Vanguard Alta Plus 225CT 5-Section Compact Carbon Fiber Tripod Leg Set
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- Compact carbon fiber tripod legs with shoulder strap
- 22 millimeter diameter, 5-section legs
- Collapses to 13 5/8 inches
- Expands to 41 3/4 inches
- Stone bag hook on center column
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|Included Components||Vanguard Alta 225CT Carbon Fiber Tripod -|
|Item Weight||1.79 pounds|
|Package Height||4 x 4.6 x 15.3 inches|
|Shipping Weight||2.8 pounds|
Compatible with the professional VANGUARD heads: SBH Ballheads,PH 3-way photo or 2-way photo heads .Anti-shock ring to prevent the damage by camera vibration.Large foam guips for all weather use.Feet can be adjusted from spikes to smooth rubber to provide the best stability for changing terrains.
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The good: Very lightweight: It's less than 2 pounds which is a big deal when you're lugging it around all day. Well-made: I have another full-size Vanguard tripod and like the construction. Both are done well. I also have a Vanguard ballhead which would garner a four-star rating. Small: Exactly what you need in a travel tripod. Easy enough to strap to your backpack or fit in your carry-on luggage with ease.
The not-so-good: Short: I'm just 5-9 but find I have to stoop to use this tripod. Of course, the higher you lift the center column, the less steady it is. A bit wobbly: Might not be the best word but the slender legs make it just a bit unsteady. A draw-back with all travel tripods, I suppose, but a bit unsettling when you have a full-size dslr and long lens attached. Cumbersome to set-up: My main complaint is here. I hate the twist locks. I know they need them on a tripod this size but, trust me, they take a long time to set up and break down, especially compared to flip-locks. I've also had occasions where I thought the twist locks were tight only to find out they weren't. Scary. Never had that problem with flip locks.
Overall, I'm a Vanguard fan and this is well-made. Having said that, I'm looking for a replacement with flip locks that is easier, faster and more secure to set up. A little more height would help, too. If you're looking for a well-made travel tripod, keep this on your short list. The complaints I had might not bother you at all. In which case, this just might be perfect for you.
ѾѾѾѾѾ Highly recommended with warm fuzzies!
► Packaging, Style, Appearance: ѾѾѾѾѾ Excellent 5-fuzzies rating
► Design & Features: ѾѾѾѾѾ Excellent 5-fuzzies rating
► Ergonomics, Usability & Ease of Use: ѾѾѾѾѾ Excellent 5-fuzzies rating
► Construction & Build Quality: ѾѾѾѾѾ Excellent 5-fuzzies rating
► Performance, Stability, Reliability: ѾѾѾѾѾ Excellent 5-fuzzies rating
► Competitive Pricing & Value: ѾѾѾѾѾ Excellent 5-fuzzies rating
փ High build quality and high-strength low-weight carbon fiber construction.
փ Less expensive than similar Manfrotto and Gitzo carbon fiber tripods.
փ The legs can adjust to 25, 50, and 80 degree angles and the tripod can be configured from a maximum height of 42" all the way down to just 3.5" from the ground, which is great for low-angle and macro photography applications.
ჯ The included "User Manual" booklet provides only very brief instructions and descriptions to accompany the numerous diagrams that are included.
Prior to using this tripod, my main compact lightweight tripod was the Slik Mini II 43.3IN. Compact 4 Section Tripod With Ball Head in Gun Metal Finish where I had replaced its head with a better Vanguard SBH-30 Lightweight Magnesium Alloy Ball Head. So some of this review compares both compact tripods, the Alta+ 225CT and the Slik Sprint Mini II. Both of these compact tripods are designed for lightweight compact portability. But as a result of their compact design, they are shorter in height than full-sized heavier tripods, and as a result, taller people will have to stoop more to look into a camera's viewfinder.
