Looking for a tripod? The first things you might want to consider are the reasons behind your purchase…Are you just a holiday maker, hoping to get some lovely vistas in a warm and comfortable environment, but needing something light in the suitcase for the flights? Are you a hobbyist just wanting a simple tripod to get to grips with using one? Are you a hard and fast hiking photographer, who wants those stunning landscapes from unusual positions and need to carry their tripod out in all weathers for a long time? Are you a macro enthusiast, itching to get close to the ground to capture the micro world that lives there? Are you purely studio based? There are probably as many reasons for wanting a tripod as there are photographers, but before you start looking, you need to be realistic about what you are going to do with it, and this will help you narrow down the multitude of options out there, and might even open up the market to some you hadn’t considered.
I am the furthest thing from a photographer with experience in tripods. Very much a newbie in fact. So when I went looking, my biggest problem was that there isn’t a good camera shop near me where I could go and have a real play with a bunch of different makes and designs, to actually compare them all, and to see what the differences might be between them. If you have one near you, I would really recommend that you go and play. Go feel the different weights for real, see how small they really are to hold, and have a fiddle with all the knobs and buttons. Ask yourself a whole bunch of questions relevant to your personal needs. Are they easy to operate for your hands? If aiming to be outside in the cold, will you need gloves and if so, are they as easy to operate now??? Is it light enough for a big hike? Is it too big for a simple holiday trip? Is it sturdy enough for variable weather? Do I need anything complicated for my studio? Posing all manner of questions to yourself will help you know what you actually need to work with, how heavy you could realistically cope with comfortably, and a fold down size that you can deal with for your main purposes. I regret not having the chance to do this…instead I followed advice from wherever I could on the internet..from people who may not have actually been out and about for a period working with their tripods, from people paid or supplied with free samples to review, and from sources that had no clue as to what I needed. There is a lot of invaluable information out there, don’t get me wrong, but nothing compares to a hands on examination of a selection of options to help give you a clearer idea on what YOU might be needing.
If you are looking for a small, lightweight tripod to carry around in your travels, chances are you may be considering the Vanguard VEO 265CB. It rates highly in reviews on the internet, is made by a highly respected company, and is fairly affordable if you are looking to step up from the lower market priced tripods out there. I purchased this tripod for much the same reason as you may be considering it and gave it a good 6 months trial from June 2019. Given that length of time, I think its worthy of a good honest review having been well and truly tested in the field.
I bought this, because I needed a lightweight, travel tripod to carry around all day – whilst hiking up and down hills, mountains, rivers, woodlands, waterfalls – and well basically whatever terrain I was heading to! My older Vanguard, although a very sturdy tripod was just a little bit too tall for my bag, and it often snagged on trees or fences, (or once even on another person!), where I would duck under, over or around things. so, 6 months ago I began a search for the perfect travel companion to go with my kit.
I finally ended up purchasing the Vanguard VEO 265CB, partly on recommendation from a Vanguard Ambassador, and partly, because I knew I liked my bigger tripod, also made by them. It ticked the lightweight box, it ticked the small size box, I already owned one by Vanguard, and to be brutally honest… I was just SO tired of wading through all the different options, I just plumped for this one, recommended by another landscape photographer – or maybe I should have looked a little closer… a TRAVEL photographer. This tripod is pretty perfect for him, and if you are a travel photographer, yes, it’ll likely be perfect for you too.
On unboxing the tripod I was really happy to see that it folded down to a really sweet 41.5cm, and was super light at 1.35kgs, fitting into the side of my camera backpack very tidily without poking up above it. On playing with it indoors, I found I liked the twist lock legs much more than the clip lock on the bigger tripod. Those are sticking, squeaking, and getting harder for my hands to manage. These were really easy to undo all together, and pulling the legs out quickly was much easier. Not that I generally have need for speed unpacking of a tripod but I didn’t consider that bit, and it is nice to just whip it all out quickly! It looked really nice, was very comfortable to hold, and well, it made me very happy to think that I wouldn’t be lugging about that hefty weight any more, and would have a thing in my bag that would be an absolute bonus.
