Different photographers will often give a tips on the single best thing you can do to improve your photography. One tip that I have heard from many different people is to get a tripod. Most of the time I don’t usually shoot on a tripod, but recently I have been finding myself using mine more often.
I had used a Vivitar tripod for years prior to obtaining the Slik. I can’t remember where I picked it up from and I am fairly certain that I didn’t pay more than $20 for it. The Vivitar suited my needs for my previous cameras and was lightweight and easy to setup. The only reason I went in search of a new tripod was the Vivitar’s pan head would jump after being in a stationary position and I was using it with my camcorder to capture theatrical performances that my daughter was in.
My search for a new tripod began at Target and Wal-Mart, which lasted all of about 10 minutes at both stores combined. Thinking that Best Buy sold DSLR cameras they might have a larger selection I headed there next. I parked my butt on their floor for probably 45 minutes taking each model they offered out of the box assembling and testing. The results were not promising. Their tripods ranged from $20 to $199 and each had the exact same problem. The pan head was made from plastic or contained plastic parts that would stick after being in a stationary position for a short period of time.
Since my interest in photography hadn’t grown to the obsession it is today my desire for a tripod wasn’t what it might be if I were purchasing one today. I simply wanted one that was of decent quality without breaking the bank. After countless forums and threads I kept coming across people talking about Slik being a great set of sticks at an affordable price. After comparing all of their products I finally decided on the SLIK PRO 700DX Tripod with Panhead.
I have fallen in love with this tripod. It offers far more features than I thought I would originally use.
The top section of the legs are padded, this is nice for both carrying the tripod over the shoulder and temperature control of not having freezing or cooking metal against your body when carrying. The legs extend individually like most tripods allowing different height level for each leg. They lock into place with release locks, which I personally prefer opposed to the screw locks. I find the release locks quicker and easier. At the top of the legs are leg locks that allow you to lock the tripod legs into different expansion arrangements. The legs expand far enough from the pivot point allowing you to get down to just over a foot off the ground with your camera. This has been a huge advantage over my other tripod allowing me to set the camera very low to the ground when shooting children and HDR.
The manufacturer claims the legs are made out of A.M.T. alloy being lighter and stronger than other metals. This may be, but in my opinion this is still a heavy tripod. Granted I am comparing that to el cheapo Vivitar that I use to carry around. The Slik weighs in at just over 9 pounds. I don’t think 9 pounds is extremely heavy, but when you add that to the weight of the rest of your gear it is fairly substantial. The positive side to this is the stability this tripod offers. I have never felt that the tripod wouldn’t be able to support my gear or fear of it tipping over.
Another fancy feature this tripod offers is the center columns ability to be inserted in an inverted position. This allows you to mount your camera upside down and between the legs of the tripod. You could use this feature for either getting even closer to the ground when shooting or positioning yourself to shoot straight down on objects. I haven’t yet had a need to do this, but it is nice to know I already have the ability without needing additional equipment.
The pan head uses quick release plates. I’m not sure I have an opinion on these one way or another. They are easier to attach to my camera than some of the “traditional” square types I have used in the past and don’t require a nickel or screw driver to tighten down. They also allow the camera body to move without moving the pan head. They are a little bulkier than their square counterparts. Interesting design concept for sure.
And so we come to the pan head. I still don’t know why they designed this the way they did. It works great for use with my camcorder, but with the DSLR I find it very frustrating. It opens to the left for shooting in portrait format. I can only assume they did that so those cameras with the portrait shutter release button and those with battery grips would have the same feel as when hand holding the camera. The problem I have is when using with any heavy lens the camera body will begin to unscrew itself from the quick release plate. If I plan on doing any shooting in portrait mode I will make sure I have the camera facing backwards on the pan head. It feels awkward having the handles this way, but works.
In conclusion I love the tripod and highly recommend it, but I would probably not buy the kit again. I would get the Slik Pro 700DX with the Slik Pro Ball 800 Head with Quick Release. I will probably some day purchase the ball head, but it just hasn’t made it to the priority list yet.
Recently I have been spending a lot more time shooting for HDR. During this time I have really started finding how inconvenient it is having a pan head. Turning and twisting multiple levers while attempting to get the right framing for the shot has become very time consuming.
All this added use with the pan head has also shed light on an issue that I had not previously come across. The quick release plate has started forcing the rubber mounting on the bottom of my camera body to twist.
After much research I am now looking at getting the Manfrotto 322RC2 Joystick Head. I know other photographers that have this head and absolutely love it.
In late March I did end up purchasing the Manfrotto 322RC2 Joystick Head and couldn’t be happier with it. You can read my quick review on it here.