If you are mainly looking for a sturdy tripod for studio work, then you will be better served by using a full-sized tripod that can extend to a taller maximum height and one that is also heavier and sturdier than these compact tripod models. But I love these compact tripods for four kinds of photography that I love to frequently shoot: 1) traveling on multi-week outings to foreign countries where I may be carrying a tripod all day during long walking tours through a city, through bustling markets and on crowded trains, or through rugged natural terrain including mountains, forests, and bush walk safaris, 2) backpacking and mountaineering that involves many hours of hiking at very high altitudes, 3) outdoors field work involving landscape and nature photography, and 4) setups involving indoor or outdoor macro photography where the shooting situation may require a quick impromptu setup of equipment to promptly capture a close-up shot that involves positioning the tripod and camera very close to the subject. Previously, my Slik Mini II has been to four different continents and frequently up at 14,000-foot elevations in the Rocky Mountains, and I expect this Vanguard 225CT to now accompany me on similar scenic adventures.
More of the Alta+ 225CT's features are described and rated below:
ѾѾѾѾѾ Excellent 5-fuzzies feature ratings:
ѾѾѾѾѾ This Alta+ 225CT stands taller and is a slightly more sturdy tripod than my Slik Mini II, and it can be made even sturdier if I hang a counterweight such as my camera bag or a water bottle from the the 225CT's accessory hook (a large camera backpack may be too big to hang under this tripod). My Slik Mini II does not have a counterweight hook under its center column. Without a head mounted on it, the Alta+ 225CT weighs 28.9 ounces. With the Vanguard SBH-100 Small Magnesium Alloy Ballhead with Two Onboard Bubble Levels mounted, which weighs 13.6 ounces, the 225CT tripod/head combination weights 42.5 ounces. While this 42.5-ounce total tripod/head weight is heavier than the 31-ounce total weight of my Slik Mini II fitted with a Vanguard SBH-30 Lightweight Magnesium Alloy Ball Head, it is still considerably lighter than most tripod setups. Vanguard also makes a nice useful Vanguard SB-100 Stone Bag that you can attach to any tripod's legs to weigh it down more. But since this tripod's center column already includes a removable accessory hook, I often hang either a camera holster, camera bag, or my Nalgene water bottle on the 225CT's center column hook to help anchor the tripod and I find that is sufficient. And if I am backpacking in the back-country and standing on a windy mountaintop, I just pull out a spare plastic grocery bag, load it up with some rocks, and hang it from the tripod's center column hook to get a rock-solid anchoring of the tripod. With a prime or shorter zoom lens attached, a full-frame or prosumer DSLR can balance okay on this tripod, but if you are using a heavier, longer lens like a 70-200mm, you may want to either always hang your camera bag onto this tripod's accessory hook, buy Vanguard's SB-100 Stone Bag if you mainly carry a camera backpack instead of a camera shoulder bag or holster, or just carry some spare grocery bags with you and you can create an improvised heavy counterweight to hang from the accessory hook.
Excluding the added height of the tripod head, my older Slik Mini II had a maximum height of 39.5" from the ground to the center column base where the tripod head screws onto. By comparison, Vanguard's advertised extended height of 41 3/4 inches seems a bit conservatively measured. With my Alta+ 225CT tripod's legs extended out to its initial 25-degree leg spread, I measured a height right at 42.0 inches from the ground to the center column base where the tripod head screws onto. And if I press a pin in the tripod's center column, I can raise the center column even higher to a height of 44.0 inches. Using the lightweight Vanguard SBH-100 Small Magnesium Alloy Ballhead with Two Onboard Bubble Levels with the center column fully extended upward this way, I measure a total height from the ground to the tripod head's horizontally-positioned mounting platform of 48 1/4 inches. By comparison, the fully extended height of my Slik Mini II with its Vanguard SBH-30 head from the ground to the tripod head's mounting platform is 42 1/4 inches, which is a whopping 6 inches shorter than this Alta+ 225CT with a SBH-100 head (which is also 1.0 inches higher than the SBH-30 head).
