A sturdy, yet inexpensive tripod comes under the gaze of Duncan Evans
There's no two ways about it. Either you're a ball & socket man, or you live and shoot by the three-way pan & tilt head. The ball & socket design allows free-form movement that's vital for tracking moving objects from the sturdy platform, while the pan & tilt allows easy manipulation of the shot on the vertical or horizontal planes. The Calumet 7300 tripod comes with a pan & tilt medium size, three-way head, which is removable as it's fixed with a large screw. Touted as a lightweight tripod, perfect for digital and 35mm SLR cameras, the first reaction is one of being impressed with the solidity, the second is that it's only lightweight if you're a part-time body builder.
- Max height: 171cm
- Minimum height: 27cm
- Closed length: 62cm
- Maximum load: 5kg
- Weight: 2.6kg
- Bubble spirit level
- Three leg angles
- Split central column
- Three year guarantee
The three solid legs come with quick-release locks to enable them to be extended and locked into position, while the top of the legs have three settings for the angle of extension. Note that you can't lock the angle of the leg into position, but they are very heavy and sturdy and rest against each of the three angle positions, so should be very stable. One of the leg angle settings enables the tripod to be used very close to the ground, with the legs splayed right out, and you can remove half of the shaft as well, enabling a very low shooting position. Foam padding on each leg makes it easy to hold. The feet end in rubber grips which don't slip on any surface with reasonable friction.
Moving to the head, the pan & tilt mechanism has two handles that rotate to lock and unlock while a spirit level helps keep everything level and straight. The quick-release plate is just over 5cm by 3.5cm, so will hold an SLR comfortably, though the actual head extends to a full 8cm across.
The tripod features very solid legs and quick snap releases.
The pan and tilt head with a bubble spirit level.
With a split-central column and wide angle leg position, the 7300 offers very low shooting positions.
There are some resemblances to Giottos and Manfrotto tripods and this quick-release plate is interchangeable so you won't be stuck for parts.
The plate is inset with rubber, softening the grip. The quick-release mechanism works well enough, so once the plate is connected to the camera, it can be attached and removed swiftly. The plate only has the screw for the camera, not a locking element, but it still keeps it very secure. The head attaches to the tripod body with a standard 3/8th inch screw thread, so can be swapped with other heads when the need arises.
The tripod is rated to take up to 5kg in weight, which will cover pretty much any 35mm or digital SLR. It's also ranked as a lightweight tripod, which, while not being a back-straining dead weight, it really is not. The finish is a resistant matt black, though the actual leg paint may get scratched more easily.
The design is simple while the construction from China feels reassuringly solid. There aren't many frills – carry handles, spiked grips, compass etc, but I like the leg extension locks, the pan & tilt head feels secure and the price isn't going to scare the bank manager at just £56.
Very low shooting position
Quick snap leg extensions
Very solid construction
Three angles of leg position
Leg positions don't lock
Central column lock has plastic turnkey