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Carbon Fibre tripod group test Review

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Category: Tripods, Monopods and Other Supports
Product: Carbon Fibre tripod group test

Carbon Fibre tripod group test - What has 17 legs and a big head? Matt Grayson doing a tripod group test.

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Tripod Group test
With the nights longer at this time of year and the snow giving us more water than usual, it's time to bring on the tripods. Matt Grayson tests six carbon fibre models to see which is the best value for money.
The premise is pretty simple for this group test: Test tripods that have a height of around 140cm with the centre column down, take a load capacity of around 8kg and have carbon fibre tubing. I couldn't have these settings precise as it would limit the tripods available to one or two, so some will have a higher load bearing while some are lighter or bigger. Price will play a part in the test as well but will tie closely with value for money meaning that the expensive ones still have a chance if they're worth the money.

Carbon Fibre tripod group test: Specification
 
 
Velbon CF-537
  • Closed length: 63.5cm
  • Maximum height: 166cm
  • Maximum height: (centre column down) 120cm
  • Weight: 1.29kg
  • Load capacity: 4kg
  • Colour: Black
  • Material: Carbon fibre tubing & magnesium alloy body
  • Leg sections: Four
  • Centre column: Rapid
  • Column tube diameter: 25mm
  • Attachment (top): 3/8in screw
  • Price: £251.73
Carbon Fibre tripod group test 
Slik Pro 713EZ
  • Maximum height: 175.1cm
  • Closed length: 64.5cm
  • Maximum height: (centre column down) 139cm
  • Weight: 1.86kg
  • Load capacity: 4kg
  • Colour: Black
  • Material: Carbon fibre tubing
  • Leg sections: Three
  • Centre column: Rapid
  • Column tube diameter: 24mm
  • Attachment (top): 3/8in screw
  • Price: £292.63
 Carbon Fibre tripod group test
Vanguard Alta 284CT
  • Closed length: 50cm
  • Maximum height: 155cm
  • Maximum height: (centre column down) 128cm
  • Weight: 1.37kg
  • Load capacity: 6kg
  • Colour: Black
  • Material: 6x layers carbon fibre tubing
  • Leg sections: Four
  • Centre column: Rapid
  • Column tube diameter: 28mm
  • Attachment (top): 3/8in screw
  • Price: £399
 Carbon Fibre tripod group test
Giottos MTL 8361B
  • Closed length: 68cm
  • Maximum height: 160cm
  • Maximum height: (centre column down) 144cm
  • Weight: 1.81kg
  • Load capacity: 8kg
  • Colour: Black
  • Material: 6x layers carbon fibre tubing
  • Leg sections: Three
  • Centre column: Rapid
  • Column tube diameter: 28mm
  • Attachment (top): 3/8in screw
  • Price: £224.49
 Carbon Fibre tripod group test
Manfrotto 055CX Pro3
  • Maximum height: 175cm
  • Closed length: 65cm
  • Maximum height: (centre column down) 140cm
  • Weight: 1.65kg
  • Load capacity: 8kg
  • Colour: Black
  • Material: 3x layers carbon fibre tubing & magnesium castings
  • Leg sections: Three
  • Centre column: Rapid
  • Column tube diameter: 28mm
  • Attachment (top): 3/8in screw
  • Price: £214.99
 Carbon Fibre tripod group test

ePHOTOzine says: On paper, they all have their own attributes to put them apart from the others. Obvious companies to look at are Manfrotto, Gitzo and Giottos for the names alone but that doesn't mean that the others won't offer something equivalent or better.
Price wise, the Giottos looks the obvious choice at half what the others are listing at but it's also the largest when folded down and has the most advantages. The Vanguard will have to be something special to justify the £342 price tag but does offer a carbon fibre centre column the same as Manfrotto.

Winner:
Giottos

Carbon Fibre tripod group test: Features
Manfrotto hailed the new CX series as the first tripods with 100% carbon fibre construction but other manufacturers have been quick to follow in their footsteps. The Vanguard and Giottos also have a carbon fibre centre column and this makes the Vanguard lighter than the Manfrotto.
Casting an eye over the tripods, the Giottos looks the most majestic with its shiny surface while the Slik has a lovely gold badge to try and convince me that its possibly more upmarket.
 
