People buy expensive cameras and sharp lenses, but tripod are often overlooked. For this reason we typically end up buying so many cheap tripods. You might say that all tripods are just tree legs things with a ball head on top. So what’s the big deal? Why should I pay so much more for a tripod? Well, here are few reasons:
- Even the sharpest lens are going to produce blurry long exposure photos if the camera is shaking in the meantime. Good tripods are not just about premium material, the carbon fiber legs are not just to look cool. These materials are well suited to absorb camera and wind vibrations keeping your camera steady.
- Cheap tripods not only ruin your photos, but as they fall apart they can also ruin your gear!
- Good tripods are also easy to clean. For example to avoid corrosion after shooting seascapes. Without that salt water would eat your tripod alive. This is what makes good tripods to last for decades.
- For my personal needs in landscape photography I merge sunset and blue hour photos. Same exact composition. A stable tripod is essential in these cases for making the blending.
- Good tripod are made to be comfortably and efficiently used, and to adapt to all sorts of situations.
My switch from Gitzo to Leofoto
I switched 4 cheap tripods through the years. I was never satisfied, and after I realized that another cheap tripod was not going to help, I ended up purchasing a expensive Gitzo GT2545T. This is what happened to me, and the same is true for almost any photographer. We end up spending more than if we bought an expensive tripod right away.
Gitzo tripods are technically flawless, but in my opinion this company didn’t think much about the photographer’s needs. For example, the Gitzo ball heads have not indicators in the clamp which makes impossible to precisely set up any nodal slide at the right nodal point. Another well known example is that, despite Gitzo tripods high prices, there is no provided weight hook nor spikes. These are essential in the field, but they have to be bought separately. On the other hand the tripod comes with a fancy shoulder strap, which I doubt any photographer ever used.
All of this always frustrated me.
One day I came across Leofoto’s Website. Whoever knows me enough knows I am a very skeptical person. And in this case it was no exception since Leofoto is a relatively new and unknown brand. But what impressed me was seeing well designed components, and that all parts were so well designed for each others. It really looks like a well experienced photographer (and engineer) thought a lot about the design of these tripods and accessories.
Most importantly, no matter how bizarre were my needs in order to get new angles and do complex panoramas, looking through Leofoto’s website, there was always a solution for it.
Not long after I decided to give a try to Leofoto. And I ended up purchasing what I think is one of the best tripods on the market in 2020: the LS-324C with the LH-40PCL ball head.
My Leofoto LS-324C tripod
I will try to avoid listing boring technical specifications. You can find them here in their official website. Here I will try instead to list what really matters in my opinion.
Look & Feel
As people always judge tripods about their material and beauty I want to say something about it for a second: Yes! Leofoto tripods look really fancy and premium. I find no quality differences between a Gitzo, a RRS and a Leofoto. They all look super good!
It would be clearer to talk about the weight by comparing my LS-324C with my previous well known Gitzo GT2545T. These two tripods are pretty much the same size: same height, same number of sections, both 10X carbon fiber legs, and both have similar weight (respectively 1.38kg and 1.33kg).
But here’s the thing, Leofoto weight is without considering the center column, while the Gitzo is considering the center column. This is because Leofoto’s legs have a bigger diameter, and in fact they can carry about 3kg more.
So considering my model size and max payload specifications, the weight is as low as other premium brands.
The center column debate
Now there is a lot to say about the center column. Many hate it, many love it. Reality is that in any tripod brand and model, whenever you extend any tripod’s center column, that tripod becomes considerably less stable. Meaning: extend the center column only if you really have to. Another reason why the center column is inconvenient is when shooting photos close to the ground. The only way is to spend a lot of time to invert the center column, or to remove it completely.
This makes the center column 99% of the time not just useless, but also harmful and inconvenient. Smartly enough, Leofoto decided to remove the center column (similarly to RRS and other higher-end Gitzo series). Despite that, Leofoto gives you a detachable column for these exceptional occasions where you need extra height.
So definitely extra points here for Leofoto.
Cleaning is an important topic with tripods. A tripod is worth the money if you know is going to last for a long time. Similarly to other high-end brands, Leofoto tripods can be easily taken apart and cleaned completely.
Leofoto made sure that pieces are not easily removable alone by chance. While this helps to avoid pieces getting missed, it took few minutes to figure it out how to remove this piece.
While not intuitive at first on how to proceed, after understanding how it works, it’s still rapid and easy to take apart. I would say the only Leofoto feature which is a tiny bit inconvenient.
The LS-324C+LH-40PCL tripod is sold in UAE from the official Leofoto store for 1749AED, which is roughly equivalent to 476 USD. To put this in perspective, in UAE the equivalent Gitzo tripod is about double that price. RRS tripods are even more expensive than that.
Despite being much cheaper than the competition, this Leofoto tripod and other Leofoto tripods I’ve seen are in my opinion one of the best on the market, and definitely better when we consider their usability.
Leofoto even provides a 10 years of warranty, which in my opinion just states how sure they are about these tripods quality.
Now this is why I really switched to a Leofoto. In landscape, cityscape, architectural, or even product photography we all need our tripod to do the weirdest things.
Leofoto legs can be opened to reach a perspective very close to the ground. This for me is a very essential feature for landscape photography.
The tripod has also many other functionalities that are often missed in other high-end tripods.
- In order to do panoramas the ball head provides a panning clamp. The clamp has also indicators so it’s easy to precisely put a rail at the right nodal point
- Quick release plate. I love it!
- The tripod itself has a hole where other accessories can be screwed. For example using the Leofoto magic arm. I personally use it to attach my phone, a GoPro for time-lapses, or a battery pack for my camera in case I am doing star trails.
In my opinion Leofoto tripods are excellent, at least as much as other top brands, but at a lower price. I find myself that the LS-324C with the LH-40PCL ball head to be my perfect match for landscape, cityscape and architectural photography.
One of the biggest advantage of buying a Leofoto tripod is about their functionalities and to enter in a whole ecosystem of other accessories that fit well together. For example Leofoto’s magic arm, the innovative claws foots, leveling bases, or panoramic heads. All is well designed for each others and often this means even being able to a component from one tripod to another. This open a lot of different possibilities.
Last but not the least, me being unhappy with a Gitzo says a lot about my expectations when it comes to tripods. And despite that I am absolutely satisfied and amazed by this tripod. So definitely recommend it!