I finally managed to get my hands on the new Vanguard Alta Pro 283CT Carbon Fibre Tripod and the SBH-100 Ball Head, one of the prime examples of the top of the range line of light, strong and professional tripods from Vanguard. In a industry dominated by a number of key brands, Vanguard have been pushing their offering in this saturated market. Up to this point my studio has been primarily Manfrotto, so it’s great to have a new bit of tech to be able to put through it’s paces in comparison to some of the long standing kit I use daily. I needed to shot a number of photographs for The Exotic Garden in Norwich, so decided now would be a great time to give it a test, as there are all sorts of awkward locations I have to get the camera into, that require tripod support on various surfaces. You can see in this first image how helpful the angled top section was, it enabled me to get over the wall and close as I needed, without actually being in the way.
Unpacking the first thing I notice is quite how light it is, lightness is one of those things with tripods & grip that isn’t an easy one to quantify. Sometimes they need to be light enough if you want to be able to travel with them, but at the same time the lighter a tripod gets, the less stable and ‘grounded’ they become. One of the next things I noticed was the glimmer of a hook under the main central shaft, a perfect addition to a super light tripod like this – I now know I’ll be able to easily hang my kit back underneath, or even a sandbag (I ended up using a large rock in the ‘stone bag’, which was even closer on this shoot. The tripod should support up to 8kg of camera and lens, it certainly feels strong enough.
For a tripod of this reach (1700mm ) and this weight (1.7kg) it is pretty stable, which actually quite surprised me… although at full extension like this a counterweight was definitely needed. Once extended to full height there is a little bit of sway, but no more than is normal for any tripod of this size.
The legs are in three sections, and I found that if you’re just using two of the sections, which was great for me as one one needed to be at ‘sitting’ height. Unbelievably strong and rigid at this height.
On the bottom of the legs you have the choice of a rubber end, or a concealed metal spike – so using the spike on carpets and grass etc it really does give an extra level of support over using standard issue rubber feet which can often slip. I found the spikes way better on almost all surfaces, so I think they will be my default setup. Much better than standard rubber feet!
The design of the 283CT is pretty great, certainly a modern design, and one that really does look the part. No complaints here, it’s as good looking or even better than some of the market leaders. Sleek, black and great looking carbon fibre legs – I really like the logo detail in the foam layer on the top of the upper leg sections, a nice touch. Talking of the grips, the carbon fibre sure makes a difference when outside in the cold – my other standard metal tripod legs are a pain to hold in freezing conditions as the carbon fibre never seems to hold the coldness like pure metal legs do. A great extra advantage.
Quarter twist leg locking system
This is an odd one to me, and on first use I wasn’t a big fan of the twist-to-lock on the carbon fibre legs, I personally prefer the thumb lock on the Manfrotto range – BUT this isn’t an issue here, there is no way you’d be able to have a compress style lock on a carbon fibre leg, this physics just doesn’t work – carbon fibre is just not string enough this way – so twist-to-lock legs in my opinion are the only way forward with this style of tripod. Although on first use I didn’t really like them to start, after a couple of days using them your fingers learn automatically the right way to twist and how much to twist, so becomes a quicker and quicker process each time.
An excellent little touch, there was an extra base plate for the camera, and an extra screw too – it touches like that make the difference – I can now have a base plate on my primary and secondary camera, so I can quickly change between them without hassle. Also the little tool kit comes a s a handy little package, which again is a nice touch rather than just slinging them in the bottom of the box. Nice work Vanguard. I noticed your little touches – and totally appreciated them.
The ball head
The SBH-100 is a Lightweight magnesium alloy head, with silky smooth moves! When connecting the ball head to the tripod, the screw seems pretty secure, and the added three grub screws really make the difference – the screws on my Manfrotto eventually fell out, so it’ll be interesting to see how these stand the test of time!