Carbon Fibre tripod group test
Some of the models have spiked feet such as the Slik. They can retract into the rubber foot if you don't need to use them.
Starting from the bottom, three of the five on test have spiked feet so if you're the type of photographer that needs this feature such as landscape photographers, then stay away from the Manfrotto and Giottos as they only provide rubber feet. Saying that, in my own photographic capacity, I've never been drawn to using spiked feet and even shooting landscapes on wonky terrain, I've not needed them.

Levered leg releases have pros and cons to them. On the one hand they're easier to unclip and release the legs and they're faster to get the tripod extended which is good if time isn't on your side. The twisting leg releases are slower but you naturally grip onto the leg while loosening it preventing it from slipping and crashing down. This is beneficial if you're a wildlife photographer and the twisting type last longer as the levers have a tendency to come loose eventually. Luckily, the tripods will come with a set of tools for tightening the joints back up if this happens to you which is great.

All tripods will enable the legs to extend out at extreme angles allowing for the camera to get closer to the ground which is good for macro photography or wildlife shooting through grasses to get that reportage effect. Velbon, Slik and Giottos use a similar design of pulling a clip out to allow the leg to rotate round further although it has to be said the Giottos feels the better made of the three with a definite movement as though it's lubricated. Manfrotto use a pad that's pushed in while Vanguard have a similar pad on the side of the leg which tend to be the easier to use out of the two different designs.
 
Carbon Fibre tripod group test
The Q90 system from Manfrotto gets the centre column into a horizontal position in seconds. However, this is at a loss of a ballast hook.
Carbon Fibre tripod group test
Giottos offer a similar system but it's slower to set up.
Manfrotto are famed for their Q90 centre column system where it can be moved from a vertical to a horizontal position. This helps massively with macro photography as well as wheelchair users as they are able to get right behind the camera a lot easier. The Giottos also offers this feature although it's not as easy to use. With the Manfrotto, the centre column needs to be extended to its full height then a small button in the bottom is pressed to retract the preventative clips which otherwise stop the column from falling out. This technique has the disadvantage of not being able to provide a ballast hook. The Giottos does provide a hook and also has to be fully extended to change from vertical to horizontal but the column will come clean out if you're not careful so it's best not to have anything attached to it. It also works slightly different as it has a ratcheted joint at one side which can be loosened and tightened to perform the action.

The other tripods all have at least one feature that's different to the others which is intended to set them apart. Vanguard have installed an anti shock ring which is essentially a rubber band sat at the base of the centre column to prevent it crashing down if you forget to tighten it. Slik have installed a secondary centre column tightening ring on the actual column if you prefer to use that style of tightening. Velbon have provided a ball head with a pan handle which is a pretty neat idea. It works like a fluid ball head but you have the control of a pan and tilt head.

Because of the removable heads from those three, it's unfair to test and compare them but the head on the Velbon is its unique feature so has to be mentioned. The Slik has a pan handle for tilting up and down and a small lever for releasing the pan left and right.

Of the three that don't come with heads, the Manfrotto and Giottos have tightening screws to catch the head and fix it tight. The Vanguard doesn't provide this unfortunately which could mean that excessive panning could loosen it resulting in the head eventually falling off the legs.

Both the Manfrotto and Giottos have spirit levels included on the legs while the Vanguard doesn't but it was present on the head provided. The Slik also has a spirit level on the head which is built into the unit while the Velbon doesn't have one at all but has markers on each leg to ensure you get the legs perfectly aligned. This is actually a very useful design as it's easy to get the legs off centre and simply use the head to get everything straight. This is counter productive and having the legs at an oblique angle will increase the chances of the tripod falling over.

ePHOTOzine says:
They all have their own merits and the Manfrotto seems to have the edge on new technology and innovative design. However, the Giottos attempts to match the Manfrotto with their own systems coupled with a slightly bigger and, frankly, nicer looking unit.

I like the leg markers idea on the Velbon and the actual operation of releasing the legs on the Vanguard is nice. I also think the larger, secondary lock for the centre column on the Slik is a good idea.

Winner:
Giottos

Carbon Fibre tripod group test: Build quality
All tripods on test have a carbon fibre build on the legs but they're also built to a different standard. For instance, the Manfrotto has three layers of carbon fibre material which makes it really strong. But then consider that the Giottos and Vanguard have six layers this makes it even stronger, but does that cause problems with weight? It appears not as the Vanguard is lighter than the Manfrotto by 30g.

Operating the spiked feet feature on the Velbon, Vanguard and Slik isn't all too difficult but the Vanguard does offer more resistance. It could be due to the rubber feet giving more friction which is easier to grip onto when turning them but the plastic ones on the Slik have sprockets.

