Lights and Tones Blog

REVIEW: Vanguard Alta Pro 2+ 263AB100 tripod

Recently I decided to replace my two old tripods.
One was the Velbon Sherpa 750R with the PH157Q panhead which I used only for landscapes because it couldn't go deep enough for ground level macros.
The other was actually quite alright, a Velbon VS-443D with ball head on the special V4 Vario boom arm. I had two problems with it. Legs were not sturdy enough and it didn't have the option to pan the ball head separately so it was not suitable for creating panoramas.
My choice became the freshly released, TIPA 2017 awarded Vanguard Alta Pro 2+ 263AB100. This is the aluminium version with ball head.

 Vanguard Alta Pro 2+ 263AB100 tripod

Vanguard Alta Pro 2+ 263AB100 tripod

There are two types of photographers. The ones who carry their tripods without a bag and they usually attach it to their backpack when not in use. The others, just like me, rather put it into a carrying bag. Before buying it I went to different retailer's websites. I found that some described it with a carrying bag but others didn't mention it at all.
Just to clarify I called one of them. I was assured that it came with bag by default. It's just a basic one without padding but it has a relatively wide shoulder strap so it doesn't feel uncomfortable to carry on a longer walk.

 ...with its carrying bag

...with its carrying bag

First of all let's go through the basic specifications:

 - Material: aluminium
 - Extended height: 173.4cm/68.2in
 - Weight: 2.30kg
 - Load Capacity: 7kg
 - Folded Height:73.9cm
 - Leg Sections: 3

So it's taller than my previous tripods, which I'm really happy with being 1.88m, and also feels much sturdier. I'm always confused how exactly the extended height is measured. Is it with center column or not? So I decided to measure it for myself. I got a bit different result from the specs but it seems that this time extended height also means extended center column.

 Height with retracted center column

Height with retracted center column

 Height with extended center column

Height with extended center column

Let's have a closer look at the different parts of the tripod.

LEGS

It has 3 leg sections which results in a bit longer folded height. But less sections also means less joints between them which affects sturdiness positively. Leg diameter is said to be 26mm (thickest) and 2 legs have "non-slip, all-weather TPU grips". I found the twist-lock system really convenient and easy to use. You have to twist about 35 degrees to lock/unlock. Quick, strong and efficient. I prefer it over the lever/flip type locks although they are told to last longer.

 Twist lock

Twist lock

The legs slide up and down smooth and nicely without any issues to mention. You have 4 angle setting options of 20°, 40°, 60° or 80°. You have to grab the rubberised sliding knobs on both sides of the leg and pull them down to change the angle. It's a bit tricky because you have push the leg a bit back to be able to stretch them.

 Angle changing button

Angle changing button

When fully stretched (80°) the tripod sits almost on the ground which is very useful when taking low level macro shots.

 Legs fully stretched

Legs fully stretched

The legs feature rubber feet which can be replaced with spikes. Unfortunately the spikes don't come with the tripod, they have to be bought separately. The rubber feet are curved to be able to get a good grip on uneven terrain too. Their surface feel a kind of sticky too so I assume they work well in slippy conditions.

 Slighly curved rubber feet

Slighly curved rubber feet

CENTER COLUMN

This is where my story turned a bit sad. I tell it in a minute. The previous version of this tripod became famous of its MACC (Multi Angled Center Column). The only issue was that it could easily be pushed through its hole because there was nothing to stop it. In the new version there is a pin for this.

 Safety pin of the center column

Safety pin of the center column

Now it's really a one-hand operation. You have to loose up the three locks: center column lock, angle lock and the rotation lock. After this you set the column in almost any direction and angle. I wrote "almost" because there is a limitation in angle. You can only fix it properly in the preset angles. But the presets are marked by 15° between 0° and 90°so it's more than enough.

 Center column angle lock. 

Center column angle lock. 

