Vanguard, once known for budget priced and budget quality tripods, reinvented themselves as a brand a few years ago, their tripods have won prestigious awards, gained reputation amongst professional photographers and impressed the industry. And now with this latest Nivelo 204SL model they aim to appeal to the mass market.
Vanguard Nivelo 204SL: Features and handling
The Vanguard Nivelo 204SL is a new breed of compact tripod designed for use with those SLR style mirrorless camera and the more sophisticated point & shoot style compacts.
It's a really compact and lightweight model that measures just 30cm when folded but can be extended quickly to 101cm. To extend the legs you just grip a leg and twist clockwise to release and slide while doing so to extend. This one action can get the leg from collapsed to fully extended. Three quick twists and the tripod is ready for use.
You can choose to adjust one section of the leg and retract that if you need a shorter height for uneven surfaces.
The head has a standard tripod mount that will fit all current cameras with a thread in the base. And there's a tilt lock so it can be swivelled 90 degrees to take portrait format shots. Another lock lets you pan which is good for those cameras with a panoramic stitching feature. Unlike many compact tripods, the centre column has an anti spin feature to prevent the camera position moving when the height lock isn't locked.
The head also has a bubble spirit level built in, so you can ensure everything is lined up evenly.
But one of the main selling points of this model is its reversible column. It's not a new feature but it's rare to see on a compact tripod and especially the way this one works. With many you have to take the column out. On this one you slide it to the end and swivel it through 180 degrees. You can then shoot from the ground. This is ideal for macro photography or creative angles.
It comes with a soft nylon style storage bag with a draw string closure, but it doesn't have a carry strap.
Vanguard Nivelo 204SL: Performance
Despite the light weight the Nivelo 204SL is quite a sturdy model. Ok, it won't stand up in gale force wind but for general support it's fine, don't expect to hold an SLR with a long lens it will be too flimsy, but for compact users or Olympus/Panasonic/Sony style hybrids it's ideal. You may not consider yourself a tripod user but this looks quite trendy and isn't too heavy to carry around. Shame the carry case doesn't have a strap.
The reverse feature is quick to put into action. You can do it with the camera attached unlike many and getting right down to the ground level gives you an opportunity to shoot sharp photos that others would miss.
The legs lock easily but with all twist lock types you have to be sure you've tightened enough or the leg starts to slip. And you don't want that to happen while taking a self portrait as watching the thing topple over in front of your eyes is not a pretty sight. The legs don't have defined locks and with the all in one action design it's easy to miss tightening one section.
Vanguard Nivelo 204SL: Verdict
This is so light you wouldn't feel put out if you had to carry it around all day. The advantage is you're likely to take it more than you would a large heavy tripod. It's quick and easy to use so you won't be holding people up if you stop to take a photo. And it's surprisingly sturdy for the size. A definite winner especially with the swivel centre column. You'll be able to get some creative shots with this! The downside is the price. If you shop around you'll find tripods with similar quality at half the price (or less), but none have the instant reverse column so you have to weigh up whether that's worth £30!
Vanguard Nivelo 204SL: Pros
Quick to extend
Vanguard Nivelo 204SL: Cons
No carry strap on the pouch
Ball and socket would be a more useful head
|VALUE FOR MONEY
Vanguard Nivelo 204SL: Specification
|Number of Legs sections
||Aluminium alloy and Plastic
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