In this hands-on review, I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about the Feisol Tournament CT-3442:
How it works.
Who should buy it.
And whether it can stand up to the rigors of serious use.
I’ve now tested the Feisol Tournament CT-3442 for dozens of hours–doing landscape photography, street photography, and long-exposure night photography. Some of that time was spent in bitter cold; while carrying this tripod, I’ve faced snow, rain, hail, and more.
So if you’re trying to decide whether this compact, travel-type tripod is right for you, then you’re in the right place.
Let’s dive right in.
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The Feisol Tournament CT-3442 Tripod: Overview
The Feisol Tournament CT-3442 sits comfortably in the mid-level, compact tripod arena. It’s ultra-lightweight, very durable, and decently sturdy, which makes it a great option for two types of photographers:
Serious shooters looking for a sturdy-but-lightweight travel tripod, and hobbyists looking to get their first professional-grade tripod (one that can handle significant strain, as well as the rigors of long-exposure images).
What makes this tripod unique is its combination of price, size/weight, and sturdiness, but also its durability. I haven’t used the Tournament CT-3442 for long, but I can already tell that it’s going to last a long time; even in the short amount of time I’ve had it, the CT-3442 has handled rain, snow, hail, and cold, and it’s come out unscathed.
That said, there are a few downsides to the CT-3442. There’s no center column in the box (you do have the option to purchase separately), and while this can impact stability somewhat, it also places your camera fairly low over the tripod legs. If your camera body has a decent width and your head isn’t unusually tall, you’ll feel restricted when capturing verticals (and true vertical panoramas will be next to impossible).
The CT-3442 is also relatively short, making it a less ideal option for people over the height of, say, 6 feet.
I’ll go into more detail below, but let’s first take a look at the tripod specs:
- Material: Carbon Fiber
- Maximum height: 54.3 in/137.9 cm
- Minimum height: 7.9 in/19.6 cm
- Load: 55 lb/24.9 kg
- Weight: 2.4 lb/1.1 kg
- Leg count: 3
- Leg sections: 4
- Leg lock type: Twist
Now let’s take a closer look at the ins-and-outs of the Tournament CT-3442:
Feisol Tournament CT-3442: Build-Quality and Size
If you’re looking for a lightweight-but-sturdy tripod, then carbon fiber is basically your only option–wood is heavy and aluminum isn’t much better. Even then, not all carbon fiber tripods are created equal, and some just can’t handle the rigors of serious use, let alone casual, everyday work. If you want a well-built carbon fiber tripod, one that’ll last years and can handle whatever you throw at it, you’ll need to pay a premium, often 600, 800, or even 1000+ dollars.
Fortunately, Feisol manages to keep the price of the Tournament CT-3442 fairly reasonable (just over 400 dollars for the legs) while giving it some real durability. It feels solid straight out of the box, both in its compact form and with all the legs fully extended. And after weeks of testing, my impressions haven’t changed: The Tournament CT-3442 is just plain strong, despite being extremely lightweight.
Because, yes, the Tournament CT-3442 is unbelievably light, weighing in at 2.4 lb (1.1 kg). It’s hard to overstate the magnitude of this; even an extra pound can make a difference in the field when you’re hiking for days with a camera, a tent, and a tripod–or even when traveling from plane to plane with a tripod in your luggage. In fact, the CT-3442 is the lightest tripod I have ever tested and is noticeably easier to lift than its chief competitors, including the Sirui 2204 (3.7 lb) and even the very light Induro CLT104 (2.8 lb).
Now, the Tournament CT-3442 is light, in part, due to its compact build. It’s a fairly small tripod overall, and can easily fold down into a very manageable size (I’d go so far as to call it ‘backpack ready’). But this can become a problem if you’re a tall person, or you’re looking to have significant height flexibility with your tripod. The maximum working height of the CT-3442 is around four and a half feet, and even with a tall tripod head you’re still going to need some slouching or bending to put your eye up to the camera’s viewfinder (if you prefer to work using the back LCD, things will be a bit easier, but you’ll still struggle unless you have a tiltable screen).
It’s true that travel tripods often sacrifice height to make them more lightweight and travel-ready. But while the Tournament CT-3442 may not seem short compared to other travel tripods on the market, other options often include a center column that’ll push them above the Tournament CT-3442.
