A few weeks ago Alan and I were very kindly asked by Vanguard UK if we'd like to choose a tripod from their new Pro 2+ range and do a review for them. Both of us being users of the Vanguard 263 tripod we jumped at the opportunity as you can imagine! We had a good look through the catalogue at what was on offer and made our choices. Al opted for the Alta Pro 2+ 263CT model and myself the Alta Pro 2+ 264CT and we took them out for a thorough workout on both Dartmoor and the Devon coast. Alan's review can be found on his website and here's my honest take on how I found the Alta Pro 2+ 264CT tripod.
Very quick and easy set up
Multi angle hexagonal center column
Four section legs with angles of 20°, 40°, 60° and 80° for positioning
Made of carbon fibre
Twist lock system on the legs
Built on bubble for precise levelling
Work load of up to 7kgs
An extra 3/8 accessory thread
TPU non slip grips on two of the legs
Angled rubber feet
Roll top fastening carry bag with shoulder strap
A very sleek smart looking tripod that's extremely easy on the eye. Lightweight and balanced when in the hand with no risk of slipping due to the grips on two of the legs. Beautifully quick and easy to extend the legs with the twist lock system, and lovely grips on the centre column buttons making it easy and comfortable to move them about. The centre column is smooth to extend and simply stops when it's reached full extension, and flipping over the column is a cinch with the easy to use button on the side and it glides into position wonderfully. First impressions........a very well thought out and good looking tripod.
Performance Out In The Field
So the first outing was a very gentle one to Lustleigh Woods and Hisley Bridge on Dartmoor. It was a lovely calm day and the perfect opportunity to try and get some low level water shots in this area. The initial set up of the tripod was really nice and easy taking no time at all, and manoeuvrability of the centre column was smooth and simple enabling me to get my camera into the right position to shoot towards the bridge and across the water. I had to splay the legs in order to balance the tripod correctly and this was absolutely no issue, the tripod sat nice and securely in position. At no time did I feel that my camera was at risk and I happily shot away. I continued to move around the area with the tripod trying it out at lots of different angles for different shots and came away very happy with how it functioned and the ease of use too.
Another outing for the 264CT was close to Merrivale on Dartmoor. We walked out to a rocky outcrop to set up for sunset which turned out to be quite chilly and breezy. Once again the tripod was lovely and easy to set up, however I found that even when the legs were fully extended it really didn't have a wide enough footprint for it to feel secure in the breeze, I wasn’t overly confident about walking away from it and leaving it on its own with my camera attached. Even though my 263AB only has an extra five degrees on the initial footprint before opening wider it makes a lot of difference to stability. There was another little matter of the feet too. Now although the design looks very good, they're non slip and also performed well in previous circumstances, on the granite rocks that I was working on they didn't feel so secure, and on a couple of occasions they did move jolting my equipment. At the time I wasn’t taking a shot so this didn't really matter, but if I had have been it would've resulted in a blurry image which would've been somewhat disappointing. These matters aside though it worked sufficiently well enough for me to be able to come away with some decent images over the course of the evening, I just had to keep my eye on it a little bit.
For another test it was time for some coastal shooting, destination of choice Wembury, Devon. Coastal being very demanding on equipment with the salt in the air, stiff sea winds, sharp rocky terrain and tiny grains of sand ready to cause havoc. I chose my spot on the rocks quite close to the waters edge but far enough away to be safe from splashes and being caught by the waves. Out came the equipment and I began to set up. The rocks at Wembury are really very angular and are quite tricky to position your gear on, so making use of the variable leg angles was a must and the twist and lock leg system was very useful enabling me to get into and change positions really very quickly in between wave sets. I did have a few fumbles with the adjustment buttons for the angle settings on the legs, and once again the rubber shoes on the tripod weren't as grippy as I’d have possibly liked them to be, but overall the tripod scored well on ease of set up, use and manoeuvrability. There was one thing that really bothered me throughout the shoot here at Wembury unfortunately, and that was vibration through the tripod legs. It seems that although this time stability wasn’t such an issue, probably due to the legs being all splayed out here there and everywhere, in the strong wind the tripod vibrated a lot. I actually had to hold on to it and push it downward in order to get rid of some of that vibration so that I could take my shots. This was a shame as I was really hoping that it would be sturdy in tougher situations. Having said that the issue was pretty much overcome and I did come away with what I wanted by the end of the shoot.
The Carry Bag
The bag….......the bag is great but please Vanguard could you supply a slightly larger one? I only just managed to fit the tripod with my ball head on in it. I imagine if someone is using a bigger tripod head it might be a bit of a squeeze. Just a minor thing though ;)
How would I sum up the Alta Pro 2+ 264CT tripod? Despite having a few issues whilst using this tripod it really is overall a very good piece of equipment. I think as a travel tripod it’s absolutely perfect and I would highly recommend it, but as a heavy weather tripod I would suggest maybe something a little sturdier. There are features on the Pro 2+ 264CT which I absolutely love like the design of the buttons. They’re so easy to use, are very smooth, and have great grip especially with cold hands. The workings of the central column are a joy and it just seems to glide into position, and the twist lock system on the legs…..brilliant, quick, easy, and simple. Overall this tripod really has been enjoyable to use and if you’re looking for a decently priced carbon fibre tripod, want a well built piece of equipment that is easy to carry, very quick and easy to set up, and extremely smooth to use in relatively fair weather then I would certainly recommend the Vanguard Alta Pro 2+ 264CT.
What's In My Bag?
