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Model: 50400Brand: Fotomate
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The Fotomate VT-680-222R is an impressive professional standard tripod for video cameras and DSLRs. Also an excellent choice for spotting scopes, small telescopes and large observation binoculars.
Optimum payload is 5-6kg but can handle 8kg.
Maximum height an impressive 197cm when fully extended.
This tripod does not feature a geared centre column so offers greater rigidity and stability when carrying heavier equipment.
Heavy-duty 2-Way tripod head, which is the same as supplied with the Fotomate VT-2900 model, is robust and well-engineered.
Operation is smooth, well damped and can be panned 360° with a wide range of tilt adjustment.
Supplied with nylon carrying case.
FEATURESProfessional Standard tripod with Heavy-Duty Fluid-Damped PanheadPayload Capacity: Optimum 5-6kg, Maximum 8kg.Adjustable Panhead Tension & LockMulti-Position Left or Right Mountable Pan HandleQuick Release Plate with ¼” & 3/8” Attachment Screws and Video PinSecurity Retention Mechanism on Quick Release PlateMaximum Height (Fully Extended): 197cmMinimum Height (Fully Retracted): 93.5cm360° Panning, -65° Forward Tilt, +90° Vertical Elevation3-Section Multi-Tubular Aluminum Legs with Heavy Duty Leg LocksTri-Leg BraceNon-Slip Rubber FeetBubble level for Accurate levellingWeight: 4.78kgSupplied with Nylon Carrying Case
This tripod is marketed as heavy duty and, at 4.78 kg, it is certainly not lightweight. First impressions are that it is a substantial (and heavy) piece of equipment constructed from good quality materials. Most of it is manufactured in aluminium alloy, including the locking handles for the 3 legs. The smaller locking knobs for the tilt and pan mechanism are of high quality engineering plastic. It has a substantial tilt and pan head mounted on the top of the tripod, with no geared centre column, but I cannot remember the last time I used a rise and fall on any tripod, so I certainly won't miss that feature. It certainly makes for a stiffer and less vibration prone assembly. The tripod and head both feature small, integral spirit levels to aid in levelling the entire system, although you do need to tilt the camera forwards to view the one in the head properly. I haven't checked how accurate they are, but given the size, I would suggest using them only as guide for your initial starting position.I found mounting the camera to be a little tricky, as the quick release plate is very long at nearly 3 times the length of standard ones. The camera has to be mounted in the correct position, too, in order to accommodate larger diameter lenses which can easily foul on it. Mounting the camera complete with an 800 mm mirror lens onto the tripod proved impossible and the lens had to be fitted to the camera after mounting the camera on the tripod. Removal was equally awkward. The quick release plate has to be locked with a small lever under the camera once in place - fortunately, it cannot fall out when it has been inserted as there is a safety catch to prevent this, but it does remain loose until locked. The locking catch is under the right hand side of the mounted camera and the small lever rests up against the foot of the camera, which makes it awkward to release. That does prevent it being accidentally knocked, in use so it's not all bad. The pan handle can be fitted to the left or right of the head and it might be worth having on the left, enabling simultaneous use of the camera controls with the right hand, but that is down to preference.Once the tripod is set to the desired height and levelled, panoramas are easy, as the smooth operation of the panning mechanism may be adjusted through careful use of the locking lever. I did find that there were some stiff spots on the turntable that made this operation not quite as smooth as it could have been, but it proved OK. The damped tilt seemed a little strange to me as it could not be locked solid and when left unlocked it returns slowly to almost (but not quite) it's neutral position of level. Although the locking was far from solid, the camera did not move once set. However, if you do not release the lock before tilting, there is a certain amount of springiness in the mechanism which leads to the camera springing back slightly after acquiring the target object, but this is more noticeable with longer focal lengths as when shooting the Moon. It quickly became a bit of a chore to release, pan and tilt, lock, shoot, repeat for each shot as the Moon moved across the sky. Perhaps with practice, this will get refined and become easier. The big benefit with this tripod was being able to press the shutter release and not have the camera wobble for several seconds after!After the Moon, the next shoot was waterfalls, which revealed the final problem with this tripod: you cannot mount or tilt the camera to shoot in portrait! Why not? This is probably due to it being designed more for video than still photography. Obviously, once you have driven 120 miles to the site, the photographs have to be taken, so landscape it was, figuring the images could always be cropped to portrait if desired. Not ideal, but not a complete show stopper. To get the ideal location for the waterfall meant standing the tripod in shallow water, so to minimise exposure to wet, the lower sections of the legs were extended - they have rubber feet on, so that should be OK? The feet are bonded on to the aluminium tube with a single blob of silicone sealant, so they leak! Before using this tripod in water, take the feet off and seal them properly.Releasing the camera after shooting is not the straightforward action it should be. The locking lever, as mentioned earlier, is tricky to release, then you have to press the silver square button (security retention mechanism, as they call it) at the back of the quick release plate slot and slide the camera off the tripod. Make sure that the camera is not tilted up when you do this or it may slide out on it's own! I like to leave the mount on the camera at all times so that I can pop the camera on the tripod at a moment's notice. With this tripod you won't want to do that, as the plate sticks out quite a long way behind the back of the camera and will dig into your face when shooting handheld.Overall, this a well made tripod, but more suited to video than DSLR still photography. The build quality is generally very good, but some things don't work quite as smoothly as I would like, such as the leg adjustments, which may free up with use. The transit clip for the legs is a pretty good idea, although a little tricky to clip in place unless the legs are all perfectly aligned. It also comes with a strong carrying bag, complete with zip, shoulder strap and handles, but I wouldn't like to carry it too far.It certainly won't be replacing my regular tripod for general use, but for astro-photography it is going to be hard to beat, which is what it was bought for and why I am awarding it 4 stars. If you are looking for a sturdy tripod and can look beyond it's limitations, you will be hard pushed to find better at this price point.
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