Well here it is, another gear review. As before when I reviewed my travel tripod (Induro C014 and Markens Q3 Emile ballhead) I’m not real big on statistics and specifications. Rather, I figure out what works for me and what doesn’t. So if you’re a tech head and want to know how many kilograms the thing weighs or how much it will hold, this isn’t the review for you. You can find the statistics easily enough online. Mostly, I just want to relate how these things work. I’ve had the BHD2 head for a while now and have taken it on a couple of shooting trips. The tripod is brand spanking new so the review on it will be pretty sparse.
Vanguard 283CT Carbon Fiber tripod-A few months ago I wrote on a forum that the next time I had to screw my Manfrotto Carbon One back together would be the last time. So when it happened again 3 weeks ago the thing was repaired and on Craigslist the next day. And the search began for a new set of sticks. In the same forum I wrote that after 20 or so years using tripods with lever lock legs I was going back to screw locks based on the way my little Induro C014 travel tripod works. With that in mind I started my research and narrowed my choices to 3 tripods: Induro CT 313, Feisol 3442 Rapid, and the Vanguard 283CT. Well, since I bought the C014 Induro has sort of priced themselves out of my universe. The Feisol was a longshot since there are no dealers around Denver that have them on display. I’m sort of a touchy feely guy and being able to look and touch before buying is pretty important to me. That left the Vanguard. I got a chance to play with one at Mike’s Camera and liked it. They gave me a screaming deal so the thing came home with me. Now on to the review.
At first glance the fit and finish is superb. No sharp unfinished edges, all the leg locks work without having to tighten them with vice grips, and the thing is super solid when everything is locked down. It has foam covering the top section of all 3 legs so it’s easier to grip. Most importantly, it’s tall enough for me to look through the viewfinder while standing straight up. The center column flips over and down to enable low level shooting. I’m not sure how much I’ll use this feature but it’s nice to know it’s there.
For steadiness, this tripod can’t be beat. It passes the vibration test nicely. There is a hook on the bottom of the column where you can hang your backpack and it also comes with a stone sack with velcro fasteners for adding ballast in a windstorm. All in all it’s a pretty steady device.
What I like: Light weight, sturdy, and enough height that I can stand upright and look through the viewfinder without extending the center column. The leg position locks are much easier to use than the Manfrotto or Induro that I’m used to. It also has the tension screws to snug the ballhead to the tripod which my Induro doesn’t have. I haven’t shot with it much but so far I like it a lot.
What I don’t like: Only 2 things here and both are pretty minor. The column has a 1/4X20 thread for attaching the head. This means I have to use an aluminum adapter that screws into the ballhead allowing it to take a 1/4X20 instead of 3/8. The aforementioned tension screws will help but it’s still a piece of thin aluminum that I have some misgivings about. It also has the rubber feet that screw in to reveal spikes. Not sure if I’m going to like that or not. I’ll keep you posted.
Mostly, I’m very happy with this tripod so far. I have only used it a total of 4 hours so far but it’s working out great at this point.
Induro BHD2 ballhead-About the time I started going to lighter tripods to save wear and tear on my shoulders and knees, I also started going towards smaller lighter ballheads for the same reason. I used a Studioball head for many years and it was a fantastic piece of equipment but weighed a bloody ton so it had to go. For the next couple of years I had only a Markins Q3 Emile head. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great little head but the key word there is “little.” The Q3 is great for a travel or backpacking ballhead and handles lenses up to a 70-200 pretty well but I was using it to track Cranes in flight at Bosque Del Apache not long ago and it was having trouble supporting my 100-400 so I started looking for a bigger ballhead. I bopped into Denver Pro Photo one day to check out tripods and was able to make a great deal on this display ballhead so it came home with me. Now for the review.
What I like: Well, it’s solid. It has great fit and finish just like my little Induro tripod. It handles a 100-400 Canon zoom with no problems. It’s quick and easy to adjust and not overly heavy. Once locked in place there is absolutely zero creep even with a 70-200 pointed down at an angle. The controls lock down without extra force and it stays where you put it. The clamp is a pretty quick release, taking only 1/2 turn to release the camera. In short, it doesn’t wash my windows or pump gas into the truck but then I don’t expect it to do those things.
What I don’t like: With one exception there is really nothing I don’t like about this ballhead. I mentioned before that it only takes 1/2 turn of the clamp knob to release the Arca Swiss style plates and that’s exactly it. When you start turning that clamp you bloody well better have a grip on your camera or be prepared to grab it quick. When it releases, it releases quick. The first time was near disaster but I was able to grab the camera before it fell. Whew…..got my heart pumping. Now that I know to be ready it’s okay. Just something I work with. I wouldn’t want them to change the thread ratio so it takes more turns to release the camera. Other than that I really like this ballhead. It’s solid, stays where I put it, and matches perfectly with the Vanguard 283Ct.
So there you have it. A quick and dirty review of my 2 newest pieces of equipment. I think I’ll keep them.