Easels are like fashion styles, they are personal and designed to fit different taste and styles. You have to figure out which one works for you. There are minimalist who believe that simplicity is the best route especially when it comes to plein air painting. I have to agree they are probably on to something from experience, but then I am a gadget person and tend to want the latest new thing that improves the set up to paint. There, I admitted it.
Table Top Style
I have one of these and do use it from time to time, but usually just to display things or to dry a current work I need to move off my regular easel. Not so practical for Plein Air, but believe me I have seen people try to use them.
Telescoping Easels are lightweight and I have one I travel with and have used in hotel rooms when my husband is busy in meetings all week and I need to entertain myself. Frankly they are best for displaying a placard outside a meeting in the hotel than using to create art, but some people love them.
If you travel to most tourist locations you will see an artist or two out painting. Sometimes they are by the side of a road painting bluebonnets in Texas, or on a street corner in Paris painting a building. There are as many different choices for those artist to use in easels as there are in choosing art stores. The French Easel is the most common choice you see. They come in all price ranges from the Hobby Lobby $69 type to the Italian ones that are hundreds of dollars.
These can be interesting and annoying to set up. After watching people try to set them up, it seemed like giving birth to a giraffe might be easier. Adjusting the legs, which can go all kinds of directions is a chore in itself and not as much fun as you might think. Okay, so I will admit I was attracted to all the devises they make for these contraptions.
That umbrella is pretty sweet, but my fear is Oklahoma wind. It is strong enough to carry away the whole set up!
Finally, I settled on a Pochade Box. The photo below is the set up I have for Plein Air painting. It is by Wind River Arts in Texas and uses a camera tripod for the base. Not as easy to use as I had hoped, but I am too invested in it to replace it at this time.
It fills the need for my gadgets, but definitely has some issues. Too bad you cannot choose easels like finding a prince. You need to kiss a few toads before finding the right one! However, most artist I know don't have that luxury and have to dance with the one they came with!