My friend, Sherry Boylan of ChesBay360.com, had a terrific idea for me to post gear reviews. So, I created a new category–Gear Beat. Sherry’s been known to say, “I’m not feelin’ the pod” when she’d rather hand-hold the camera. It fits here for my first beat.
Travel to new places and don’t want to lug a heavy tripod around? I got a tip (thanks, Sherry) on the availability of a super new travel tripod from Oben… the CT-3510. Research showed that this carbon fiber tripod matched the features and capacities of the Gitzo Traveler GT-1541T. On my recent trip to New York City, I sauntered into B&H Photo (yeah, the actual store!) and checked out the most popular travel pods thoroughly. Honestly, I couldn’t find a more desirable travel pod than the Oben—at any price. It’s extremely light (3.2 lb with ball head attached), compact (15.5” folded up with ball head attached), and nearly 17 lb load capacity. Further, it is just beautiful. All the twist locks and knobs on the legs and ball head are rubberized for a nice grippy feel and tactile feedback that lends confidence that it’s locked down firmly. It also has nice touches like foot spikes you can install, and a removable leg that can be attached to the removable center post for a really cool monopod. I checked out the height with the legs fully extended and the center post down. It’s actually pretty tall for a travel pod. My back is thankful. It only takes a quarter-turn to unlock and lock the twist locks. And the legs can individually lock in two different angles, which helps in sloped or rocky terrain.
Negatives? The internal joint components aren’t as high quality as the Gitzos, and parts may not be as easily replaced as those in Gitzos. For heavy duty work using a super-telephoto lens, I’d probably go with the Gitzo GT3541LS and a Wimberley gimbal head, but that’s a different use case.
The Oben’s price…$399.95 including ball head. That’s a cool $600 cheaper than the Gitzo (w/head) combo. I liked the Oben best, and I’m not gonna hold it against them if they want to sell it cheaper. Heck, I thought, why not give them a chance? So far, I’m thrilled. Not a single complaint. We’ll see how it holds up over time and travels, though. Note that my September 19, 2011 pic “Bright spot in dark times…” was taken at Clingmans Dome with my camera atop the Oben. Now, when I leave the hotel or cabin, I’m feelin’ the pod. Check out the links below for more info.