The ball head is smooooooth, gotta hand it to them, it’s smoother than most of the other heads I’ve tried, so pretty impressed with that. The head is properly solid, the twist nuts work really well, and really offer a tight grip, even with my heavy Canon 5Dmk2 and 24-70mm 2.8L lens, which is pretty top heavy. Very impressed. The control is great, and this is certainly quick;y going to become my primary head for standard issue work. The degree markers around the edge is a nice touch, and twinned with the bubble level it all works well out and about trying to level up quickly.
The Stone Bag
A great extra is the added stone bag, which connects to the top of the legs and becomes a platform to either keep your kit off the damp ground or somewhere to put a bit of extra weight to keep the setup a little more stable. Then again you can do both, I could keep some of my kit up on the stone bag, and then hook a sand bag underneath too. As mentioned before, the stone bag and rock combo was closer to hand than my proper sandbag. Bonus!
The bag that comes with the tripod is the perfect size, even with the ball attached, which is a welcome addition as sometimes tripod bags are only suitable with the head removed. It’s decent and thick material, seems waterproof (un-tested!) and very durable. Nice design, simple but good enough.
Multi-Angled top section
The top vertical section of tripod is extendable like most tripods, and allows you to pull it through and extend it in different directions, the snap catch works well, and you have good control of movement. I really like the way you can almost invert the whole top section, so you end up having you camera underneath the head mount, so you can actually point straight down with legs splayed out each side – which is excellent for a really stable vertical shot straight down. Nice touch.
Angled out to the side at ninety degrees and full extend, it’s pretty wobbly with camera and lens attached, not really that useable in the wind, but to be honest I’ve not come across another tripod in the same range / price that is any better. To be honest the only time I’ve used positions like that have been in small table top studio sessions for product photography, and once the camera has stopped moving around and a shutter release / timer / remote is used it’s perfect. The central column moves from 0 to 180 degrees, which is more than enough for sure.
Low angled legs
The legs open out super wide, which allows you to get really close to the ground but still stable – it seems to be able to much lower than some of my other tripods. Legs move at 25, 50 and 80-degree angles.
I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this tripod for travelling if you need proper support in this way. It’s certainly incredibly light for the size and reach of a tripod this size, and when slung over my shoulder with the included bag it doesn’t seem a burden at all. It all packs down small enough to fit inside a normal suitcase, or easily can clip to the side of your rucksack, depending on your type of travel.
Summary & Value for Money
Currently this tripod retails at £269.95 for the tripod and £69.95 for the Ball Head, which in my opinion is great value for money. If you need a light, portable but sturdy and professional tripod then this is a great choice. It will certainly be packed on every photo shoot from now on, especially when travelling is involved. I don’t think you’ll regret buying it! If you do buy it, get in contact and let me know what you think – it will be interesting to see what other people think about it too! They are certainly building a pretty impressive collection of photography gear, nice work Vanguard!
More information: View manufacturers website
Super smooth ball head
Fine control over movement
Design looks cracking
Little hook under central section for added stability.
Spikes / Rubber ends to legs
No cold surfaces
Locking the legs take a while to get used to
The legs don’t feel quite secure enough, I want more of a physical locking feel, I’m sure they are totally secure, I just want some feedback when I tighten the collars for my own comfort.
Bit of a wobble when hanging a weight underneath side to side
If the weight starts to swing underneath, the movement is amplified up through the central shaft to the time – a minor annoyance but it does make me have to secure off the sandbag so it’s not free swinging.
Slow to get camera on and off
that’s just do with the tight / button press release mechanism, but to be honest it’s pretty secure so it makes sense for it to be this way. I’d rather have a slower release but be more secure when it’s on, so not really a con as such!
Central column moves from 0 to 180 degrees
Quarter-twist leg locks
Legs adjust to 25, 50 and 80-degree angles
Extended height(mm):1700 (W/Column)
Maximum loading capacity(kg):8
Tilted Loading Capacity(kg):7
Extended height(inch):66 7/8 (W/Column)
Min.Extended Height(inch):53 3/4
Folded height(inch):25 1/4
Minimum working height (inch):
Maximum working height (inch):
Maximum loading capacity(lbs):18
Tilted Loading Capacity(lbs):15.4
Number of Leg Sections:3