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12-24-2013, 08:38 PM   #1
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Tripod advice

Hey guys,

I'm new to photography and have had my K-50 for a couple weeks now and absolutely loving it. Since I have mostly been shooting landscapes, architecture, and low light stuff I figured a good use for my Xmas bonus would be a good tripod. Been using a very cheap tripod that came with my girlfriends Nikon D3200 bundle that obviously has a bunch of shortcomings.

From my research I have narrowed down to a couple options and would like your guys opinions. I'm open to other suggestions but would like to keep my budget at $250, and less is always good!

Option 1: Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB 100 Tripod W/SBH 100 ALTA PRO 263AB 100

Option 2: Benro A1692TB0 Travel Angel II Triple Transfunctional A1692TB0

I'm really torn because I like everything about the Vanguard: price, height (I'm 6'2"), a lot of flexibility and options with the multi-angle center column, multiple bubble levels, solid ball head, and the fact that it seems to get unanimously positive reviews and recommendations everywhere.

I just wish it was a little more compact when folded, which is where the Benro comes in at. It's considerably lighter and folds up less than 16". It is also easily converted into a monopod and is weather resistant which would compliment a Pentax perfectly.

So basically my question is with my first tripod is it worth the extra cost and losing some functionality to be more portable? I'm inclined to say that I would be more likely to carry the Benro with me more often but as I haven't completely figured out what direction I'm going to take with photography I really like all the options and flexibility the Vanguard would provide.

I will admit I have a serious problem with analysis paralysis and just need to make a decision because either would be a colossal step up from what I'm using now. Just thought I'd get some opinions first. Thanks!

12-24-2013, 08:56 PM   #2
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Although I don't know about the specific tripods you asked about--my experience is that multiple short leg sections (= short collapsed size) is the major source of unsteadiness in tripod legs. I suggest you look for the tripod with the fewest leg sections--and that gives you the height you need. If the tripod has many leg sections--you will find it is unsteady when you pull out the last (smallest) section--and you will not be able to use it's extended height. Also the center column should not be extended very much if you want it to be steady.
12-24-2013, 09:03 PM   #3
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Just a couple of thoughts:
  1. It is very hard to get all possible needs covered in one tripod. For example a big heavy one with gimbal designed for 500mm lens likely will not travel well, and the reverse is also true. So for your first one get a good quality one that covers what you would use it for most. If that's the travel angel well, there you go. If it handles 80% of your needs you are good.
  2. The head and attachment system are also very important. Rule of thumb: a cheap ball head is actually worse than no ball head, a good ball head is a pleasure to use. I have an Acra-tech that cost about $400 for head alone. Not saying you need to spend that just don't go cheap on the head. If possible get a quick release that uses arca-swiss compatible plates, you don't get locked into one manufacturer that way and have lots of options going forward.
  3. It is always nice that you get all the height you need especially if you are tall, but keep in mind you don't have to use it all. I very often use mine with only one set of legs extended and me sitting on the ground. That makes things much sturdier and keeps my profile low. This is a good technique to use if there is wind.
  4. I think your budget is reasonable, often we see people asking this question with $100 budget and I think that is just a waste of money. Buy well, buy once. Buy cheap, buy again and again. And do you really want to put $1,000 worth of camera gear on a cheap tripod?
12-24-2013, 09:35 PM   #4
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Good Evening and Merry Christmas!

I started out exactly the same way you did. I had an old tripod from ebay that I picked up for 11 cents plus $7 shipping. It lasted several years and finally fell apart, but it was a great learning experience, in terms of what I wanted and what I did not want.

I picked up the Benro Travel Angle. I do a reasonable amount of business travel and it fits into my carry on luggage. Its relative light and works well. I have had it for about 5 maybe 6 years. I did wind up wanting something a bit heavier. I perused the craiglist pages locally, looking for something heavier. I found an old Manfrotto beater, in excellent condition that I have in the back seat of my truck. It works very well. .... Rather than repeat myself, take a look at this thread (post #12).I have also considered the Vanguard. I actually forget why I did not buy it. A lot of folks have used it and it works out very well. A lot of the decision comes down to cost.

hope that helps!