In practice, maybe things didn’t quite turn out as well as I hoped for the usage I needed it for. My very first trip was a week after it arrived, and a few days into that the first disaster happened. Up to this point I was really happy, carrying it was certainly a dream, however, it was so light, that, well, it was TOO light. Disaster struck when a simple gust of wind that came out of nowhere, took the whole thing over smashing my camera, expensive lens and my 10 stop Lee filter onto a rock. The big stopper shattered, and holder bent badly. It saved my lens thank goodness, but the replacement ended up costing more than the tripod, and for the rest of the trip I had to manually hold filters in front of the camera. This didn’t happen just the once either, its now happened quite a lot of times, and the one thing they could have added to the design to help with this, (i.e. a hook on the centre column to hold a weight or a camera bag) is simply not there. There is a hole on the neck but – maybe I am supposed to put a carabineer in there to hold my bag??? – as its to the side of an already unstable tripod, I have been very loathed to try that option as the weight should ideally be directly under the centre. This ended up being a huge disappointment for me, and an extreme frustration. Its never felt safe since, and its proved me right too many times now. On the third or fourth blow over in my rush to save it, I inadvertently stepped on one of the legs…it snapped instantly, and, although it still fits in the column above it, its come right out several times to my complete irritation. I have had to mark the leg so I know not to pull that one out fully – gone are the days of the quick unpack. Lesson here, is that there is light, and there is TOO light. Consider this when you choose your tripod. If you are likely to be out in windy conditions, this one is NOT for you as you will need to go for a heavier model, just to ensure you get the stability needed.
I have always had a ball head on my tripods. I actually don’t know any different, so really need to explore other options. I say that, because I found this ball to be a little temperamental. There are three knobs to get the full use out of it, two for the ball and one for the column and I was often blindly turning and tightening two of them, accidentally turning the third so the whole thing turned round 360 degrees by accident. I never did get my head around it all properly, and often battled with it to secure the camera. I found it really hard to get a good, precise positioning, and I am sad to say often plumped for the ‘oh, that’s straight enough!’ attitude when the levelling on my camera struggled to sit on the green line. In researching new heads, it seems that a bigger ball is better, and the one on this tripod is on the smaller side. It held my kit with no issues, but struggled to position itself with the weight on. I ended up recently purchasing a 3 way geared head head to replace this (more on this in a later post) The Arca style plate that sits on the camera, was very easy to get onto the tripod. I did like that the attachment always felt secure, and attached so easily to the tripod head. I had no complaints there… other than that when you swing the camera in to portrait mode, it would slowly droop. You definitely cant get a long exposure in portrait orientation when that happens! I couldn’t hand tighten the screw into the camera anywhere near tight enough, and have even used a screw driver to tighten it – but after a little bit it happens again. A stubby screwdriver travels in my kit as a permanent item now to try and prevent this happening. Oh, and by the way, going back to that 360 knob I keep accidentally turning… that’s now come out. I had tightened it a week or so ago, and then it suddenly just started going round and round. Seconds later, it just came out in my hand. Can I get it to go in again? Nope The thread looks perfect and yet, it doesn’t seem to fit in there at all. No idea what’s happened… but when I messaged Vanguard asking if they could help or if the tripod was guaranteed, I was met with the very loud sound of crickets. No acknowledgement of my email, no suggestions of help, not even a ‘no we cant help/ send it to us/drop in here’… nothing. That’s even more disappointing.
I think this tripod would be good in many conditions where there is no wind, and it has worked a treat in many situations. However, I have struggled in even lightly breezy conditions, although it didn’t go over, it vibrated the camera and therefore I couldn’t get a pin sharp image. I suspect this is due to the fact that the lower legs are very spindly, so if you have the thing fully extended to get a good view for instance, it picks up any movement. The answer would obviously be, don’t raise the central column, or the lower legs… but then that kinda defeats the purpose…
For my needs therefore, I would have to say that I am not as impressed with this as I had hoped… to the point that I have been looking for another lightweight tripod to suit my needs. For now, it will be back to the bigger, heavier one so I can rely on the shot I am after, rather than ‘hope’ it will be OK. This one has ended up in the bin, less than a year after purchase.
As for Vanguards customer service. Highly disappointed, and I wont be looking at any of their products again.