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Tripod Review: CowboyStudio/Beike BK-476

Discussion in 'Accessories' started by Promit, Sep 20, 2012.

  1. Promit

    Promit Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 6, 2011
    Baltimore, MD
    Promit Roy
    I stumbled across this tripod a few weeks ago at Amazon, and found it to be a very intriguing package. They finally started stocking it this week, and I'd like to provide on-going impressions as I spend more time with this thing. I have very little experience with tripods, but hopefully I can give some basic hands-on info about it.

    First off: this is a Chinese knockoff tripod, sold as a "trans-functional travel angle [sic]" in various places. It appears to be based on a mix of Benro design elements. The standard brand name is Beike, and it comes in two codes: BK-475 (aluminum) and BK-476 (carbon fiber). I am reviewing the CF version. The pricing for the 475 is about $110, available here:
    Beike BK-475 Tripod Monopod 1550mm 10KG with Quick Release Plate Ball Head+Bag | eBay
    And the 476 is $145, available here:
    Amazon.com: CowboyStudio BK-476 Trans-Functional Travel Angle Carbon Fiber Tripod with Monopod for DSLR Camera, Nikon, Canon, Sony Olympus BK-476: Camera & Photo
    I believe this is quite new to the market, as there seems to be no information about it whatsoever. It is worth noting that by the specs listed by various eBay sellers, the CF tripod is slightly heavier than the aluminum, 1.5kg versus 1.23kg. It's not clear to me if these numbers are accurate or why the CF would be heavier. The 475 appears to use a slightly different ball head.

    The basic elements of the tripod are:
    * Dual angle twist lock legs, with a 180 degree feature for maximum compactness.
    * Breakaway monopod leg.
    * Reversible center column, with spring hook for weighting.
    * Minimum height of 22.8 inches, maximum height w/o center column of 52 inches, maximum height of 60.5 inches.
    * Removable ball head with separate panning axis control, portrait option, and a friction lock. Also a compass for some reason.
    * Arca-Swiss type QR plate, single action.
    * Claimed weight capacity of 10 kg.
    * 4 lbs including ball head, according to my bathroom scale.
    * All of the blue metallic parts are actually orange on mine.
    * Folds to 18.5 inches with reversed legs or 22.8 inches with normal folding.
    * Includes a carrying bag.

    Next will be my first impressions.
     
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  2. Promit

    Promit Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 6, 2011
    Baltimore, MD
    Promit Roy
    First impressions

    I don't use tripods a lot, as I've found that monopods are usually much easier to work with and provide all the benefits I need. Still, there are those occasions that a tripod is handy and I was dissatisfied with what I had. I've been using the Dolica Proline AX:
    Amazon.com: Dolica AX620B100 62-Inch Proline Tripod and Ball Head: Camera & Photo
    It's an extremely basic tripod that checks all the feature boxes, but feels distinctly cheap. Well, it is. My single biggest complaint with the Dolica was that it would always droop after tightening the ballhead, even on trivially lightweight m4/3 loads. My basic criteria was something that had the same solid feature set, but with better build quality. I am doing more and more video work, so I figured I would start with the darling of the video world, the Weifeng/Fancier 717A:
    Amazon.com: Professional Heavy Duty Video Camcorder Tripod Fluid Drag Head Kits by Fancier WF717A: Camera & Photo
    That was a mistake. The tripod was actually fantastic, but at 28" folded and 7 lbs, that thing was a monster. The head is also fluid in tilt but not in panning, which seemed fairly worthless to me. So when the strap on the carrying case tore apart for no apparent reason, I sent it back.

    Now the Beike. My early impressions are quite good. The legs are substantial and even the thinnest segments are very rigid and seem like they would hold up well in most situations. I'm not sold on the twist locks yet, but I'm coming around I think. The center column lets us down a little bit, literally, as it will begin to sink under enough weight. I can push it down with one arm, but it resists fairly well and the force required might be in excess of the rated 20 or so pounds. Also, rubber/spike feet! I love the Chinese knockoff stuff because they always remember to include the little things like that. Way too many "serious" tripods make you buy separate spike feet. And did I mention the Arca-Swiss plate?

    The tripod holds my A65 nicely, and I've got no qualms about putting the 70-200 f/2.8 on there. This tripod is probably over-specced for m4/3 users unless you're a GH3 shooter ;) The ball head has two friction knobs, for reasons I'm not entirely clear on yet. It seems to let you use one as a friction control and the other as lock/unlock. You can lock down both fully if you're really serious and once you do that, the ball holds its place extremely well. No idea if it'll hold crazy wildlife and sporting event lenses (gonna vote no), but I'm definitely very happy with it for the A65 with the medium size lenses. Even though you could go smaller with an EM5, it's difficult to find the right combination of features and working heights in the smaller tripods.

    A lot of the weight of this tripod is in the head. The breakaway monopod is incredibly light, since it's just a carbon fiber stick. It still seems very strong, and makes me wish I hadn't bought my badass aluminum Benro. Let's be clear though: the monopod leg WILL collapse under pressure. Substantially more than 20 lbs of pressure, I believe, though you have to crank the twist locks down a fair bit. It is strong enough for sanely sized cameras, but those of you who believe that monopods are walking sticks will have to look elsewhere. It's also very clear when using the monopod that there is some rotational play in the leg locks, probably about 5-10 degrees. Annoying, but not a real problem for me.

    To be honest, I've been abusing the tripod a bit to test its limits because I can. With my crappy Dolica, I'd be worried about bending the smallest legs under the kind of pressure I'm applying to the Beike. The Beike's fittings are failing to hold, but there's never any sign that I might actually damage it. I happen to think that's a very good start, especially at the insane price we're getting for a carbon tripod.
     
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  3. Promit

    Promit Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 6, 2011
    Baltimore, MD
    Promit Roy
    Okay, so I finally had a chance to field test this tripod. I'll have a full write-up soon, but I can confirm that it is definitely of great interest to these guys, though I don't know that they're potential buyers.
    DSC01761.
     
  4. RevBob

    RevBob Super Moderator

    Jun 4, 2011
    NorthWestern PA
    Bob
    I wish you could get this a little lower than 22". Otherwise, it appears to be a pretty good deal. Thanks for the review. :cool:
     
  5. justin335

    justin335 New to Mu-43

    2
    Oct 17, 2012
    Hi, new member here, and really excited to find a review on this tripod. I was just wondering how stiff the legs are and how the overall quality is? It seems to be constructed well and the plastic molding and aluminum pieces seem well put together, but I know these Chinese ebay products can be deceiving. I was at Costco today, and theyre selling the Sunpak 423PX carbon tripod for only $79. But playing with it, it seemed really flimsy and weak. The legs bent with the smallest pressure and were very springy. And i could easily turn the pistol grip without pulling the trigger (maybe their floor model was worn down). From pictures, this Chinese one looks better made, but I was hoping I could get a first hand opinion on its quality. Thanks.
     
  6. dfreezy

    dfreezy Mu-43 Regular

    48
    Oct 23, 2012
    Boston, MA
    Doug
    These 'generic' tripods have come a long way in recent years and some are quite nice. I bought a Korean-made HorusBennu tripod earlier this year and have been very happy with the purchase. Good to know there are more brands emerging!
     
  7. Cruzan80

    Cruzan80 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 23, 2012
    Denver, Co
    Sean Rastsmith
  8. savvy

    savvy Mu-43 Top Veteran

    714
    Sep 28, 2012
    SE Essex, UK
    Les
    It looks similar to this one from a HK eBay seller that a guy "reviewed" over on TalkPhotography forum, and was also very happy with it.
    [review] Can a £100 carbon fibre tripod be good? I say yes, yes it can. - Talk Photography

    He cut the centre column short to get low down, said it was easy cutting through the CF - although the pics of this seem to have gone from his post.
     
  9. Djarum

    Djarum Super Moderator

    Dec 15, 2009
    Huntsville, AL, USA
    Jason
    I'd be more interested in something like this but I don't care for twist lock legs. I much rather have tab locked legs. It just takes to long to twist to lock and twist to unlock.
     
  10. Promit

    Promit Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 6, 2011
    Baltimore, MD
    Promit Roy
    It was awkward at first but I got used to the twist locks. At the end of the day, it's difficult to say there's much difference, really. I'm still partial to flips by a bit, but I don't see the big deal.

    That said, I was working with the tripod some more and the locks are definitely a weak point. The legs bend at the joints under not that much pressure. I believe this tripod would fare quite poorly in the Kai test:
    [ame=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G9S9jZW3Jxc]Extreme Cheapo Tripod Test (feat. Gitzo tripod) - YouTube[/ame]
    I didn't try it too roughly but I think the twist fittings would bend and even potentially be destroyed under impact or heavy duress, if it were to happen for whatever reason. That means also that the tripod is liable to wiggle under your hands a little bit when you're adjusting the camera.

    This doesn't matter for photos, IMO, unless you're into some fairly extreme stuff with your tripod. Hiking is still ill advised. For video, it is somewhat obnoxious, but not particularly worse than other tripods in the price range I believe. In general video tripods are going to be better when they're heavy and short, which is pretty much what we don't want for photos. Tricky balance.

    It's like they say: light, cheap, strong; pick two. This tripod is light and cheap. Strength is reasonable for the price but not exceptional. Stability is fine though, at least for the largest combos I've tried (Sony A65 + Tamron 70-200 f/2.8).
     
  11. justin335

    justin335 New to Mu-43

    2
    Oct 17, 2012