Adam Stuckert

I am going to start doing some reviews on my website. I know that I spend a lot of time trying to track down good, honest reviews from people who aren't being paid, so here is my little contribution. My (presumably) standard approach will be to introduce the item and then give 1) first impression 2) the good 3) the bad and 4) a final verdict. Ads are via an affiliate link, so I will get a small kick back from any purchase that will help support future reviews.

First up: Oben CT-3565 Carbon Fiber Tripod and BZ-217T Triple-Action Ball Head

Overall impression:

The first thing I really noticed is that this thing is both insanely small and insanely light. I was blown away. For comparison's purpose, I put it next to my faithful Manfrotto OBX pro aluminum tripod as well as my Nikon D810 and 24-105mm f/4 lens. 

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As you can see, the Oben tripod (center) folds up into a beautifully small package. This, plus the combination  of its light weight is great. I was immediately excited to take it out on family hikes and into the rainforest.

The Good

I mostly touched on this already, but the two best things about this tripod are 1) the weight and 2) the very small folded size. I also loved that this tripod came with a ball head.

The next thing that I really loved is how low to the ground this tripod can get. Macro photography of various small creatures (amphibians, reptiles, invertebrates) is one of my favorite genre of photography. This tripod is really good for that because the legs each can reach an angle pretty close to 90 degrees from the center column, which means it is highly versatile for awkward macro shots in the field.

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As you can see, this Oben tripod gets very low to the ground. This is a really nice feature, and one I definitely want in a tripod. As you can also see, we have a cat. His name is Coal, and he is a very snuggly and inquisitive fellow.

This tripod also extends fairly tall. I am about six feet in height, and you can see its height with me in this image. It felt fairly sturdy with my Nikon D810 and Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 G2 nearly fully extended. Fairly sturdy, but not sturdy enough that I trusted it with a toddler running around.

The Bad

OK, moving on to the bad. I want to preface this by saying that overall I am a big fan of this tripod, and that I am probably an outlier user. I want a travel tripod that is heavy duty enough to be the sole tripod on a months-long trip to the rainforest and can be a dedicated macro rig that gets very low to the ground. I have four  main qualms about this tripod.

First, and immediately noticeable is that the ball head really struggled to stay in place. Even after fiddling with the ball head quite a bit I still had troubles with the weight of my Nikkor 24-120 f/4 dragging the ball head down. Obviously, this makes using the tripod a bit touch and go. I later used my Tamron 7-200mm f/2.8 G2 with this tripod and did not really have this issue. I am not sure if this is because the ball head worked better after loosening up a bit or if it is because the weight is much more evenly distributed with the 70-200mm. I suspect it is the latter.

The second thing is that while I love how low the tripod can get, I strongly dislike how you have to do this as a user. You have to remove the center column and then replace it with a small (included) center piece that attaches to the ball head. This means that you have to 1) unscrew the ball head 2) unscrew the bottom of the center column 3) remove the center column 4) insert the small center piece and 5) screw on the ball head again. While this may only be annoying for someone that shoots mostly landscapes/flowers, this would be killer as someone who does a lot of macro wildlife work. I can just imagine trying this with an active snake or spider and watching it disappear as I fiddle with the tripod.

The third qualm I have is that having 5 separate leg pieces and leg locks is very annoying. They aren't too difficult or slow to use, but that is 15 locks to unscrew and rescrew in order  to setup the tripod. It is just slow.

My fourth and final qualm is that this tripod feels a bit flimsy when the smallest two legs are extended. In fact, I would not trust it near full extension if there is any chance that anyone might bump it or if there is a decent breeze. I think this is just the sacrifice they made to have 5 leg sections and make the tripod so light and small.

The Verdict

Overall, I am extremely impressed with this tripod. It seems like a phenomenal travel tripod that will meet many (most?) people's needs. In this case, I feel firmly that I am a bit of an outlier. I want a tripod that I can bring on family walks, that can handle multiple months in the rainforest, and be quickly adjusted to use for low angle macro photography. Frankly, for the price point you are not going to find a better travel tripod. 

4/5 stars

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