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Velbon CX640: Features
Aimed at the semi-professional photographer, Velbon say that the CX640 will take all DSLRs and most medium format cameras. With a maximum weight capacity of 4kg, medium format models such as the newly announced Pentax 645D and 55mm f/2.8 lens won't have a problem at a fraction of that weight. But what about other cameras? The Hasselblad H4D 40 weighs just under 2.3kg with the HC80mm lens fitted while the Mamiya 645D II weighs 1.7kg with the 80mm f/2.8 lens fitted so neither should provide issues for the Velbon CX640.
As part of the lightweight range, the tripod could be used well by travelling landscapers and wedding photographers. The D-profile leg locks are easy to open and keep the legs firmly in place. Low-level photographers won't benefit from the CX640 because of the leg braces. They're great for that extra bit of sturdiness and ensuring that the legs are all out at the same angle keeping the head level, but not for allowing the legs to be widened to get the head lower to the ground.
Made from a mixture of aluminium and plastic to keep the weight down, the tripod feels sturdy enough but a main problem with lighter tripods is the increased tendency to move around in strong winds. The pan/tilt head is built-in and the quick release is plastic, along with the release latch. It works fine although I would've liked to see some metal in the construction because of its continued use it could wear down easily. I would also like to see the option to keep the latch open in case I'm using heavy equipment and need to use two hands which can sometimes happen.
Despite my thoughts on landscapers getting some use out of the CX640, there are no spiked feet on the legs and they aren't available as an addition either.
Velbon CX640: Handling
The large D shaped releases on the legs mean that opening the tripod to full extension is quick and only takes 15 seconds without extending the centre-column. The centre-column is extended by using the crank handle and a friction control system prevents your camera from getting damaged if it slips suddenly.
The video style pan/tilt handle makes panning easier.
A quick release plate is included but is entirely plastic which could wear quickly.
It's a smallish tripod at 65cm when fully closed down although the minimum height is 59cm. At 1.75kg, it's also very light and easy to carry. While it doesn't come with a strap supplied, it does come with a case in the box.
Velbon CX640: Performance
The Velbon CX640 can take almost anything that's fitted to it with its maximum weight capacity of 4kg. It took me leaning on the tripod to get the legs to force into and it was the bottom ones that caved first.
At full height, the tripod is extremely unstable. I had the Nikon D90 with the standard 18-105mm zoom lens fitted and it shook very easily. Even a slight breeze would be enough to give blurry pictures. The CX640 is understandably more solid and secure when the when the centre-column is fully retracted and if you need to go higher than this, then maybe think about getting a different tripod.
The pan/tilt head is built-in and the quick release is plastic, along with the release latch. It works fine although I would've liked to see some metal in the construction because of its continued use. I would also like to see the option to keep the latch open in case I'm using heavy equipment and need to use two hands which can sometimes happen. On top of this I also found it to wobble slightly with manipulation when a camera was attached which could succumb to a strong wind and as it's used frequently it will start to weaken with stress.
The pan/tilt function on the head is operated using the large pan handle and works by unscrewing the handle to release it. This type of handle is used on video tripods as well, so this tripod could be used by aspiring videographers. Other areas that move such as the orientation and centre-column use screw thread knobs to loosen them.
Velbon CX640: Verdict
Comparable tripods at the same price price point are the Manfrotto 785B Modo Maxi at £42.99 and while it has 5 leg sections to close up to a tiny 17.5cm and top height of 150cm, it can only take a maximum load of 1kg. The Slik Sprint Pro II GM tripod at £64 also offers a small minimum size at 17cm and a comparable top height of 161.5cm but only has half the load bearing capacity at 2kg.
The Velbon CX460 is priced at around £49 which is pretty good for a tripod of this size and weight bearing capacity. However, because of this price point, you're not going to get either bells or whistles but the build quality is good. I think pan handles are easy to use and like the inclusion of one on this tripod. There's no way of getting close to the ground because of the braces and no way to invert the centre-column. It means that the tripod is limited in its capability, but what it does do, it does well. If I was looking for a lightweight, cheap and cheerful tripod with a pan handle for some video work, then this is a tripod I'd consider.
Velbon CX640: Pros
High load capacity for the price
Pan handle for smoother panning
Velbon CX640: Cons
Plastic quick release catch
Can trap fingers between the legs and braces
|Quick release||Yes, plastic|
The Velbon CX640 costs around £48.49 and is available from Warehouse Express here: