Saturday, 8 October 2011

Fotopro Carbon Fiber Tripod (MGC - 684N) Review

 Review of the Fotopro MGC-684
(C = Carbon fiber 3rd Generation 8 layer textured Carbon fiber,  
6 = 28mm diameter tubing, 4 = 4 leg sections)
http://www.fotopro.uk.com/index.php/our-products/carbon/mgc684 





Ok so for any of you who cant be bothered reading, the vital stats are at the bottom of the page.  (Bye bye)

Those of you who want to have a read and why I would recommend this or why not,  then check the video below and I shall divulge some more info after.



Ok first off before we go anywhere, lets look at the price of this sucker.

MGC684 = £179.95
MGC684+62Q = £224.90










OOH ouch!  £180 for 3 legs!  Firstly, that would be my choice (just the legs) as I am not a fan on ball heads, and my video and 3 way heads I have on my other tripods are perfect for me and my workflow. Ball heads I think are more for those who need more manuverability with their camera… still not sure why anyone would really opt for a ball head.

But anyway lets look at this tripod and not focus on the head.

First who are the competitors,
Manfrotto has a beast in its 055xpro3 but that comes in at a whopping £250 Or if you want to be rediculous the 057 going for around £650
Giottos has one at around the same price as the Fotopro the GTMTL 8350B Seemingly that is it with £100 off.

Ok so there seems to be a bit of competition around this price range however Fotopro seems to be tipping it in favour, against its rivals.



Weight
This is as light as they come.  The official weight is 1.45KG (if you take it with the head it comes in at 1.82kg)
This is shockingly light and if you are coming from the land of Metal tripod ownership then you will be confused as to how something so light could hold more weight and be stronger than your metal one you owned before.
For example my Giottos MTL 9351 (Legs only) weighs 20g more than this whole kit!

This tripod diet plan will be very handy for you when hill walking or taking your kit through customs at the airport.

However there are times when you want a really heavy tripod. Weight aids stability and stops it blowing over in the wind. Well this tripod has figured that out and has added a side hook and also in the bag you get with it there is a screw-on hook supplied, to add as much weight as you want.  Double win!









Size
Now what has to be realised is that this is being advertised as a PRO tripod,  When you look at the word pro, it should suggest that it is very strong, hard wearing and also not a tiddly little thing that can fall out of your pocket but also be able to get to a reasonable height so that you are not constantly hunched over when shooting.
When you get this tripod you see it in a little (over the shoulder) bag/case and you will probably think "What the hell! where is the rest of the tripod, how does this reach pro size… and what! the Ball head is in the bag as well!"


Photo example of the box, the bag the tripod the monopod accessory bag thing, the screw and spanner set and size comparison with at nikon 70-200mm



Your confusion may still be around even once you have taken the tripod out of the bag and seen it all!
It still confuses me, it is like an optical illusion. How does something this small get to be so big!

Size comparison:
when this is folded up with its head it comes at a length of 43.7cm
My Giottos comes in at 64cm (+21.4cm)
My manfrotto, 57cm (+13.4cm)
Below is a photo of the Fotopro vs the Giottos, and a shot of it in the traveler camera bag front pouch.
 

Yet when you unfold it and stretch out the legs and the head the Fotopro comes up to 162cm
The Giottos = 165 (+3cm taller)
The Manfrotto + 146cm (-16cm)

So somehow the smallest (by 13cm) is just tipped to the tallest by a tiny factor of only 3cm!!!!!  How is that possible!
I still don't understand.

Additionally I have the Metal, less pro, version called the C5-i (review of that later) and when both are in their carry bags I can't figure out which one is which regarding their folded up size in the bag. Nor by their weight either!







Strength (build quality)
I imagine most tripods in this price range have to be pretty damn well made and this is no exception. Although you do feel confused by the light and plasticy feel to the carbon fiber and you may crave the weight and confidence inspiring feel you get from the heavy metal

The G-lock legs where you twist them a quarter turn and pull out have really won some praise from me. The leaver locking legs of my other tripods are going to be sent to the bin. The Giottos had to have one of its legs tightened up to industrial levels in the camera shop as one leg would keep slipping. The legs in the Manfrotto batter down hard when ever you unlock them (although I kinda like that sound).  It also makes tripod maintenance very easy as all I need to do now is to keep unscrewing the legs and bingo, i get them totally off and can clean the inside, very good if you shoot in sandy/salty conditions.

The "3rd Generation 8 layer textured" carbon fiber that this is made out of is the same as that seen in the monopod strength test I did before (see video) It is hard as nails! you will not have any worry in your photographic live about if it will be strong enough.
The carbon also means that there is not a drastic temperature transference when picking up the tripod, With metal you fell it as cold as ice when you pick it up even if it has just been lying in the shade, and equally it will be super hot if left in the sun. So if you are in a cold environment or if you live in anywhere more south than…. London and you have sun regularly, then the Carbon will be a savour to your precious little hands

Everything on the tripod just seems very well made, very well put together, with no looseness at all.  There is no wiggle even when the legs are at full extension.

2 of the legs has some cushioning on them, the one with the thinest cushioning is the leg that can actually be detached and used as a monopod (more on that later)

The leg angle locks are a nice push mechanism unlike the Giottos where you have to pull the lock out, here again it is a good mechanism especially if your using it in a cold environment and you are using gloves, as it is just pressure you are using.



Around the rest of the tripod where we have some metal, that is all well constructed and also feels very well put together.




Ease of use:
This tripod design needs a little more work than the normal tripods in that you have to rotate the legs 180degrees to get them into full length tripod position. This is not an issue.   The twist G-lock legs have instructions on them (as you can see in the image above) where it shows you which way to twist to lock and unlock.
The legs come out nice and smoothly and locking the legs is very quick and easy with only a quarter turn.
The splitting of the centre column is also easy you just give it a good twist and then keep twisting for about 7 rotations (there is a lot of threading in the tubes)
To detach the 3rd leg and use it as a monopod you need to also remove the centre column and also make sure the (retractable) screen in the bottom of the column is fully extended to allow it to lock into the leg. Again, once you have seen it done once it is easy enough.

The centre column has 2 adjustment knobs for lowering and raising, one on the side and a big rubberised one around the column itself. The micro Knob could be a bit fiddly if using in cold conditions, so i would advise just leave that a little loose and use the main one.




Extras

The extra thing/benefit you get with this tripod is that you can detach one of the legs and use it as a monopod/walking stick. Thus making your camera bag feel lighter when hill walking (with the added benefit of a walking stick)  The centre column can be removed and placed on top of the monopod to make it even bigger, so if you are at a red carpet event and you are on a mini ladder then bingo you have a super high monopod.

The 3/8 screw at to top of the tripod can also be flipped over with the use of the supplied wrench and it is a 1/4 screw on the other side meaning that you can attach your camera …. or a flash straight onto the tripod, or monopod if you want.

There is also a carry and support case for when your using it as a monopod. It can be attached to your belt and half folded up so that you can have the monopod at half height  sticking out of the pouch and you have an eye level monopod…. this is something I doubt I will ever see anyone use.





Conclusion

This is a rocking tripod! that gets as small as you will ever need, be a strong as you will ever require, and as light as anything you will want to carry up a mountain.  And it is at a price that makes the big players look  over priced.
If I were to think how this tripod could be improved…. I may say get rid of the micro adjustment knob. and make the threading a little thicker (so I don't have to rotate about 7 times).

Otherwise, this is a rocking PRO tripod that will fulfil almost everyones photographic requirements.








Stats
Weight (without head)
1.45kg
With Ball-head (FPH-62Q)
1.82kg
Folded Height
43.7cm
Max Height
162cm
Min Height
13cm

Price


MGC684+62Q = £224.90


This product gets the "Dom Bower Seal of Approval" 10/10







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6 comments:

  1. is this the 3legged thing?

    ReplyDelete
  2. no, 3 legged did not send me any examples, they did not even reply to any email i ever sent them.

    ReplyDelete
  3. hi dom,

    thanks for your videos, this was the only comprehensive video i found on the net about the fotopro. anyways i hope it's not a silly question but, can i buy any 3 way pan head to replace the ball head that comes with this tripod?

    i've only owned a cheap $20 tripod that has an integrated head which is absolute rubbish.

    thanks mate

    regards,

    Ron

    ReplyDelete
  4. yes the ball head can be taken off and you can put any other head on top of the tripod

    ReplyDelete
  5. This publish was really excellent and useful… we discovered more information….our web page is very useful. Thanks to make suggestions to.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thank you for review! But is it possible to use some spikes? Or is it possible at least to unmount that default ends?

    ReplyDelete