size: 3.88” / 9.84 cm
- Minimum phone size: 2.56” / 6
- Tripod legs
- Maximum working height: 55.12” / 140 cm
- Minimum working height: 4.33” /11 cm
- Leg angles: 22, 50, 80
- Platform diameter: 1.77” / 4.5 cm
- Folded length: 19” 48.3 cm
- Weight: 3.33 lbs / 1.51 kg
- Leg section diameters: 28, 25, 22, 18mm
- Flexor specs
- Height with legs spread: 9.25” / 23.5 cm
- Length with legs folded: 13.78” / 35 cm
- Weight: 1.52 lb / 691 g
- 3-leg base only weight (not including ball head): 7.62 oz / 216 g
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