In the market for a new tripod? Over the past year, we had the opportunity to test an ultralight tripod for this Field Optics Research MicroLite review. I was able to pair the Field Optics Research FT-5017C (Carbon Fiber version) tripod with the Field Optics Research Ultra Low-Profile Pan Head. Like with other gear we review at Backwoods Pursuit, this tripod and head were put through an entire season of abuse to find where it excelled, and where it didn’t.
Love optics? We certainly do here at Backwoods Pursuit, so make sure to check out our MONSTER 26 BINOCULAR REVIEW, as well as our massive 19 SPOTTING SCOPE REVIEW. For both of those reviews, we lined up the optics and tested them side by side!
The Specs: Field Optics Research MicroLite Review
Most of us start our search for a tripod by looking through the specs, so before diving into the details of how this tripod and head performed in the field, let’s go over the basic specs:
The Specs: Field Optics Research MicroLite Review
- Weight: 1.74 lbs or 27.84 oz
- Folded Length:12.2″
- Load Capacity: 26.4 lbs
- Max Height: 50.4”
- Min Height: 16.16
- Leg Segments: 5
- Tube Diameter: 23 mm
- Retail Price: $189.00
the Specs: Ultra Low-Profile Pan Head
- Weight: 10.7 oz (Carbon Fiber handle)
- Pitch Angle: +65/-65
- Head Style: Pan Head
- Plate Style: Arca Swiss
- Mount Thread 3/8-16
- Plate: 60 mm
- Load Capacity: 25 lbs
- Size: 1.9” x 2.9” x 3.7”
- Retail Price: $129.00
The Field Optics MicroLite FT-5017C tripod is constructed with 23 mm/8 Layer carbon fiber and is one of the lightest options on the market in its class, weighing in at a mere 1.74 pounds. Add in the 10.7 ounce Field Optics Research Ultra Low-Profile Pan Head, and you’ve got one of the most lightweight and adjustable setups out there. With so many tripod and head options on the market today made offshore, I was also excited to learn that Field Optics Research products are made right here in the U.S.A with the main office being located in American Fork, Utah.
The Testing: Field Optics Research MicroLite Review
To give this thing a thorough testing for this Field Optics Research Microlite review, I used this tripod and head throughout my Colorado summer scouting beginning in early June, archery hunting in September, and on a rifle mule deer hunt in Idaho in late October. In making the switch from an entry level ball head tripod in the Vortex High Country Tripod (older model) that cost me under $99 at the time, I was excited to get to do this Field Optics Research MicroLite review, topped with the Field Optics Research Ultra Low-Profile Pan Head.
Where it Shined
During this Field Optics Research MicroLite review, this tripod and head truly shine when it comes to being versatile and compact. Like most western hunters these days, I was drawn to this combo to be packing under 2.5 pounds for an extremely small and compact, but very versatile, setup. I sat both my Swarovski SLC 10×42’s (using a Swarovski SLC Tripod Adapter) and my Kowa TSN-773 spotting scope atop this tripod and head combo throughout my testing. Compacting down to right around 16”, the tripod and head fit easily anywhere in my pack.
For ease of access, I usually ended up strapping it in the side pocket of my pack. I found the adjustability to be wildly different than my previous tripod that had two leg segments that were adjustable. Pair that with my previous tripod having a ball style head, and I was in for a big change with my new setup. The Field Optics Research MicroLite FT-5017C has 5 leg sections and 4 twist lock style adjustments.
Because of this, it is highly adjustable to fit your specific glassing setup. After compacting, I could easily loosen or tighten all four twist locks with one hand. Once the tripod is fully extended, each twist lock must be loosened individually, which proved to be a bit cumbersome.
This design definitely took a bit of getting used to, as I often found myself failing to tighten one of the 12 twist lock joints as I was in a hurry to get my eyes on the mountain while setting up to glass. This would result in one of the segments slipping and the tripod starting to collapse. User error for sure, but something I had to remind myself of to prevent my optics from taking a tumble.
The benefit of this style of setup is that there is virtually no scenario where you cannot get this tripod setup exactly perfect for glassing across the canyon. I found myself on several incredibly steep hillsides over the course of scouting and hunting, requiring me to have the furthest leg extended nearly all the way out and the two closer legs only slightly extended. The stability was still incredible – all because of the adjustability of the leg segments. The legs are all tipped with a rubber foot, which made for very secure glassing, and I had no issues whatsoever with the tripod wanting to slip down the mountain even on very steep incline.
Throughout this Field Optics Research Microlite review, I found the locking angles for each leg to be extremely useful. They allow for 23, 50, and 85 degree angles which allows you to adjust to your specific glassing situation We rarely get to glass from a perfectly flat piece of real estate in the mountains, so the ability to make this adjustment is critical. Again, this tripod absolutely excels in versatility and adjustability when on a steep incline.
Ultra Low Profile Pan Head: Field Optics Research MicroLite Review
I found the handle of the Ultra Low Profile Pan Head to be extremely easy to adjust to my personal preference. At 10.5” in total length with a rubber grip over the end of the carbon fiber base, the handle makes for easy gripping and smooth movement, but it definitely is on the longer side for an ultralight pan head.
When sitting behind my glass trying to spot an animal, the last thing I want to have to worry about is being able to move it efficiently where I want to be looking. By loosening one pin on the head, you can rotate the handle in a 360-degree fashion. With this design, the Field Optics Ultra Low Profile Pan Head allows for adjustment to have the handle pointing anywhere.
