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YATT: "Beer Can" Tripod Review

Discussion in 'Accessories' started by oldracer, Nov 5, 2014.

  1. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 All-Pro

    Oct 1, 2010
    USA
    (Yes, Yet Another Tripod Thread)

    From time to time there are threads here from people looking for small tripods for hiking, travel, or whatever. Maybe I have just not been paying attention (which my wife says is common), but last week I discovered a class of tripods that I didn't know existed. They are close enough to the size of a beer can that I'll call them "beer can tripods."

    The two higher-end mostly-aluminum models I found are the FotoPro M-5 Mini and the Velbon Ultra Maxi Mini. At the low end is the plastic Slik Mini Pro. You can find all these on eBay. Basically they are miniaturized "real" tripods. Multisection legs positionable at several angles, center column, ball head, etc.

    I have never been too interested in table top tripods with the bendy legs or the fixed-length legs, but I decided to try one of these. The Slik gets good reviews at B&H, but I have learned the hard way to avoid junk tools and I'm afraid of a $35 plastic tripod. So my choices were between the Velbon and the FotoPro. I decided on the FotoPro because it has legs that fold upwards and back over the ball head, minimizing folded length, like a number of the higher-end travel tripods. It came today.

    This thing is really neat! Quality is high; the only plastic piece I see is the column locking knob. Everything works smoothly. The leg locks are the same system as Gitzo uses, with a metal catch that locks the leg in one of three positions. Extending the legs takes 15 seconds or less (I just timed it). A lucky thing for me is that the quick-release matched the Velbon system that I use, a system where the camera automatically locks into the QR base when it is inserted, unlike the Arca-Swiss clamp bases.

    Operationally I can already see that it will be useful. Obviously it is a table top tripod, but with one leg fully extended it is a monopod that brings my GX-7 nicely to eye level when I am seated and rest the tripod leg on my upper leg. With two legs left short and one partially extended it is a chest tripod that adds quite a bit of stability. With all three legs extended I can sit on the ground, tilt the GX-7 EVF about 45 degrees and shoot very comfortably.

    I am too lazy to take photos and type specs when they are available on the 'net. Here is the manufacturer's page: http://www.fotopro.com/en/?page_id=1160 (Note that the QR clamp looks more like Arca Swiss, so YMMV if you buy one.)

    This video, beginning at 1:08 is not great but it is the best I've found: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LjidfUtMbrk The tripod in the video has the QR system that looks like Arca-Swiss to me. Mine does not have level vials either.

    There is no USA distributor. I bought mine from the Canadian distributor for a total delivered cost of just under USD$100, considerably less than the eBay offerings. I ordered around lunch time and they shipped the same day: http://www.digitectrading.com/?product=fotopro-m5-mini-compact-tripod

    As they say, the best tripod to use is the one you have with you. This thing is so small and light that I think I'll have it with me most of the time. I hope this post helps someone out.
     
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  2. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    I have a Velbon Ultra Luxi Mini with ball head and it's an amazing little tripod (the legs extend about 400cm).

    2013081321402185f.
     
  3. manzoid

    manzoid Mu-43 Regular

    137
    Jun 9, 2011
    Maybe 40 cm? I don't have one, but 4 m sounds like an awfully tall tripod.

    Anyway I have recently been looking at the mefoto daytrip, but these look like a possible alternative, and the fotopro is actually a bit cheaper.
     
  4. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    My bad, I meant 40 cm, but I guess that was pretty obvious. :)

    But to be certain, I just measured the fully extended height to the top of the ball head and it's 69 cm, and when fully closed it's <22 cm. It weighs 860g. And even when fully extended, it's an extremely solid tripod with very little movement.
     
  5. manzoid

    manzoid Mu-43 Regular

    137
    Jun 9, 2011
    Yeah... I figured it was a mistake, but wasn't sure if you were combining all legs in some 'unified tripod' measurement that I was unaware of or something. Silly perhaps, but I do over think things sometimes.

    Anyway, would you have a link to said tripod? I'm trying to compare prices and features.

    Cheers!
     
  6. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    It'll probably be best to Google Ultra Luxi Mini with ball head, as the prices appear to vary enormously from country to country. Either way, it's not going to be as cheap as the one originally posted. But then I've had my 90-250mm lens and E-5 on it and it's been very stable, so I can vouch for it's quality. It also has an ability for the legs to open up in three stages, so that you can bring the entire tripod very low if required.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  7. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 All-Pro

    Oct 1, 2010
    USA
    If you go with the FotoPro be sure the QR system you're getting is acceptable. I was surprised and pleased at the automatic-lock style that I got, since from the internet photos and videos the standard system looked like Arca-Swiss. I was actually planning to ditch the A-S plate and install a true quick-release but not everyone has the tools necessary to do this. If you want to see the style I received in a little more detail, search on "Velbon QRA-3"

    From my research, the Velbon Maxi Mini also is offered with different mounting options, including the non-QR that OzRay has..
     
