A couple of months ago, I finally caved and bought myself a new tripod. My old one had been designed for a point and shoot camera, and as such, wasn't really designed to take the weight of the Canon Mk3 and a heavy lens! Fearing the worst could happen to my kit if I continued to use it, I knew I needed a new tripod, but just wasn't keen on spending a lot of money on something that only gets used once or twice a month, and the roughest terrain that it is likely to be used on is the carpet in the playroom.
During my search for a tripod costing under $100, I came across the Amazon Basics 70" Pistol Grip Tripod. At $59, the price was exactly what I was looking for, and it had (generally) excellent reviews. I was torn about buying since every "buying guide" on tripods suggests spending a decent amount on a tripod, but I figured I could always send it back if it wasn't up to scratch. The good new is, I love it, and I'm so glad I saved myself a couple of hundred dollars by buying this one!
I thought I'd write up a quick review in case any of you are in the market for a cheap and cheerful tripod too!
Weight and Build
The first thing you will notice about this tripod is the weight - apparently it weights around 8 pounds, which is too heavy for a hiking or travel tripod. I really wouldn't want to be lugging this up a hill for example, or taking it with me on a plane, so if that is your reason for getting a tripod, I would go and seek out a much more lightweight option! However, if you only intend to use it indoors, or in a studio (or in a place where you intend to drive to and only walk a short while to your final point) then it's all good, as the weight doesn't really matter. In fact, I find the weight a bit of a plus point, because this tripod is SOLID. It is completely stable and very sturdy, which is a lovely, reassuring feeling when you have $$$ worth of equipment resting on it. Absolutely, 100% no worries on that score. Everything seems to be made from aluminium, which is why it feels so solid, and despite the price, definitely does not feel cheap.
Just as a side note, the feet on the tripod are on joints, which makes it ideal for using on areas that might be uneven.
Maximum height is 70", which is more than enough height, even if you are over 6 ft tall, so it's fine for my petite 5' 4". The minimum height is 32", but you can place the camera on the bottom of the centre column for low shots (for example, macro images where you want to get low to the ground.
Quick Release Plate
The tripod comes with a quick release plate, which makes attaching your camera to the tripod a breeze. You simply screw the plate into the bottom of your camera, and then slide it onto the top of the tripod (You can leave the quick release plate on your camera at all times if you wish, for easy mounting and removing) You also get a spare quick release plate which I daresay will come in handy once I have lost this one! (Bound to happen) I've never had a tripod with a quick release plate before and it really makes it much easier to attach your camera to the tripod.
Pistol Grip Ball Head
This is the first time I have had a pistol grip handle for rotating the camera and I love it! To use, you simply squeeze the pistol grip, which then releases the ball head allows you to move your camera into position, and then you simply release the pistol grip to lock. (It's a little stiff straight out of the box, but does loosen up with a bit of use) I found it really easy to move the camera around with this, and positioning with it is a breeze - even at 90 degree angles. It also has a bubble spirit level to make sure that the camera is level. Once it's in position, it's rock solid.
The maximum load with this tripod is 5kg, which is probably more than you will ever need. Just to give you an idea of weight, my Canon 5D MKIII with my heaviest lens (the 200mm) attached comes to just 1.7 kg , so you could mount a heavier camera, heavier lens, and flash on there and it would still be OK. If you have particularly heavy gear, then check your weight specifications for each item to be absolutely sure, but for most, this will be more than enough.
The only issue I have had with the tripod is that I had to send the first one back due to a snapped screw. Of course, Amazon make this super easy, so I ordered a replacement at 5pm at night, and I had a new one in my hands by 10am the next day (before I had sent the broken one back) so there really wasn't an issue and you really can't fault Amazon for customer service. However, be sure to give it a once over when you get it to be sure everything is OK, especially before you put your camera on it. Perhaps quality control isn't the best at this price, so I'd give everything a once over yourself - make sure nothing is snapped and that all the screws have been tightened and so on.
There isn't one. You just have to figure it out on your own (which to be fair, is not that hard) but really, a one page manual would have been nice to save me a few minutes of head scratching.
One More Thing....
Apparently the Amazon Basics tripod is simply a Amazon branded version of the Ravelli AGP4 Tripod which is what I had my greedy little eye on to begin with after hearing some very decent reviews on that product. Whether it is or not I can't be 100% sure, but they certainly look very, very, VERY similar. They both appear to around about the same price, but if one or the other is on offer, then get that one :) As I write this the APGL4 is $59.96 and the Amazon Basics $59.90 but if you plan on buying a quick price check of them both wouldn't go amiss.
All in all, the Amazon Basics Pistol Grip Tripod is a bargain for the price, and for most people, I would definitely recommend it. It's sturdy, solid and well-built, with a pistol head grip that is easy to use, comes with a quick release plate, and will hold more equipment than you are likely to need. However, it is a not going to be for you if you want to go trekking with it (unless you feel like having a hardcore workout!) or you do a lot of travelling and want to take your tripod with you, but that's probably the only real issue with it.
It's very refreshing to buy something that does the job perfectly well, at a really reasonable cost - thereby freeing up more money for lenses!