For me, a man of average height (5’10” or so), the Tournament CT-3442 didn’t feel unreasonably short, but I often found myself wanting more height in shooting situations–where I was photographing over the railing of a bridge, or photographing architecture with a foreground element I wanted to avoid. Of course, whether this is a dealbreaker for you depends on your shooting style and your height. For me, it’s manageable, and the Tournament CT-3442 has quite a few other advantages that make it a worthy pick.
Feisol Tournament CT-3442: Ergonomics and Ease of Use
For a long time, I didn’t use a tripod in my photography.
My work suffered for it, but I had some bad experiences with tripods and couldn’t bring myself to carry a heavy, difficult-to-use piece of equipment into the field (or so I thought).
Fast forward a few years, and I now use a tripod more often than not, because they’re dead useful. And I’ve discovered that the right tripod doesn’t feel like a burden to carry around. Instead, I want to have it with me.
That’s the sort of feeling that a good tripod should inspire in its users. It comes from a few factors, including size and weight (discussed in the previous section), but also aspects such as leg locking speed, the ease with which you can adjust the tripod legs, and the time it takes to set up and take down in the field.
So how does the Tournament CT-3442 fare?
Fortunately, quite well.
While I do have a few nitpicks regarding ergonomics, I’m mostly just impressed by how easy the Tournament CT-3442 handles. The twisting leg locks are a breeze to use–they’re big and grippy–and while I haven’t tried to time my setup and takedown speed, it feels like I can take the Tournament CT-3442 from fully compact to fully extended in a matter of seconds, which is often key when you’re photographing in rapidly changing conditions.
Plus, the legs extend easily, and you won’t have any problems adjusting their length in the field. If you’re looking for an easy-to-operate tripod for use in fast-moving situations, the Tournament CT-3442 is an excellent option.
One aspect that could use some improvement is the way the legs are positioned. Some tripods offer locking mechanisms where the legs meet the tripod base, but the Feisol doesn’t. In practice, this means that you have no way to keep the legs in a particular position on, say, slick surfaces with a weighty camera setup. Sure, the legs tend to hold their position pretty well, but I’d like some form of locking to make things feel more stable.
On the other hand, if you’re a macro shooter, or if you frequently shoot from an ultra-low angle, you’ll be a fan of the Tournament’s leg flexibility. They splay outward at a near 90-degree angle, allowing you to get just inches above the ground. This is perfect for photographing flowers on the forest floor, photographing architecture from a low perspective, or even photographing birds and animals for that signature low-angle look that wildlife photographers love.
My main issue regarding the Tournament CT-3442 is the wide base. When testing this tripod with my Acratech Nomad ball head, I frequently found that I couldn’t capture a vertical shot, because the tripod base and legs kept coming in contact with my Canon camera body. It wasn’t impossible, but took a lot of finagling, something that photographers who frequently shoot in changing conditions won’t be thrilled with.
Presumably, you can avoid this issue by purchasing the optional center column, but not everyone will be interested in paying for this, especially because it pushes the Tournament CT-3442 into another price category. An alternative might be to use a tall ball head, or to use a gimbal head instead–but good ball heads are expensive and the gimbal design isn’t suited to all types of photography.
Overall, I like the Tournament CT-3442. It’s easy to handle, and the issues I’ve highlighted certainly don’t make it unusable. All tripods in this price range are going to come with tradeoffs, but this model is still a cut above many others.
Feisol Tournament CT-3442: Stability in the Field
If you’re in the market for a new tripod, then stability is probably your number one concern.
Especially if you’re coming from a poor tripod experience, or from a tripod that you’ve recently grown out of.
Now, there’s a myth when it comes to tripod stability:
That some tripods are stable, and other tripods are shaky, and that’s that.
Fortunately (or unfortunately), things aren’t so simple. The truth is that tripod stability is a spectrum, not an easy yes/no specification. Pretty much all tripods are stable enough for sharp shots in the most basic of conditions: a windless room, with a 10-second self-timer (or a remote), where you’ve tightened all the legs locks and placed the tripod feet on hard, even ground.
Of course, things are rarely this simple in the field. You’re often working with wind, on soft or uneven ground, potentially with rain, snow, rushing water, or any number of other issues. So the real question is: How does the Tournament CT-3442 hold up in more difficult situations?
Generally speaking, the Tournament CT-3442 performs well. Photos taken with the tripod, my Canon EOS R, and my 24-70mm f/4 lens show good sharpness throughout, even with the lens fully extended at 70mm. I took a number of longer exposures (in the 5 second to 20 second range), and these have a nice amount of detail.
