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$40 tripod with 'fluid pan' ballhead, 17LB rated capacity - Review - Filmmaking


Background music: Sneaky Snitch by Kevin MacLeod (Incompetech.com)

 

What kind of tripod can $40 get you these days? 

Even i was surprised by what i got.

I live in NYC, and have access to the disneyland of photo/video gear that is B&H. They have literally hundreds of tripods on display for you to play with, suffice it to say, i've gotten my hands on a lot of tripods both photo and video. I do both photography and video, and i'll be using this for both, but be sure to understand this is a photo tripod and will have limitations when used for video.

Build quality

When you're looking at the inexpensive ones, you almost always find plastic, and usually plenty of it. Not this tripod. The Ravelli 65", 17lb capacity tripod is made of mostly metal, i swear i cannot find almost any plastic anywhere, there's just a few proper rubber parts and that's it.The screw locks also appear to be all metal underneath, with thick nice feeling rubber to grip onto. I also noticed that while at first glance the ballhead knobs appear to be rubber, they're actually metal with a rubberized coating. The coating already has some wear, but it's good to know that the knob itself will hold up. 

The legs aren't the thickest, which is to be expected at this price. The usual concern is how thin the thinnest stage is, and in this case it's not too thin. I've seen thinner, so that's good. This all adds up to how stable it is. The way i test for tripod stability is to set it to its max height and then grab the neck where the legs all meet at the top, and then torque it, see how much it twists. Just about all smaller/inexpensive tripods have a fair amount of twist, and this one isn't an exception. But while it does twist, i find it to be more than acceptable, especially for $40.

Then there's the portability. It excels here, because it's legs can flip all the way around, and the neck can extend all the way up, and it packs down to just 19", great for carry on size luggage. I can also note that there are two click positions for the legs to lock into, one for most regular use, and one more for near perpendicular /low position. There's also a spring loaded spring at the bottom of the neck for you to add some weights for more stability.

The ball head

Is actually the main reason i bought this. I didn't need new legs, i was just shopping for a cheap but decent ballhead to use on my monopod for run and gun video shooting. What i discovered was that any decent looking ballhead costs quite a bit. So when i saw this tripod for only $40, with an apparently decent looking balhead, i jumped at it. I'm very satisfied with what i got. the ball is of decent size, a bit smaller than a ping pong ball. The locking mechanism gives a reassuring lock with few turns of the knob. There's also a knob to lock or unlock the pan mechanism. This is where it really shows extra value, it has a nice fluid pan, plenty smooth for video use(but no drag control of course). Great. But don't go thinking this is a video tripod, it's most certainly a photo tripod. I plan on mostly using it as a backup or for shoots with simple locked off shots and maybe a pan. You will not be getting a smooth tilt out of it. However, the ball, once unlocked, has a nice solid feel to it, it's not swimming around in its hole, feels like nice tight tolerances. You can also see the bolt that connects the quick release to the ball neck, which i like to see. The quick release is nothing special, it's got a little bit of front/back adjust-ability, but that's about it. They also give you a spare, but they hid it in the padded case.

Let's say it again, it's $40. It's a ton of value for your money, one of the best deals i've seen. You don't get a few little bits, like foot spikes. You get cushions on 2 out of the 3 legs. Though that's not really a downside as only two legs are needed to sit on your shoulder. You don't get a bubble level, but those are cheap as chimpanzees.

But then you do get a nice case for it, seems well made and fits the unit well. And then you also get this adorable little cheapo tripod, which is basically useless for anything except point and shoot cameras, but hey, you can't complain when it's a free addition. So overall, i can't see any reason why not to buy one. Heck, buy two and use it for your slider, or throw a fluid video head on it; the ballhead comes off and there's the standard 3/8" screw.

   
           
   
Added on 2013-03-17 by
Darren Levine

Darren Levine

Stimulus Video

DP/Videographer, Video/Film Editor
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