A full-sized tripod will give you a higher height than the 44 to 48 inch height of this 225CT compact tripod, but the full-sized tripod will also be heavier to carry around and the full-sized tripod would not retract into a short 13 5/8 inches the way this one does. And while you can carry this 225CT or any full-sized tripod on a well-designed camera backpack that includes tripod loops/straps, with a compact tripod like this 225CT, I can also strap it to my Think Tank Digital Holster 30 camera holster bag for a far less bulky setup that I carry while walking around town or going to someone's house. When I carry my Canon 7D with the 17-55mm f/2.8 lens and this 225CT compact tripod attached to the Think Tank holster, it makes for an excellent mobile walkabout photography setup that I can even carry for hikes high up into the mountains. I would have a far more difficult time strapping a full-sized tripod to a camera holster or a small camera shoulder bag.
ѾѾѾѾѾ The 225CT has a nice anti-shock elastomer rubber ring positioned underneath the removable pan head that is on top of the center column. If you accidentally lower the center column too quickly, this anti-shock ring helps to cushion the impact of your equipment as the center column slides down onto the tripod collar. My only minor quibble with this ring is that it is colored orange and it could have look more subdued and blended in with the overall design if the ring was colored black like the rest of the tripod. The top pan head on the tripod can be configured for both 1/4-inch and 3/8-inch threaded head mounts.
Because the "User Manual" that is packaged with this tripod covers all models of the Alta+ tripod series, it also mentions spiked feet and lever flip lock options, neither of which this 225CT has. This Alta+ 225CT does not have spiked feet and it only has the anti-slip rubber feet. The 225CT also uses twist locks instead of lever flip locks. Most of the Alta+ carbon fiber tripods, and most carbon fiber tripods in general, use twist locks instead of flip locks, mainly because carbon fiber has less flex and "give" than metals like aluminum and the twist locks apply less pressure on the tubes than flip locks. Carbon fiber is woven together and then bonded with epoxy. It responds well to being stretched or bent, but point stressors, compression, or fracture-inducing impact shocks weaken carbon fiber far more than a metal like aluminum tripod legs. Overall, however, I still prefer flip locks over twist locks because I still think that well-designed flip-lock legs (such as what my aluminum Slik Mini II uses) can be both loosened/extended and retracted/tightened quicker than twist-lock legs. Flip locks are especially quicker for me when I am wearing ski gloves while adjusting a tripod high up in the mountains during winter. I can also easily glance at flip locks to see that all of them are tightened whereas twist locks provide no visual cue that they are all tightened before I mount my camera onto the tripod head. So as an added precaution, I habitually press on the tripod first to see if the twist-lock legs will shift any before I mount my camera onto the tripod. However, considering the extra pressure points that flip locks apply to the leg tubes and carbon fiber's inability to be squeezed at specific junctures like aluminum, I can live with twist locks on carbon fiber tripods for the sake of longer durability :-) Each of the 225CT's twist locks takes about a quarter-turn to loosen or tighten. Each leg telescopes with five sections and four twist locks.
ѾѾѾѾѾ The 225CT's three legs can separately adjust to three preset angles of 25, 50, and 80 degrees. A supplied hex wrench lets you adjust the tension/tightness of how easily the three legs swing out. This tripod is extremely versatile with its height adjustments, which can often be a necessity for macro photography where I am positioning for extremely short focal lengths. For macro photography where I need to lower the height of the camera lens to get very close to the subject, I have three flexible setup options. These following three setup options also apply to low-angle photography when I need to shoot upward with the camera positioned closer to the ground than what can be achieved just by stooping down (unless I actually lay on my belly on the ground, which may not always be possible).
One configuration that I can set up is to pull out the center column, invert it, and hang the tripod head and camera upside down, adjust the three leg lengths as needed to arrive at my proper focus. With the tripod head and camera inverted and held upside down, this lowers the center of gravity and also helps to weigh down and stabilize the tripod even more.
A second configuration option is to unscrew the accessory hook from the 9-inch long center column, retract all of the leg sections, and then if I set two legs to a 50-degree spread and one leg to an 80-degree spread, I can lower the tripod down to less than a 10-inch height, which is great for tabletop use or macro photography.
