The Budget Tripod Shootout

 
The conundrum

The conundrum

Tall? Sturdy? Light? Inexpensive? What should you look for in a tripod? Natasha Desai helps you decide between five options below Rs. 5000.

Wanting to indulge in photography seriously, can also mean needing to acquire a tripod. When starting out, your budget may not allow you to buy the best in the business. Nonetheless, there are a multitude of options that one can consider when buying a tripod. All you need to be sure of is what the most important factors are to you.

There is always some amount of compromise one has to make when buying a tripod in this price bracket. The tripods that have everything you need are priced very high. There are a few things you need to ask yourself in order to determine the best tripod to suit your needs. What are you going to use the tripod for? How important is the height to you? How much more are you willing to pay for the added sturdiness? Does it rank higher than the tripod being light enough to carry? Is sturdiness more important than portability? Does being light triumph all?

What We Were Looking For

  • Load Capacity: A tripod should bear more than the weight of your camera.
  • Portability: To be easy to carry, the collapsed length needs to be small.
  • Weight: The same goes for how light the tripod is. It needs to be light enough without compromising on how sturdy it is.
  • Sturdiness: Can it take your cameras weight? Can it withstand pressure?
  • Height: A tripod should be tall enough to shoot your subject of choice.
  • Value for Money: Is the tripod really worth your money?

1. The Vanguard Espod CX 203AGH is a Power-packed Tripod

Vanguard Espod CX 203AGH

Vanguard Espod
CX 203AGH

The Vanguard Espod CX 203AGH is targeted at serious photography enthusiasts. Rarely do you find a pistol grip head in this price bracket. The base plate comes with a folded ring, which is a relief, so that you do not have to fish a coin out to tighten it to your camera.

The quick-release lock is easy to use, with no jerky movement when locking the camera into place. Made entirely of aluminum, the tripod is pretty light at an easy 1.2kg, which is ideal to carry along on an outdoor trip. Although the folded height of the tripod is a tad long at 1.8 feet, the light weight nature of it compensates for the length. The maximum load capacity of the tripod is 3.5kg.

The flip lock for the three leg extensions locks firmly into place and again is smooth and not jerky. The legs themselves are so sturdy, you will be confident that your gear is safe. It did not move a whisper while shooting. The rubber-tipped legs did not move even with the pressure that sometimes comes with the hand resting on the tripod or camera when shooting.

The pistol-grip ball head is perfect if you are looking to experiment with panoramas. The lock for the ball head is easily and quickly accessible by thumb.

The tripod comes up to about 3.9 feet at minimum extension. When the center column is fully extended the tripod comes up to 5 feet. The entire tripod takes very little time to set up and it is the smoothest of the lot. With such an easy to use tripod, I only wish it took a little more load capacity.

Specifications
Product Name: Vanguard Espod CX 203AGH
MRP: Rs. 4090
Height: 5ft
Folded Height: 1.8ft
Max Load: 3.5kg

2. The Benro T880x Needs to Stop Being so Wobbly

Benro T880EX

Benro T880EX

The Benro T880EX is a tripod I am unable to decide whether I like or dislike. It comes with a base plate that needs to be tightened with a coin. And by tightened I mean you have to triple check to make sure it is done properly.

Although you can also shoot verticals with this tripod, the quick-release lock takes a bit of a push to lock into place.

The aluminum made tripod is pretty light at 1.46kg. It is very portable with its folded height coming up to tiny 1.5 feet, owing to the 4 sections of the legs. This makes it the most portable tripod of the lot.

When fully extended the tripod comes up to a height of 4.8 feet, that is with the head elevated. If you do not want that extension it is a good 10 inches shorter. However, when it is fully extended, I was a little afraid to put a D90 with the 18–105mm lens on it. I was not too sure it would be able to handle the weight, as the tripod was pretty wobbly. Even though it is with the load capacity being at 3kg.

If you put a little pressure while shooting, the tripod legs shake and move. This is sure to disrupt your shot.

Specifications
Product Name: Photron Stedy Pro 560
MRP: Rs. 1215
Height: 5.6ft
Folded Height: 2.24ft
Max Load: 6kg

3. The Slik F740 is a Bundle of Surprise in a Small Package

Slik F740

Slik F740

Sometimes, just sometimes, you find the tripod that fits almost every criteria you are looking for. The Slik F740 is amongst the top rankers of the tripods I tested.

The base plate is excellent to use. Putting the base plate is one of the smoothest mechanisms I have come across in this test. All you have to do is press the plate in place and the quick release lock snaps into place. No tugging at the lock to make sure it is locked properly.

The head itself functions very smoothly and you can even shoot verticals with it. The tripod weighs 1.46kg but feels a little heavier, and it folds to 1.7 feet. When fully extended the tripod comes up to 4.9 feet and without the elevated head 4 feet.

For a tripod with 4 sections, it is very sturdy. Even with all the sections fully extended, the tripod remained sure footed.

The legs are made well and feel very solid. The rubber tips of the legs are angled and make good for hard surfaces.

The center column is geared and comes off completely and I could not quite figure out the purpose of it coming off entirely. Even though the maximum load is 2.05kg, it supported my camera without me feeling like it would topple over. Although I would be careful about anything heavier than that.

Overall, for the price being offered, the tripod is great vale for money. Extremely sturdy and light. It is a tripod I would definitely want to carry with me outdoors.