I've always preferred levers on the leg releases but that doesn't mean that the twisting types aren't as good, it can simply be down to personal choice. Vanguard are proud of their single twist and release system for quicker use although I discovered the Slik has the same feature.

The Slik is the heaviest of the five weighing in at a hefty 1.86kg. Ok, so that's not a back breaker but consider that weight against the Velbon which is 1.29kg and you have a difference of 600g. It's the long days out carting equipment up hills and down dales that you'll appreciate any lack of weight that the lighter tripod will provide.

ePHOTOzine says:
One of the parameters of the test was that they were all carbon fibre units. That makes the build quality roughly the same but some units have six layers of material such as the Vanguard and Giottos whereas the Manfrotto only has three. This makes them potentially even stronger without an excess of extra weight added.

Winner:
Giottos, Vanguard

Carbon Fibre tripod group test: In use
Operability is just as important on a tripod as it is on a camera so if you have a tripod with levers that are too difficult to undo then it's going to cause disappointment if it means you miss a shot because you were still setting up.

Vanguard have kept it simple with only two different moveable parts in the centre column and leg release buttons. Everything else is done on the head you decide to choose. Velbon are the same while Manfrotto have the Q90 operation and Giottos & Slik have the extra centre column tightening collar.

I'm a little disappointed with the Slik's leg extension performance as it has a tendency to get stuck if your hand is at an even mildly oblique angle. I love the whistle noise that the Velbon makes as the air inside the leg is compressed out of the tripod and Manfrotto legs extend in the usual definite clunking fashion.

All models are precise in their operation and built to a good standard. With regards to fitting heads to the models that are legs only, Manfrotto and Giottos offer small screws under the plate to fix the head in a more solid way. Vanguard doesn't do this which is a shame as I personally sometimes forget to undo the head before panning and this set up causes it to come loose and possibly fall off.

At full extension, the Giottos feels the more stable of the group and I think it's down to a wider spread on the legs. It's also the tallest but is closely followed in height by the Manfrotto. Vanguard have also produced a strong model and the one I'm most disappointed with is the Velbon which doesn't feel as secure as the others.

ePHOTOzine says: It's difficult to sway to one or the other when they all give remarkably similar results. I think in these cases it's easy to tunnel vision the most well-known company but it's good to see what some might call an underdog breaking through because apart from the lack of tightening screws on the plate, the Vanguard is a worthy tripod. It keeps things simple and feels pretty solid.

Winner: Vanguard

Carbon Fibre tripod group test: Verdict
All tripods have distinctive attributes that will make them more attractive to certain people but then you may miss something that one of them has which could cause you to choose that one instead. That's what these tests are for and it's also great to see that it's not always the big hitters that provide the best stuff.

Carbon Fibre tripod group testGranted, Manfrotto have produced a sterling tripod that will suit a great many people down to the ground but Vanguard also have a great tripod that's easy to use and has a better build quality due to the higher number of carbon fibre layers. It's just a shame it's so expensive.

What's interesting is that Giottos have produced a tripod that can do everything the Manfrotto can. It does perform these tasks slower, such as the horizontal centre column but then has the added benefit of the weight hook.

I think because of the amount of features that the Giottos MTL 8361B offers and at a comparable price, it has to be the winner of the group test. I'd like to give a special mention to the Vanguard Alta 284CT which also performed well but doesn't offer the features of the Giottos.





Carbon Fibre tripod group test: Plus points

Velbon CF-537
Leg markers
Lightest in group
Spiked feet
Slik Pro 713EZ
Centre column tightening collar
Spiked feet
Single twist leg release
Giottos MTL 8361B
Horizontal ability
Ballast hook
Six carbon fibre layers
Tallest in group
Centre column tightening collar
Vanguard Alta 284 CT
Centre column cushion
Six carbon fibre layers
Ergonomic leg release
Carbon fibre centre column
Single twist leg release
Manfrotto 055CX Pro3
Q90 horizontal ability
Magnesium head
Brand peace of mind
Quick to use

Carbon Fibre tripod group test: Minus points
Velbon CF-537
Doesn't feel secure on the ground
Leg release clips vibrate when tapped
Slik Pro 713EZ
Heaviest in group
Retracting legs is pesky
Giottos MTL 8361B
Slower performance
Least compact
Vanguard Alta 284 CT
Most expensive in group
No head screws on the top plate
Manfrotto 055CX Pro3
Least amount of carbon fibre layering
Lack of ballast hook