A third configuration option involves unscrewing the accessory hook from the center column and pulling out the 2 3/4 inch "low angle photographic adapter" tube that locks into place on one end of the center column. I can then just insert this 2 3/4 inch long adapter tube by itself into the top of the tripod, and the 1/4" screw that previously held the accessory hook can now be used to screw onto a tripod head or directly into the camera's threaded tripod mount. Configured this way, with all three legs swung out to their maximum 80-degree spread, this tripod is only 3.5 inches off the ground!
So this 225CT has excellent chameleon-like flexibility for converting from an upright tripod to a really short tripod for various tabletop, macro, and low-angle photography applications. It can be fun to photograph a scene using a very short tripod height to get a "bug's eye" view from way down low, providing a composition based on a very unique angle of view. You can use low-angle photography for everything from portraits to landscapes. Because the camera will be so low to the ground, you will usually have to use your LCD monitor to compose the shot, instead of looking into the viewfinder, and if your camera has an LCD screen that flips out and pivots, that makes it even easier.
௫ Fuzzy Wuzzy's Conclusion:
This is an excellent compact lightweight (but not light in performance) tripod to take with you while traveling, hiking/backpacking, and for macro photography out in the field. If you are serious about macro photography using Canon's excellent, unique, and one-of-a-kind Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5X Macro Lens for Canon SLR Cameras, I would highly recommend using that lens with the Velbon Super Mag Macro Tripod Slider for Precision Macro Photography tripod head, either mounted on this tripod or another tripod. I sometimes switch the Velbon tripod slider between this Alta+ 225CT and another larger tripod. The tripod comes with a nice thick Vanguard Alta+ Bag 50 Custom Bag for Alta+ Series Tripods with Folded Heights Less Than 19 1/8 Inches 420D polyester/nylon tripod bag with an adjustable strap and drawstring closure that fully encloses both the tripod and whatever large tripod head you have mounted on it. If you mount the large Velbon macro slider on the tripod though, then the tripod will no longer fit inside its carrying bag unless you unscrew and remove the macro slider first.
If you are deciding on a head for this 225CT tripod, I suggest that you consider either Vanguard's SBH-30 or SBH-100 tripod heads. I have both of these heads and recommend them. Both of these Vanguard heads offer great lightweight performance at a price that is lower than similar Manfrotto heads.
The SBH-30 and SBH-100 mainly differ in four ways:
1) The smaller SBH-30 supports up to 11 pounds while the SBH-100 supports twice as much at 22 pounds. While Vanguard's even-larger Vanguard SBH-250 Magnesium Ball Head with Sliding Quick Shoe can support up to 44 pounds of gear, take into account that Vanguard rates this 225CT tripod for a maximum load capacity of 6.6 pounds. Some of the other Alta+ carbon fiber tripods go up to 14 pounds of load capacity. So if you are really needing to support over 20 pounds of camera gear, putting a heavy-duty head on this 225CT would be overkill and create a top-heavy lopsided tripod setup, so perhaps you should first buy a tripod that is bigger than this 225CT (such as Vanguard's "Alta Pro" or "Auctus" tripods that will support 15 to 40 pounds of gear).
2) The smaller SBH-30 weighs 9.5 ounces compared to the larger SBH-100's 14.9 ounces.
3) The height of the SBH-30 with its platform fully extended upward is 3 1/8 inch compared to the SBH-100's 4 1/8 inch height. This one inch of extra height on the SBH-100 is advantageous when mounted on compact tripods like the 225CT which have a shorter overall height.
4) Both the ball head and horizontal panning action are controlled by a single knob on the SBH-30, whereas the SBH-100 has one knob to tighten the ball head and a separate smaller knob to tighten the panning base. If you like to take a series of overlapping shots to later stitch together as a panorama, this feature of the SBH-100 will definitely sway you over choosing the SBH-30.
While I purchased the smaller and lighter SBH-30 for my Slik Mini II tripod, I purchased the larger SBH-100 for this Alta+ 225CT tripod because I wanted both its larger weight capacity and its separate panning knob.
I have uploaded five annotated photos to the 'View and share related images' Customer Images gallery of what this Alta+ 225CT tripod looks like using various configurations and there are further notes on my five photos that describe the configurations that I mentioned above.
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