Photography is a balancing act with this gravity-defying tripod head

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Riddel Precision Instruments LLC
A father-son engineering team is aiming to make the compose-and-lock process of using a tripod a thing of the past with a balanced motion tripod head that stays in place without knobs and dials. The Hitch Hiker recently reached full funding on Kickstarter, with pledges continuing through Jan. 5, 2017.

The Hitch Hiker appears at first to defy gravity — but in reality, it’s just a balancing act. The tripod head’s design balances the weight of the camera, allowing the camera to shift in place and then stay there without locks, though locks are still included for preventing an accidental bump from moving the camera.

The tripod’s balanced motion design allows users to pan on two different axes at once — for example, it can pan left and down at the same time. That versatility allows the tripod head to follow diagonal movements as well as the standard horizontal and vertical movements, opening up possibilities for panning techniques on more subjects.

Cameras can be used on the tripod head in both the portrait and landscape orientation and the head’s range of motion allows most cameras to also point straight up or straight down. Along with accommodating cameras of up to about seven pounds, the Hitch Hiker also holds telescopes and binoculars, while a side arm can also cradle a smartphone next to the main payload.

The head, constructed with an aircraft-grade alloy, weighs 2.5 pounds, and the handle folds for more compact storage.

The tripod head was designed by Charles Riddel, an engineer with 30 years of experience, including 20 years designing telescope mounts, and his son Jake Riddel, who followed in his father’s engineering footsteps eight years ago. The duo together forms Riddel Precision Instruments LLC, a start-up based in Austin, Texas.

The developers say the Hitch Hiker has already been fully developed and tested, with the Kickstarter funds going toward a small pre-production run of the full-production version. Already over the $9,000 goal, the developers expect to ship the first units at the end of February 2017.

The two Hitch Hiker models are available for pledges of $499 or $529, depending on the finish you prefer, and in each case this is about $100 off the expected retail price — but with the group aiming to start with a small first run, all pledges are limited.

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