Sunday, November 9, 2008

What Did I Do?

Whenever I look at new toys, electronic gadgets, I usually do a lot of homework before I buy them. I check them out thoroughly, I check them out on-line and if I can find a magazine or two with a review or write up, I'll do that also. I also always check out competing products so that I can make an informed decision.

Last year at this time I went to Australia. A few days before my trip I purchased, spur of the moment, a new small portable tripod the Slik Sprint Pro GM. I remember quickly checking it out. The head wasn't very good but I had already purchased an excellent small Giottos MH-1001 Pro Medium Ball Head with Independent Panning Lock and Built-in MH652 Quick Release (Supports 17.6 lbs). The tripod appeared to have what I was looking for.

It was small at 18.9 inches with thin 4 section aluminium legs that extended to about 64 inches. The legs spread at varying angles using a funny leg lock mechanism (see photo) and can get very low to the ground. The tripod is light at just under 2 pounds with its original head and just over with the Giottos head. Its centre column can be adjusted and even inverted so you can mount the camera upside down. The centre column tightens up with a column tightening ring and also has a quick lock mechanism that uses a 'wing nut'. It seemed perfect.

In Locked Position

Travelling with it to Australia and this past week to Hawaii was no problem. It easily fits into any standard travel luggage. Its small size also allows it to fit snuggly against my Lowepro Rolling CompuTrekker Plus AW Camera Bag.

Problem is, it has several problems. Ok, I do know this tripod was not designed for a DSLR camera but the legs appear to be much more flexible than some other smaller tripods I have since checked out since I purchased this one. With the camera mounted and a standard type zoom lens (Canon EF L 24 - 105mm) the tripod wobbles a lot. Manually pressing the shutter mechanism will cause the camera to start to wobble and it will continue to do so for more than 2 seconds.

This is with all legs fully extended but the centre column not extended. Everything is locked down tight. To compensate for this problem I use the 10 second timer on the camera. The 2 second timer just doesn't do it.

On my Australia trip, I had a funny thing that happened and thought it was just me, something I had done. I had one of the funny leg lock mechanisms not locked into place and the camera almost went flying as the leg started heading out. At the time I thought that this was something I had done, or perhaps not checked on.

I value all my equipment and at the time this event bothered me. I since always checked these locking mechs and several times now this week found that they wobble their way loose. Simply by spreading the legs out and back in several times, these locking mechs pull themselves out until they no longer lock the leg in place at the setting you want. This could be a disaster waiting to happen.

I have since played with the locking mechanisms and checked them out. Yes, they will work their way loose on their own. I tried all three legs and found that two of the three leg locks have problems. One of the locks is very much a problem and only after spreading the legs a few times, in and out, that the locking mech works its way out. One leg I played with for a long time before it worked its way out. The other leg I could not get the lock to go loose. Obviously a design flaw.

Un-locked Position (Un-locked all the way for demonstration)

And finally today, I thought the centre column wing-nut worked its way loose or perhaps I hadn't tightened it properly as the camera crashed down (only and inch) as the column dropped as far as it could go to the end. Turns out that the wing-nut is stripped and cannot be tightened!!

Today I checked out this tripod on-line and looked at the reviews on The reviews are good with all 5 stars. But, reading the reviews showed that they were mostly posted within a week or so of members getting their tripods and some people just suggesting that it looks good with no real world tests performed.

Well, real world tests are always the best. In this case I would suggest that this tripod is not good for use with a DSLR or ANY other camera even a point and shoot as the locks work their way loose on their own simply by just using the tripod with or without any camera attached to it. I would not risk my gear with this tripod and I will no longer use it after this trip. I will be very cautious with it in the mean time. I do not recommend the Slik Sprint Pro GM tripod.

The lesson here may be to properly check out equipment before you buy it. Although in this case it may not have helped as easy to find reviews on the unit are fairly good. Digging deeper on the net revealed others with similar problems. Perhaps not being in a rush I would of found this information out before purchase and could have found better choices. In the future I may purchase a new travel tripod, or I may just bring my bigger trusted Gitzo GT2530 LVL Series 2 6X Carbon Fiber 3-Section Leveling Tripod with G-Lock and Giottos MH-1000-500 Large Ball Head with Independent Panning Lock and Built-in MH652 Quick Release which Supports 22 lbs. It has never failed me and it is rock solid.

© 2008 Francois Cleroux

(Version 1.00 - November 2008)

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I value thoughtful comments and suggestions. If you like or dislike this post, please let me know. If you have any ideas or suggestion, comments or corrections (I do make mistakes) please also let me know. Thanks.

- Francois Cleroux