    • Like Like x 1
  8. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    Ken
  9. tm3

    tm3 Mu-43 Regular

    134
    Apr 17, 2011
  10. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 All-Pro

    Oct 1, 2010
    USA
    No problem. I thought others may not have discovered these either. Re Arca, all I said was that it looked like an A-S plate. It probably is, but be sure to verify for yourself.

    If you are committed to A-S, fine. My problem with those mounts is this: With this small tripod or a monopod, you need one hand to hold the tripod, one to hold the camera, and one to screw in the clamp. If you don't have three hands, there is the risk of dropping something -- probably the camera. I don't see any reason that someone couldn't make an A-S base that clamps automatically when the plate is inserted but I have never seen one. That's why I like the Velbon and the Manfrotto RC2.

    Nice. I did not find that one.

    One update: The ball head screws to the column using a 1/4-20 thread instead of the more common 3/8-16. For several reasons, I want all my heads to be interchangeable, so I have to fix this. Worse, the design of the head makes it risky, maybe impossible, to just drill and tap for the larger screw. So I have ordered one of these: http://www.ebay.com/itm/170971414563?_trksid=p2060778.m2749.l2649&ssPageName=STRK:MEBIDX:IT Converting the column is easier; I have a couple of options I'm exploring. The easy one (if it works): http://www.ebay.com/itm/230634061030?_trksid=p2060778.m2749.l2649&ssPageName=STRK:MEBIDX:IT and one I know will work but will take some minor machining: http://www.ebay.com/itm/111100617056?_trksid=p2060778.m2749.l2649&ssPageName=STRK:MEBIDX:IT This second method is the same way Gitzo does it.
     
  11. tm3

    tm3 Mu-43 Regular

    134
    Apr 17, 2011
    Thanks, oldracer. So far your source looks like the way to go, but it is not clear what mount is currently supplied -- I am trying to contact them to clarify. Their photo looks like a screw mount which would work for me as I have a small Arca plate that I could add.
     
  12. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 All-Pro

    Oct 1, 2010
    USA
    Re phone, their phone is answered by a robot. I had to call three times before my random selection of an extension to dial actually produced a person who answered. IIRC "5" was the winner. Nice guy, told me he had stock and that the easiest way to buy was to order on the web page. I did so about noon and they shipped the same day. The subject of mounts never came up, so either they have only the QR style that I got or the guy didn't know enough about their inventory to realize he had to ask.

    This web page: http://www.fotopro.com/en/?page_id=681 lists both styles. The one I got is the "41Q" so the one you want is presumably the "53P" http://www.fotopro.com/en/?page_id=1531
     
  13. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    It's probably more a case of getting used to using an Arca Swiss plate. I had to constantly install and remove my 90-250mm lens on my monopod when moving from one venue to another in my news days and never found it a problem. Once you get the knack, it's easy. RRS do make a quick release plate that more or less works that way: http://www.reallyrightstuff.com/s.nl/sc.26/category.594/it.C/.f.

    One thing you discover over time is that the Arca Swiss plate design is super versatile, allowing you all manner of configurations for all types of photography. For example, the RRS camera plate covers the entire base of the camera and becomes an indistinguishable part of the camera. I have longer Arca Swiss plates on both of my tele-zooms, as they create a handle and allow me to carry the lens and camera in the hand using the foot and it's very secure. I also use them on my macro stand, as the plates allow you to move entire camera/lens assemblies to pre-position before fine tuning. The Arca Swiss design is a bit like a Meccano set.
     
  14. Carbonman

    Carbonman Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jul 10, 2014
    Vancouver BC
    Graham
    I bought one and have only tried it around home - no time for another few days to use it for real world shooting. I did try it for some closeup work; an E-M10 and 12-40 lens with exposures of 1 to 6 seconds. There was some evidence of vibration in a few shots but I can't blame the tripod - it could easily have been the floor vibrating in our wood frame building beside a laneway with heavy trucks.
    I like the tripod; it sets up and breaks down easily and seems to be ruggedly built.
    Here's a result of my test shooting:

    15278855744_86d9240870_o. Lone Leaf by Bottombracket, on Flickr

    40mm f8 1.6 sec. ISO 100 -2EV

    It seems to do the job pretty well. I'm going to keep it. I'll probably use it to shoot some interior pictures for a project I'm consulting on next week.