Velbon CF 537
FEATURES

BUILD QUALITY


IN USE

OVERALL
Slik Pro 713EZ
FEATURES

BUILD QUALITY

IN USE

OVERALL

Giottos MTL 8361B
FEATURES

BUILD QUALITY

IN USE

OVERALL

Vanguard Alta 284 CT
FEATURES

BUILD QUALITY

IN USE

OVERALL

Manfrotto 055CX Pro3
FEATURES

BUILD QUALITY

IN USE

OVERALL


The Velbon CF-537 costs around £252 and is available online. See the Velbon website for other details:
Velbon CF-537

The Slik Pro 713EZ costs around £293 and is available from Warehouse Express here:
Slik Pro 713EZ

The Giottos MTL 8361B costs around £224 and is available from Warehouse Express here:
Giottos MTL 8361B

The Vanguard Alta+ 284 CT costs around £400 and is available online. Take a look at the Vanguard website for more details:
Vanguard Alta+ 284 CT

The Manfrotto 055CX Pro3 costs around £215 and is available from Warehouse Express here:
Manfrotto 055CX Pro3


 


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Comments

dave9t5
dave9t5  5
3 Mar 2009 - 2:58 AM


Quote: "The Slik is the heaviest of the five weighing in at a hefty 1.86kg. Ok, so that's not a back breaker but consider that weight against the Velbon which is 1.29kg and you have a difference of 60g. Again this is equal to around a quarter of a cup of water which you probably won't notice on everyday shoots."

It's a difference of .57kg...570g. It's equal to 570cc of water...about two and a half cups of water. It should be a noticeable difference everytime it's toted.

In a supposed technical report, this error is egregious.

Even more interesting than the absolute weights are the specific load-capacities. The Slik has the lowest load-capacity, despite being the heaviest. It's {load-capacity:weight} ratio is only 2.2 (=4kg/1.89kg). The Velbon is an admirable 3.1 (higher is better). But, the Vanguard is 4.4, the Giottos 4.4 and the Manfrotto 4.8, so the Slik has 1/2 the specific load capacity of most of other 'pods.

Of course, the load capacities are manufacturer's claimed specs; it's possible that some are more conservative than others, so field results are more telling.

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3 Mar 2009 - 9:14 AM

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MattGrayson
3 Mar 2009 - 9:14 AM

Hmmm, interesting. I researched this and came to this conclusion. However, I spotted the glaring error that I took a kilogram as being 100g instead of 1000g.
I've amended the review to reflect this new information. thanks for your comments.

phil_m
phil_m  11 United Kingdom
3 Mar 2009 - 9:44 AM

i bought the giottos mtl 8361b from warehouse express last week,
i just can't fault it,granted,it isn't as compact as some of the competition, but, build quality, features and of course PRICE, gave it my vote

lumix
lumix  7
6 Mar 2009 - 3:07 PM


Quote: I bought the giottos mtl 8361b from warehouse express last week,
i just can't fault it,granted,it isn't as compact as some of the competition, but, build quality, features and of course PRICE, gave it my vote

Check out the MTL8360B - a 4 leg section version, so folds up about 10cm shorter.

brian1208
brian1208 e2 Member 109963 forum postsbrian1208 vcard United Kingdom12 Constructive Critique Points
11 May 2009 - 2:22 PM

I was quite disappointed when I checked out the price of the Giottos tripod, "around 127 " turned into 224.49! Sad

makes a bit of a change to the conclusions maybe Matt?

MattGrayson
12 May 2009 - 1:14 PM

It certainly does. My only guess is that it was typo on the site or something. I normally leave price changes as they do move up and down constantly and it'd be a full time job monitoring them but as it's such a hefty increase I've amended the review to reflect it.

Luckily, the results weren't based on price so they remain. Sorry for the confusion. Smile

tmkirk
tmkirk  8 England
8 Oct 2010 - 6:33 AM

I know this is 18 months too late, but I had the Giottos' and it was a brilliant tripod. I really liked the leg locks and the weight was better than my old heavy Manfrotto 190B; however, within 6 months the centre column bush wore to the point where the centre column could be moved by almost 10 degrees even when fully locked down: not good for a tripod. The 5 year guarentee was useful, but I decided not to wait and see if it would happen again, so went for the Manfrotto 190CX Pro4. This is lighter again, and 18 months on is doing its job with aplomb and I got it for 180, bargain.

Last Modified By tmkirk at 8 Oct 2010 - 6:37 AM
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