Specifications
Product Name: Slik F740
MRP: Rs. 1943
Height: 4.9ft
Folded Height: 1.7ft
Max Load: 2.05kg

4. Photron Stedy Pro 560 is a Definite Hit and Miss

Photron Stedy Pro 560

Photron Stedy
Pro 560

There is not much to say about this tripod except that you will get exactly what you pay for. The base plate is jerky and annoying and you need to check properly if it has been fixed well. The panning, tilting are fine though.

The quick release lock needed some force and was not smooth. There is an accessory hook masquerading as a gravity hook but it cannot handle much beyond a medium-packed backpack. The tripod weighs a light 1.35kg but the folded length of the tripod is 2.24 feet making it quite inconvenient to carry.

Although it does have a maximum load capacity of 6kg, the tripod is not very sturdy. The legs do not feel like they would be able to handle a heavy camera and lens. You are better off with the last extension collapsed.

At the price it is offering, the only redeeming factor is that it has handle near the head which makes it easy to move its position without changing the adjusting the legs.

Specifications
Product Name: Photron Stedy Pro 560
MRP: Rs. 1215
Height: 5.6ft
Folded Height: 2.24ft
Max Load: 6kg

5. The Vanguard Espod CX 203AP is Quite Satisfying

Vanguard Espod CX 203AP

Vanguard Espod
CX 203AP

The Vanguard ESPOD CX203AP may not be as good as the Espod CX 203AGH, but it does hold its own. The base plate is similar with the quick release being smooth and effective, without any fear of a sudden unlock.

Even though it is not a ball head, the panning and tilting are pretty smooth. The mounting head itself turns a full 360 degrees with the camera attached, giving you two panning options.

The aluminum alloy tripod is light at 1.1kg. It can support up to 3kg weight which is ideal for a beginner’s camera. When completely extended, the tripod comes up to 5 feet and when folded, it is 1.9 feet which feet a little big.

The legs are of the quick flip variety and are pretty sturdy. Even with the center column extended the tripod feels safe. The flip locks shut firmly into place without hindrance. On the downside, you cannot shoot verticals with this tripod.

Specifications
Product Name: Vanguard Espod CX 203AP
MRP: Rs. 3390
Height: 5ft
Folded Height: 1.9ft
Max Load: 3.5kg

The Verdict—Which Tripod Suits The Different Expectations We Had? Which One Should You Choose?
After testing all these tripods, I cannot help but appreciate the fact that there are so many to choose from for the beginner at such affordable prices. Having said that, its time to talk about the good and bad that came out in this test.

Height
The Photron Stedy Pro 560 boasts 5.6 feet with the head completely elevated, but not very sturdy. The best option is the Vanguard Espod CX 203AGH, which is quite sturdy.

Portability
The Benro T880X is1.6 feet, but with compromise on stability. The Slik F740 however is 1.7 feet and is very sturdy.

Load Capacity
The Photron Stedy Pro 560 says 6kg but it does not feel like it. The Vanguard CX 203AGH inspired the most confidence.

Weight
The Vanguard Espod CX 203AGH is light at1.1kg, with restricted portability at a collapsed length 1.9 feet. The Slik F740 is a better options.

Performance
Without a doubt, the Vanguard Espod CX 203AGH has the best performance with the Slik F740 a close second.

Value for Money
The least expensive tripod of the lot is the Photron, but it comes with a huge compromise on sturdiness and portability. You will get the best value for your money from the Slik F740.

Final Ratings:

Slik F740

Slik F740

Slik F740 – Best Value for Money
Load Capacity: 2.05kg but very sturdy
Tripod head: Pan and tilt head
Ease of Use: Set up is quick and easy
Sturdiness: It is very sturdy
How light it is: Pretty light at 1.46kg
Portability: At 1.7 feet, definitely
Extra features: Carry bag is included
Value for Money: Best value for money
MRP: Rs. 1943

Vanguard Espod CX 203AGH

Vanguard Espod CX 203AGH

Vanguard Espod CX 203AGH – Best Performer
Load Capacity: 3.5kg
Tripod head: Pistol grip ball head
Ease of Use: Fastest to setup
Sturdiness: Extremely sturdy
How light it is: Very light at 1.2kg
Portability: Not very at 1.9 feet
Extra features: None
Value for Money: Good value for money
MRP: Rs. 4090

Benro T880EX

Benro T880EX

Benro T880X
Load Capacity: 3kg
Tripod head: Pan and tilt head
Ease of Use: Not very fast to setup
Sturdiness: Not very sturdy
How light it is: Pretty light at 1.46kg
Portability: Most portable at 1.6 feet
Extra features: None
Value for Money: Not the best option
MRP: Rs. 1897

Vanguard Espod CX 203AP

Vanguard Espod CX 203AP

Vanguard Espod CX 203AP
Load Capacity: 3.5kg
Tripod head: Pan and tilt head
Ease of Use: Very fast to setup
Sturdiness: Very sturdy
How light it is: Very light at 1.1kg
Portability: Not very at 1.9 feet
Extra features: None
Value for Money: Decent value for money
MRP: Rs. 3390

Photron Stedy Pro 560

Photron Stedy Pro 560

Photron Stedy Pro 560
Load Capacity: 6kg, but feels like less
Tripod head: Pan and tilt head
Ease of Use: Setting up is not quick
Sturdiness: Not too sturdy
How light it is: Very light at 1.35kg
Portability: Not at all at 2.24 feet
Extra features: Extra base plate, bag
Value for Money: Not a good option
MRP: Rs. 1215

Tags: best budget tripod, March 2014, natasha desai, Photron Stedy Pro 560, Slik F740, Tripod, tripod review, Vanguard Espod CX 203AGH, Vanguard Espod CX 203AP