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CF Tripods for Hiking - Velbon vs Slik vs Gitzo

Jonmanjiro

JP
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Jonmanjiro Registered since 15th Mar 2004
Wed 29-Dec-04 06:50 AM

"The trick is to find the lightest tripod that will give you the sturdiness needed for your present and at least near future gear" - jrp

Great quote jrp, thanks! It was pretty much my philosophy during my recent search for a carbon fiber tripod for hiking/general walkabout use. There doesn't seem to be too much info on the Velbon and Slik tripods on Nikonians so I thought I'd write down my thoughts so others may(?) benefit.

As I'm living in Yokohama, I was fortunate to see 'hand's on' a whole range of tripods. The Yodobashi Camera store there has the second best range on display I've seen (the best display being at the Yodobashi Head Store in Shinjuku, Tokyo - amazing!). I'd narrowed the search down to the 12 tripods below - all carbon fiber with approx 2kg max weight (incl. head), with twist locking legs (more slimline/less bulk), not flip type locks (sorry Manfrotto).

The stats are:

P = price in yen at Yodobashi
W = weight
HCD = height (center column down)
HCU = height (center column up)
MIN = minimum length (legs stored)
LWP = lowest position (for macro)
ULD = upper leg diameter

Three section legs - 24mm/25mm upper leg diameter class

Velbon-CF-530...P=32,760, W=1.41kg, HCD=123cm, HCU=160cm, MIN=56cm, LWP=18cm, ULD=25cm
Slik-PRO-713......P=39,060, W=1.39kg, HCD=131cm, HCU=167cm, MIN=58cm, LWP=23cm, ULD=24cm
Gitzo-G1127.......P=37,506, W=1.24kg, HCD=129cm, HCU=151cm, MIN=59cm, LWP=32cm, ULD=24cm

Four section legs - 24mm/25mm upper leg diameter class

Velbon-CF-540...P=34,807, W=1.36kg, HCD=114cm, HCU=142cm, MIN=44cm, LWP=15cm, ULD=25cm
Slik-PRO-714......P=45,100, W=1.39kg, HCD=120cm, HCU=153cm, MIN=46cm, LWP=19cm, ULD=24cm
Gitzo-G1128.......P=41,496, W=1.19kg, HCD=117cm, HCU=139cm, MIN=47cm, LWP=31cm, ULD=24cm

Three section legs - 27mm/28mm upper leg diameter class

Velbon-CF-630...P=42,997, W=1.61kg, HCD=135cm, HCU=167cm, MIN=60cm, LWP=18cm, ULD=28cm
Slik-PRO-813......P=45,780, W=1.61kg, HCD=133cm, HCU=164cm, MIN=59cm, LWP=24cm, ULD=27cm
Gitzo-G1227.......P=56,490, W=1.56kg, HCD=139cm, HCU=161cm, MIN=65cm, LWP=34cm, ULD=27cm

Four section legs - 27mm/28mm upper leg diameter class

Velbon-CF-640...P=45,045, W=1.58kg, HCD=126cm, HCU=158cm, MIN=48cm, LWP=15cm, ULD=28cm
Slik-PRO-814......P=49,560, W=1.61kg, HCD=131cm, HCU=162cm, MIN=49cm, LWP=21cm, ULD=27cm
Gitzo-G1228.......P=60,585, W=1.50kg, HCD=132cm, HCU=154cm, MIN=54cm, LWP=32cm, ULD=27cm

My impressions were:

Gitzo Series

* overall finish very nice.
* lower leg very narrow - doesn't feel quite as stable as rivals (but no doubt is!)
* three position leg angle adjusters not so strong feeling but easy to use.
* lower leg rotates freely when locking or unlocking.
* upper legs not equipped with foam protector/leg warmers.
* center column does not separate into two parts.
* center column lock doesn't feel so solid.
* bag clip for lower end of center column not included.
* stone bag not included.
* leg spikes sold separately.

Slik Pro Series

* overall finish very nice, leg locks similar in style to Gitzo.
* legs feel slightly more stable than Gitzo and slightly less stable than Velbon.
* somewhat flimsy three position leg angle adjusters.
* lower leg rotates freely when locking or unlocking.
* upper legs equipped with foam protector/leg warmers.
* center column separates into two parts (good for macro work).
* center column lock feels solid.
* bag clip for lower end of center column included.
* stone bag included - maybe not so useful though.
* spikes/rubber adjuster included on legs.

Velbon Neo Carmange Series (apparently short for CARbon MAGNEsium)

* 1mm greater upper leg diameter gives a feeling of a little more stability than rivals.
* very solid feeling three position leg angle adjusters with positive click for each position as leg is lowered.
* 'jut pipe' stops legs rotating when locking or unlocking - very nice touch!.
* upper legs equipped with foam protector/leg warmers.
* center column separates into two parts (good for macro work).
* center column lock feels very solid.
* bag clip for lower end of center column included.
* stone bag included - maybe not so useful though.
* spikes/rubber adjuster included on legs.

To sum up, I think all the tripods above are excellent quality! They all have a similar level of build quality and finish, and all will do the job just fine. I didn't have any preference when I started the search (Nikonians seems to be rather Gitzo/Manfrotto inclined though), but in the end I decided on Velbon. I was sold on the slightly more solid and stable feel, and the strong leg angle adjusters. And to top it off Velbon is cheaper than the rivals! Since my heaviest camera/lens combo is only about 1.6kg I was focusing more on the 24mm/25mm upper leg diameter tripods which left me with the CF-530 or CF-540. However, since I'm 6'1" I also didn't want to compromise on height too much. I purchased a CF-530 but ended up finding it a little too short and so returned it. I was about to replace it with the slightly taller/heavier/longer CF-630 when I discovered a domestic only model (the G5300) similar to the CF-530 in weight but nearly as tall as the CF-630 and ended up going with it instead. It came equipped with a 3-way pan head and was even cheaper than the CF-530. Good one Velbon! Stats below.

Velbon G5300 P=31,290, W=1.41kg, HCD=132cm, HCU=168cm, MIN=58cm, LWP=18cm, ULD=25cm
http://www.yodobashi.com/enjoy/more/i/1427984.html

Here's a few links that I used to tally the tripod stats.

http://www.gitzo.com/
http://www.velbon-tripod.com/sherpa_pro01.htm
http://www.slik.com/cybersh2.html
http://www.velbon.com/jp/catalog/neocarmagne/neocarmagne.html

Another thing I noticed was that Slik and Velbon offer legs only/ and head pre-equipped options on all models in Japan, with the head equipped options being usually only a little more expensive than the legs only (basically a head for free!). Is this a Japan market phenominen?

Now to find a good quality ball head to replace the 3-way pan head. Maybe a Markin's M10 will be the go hey!

Cheers, Jon in Yokohama





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