It's been a long time since I last did a blog post, but a friendly follower of my facebook photography page (bit of a tongue twister there!), Mr Bob Stark, suggested to me that it might be nice to do a 'What's In Your Bag' post to give an insight into what I carry with me and use as I go around photographing the landscape. Obviously the camera equipment is something that will interest many, however I thought I'd also include the other bits and pieces that I take with me on outings on Dartmoor and the coast because I think they're just as important.
The Backpack - I always used to use a conventional camera backpack to carry my gear with me, but I found this to be a bit cumbersome and impractical when walking about where I do. As much as it was great to carry my gear in, it was unbalanced, uncomfortable if going a fair distance, uncomfortable because being a female the designers don't seem to think about straps being a rubbing and chaffing issue on our extra lumps and bumps, it wasn't strong enough to carry my tripod so I had to hand hold it wherever I went, and it was also not large enough for extra clothing for changeable weathers when out for a decent amount of time. So.....it was time for a change. I was trying to find something that would solve all of these problems when I came across the Osprey Aura 65 AG backpack.
To start with this beauty is designed specifically for women (they do a mens version too which is the Osprey Atmos 65 AG) making it much more comfortable all round to use and wear, it also has an adjustable back section and hip section meaning you can tailor it to your own shape and size perfectly. The back and hip sections are well ventilated so in the summer months there's absolutely no suffering from sweaty back syndrome thankfully! Being a 65 litre it has plenty of room for a good sized insert in which to keep all of my camera gear when I'm out shooting, and although there are loops for ice axes (nope I've never yet been in need of one!) and walking poles, these actually come in extremely handy for attaching your tripod to so that you don't have to carry it everywhere by hand. For all your other bits and bobs, of which I'll come on to a bit later on, there are numerous ample sized pockets to accommodate all of this.
The Insert - The insert that I use is a very simple generic camera backpack insert which I found on Ebay for only a few quid. It can easily hold my two camera bodies, four lenses, filters, holders, spare batteries, camera rain cover and much more as you can see in the photo below.
The Camera - The main camera body that I use for my photography is a Canon EOS 60D and I love it! It may not be full frame or the latest or newest model, and it may also a second hand body (let's face it, we can't all afford to keep updating what we have every couple of months), but it does absolutely everything that I need at present and when it comes to printing it produces the goods. It's a good all round workhorse that I personally find very user friendly. My second/backup body is my old Canon EOS 1100D. This stays in my insert for emergencies on the just in case anything should happen to my main body.
The Lenses - I have four lenses that I use. The Canon EF-S 10-22mm, the Canon EF 75-300mm, the Canon EF-S 18-55mm, and the Canon EF 50mm Prime. The 10-22mm is by far my favourite for landscapes. I love the super wide aspect and although it does give some distortion, which inevitably it will with it being so wide, it's a nice sharp lens, not very heavy either, that I find myself going back to use time and time again. The second favourite of the four would have to be the 50mm. A super sharp lens that's so versatile!
The Filters - I don't actually own many filters but the ones I use at present are Lee Filters 100mm System and I have the 0.45 (1.5 stops) ND Hard Grad, 0.9 (3 stops) ND Hard Grad, and the Big Stopper (10 stops) for those much longer exposures. I also like to use a Sigma Circular Polarising Filter which I have on my 10-22mm, and I have a generic polariser on my 50mm also. The polariser's cut out reflections and they also increase the contrast a little more.
Tripod - I usually use and have with me my trusty Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB tripod which I absolutely love, but have been recently using in order to do a review for Vanguard UK the Alta Pro 2+ 264CT carbon fibre tripod with my own ball head on. I'll be posting this review fairly soon, so if you're interested at all keep your eyes peeled.
Other Gubbins - I also carry with me a set of different sized filter holder adapter rings to fit each of my lenses plus a holder, a shutter release cord/intervalometer for long exposures and times when I want to capture lots of shots at intervals, a head torch for those dark mornings and evenings when out walking around on the moors and the coast (also handy for searching for your gear in your bag), lens wipes and cloths, lens caps, spare batteries for both bodies and memory cards, my LensCoat rain cover for my camera, a spare intervalometer in case the other goes down, and a spare mobile phone and recharge battery pack for emergencies.
There are also some other items that I always keep in my backpack, mostly on the just in case but you never know if and when you're going to need them.
Sensible Extras - I have a warm hat, gloves, neck tube and headband with me for when the temperature drops or weather changes (it's the worst thing to be caught out and not have enough warm clothing with you, plus can also be dangerous at times), in the summer months I also carry a midge hat because sometimes out on the Tors when there's no wind (it doesn't happen very often) the little blighters love to pop out and have a munch. A compass and pen are always handy to have in your bag, accompanied by a map of the area you're walking in. I also have a little zip bag that I take with me in my main bag in case of trips, falls, scrapes and other eventualities. In this little bag I keep handy things like two sizes of tick removers (ticks are everywhere and these little tools are brilliant!), paracetamol, ibuprofen, and Jungle Formula insect repellent (brilliant stuff). There's glucose tablets for energy, blister plasters, regular plasters of varying sizes, small bandages, safety pins in case of quick repairs to tears in things, an extra plastic bag (you never know when you're going to need one), tiger balm muscle rub (I swear by this stuff for soothing aches, pains, strains and alike although it can dye your clothes!), and antiseptic cream with local anesthetic in for insect bites, scratches etc.
So there you have it, that is the contents of this photographer's bag. Full of camera gear and full of stuff you'd imagine your Mum telling you that you need to take with you just in case, all bar a clean handkerchief! ;)
Thanks for taking the time to have a read and I hope that you found it of interest, Phil.