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Velbon Ultrek UT 43D Tripod Review

Velbon Ultrek UT 43D Tripod Review - The compact Velbon Ultrek UT 43D tripod comes under scrutiny of the ePHOTOzine technical team.

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Velbon 4907990332363 in Tripods, Monopods and Other Supports

Features & handling

Velbon UT 43DAmazon brand the Velbon Ultrek UT 43D as the yogapod and it's easy to see why. This model has such a flexible design that it can do a Salute to the Sun with ease! Peter Bargh takes hold and prepares to be spiritually enlightened. Mantras away...

Velbon Ultrek UT 43D Tripod: Features

The thing that makes the Velbon Ultrek UT 43D special is the 180° swivel legs. Where most tripod legs stop at anywhere between 20 and 90 degrees this one's go the whole hog and folds up on the centre column. This makes the tripod smaller when in its compact state. Smaller than most of its competitors, it's so compact it's able to fit into the top part of a medium sized camera rucksack, making it a go everywhere accessory.

Velbon UT 43D compared with Manfrotto 458B
Here's the tripod in its compact state, alongside a Manfrotto 458B.

The tripod features the same Trunnion shaft system legs as the recently reviewed Velbon Ultra Rexi L but with six sections to allow an even greater maximum extended height of 156.5cm.

It comes with a QHD-53D ball & socket head with quick release platform, and a soft bag with shoulder strap.

Velbon Ultrek UT 43D Tripod: Handling

I must admit my emotions where a bit up and down with this tripod. The box it arrives in is as dull as they come. A dark blue coloured corregated affair with just a small label showing a photo and description of the tripod - yawn. When this is displayed on a shelf you'd probably walk by and miss it.

But then opening the box reveals a dinky carrying case with tripod snuggled inside. How compact? You may suddenly want to run to the hills for some tripod photography.

Then I opened it out and saw the wonderful flexible 180° legs. This is cool. But then where's the release for the centre column? How does that retract? I soon found out it doesn't and that, in my mind, is a bit of a flaw. Having a centre column extended is not the best for stability. One hole in the middle of the legs and a locking nut is surely all it would take.

Velbon UT 43D leg extensionsThen I extended the legs and they kept on coming. Jackpot... tiny, but huge.

I like ball & socket heads as they make it easy to get the camera quickly into any position and this one is no exception. I also like the large quick-release plate that can be inserted in any direction. Having used Manfrotto for years where you always have to remember to attach it to the camera the right way round (lens to the front) this is a treat. Also, unlike the recently reviewed Manfrotto MK3-P02, you don't need a coin to attach the plate to a camera as this one has a built in tightener.

Another interesting feature, that took me a while to work out, is the leg angle selector. It's spring loaded to offer three angles for the legs and once you know what you're doing (I should have looked at the instructions!). It's quick and easy to adjust for rock solid positions.

Velbon UT 43D quick release plate Velbon UT 43D angle selector
The quick release plate has a built in
locking lever.
The Velbon UT 43D's leg angle selector

Value For Money

The Velbon Ultrek UT 43D (£180, 35cm-156.5cm) doesn't come cheap at £179.99 but it doesn't have much competition in terms of features and design. Alternative compacts include, from its own stable, the Velbon Ultra Rexi L (£100, 36cm-153cm), the Gitzo GT1550T Series 1 Traveller (£481, 36cm-146cm), the Manfrotto MKC3-P02 (£49, 43cm-165cm),  (Vanguard Nivelo 204SL (£49, 30cm-101cm), and at the budget end of the scale, the Hama Profil Duo III (£25, 53cm-150cm).

Velbon Ultrek UT 43D Tripod: Performance

At first I was using the tripod like a conventional model with splayed legs and felt disappointed with the lowest height of 35cm, but then I realised you could ignore the leg angle selector and flatten the legs to 90 degree making the height 30cm. But even so the protruding centre column was still annoying... and then it clicked. If I angled the front two legs into a new yoga position I could angle the centre column down and get it close to the ground. And once I'd worked that out a new lease of life came. This tripod becomes incredibly versatile and you can shoot from a stable platform of around 9cm from the ground.

Velbon UT 43D low down shooting a bug in a flower
The versatile yoga legs make it easy to shoot from a lower angle than the spec indicates. 

Velbon UT 43D alongside the Manfrotto 438BNot only that, when fully extended, which as I learned from the similar Rexi L is a super fast operation, this tripod is high enough for a five foot ten bloke not to have to stoop when looking through the camera viewfinder, so that will give me a few more years of pain free back/neck problems. 

It's surprisingly stable considering the bottom leg section is less than 10mm thick.

Velbon Ultrek UT 43D Tripod: Verdict

At first I wasn't overly impressed with this model, but after a few minutes of becoming familiar with the features I began to warm to it. And once I started using it and discovered I could get it to a height way below the suggested spec sheet, the versatility doors opened. It allows me to shoot low lying subjects such as flowers and fungi and the maximum height, although not the sturdiest, allows me to shoot without stooping. If Velbon make the centre column adjustable (ideally split) it would add an extra layer of versatility.

So overall a great model for the walker / traveller, but if compactness is less important I'd suggest you look at the Ultra Rexi L which is less expensive and has a more robust structure.

The Velbon Ultrek UT 43D allows me to shoot low lying subjects such as flowers and fungi and the maximum height, although not the sturdiest, allows me to shoot without stooping.

Velbon Ultrek UT 43D Tripod: Pros

Super compact
Quick to extend
Versatile 180deg leg movement
Case supplied

Velbon Ultrek UT 43D Tripod: Cons

Legs can be fiddly to extend
Centre column does not retract

FEATURES Vanguard Nivelo 204SL rating
HANDLING Vanguard Nivelo 204SL rating
PERFORMANCE Vanguard Nivelo 204SL rating
VALUE FOR MONEY Vanguard Nivelo 204SL rating
OVERALL Vanguard Nivelo 204SL rating

Velbon Ultrek UT 43D Tripod: Specification

Price £180
Contact www.velbon.co.uk
Weight 1.17Kg
Min Height 35cm
Max Height 156.5cm
Folded Height 29.5cm
Maximum Load 2Kg
Tube Diameter 24-9.8mm
Locking Mechanism Friction
Number of Legs sections 6
Case supplied Yes with carry strap
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