Leica Trica and Trima tripods with DH 1 head

Two new tripods have recently been launched by Leica to complement its existing digiscoping kit, closing the product portfolio gap and providing a complete digiscoping package from a single supplier. The new equipment consists of the DH 1, a compact, low-profile fluid head with a built-in counterbalance system, and a choice of tripods in either lightweight carbon fibre (Trica) or compact magnesium (Trima).
Armed with the full monty of Leica’s D-Lux 4 digital compact camera and digiscoping adapter, APO-Televid 65 scope and both tripods, I was keen to discover if the products – and particularly the head – were user-friendly and up to the job of supporting the kit in the field.
Although the two tripods are a similar weight, they are very different in structure and appearance. I found the ‘leggy’ carbon-fibre Trica to be a robust, well-engineered and solid piece of equipment, extending to 1,750 mm, even before you attach the head, which adds a further 85 mm.
This tripod provides a very stable support for straight eyepiece scopes – particularly if you are tall – and I did not need to extend the centre column. This meant no time was taken up adjusting the height, and stability was not compromised, as it so often can be with short-legged tripods where the centre column needs to be significantly raised to achieve a comfortable viewing height.
The Trica is not best suited to use with an angled scope on full leg extension, as this renders the scope too high to look through. In this instance it is sufficient to have just one set of legs extended without even raising the column if you are of a modest height – at six-feet tall, I had to extend the column for comfortable viewing.
The magnesium-based Trima weighs only 180 g less than the Trica and extends to a maximum height of 1,600 mm. It is smaller and initially feels and appears less robust. Appearances can be deceptive, however, and this was certainly the case during the extensive field use to which it was subjected. This model saw the most action in the field simply because I was able to use it with the angled APO-Televid most comfortably at full leg extension.
Both tripods are easy to use and comfortable to carry over the shoulder; they are both relatively lightweight and a good proportion of the top leg section is foam padded. The leg sections on both models slide in and out smoothly, but those of the Trima tend to cross at the ends when fully extended, sometimes making them difficult to push back in simultaneously – a minor gripe.
The leg lever locks are well positioned externally and hold each section firmly in place without being too stiff to operate. There is, however, apparently no means of adjusting the tension should they work loose over time. Multiple-angle positioning of the legs to just short of 90 degrees to the centre column is possible with both tripods and may be a consideration if you are using the tripod in confined or awkward spaces.
Compact and neatly engineered, the DH 1 head supports up to 4 kg and features a quick-release plate. It is made from a polymer that is 30 per cent lighter than magnesium, adding only 570 g to the weight of each tripod.
The head’s internal counterbalance system is undoubtedly its most impressive technical feature, allowing you to make mechanical adjustments to accommodate optical assemblies for which the centre of gravity is not positioned directly above the apex of the tripod. Engaging the counterbalance system – by turning and pushing in a small knob on the head – provides an internal tension that effectively resists the gravitational force acting on the ‘heavy end’ of any unbalanced optical equipment, keeping it balanced on the tripod.
The degree of applied counterbalance can be adjusted for different equipment against an incremental scale on the head. Disengaging the system, by using the same knob, allows the head to function ‘normally’, with pan-and-tilt adjustments controlled and locked by turning two finely milled rings, which will fix positioning horizontally and vertically.
If you’re not using the tripod with the counterbalance mechanism engaged then the vertical lock is difficult to secure using the ring. I found it too finely milled to grip tightly and it could be improved by being replaced with a ring which is deeply notched or winged, similar to that which locks the centre column height at the base of both tripods. For this reason I preferred to engage the counterbalance system even when I was not digiscoping.
In terms of accessories, the head comes in a draw-string cloth bag for dust-free storage, while the tripods come complete with zip-up padded cases.
                       Trica tripod    Trima tripod    DH 1 head
Price                    £539            £385             Included
Construction    Carbon fibre    Magnesium    Polymer
Weight                 2,100 g         1,920 g          570 g
Max height          1,750 mm*    1,600 mm*    85 mm
Min height            380 mm         370 mm        85 mm
Closed length        70 mm           69 mm             –
Guarantee          10 years       10 years        10 years
*excluding DH 1