Tripod technique has a part to play in this: I used a remote and an electronic shutter, and I was also careful to avoid touching the tripod or the camera during use. But I wasn’t always working in the easiest of conditions, and the Feisol seemed able to handle most of what I threw at it.
Where the Tournament CT-3442 struggled, however, was on soft surfaces. I took a few shots on grass and found them to be near-unacceptably soft. This could be improved if I had taken more time to anchor the tripod, but this is where retractable spiked feet (which exist on a number of competing models) would be helpful.
I also tested the Feisol by magnifying the feed on my camera and observing the time it took for the image to stabilize completely after taking my hands off the camera. The tripod did a good job of dampening vibrations–it took only a second or two for the magnified details to become sharp.
Finally, I performed a (not very rigorous) test:
I mounted my camera setup onto the tripod, then took long exposure images while I lightly tapped the tripod legs. Unfortunately, these images did come out a bit soft. And while it’s tough to draw conclusions, it makes me question whether the Tournament CT-3442 could manage to deliver sharp shots in high winds or in rushing water (i.e., in a river or being buffeted by waves).
Here’s the bottom line:
For a tripod at this price point, offering an excellent lightweight body and great compactness, the Tournament CT-3442 is a good-to-great performer. I would hesitate before using it in the situations described above (high winds, fast-moving water), but as a travel-ready, ultra-light model, the Tournament CT-3442 should offer you good stability in every other key situation.
Feisol Tournament CT-3442: Who Is It For?
The Feisol Tournament CT-3442 isn’t the flashiest tripod out there, nor is it the most rugged. But it offers a great compromise of price, stability, handling, and durability, making it one of the best options you can find in the 300-500 dollar price range.
Here’s what the Tournament CT-3442 does well:
First, it’s extremely light. You can carry the Tournament CT-3442 for hours and hardly even notice it’s there, making it perfect for photographers who travel frequently, walkaround tripod photography, and anyone who takes a tripod on long hikes.
Second, the Tournament CT-3442 can fold up into a little bag (Feisol includes one), and it could probably fit in a big backpack or suitcase. This cements its status as a great option for travel photographers.
Third, the Tournament CT-3442 is easy to use. The large leg locks allow you to rapidly set up the tripod in critical situations, and the tripod is also quick to take down. If you shoot landscapes in rapidly changing light, or you’re the type of photographer who goes from scene to scene in a matter of minutes, then the Tournament CT-3442 is a good fit.
Finally, the Tournament CT-3442 is nicely stable and can handle outdoor shooting on hard surfaces without a hitch. I wouldn’t feel comfortable using the Tournament CT-3442 in rough circumstances, however, so I’d only recommend the tripod to those who need an everyday tripod. If you’re a professional landscape photographer who works in water as often as you work on land, then you might want to go for a (significantly more expensive and heavier) rugged tripod model.
Otherwise, the Feisol Tournament CT-3442 is a fantastic choice.
To read more about the Feisol Tournament CT-3442 or to see more products from Feisol, take a look at the company’s website!
Who should buy the Feisol Tournament CT-3442?
The Feisol Tournament CT-3442 is a great option for travel photographers, landscape photographers, or architectural photographers who are looking for a sturdy, pro-quality option but don’t need the sturdiest (and heaviest) options out there. The CT-3442 is incredibly lightweight and compact, which makes it great for all kinds of travel and outdoor photography.
Is the Feisol Tournament CT-3442 a good travel tripod?
Yes! The Feisol Tournament CT-3442 is great for travel, thanks to its compact body and light weight. It’s extremely easy to carry around (I often go out with it on my back and hardly even notice), plus the small form factor allows you to pack it away in a camera bag or suitcase without having to worry about taking up too much space.
Is the Feisol Tournament CT-3442 good for landscape photography?
The Feisol Tournament is an excellent tripod for landscape photography. It’s impressively rugged and can withstand quite a lot of battering; it’s also lightweight, which makes it great for backpacking trips and hikes. The biggest drawback you’ll come across as a landscape photographer is its sturdiness–because while the Feisol Tournament CT-3442 is decently sturdy, and in-line with plenty of other travel tripods, you’ll struggle to get sharp shots in wind or moving water.
Can you use the Feisol Tournament CT-3442 for long exposure photography?
Absolutely! The Tournament CT-3442 will get you some great long exposure shots in good conditions. You’ll want to be careful in heavy wind or in moving water, however, because it’s easy to knock the tripod around. If you do find yourself in those conditions, I recommend compacting the tripod legs until you’re working at its lowest height; this will cut down on shakiness and ensure sharper shots.