A Shore to Call Home
I’m of the opinion that with most things in life…relationships, work, etc…there is almost never a perfect situation. You have to look at the all of the pluses and minuses, run a little cost benefit analysis and decide what compromises you can live with. Gear is no different.
Now, just a few short weeks ago, I found myself traveling across the country to Cali for some photo exploration and education. Last time I made that trip, I flew Southwest, where bags travel free and I put my very large, very solid Manfrotto in the luggage. This time, I flew a different airline and tried like hell to avoid bringing anything more than a carry-on with me. That meant I needed a much smaller tripod, as the average height of a carry-on bag is between 20-22 inches.
I found myself with a bit of a dilemma. You see, to me, having a rock solid base is important. Furthermore, I’m 5’ 10” with a bum knee, so crouching down is difficult over long periods of time. Having a tall tripod is a major plus, in my book. Also, I’m not a big fan of twist lock legs…just a preference, I guess. I find it unnecessarily time consuming, and generally speaking, not as solid as tab locks. At some point, every kind of twist lock I’ve used eventually slips because I didn’t tighten it enough. No thanks. I’d rather just flip a quick lever and set up is done.
My Manfrotto fills all of those requirements, and I love it. I just don’t love it for traveling!
In the time I’ve had the Manfrotto, I have more than once wished it were a bit lighter. It’s a beast to carry up a mountain. Also, because it is a tall tripod (with center column extended, it can reach above my head) with only three leg sections, it is bulky. When it hangs off of the back of my bag, I feel like I spend a lot of time apologizing for hitting it on people and things. Haha
So, the trip to California (and my upcoming hike in August for a Mt. Washington sunrise) were exactly the impetus I needed to do some tripod research and spend a few bucks. Now, price is a big factor for me. My life goals involve spending most of my excess money making memories, not collecting things. However my photography goals involve making the best quality images I can, to the best of my ability at any given point in my life. This means I wanted to find a durable, lightweight, 4 section tripod that opened up to be tall enough for a giant like me, with enough weight to it that it wouldn’t fold in a breeze, but not as heavy as my current tripod. Oh, and for a reasonable price.
I spent a bit of time on Google looking up the best tripods out there, specifically brands that wouldn’t require international shipping (because that costs extra, duh!), that fit the description I was looking for. My search led me to Induro, where I read enough reviews about their adventure series (versus their more expensive carbon fiber options) to make anyone’s eyeballs cross. For approximately $150, I felt that the ABK (sometimes labeled as ABK0, depending on the store) was worth taking a chance on.
Slacker Hill Sunset, Courtesy of David Pasillas Photography
So, the pro’s… this tripod is extremely light weight (I had more than one panic attack wondering if it had fallen off my bag), folds down to about 20 inches (fit in my carry-on), has lever lock legs, and provides a sturdy base for the camera. Like most tripods, it becomes less sturdy with the center column extended, but I tend to use a shutter remote or a timer, so it helps combat some sources of potential vibrations down the tripod.
Now for the con’s…this tripod is not really tall enough for me. Even adding several inches for the camera, with the center column fully extended, I still need to bend down a bit. For situations where I want the sharpest image possible (and therefore didn’t extended the center column), I tended to set up the composition using live view which required less bending. I tried using the center column hook to add some weight to the tripod in the wind, but if the center column was up, the weight of the bag below it slowly dragged it down. I didn’t even bother using the bag hook feature a second time. In high wind situations, I just put my hand on the top of the tripod, where the legs come together, and leaned some of my weight onto it. That did the trick and was an easy compromise, given how much I enjoy this tripod’s other features.
Some of the reviews I read spoke harshly of the ball head that came with the tripod, but I had no problems with it. (Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, you don’t have to buy that separately…for $150 you get the whole kit! Plus a carry bag, which I didn’t use, because it has the name on the side and I don’t like to advertise how expensive my gear is to potential muggers. Haha) The plate is smaller than I’m used to, but the plate lock is solid and keeps my camera safely attached, so as far as I’m concerned it does its job. I used the ball head/plate combo with a Canon 7d and a variety of lens sizes…no slippage!
Overall, at this point, I would recommend this tripod. It appears to be solidly built and any of the features that don’t quite meet my requirements are easy to work around. And hey, for less than $200 you get a great piece of equipment with a strong company name on it. For me, it was a good investment. I’m glad I took a chance on Induro. Read more about their products at http://www.indurogear.com
The photo at the top of the page is of a dark and cloudy sunrise on the shore line in Santa Cruz, California…and also the first series of shots taken with the new tripod. :-)