12-24-2013, 09:36 PM   #5
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I can vouch for how awesome the Vanguard is, it is fantastic quality. It is not the most portable, but it is very versatile. I can highly recommend it, then when the funding comes available you could purchase a lightweight, small tripod.

Also, the ballhead in that kit is very good. I originally did not want it, but I got the kit for less than the tripod alone. I was going to get the higher end Vanguard ball, but this one does everything and more.
12-24-2013, 10:37 PM   #6
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Original Poster

Thanks for all the quick replies and Merry Christmas to everyone!

I went ahead and ordered the Vanguard! For $150 shipped it is just a great deal with fantastic value. Plus I received a mail in rebate for a free PH-22 pan head as well, not sure if I would ever use that over the SBH 100 but you can't beat free!

If the reviews are mostly true then this is a tripod that should last me for quite sometime and has enough features that I won't ever outgrow it.
12-25-2013, 08:55 AM   #7
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I treated myself to a set of Vanguard Alta Pro 263 AT legs for Christmas as I already have a reasonably good ball head. I have used Slik tripods and monopods since the early 80's and really liked them but I must say I have been very impressed with the new tripod. It is very solid, well built and has a lot of nice features.

I'm not sure just what the difference is between the 'AT' and 'AB' versions unless the 'AB' is the one that comes complete with a head.

12-25-2013, 10:47 AM   #8
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I've had the Vanguard Alta Pro 263 and kit ball head for 8 months. Great tripod for the money and easily supports my 6x7 MF kit. One caveat that the clamp on the tripod head is not compatible with any arcaswiss plates - something to keep in mind if you want to get an L-plate. The clamp does appear to be removable though (I haven't tried yet).
12-25-2013, 11:42 AM   #9
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Just received my Vanguard Alto Pro 263 AB also last week and used it a few times but I really love it coming from a cheap Fry's special tripod that I had for a couple of years.

Last edited by bass3587; 12-25-2013 at 04:59 PM. Reason: Changed from AT to AB
12-25-2013, 01:12 PM   #10
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Awesome! Like I said the Vanguard seems to get great reviews from everyone, looks like I'm in for a treat.

Yes, the 263AB is the 263AT with included SBH-100 ball head.
01-13-2014, 02:35 AM   #11
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I got this tripod and it's pretty good and everything, but don't take it to the beach. If you look it up this tripod (and many others) are very prone to sand damage.
The fine sand gets inside the legs, then gets caught in soft plastic pieces and they continue scratching the legs. The internet is littered with people who did that and damaged/destroyed their tripod.

This is exactly what I did - saw a video of a pro photographer and went straight to the beach. It took me four hours to disassemble and clean up my 263AB. It works ok, but there is bunch of scratches.

So here are my thoughts about the whole experience:
- Don't let the joints anywhere near the sand or water. Extent the thin legs first and raise the whole mechanism.
- The sand will get into the spikes on the end. There is no cure for that and people have been complaining about it a lot.
- Another idea is wrapping the joints with parafilm after you extend them. It's cheap and quite water/sandproof.

After the shooting:
- Do not fold the tripod bag - you will get sand stuck inside. Rinse it with fresh water first. Not only it will remove salt, which is corrosive, but also it will remove the sand before it will get into deep parts.
- Every now and then disassemble the tripod and wash it. It's very simple with 263AB, just not the notches on the middle legs, because the legs are not symmetric.
01-13-2014, 09:43 AM   #12
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Sand is bad stuff regardless of what tripod you use (almost). We use a heavy-duty Gitzo carbon fiber tripod on the tv show I work for. Used it to shoot dune buggies on sand dunes and we were shaking sand out of it for the next 6 months!

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