In the manufacturer's specs they describe the center column as a "Never waver - firm hexagonal center column". And here comes my problem. It's not as firm as claimed. Either my copy have quality issues or the construction is not perfect. I tightened all the locks properly but the center column still can be moved. I tried to make animated GIF's to show the problem.
The first one illustrates when I'm moving the lower end of the column while its fully retracted.
It seems that the angle lock doesn't do its job properly. 

 Center column retracted, all locks are tightened but it still can be moved relatilvely easily

Center column retracted, all locks are tightened but it still can be moved relatilvely easily

On the second picture the center column is set horizontally and again all the locks are tightened. But in spite of this the column can be moved. And this is the real problem. In this position the whole structure can be wobbly when a heavier combo is attached.

 Center column set horizontally, all locks are tightened and still some movement possible

Center column set horizontally, all locks are tightened and still some movement possible

I wouldn't expect it from a £200 tripod set. As I mentioned above I might have a bad copy with manufacturing defect. But that's also a bit worrying. I already contacted the retailer I bought the tripod from (Carmarthen Cameras). They promised me to have a look at the problem and to send a replacement which they check before posting it. I will check how the replacement behaves in this regard and will update my post later.

BALL HEAD

This is the new version of the BH-100 type which can also be bought separately for other tripods too. It has all the options you would expect from a good ball head. Separate knobs for panning- and friction control and a third one for quick fastening. It features 2 bubble levels (there is a 3rd one on the neck of the tripod) and has an Arca Swiss compatible plate, the QS-60 V2 quick shoe.

 The BH-100 ball head

The BH-100 ball head

 Head features 2 bubble levels

Head features 2 bubble levels

 The third bubble level is on the neck

The third bubble level is on the neck

As shown on the picture below the quick shoe has a built-in safety pin to prevent accidentally releasing your camera. It's fitted with ¼’ D-ring screw. Reaching the D-ring when removing the quick shoe from the camera can be an issue with thicker fingers as the space is very limited space around it.

 Quick shoe slides but held by the safety pin

Quick shoe slides but held by the safety pin

 With quick shoe removed

With quick shoe removed

Ball movement is very smooth, I found no problem with holding steadily my heaviest combo, the Sony A7 with the old Sigma 400mm f5.6 APO Telemacro. The friction can be controlled very precisely although the travel of the quick fastening knob is a bit too long for me. It needs very small force to turn and doesn't give much feedback how strong the ball is tightened. So in my opinion it's a bit easy to tighten the ball too much accidentally which is not good long term.

ALTA LINK

I copied this part from the manufacturer's specification as I don't have anything to try or test it.
"The tripod canopy is fitted with a 3/8 threaded connector, which will allow easy connection any additional accessories, such as lighting equipment and articulated or flexible arms, thus linking our users to incredible new creative possibilities." Probably a good feature I've never used something like this earlier. It can be useful in special scenarios, for example in macro photography, when you want a reflector or an umbrella for shading. Or when shooting videos it can hold a lamp.

 ALTA link thread has a rubber cover

ALTA link thread has a rubber cover

SUMMARY

I couldn't finish the review as the tripod turned out to have a fault, so I had to return it.

But except the fault, I think this is a very versatile, sturdy tripod which is going to build its reputation soon amongst amateurs and professionals too. If you want only one tripod which suitable for macro, landscape and even in studio this is one of the best options. It has very nice features and it's really reasonably priced.

PROS:

 - tall
 - sturdy construction
 - goes down to ground level
 - versatility of the center column
 - superb ball head
 - reasonable price

CONS:

 - a bit long when folded
 - quick shoe D-screw is difficult to get hold of
 - is on the heavier side, but sturdiness usually comes with weight
 - carrying bag is not padded

UPDATE: 27/07/17

The seller accepted my return but unfortunately they don't have any more left on stock so they gave me a full refund. I decided I wasn't going to wait and risk another bad copy as I need a reliable tripod quite soon on my holiday. Plus I also need to get familiar with it till then. So I ordered a different setup. I'm going to review that as well.