Built from carbon fibre and boasting a new quick release lever for the centre column, reversible centre-column and supplied ballast bag, is the Velbon GEO E540 the perfect tripod for the landscape photographer?
Velbon GEO E540: Features
Matt Grayson takes a look at one of the professional series of carbon fibre tripods from Velbon.
Priced at £199, is the GEO E540 worth the money or is it a red herring?
As part of the new GEO range, the E540 has a carbon-fibre and basalt composite construction for added strength and rigidity as well as an innovative quick release for the centre column.
Aimed at the hardcore traveller, the GEO is a durable but small tripod that comes with its own pouch for travelling and can also have stones or weights placed inside for ballast in strong weather conditions. When the hook and centre-column are attached, the tripod can't be stood up when fully retracted as the hook is too long.
At first glance, the new quick release lock looks like a connector for the strap, but that's on the opposite side. It works by pulling the silver section down with your thumb then moving the lever to a horizontal position. The centre-column can then be moved up and down as required. When you're done, reverse the method.
Using the quick release centre-column lever is a cinch, simply pull down with your thumb and lift up.
The lever can be seen here with the ballast hook attached to the centre-column.
The legs are made of carbon fibre for excellent strength and they're made in a new twisted spiral design that makes extension and retraction smoother and faster. On the end of the legs are the rubber balled feet that conceal spikes for use in tricky landscapes. The legs can move individually from each other which can sometimes lead to lopsided photographs if they aren't out to the same angle and there's no spirit level to make sure it is level.
Ultra low angle photography can be achieved by moving the legs out by flicking the small plastic gauge over to the side. The top of the tripod leg is stepped to allow three different settings to splay the legs out to.
The GEO E540 doesn't come with a head attached but has a 1/4in screw which will take a multitude of different heads including ones from other manufacturers. Heads to consider include the Velbon QHD-51Q
at £48.73 which has a quick release plate, spirit level bubble and large ball. If you prefer three-way heads, the Velbon PHD-51Q
would be a reasonable option at £92. It also has a quick release plate and spirit level bubble and is relatively small.
Velbon GEO E540: Handling
With practice, the tripod can be set up pretty quickly, I managed to get it done in 20 seconds and this could be faster if you needed it to be. It's really easy to do as the locks are on levers. When the tripod is retracted all three levers are close to each other so they can all be snapped out together.
This is one of the lightest and smallest tripods I've encountered for the market that it's aimed at. Once it's packed into its pouch, it can be slung over your shoulder and forgotten about until it's needed. The strap is a strong canvas type with big plastic buckles to keep it connected to you.
Velbon GEO E540: Performance
As part of the professional line, the GEO E540 is very well made. The carbon fibre legs are finished to a high standard and they're lovely and smooth, but I don't see a difference between them and the Manfrotto 190CX Pro because they're just as easy to extend and retract. I do like the addition of the markers on the legs so you can get them all the same length, something which the Manfrotto doesn't have.
At full extension, the head is actually quite rigid. My main concern is the weight of the tripod because it makes it easy to move in high wind. Luckily, the small pouch that comes with the tripod can be attached to each leg so heavy items such as rocks can be put in it to add ballast.
If it wasn't for the quick release lever for the centre-column, turning it upside down would be a real chore because the column has to be unscrewed, changed over and reattached. The tripod is still sturdy enough while shooting upside down. The legs can be splayed out to nearly 90 degrees for a low viewpoint and the centre column can be unscrewed to get the tripod low enough.
I found the tripod extremely easy to travel with. The large strap connects to the pouch and tripod so you can keep hold of it all together. Although the tripod doesn't fit all the way in, I think this is actually a good idea simply because it means you can get the tripod out a lot quicker.
Velbon GEO E540: Verdict
While the GEO E540 is a lovely tripod base, at £199 it's the same price as the Manfrotto 190CX Pro4
which is also carbon fibre, has a higher load capacity and has a lower minimum height. However, it's slightly bigger and heavier than the Velbon. The Q90 horizontal system on the Manfrotto is the killer and to remain competitive, the Velbon needs to drop in price. Bring it down in price a fraction and Velbon have a set of legs that will be well worth buying.
Velbon GEO E540: Pros
New quick release lever for the centre-column
Ballast pouch included
Leg length markers
Velbon GEO E540: Cons
Price is a bit too high
Reversing the centre-column is a bit of a drag
Velbon GEO E540: Specification
|Maximum height (inc. centre-column extended)
The Velbon GEO E540 costs around £199 and is available from Warehouse Express here:
Velbon GEO E540