My personal preference for full range of motion is to have the handle pointing “out and away” from me when using binoculars, so when I’m in tight behind my glass I am not worrying about accidentally bumping the handle with my binocular harness. When using it with a spotting scope, though, I prefer having the handle towards me as I found that to be more comfortable. However, the adjustability of the handle and the swivel head can accommodate having the handle any direction you prefer.
The handle of the Field Optics Research Ultra Low Profile Pan Head features a gear-style locking mechanism for the handle which allows for the handle to be angled up, down, or to the side. Again, this handle design absolutely excels in versatility and adjustability. I was super impressed with the creativity of the design compared to some lower end brands I have used in the past. The Arca Swiss plate style was extremely easy to use and locked in nice and tight.
What Could be Better
I did notice an ever so slight “play” in the base of head. Even with the dual sided tilt hinge tightened all the way down, there was a small amount of movement. This play was most noticeable under the heavier weight of my spotting scope. After getting my scope pointed where I wanted it and locking it down, there was a very small “drop” in the field of view. It was very minor, but I had to adjust slightly to begin with the scope pointed a smidge above my intended field of view. I even had my hunting buddy, who is well versed in tripods, take a look and he picked up on the same issue.
For my personal preference, I think having just one knob to tighten/loosen the tilt to lock down my optics would make the Field Optics Research ULP pan head easier to use. Best I could tell, the play seemed to originate from where the head screws onto the tripod. The double section center post of this tripod adds to the overall versatility, but seemed to reduce the stability. Again, it was very minimal, but noticeable in certain instances when I was glassing.
Durability: Field Optics Research MicroLite Review
As with most of my hunting gear, this tripod/head took quite a beating throughout the season. For this Field Optics Research Microlite review I wanted to give it the same treatment as my other gear. Somewhere around day 22 of use in the field, I noticed a very slight rattle when I was assembling the tripod to glass. I didn’t think much of it as I planned to address it at the end of my Idaho hunt and go over all of my gear to ensure everything was in working order like I usually do.
However, 4 days later and on the second to last day of that 7-day hunt, I was setting up to glass a gorgeous Idaho basin in hopes of locating a mature mule deer buck. When I went to extend the legs, I got an unexpected surprise “boing.” The minor rattle I had been hearing was one of the screws locking in the tripod legs that had slowly been getting loose. It finally came all the way apart and the spring and a couple of washers went flying in the Idaho backcountry.
Needless to say, TRI-pod glassing became BI-pod glassing that evening, and the tripod was out of commission for the remainder of the hunt. While I was bummed to have this happen during a hunt, it was preventable had I taken the time to ensure all of the screws on the leg were tight. I didn’t expect to have this issue in my first year using this tripod/head, but the miles hiking and dirt biking had taken a toll leading to this issue. This was a reminder for me to always take the time to look over my gear if something seems off!
Customer Service: Field Optics Research MicroLite Review
Upon my return from that hunt, I reached out to Field Optics Customer service. They were great to work with and had me send the tripod back in for repair since a few of the washers and the spring launched somewhere on the mountain and I could not find them to attempt the repair myself.
I received the tripod back roughly 8 days from when I initially mailed it in, so the Customer Service team was on top their game and got it repaired and turned back around to me in a hurry. Gear failing on the mountain is never ideal, but the Field Optics customer service crew were awesome to work with, and I have had no further issues since. I am always appreciative of companies that stand behind their products, so I was very glad to get this issue remedied in a timely fashion.
What I liked: Field Optics Research MicroLite Review
There was a lot to like after doing this Field Optics Research MicroLite review. Its compact size, super light weight, versatility, and quality carbon all make this a great tripod for someone who is looking for an ultralight tripod that fits very nicely in your pack. The best features of the Field Optics Research MicroLite carbon fiber tripod were:
- Light weight
What I Didn’t Like: Field Optics Research MicroLite Review
I also walked away from the Field Optics Research MicroLite review with few things I thought could be better. With 5 leg sections on each leg, a 2 section center post, and two separate tilt knob adjustments on the ULP head, I found that it took longer to set up as it was a bit cumbersome.
The tripod’s stability was good, but not great when using a spotting scope, as I found a little play in the center post joint, which was more of an issue with my Kowa TSN 77mm spotting scope than when using with my binoculars. I was also disappointed that it came apart on me while in the field, but it was a lesson for me to not ignore those rattles in my gear.
- Too many leg sections
- Too many knobs/levers on ULP head
- Leg came apart in the field
- A little play in the center post joint
Conclusion: Field Optics Research MicroLite Review
After doing this Field Optics Research MicroLite review, I was very pleased with the versatily and adjustability this tripod offers. When paired with the Field Optics Research Ultra Low-Profile Pan Head, it made for a great jump from my entry level ball head style tripod that was well worth the money. This setup truly is one of the lightest and most versatile on the market and was a welcome addition to my pack.
The design does take a bit of practice to get completely comfortable with because of the multiple components/adjustments that allow for so much adaptability. Because of this, I would definitely recommend spending a bit of time with this tripod/head before heading to your favorite glassing location. It has many more “bells and whistles” than some others on the market, so being familiar with the layout is key to efficient glassing. This ultralight tripod and head would be a great addition to your pack if you are looking for a compact, ultralight and versatile tripod.
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