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First Impressions: Vanguard Alta Pro

by Nigel Paterson on 03/23/2011

The innovative design lets you grip, position, release.

The tripod is the first accessory I suggest keen amateurs purchase after they buy a camera: before a flash, before extra lenses, before bags. They not only allow long exposures, they are a big aid to composition, so if you want to make nice images, use a tripod. Vanguard has sent The Phoblographer an Alta Pro 263 AGH kit comprising the GH-100 pistol grip head and 263AT legs, and first impressions are great.

Inside the box, the head is packed separately to the legs, and included is: a bag, tools and accessory pouch. Once assembled it’s easy to see that this tripod is pretty cutting-edge with its design. Not only do the legs extend out so you can get very low and stable, the head stem actually pops out and pivots, so you can put the tripod head in places impossible with a conventional tripod. The legs are equipped with a spirit level, and the head has one too, interestingly located under the quick-release plate, so you need to get it right before fitting the camera.

Attaching with velcro loops is a stone bag – add weight and it increases stability. I’d rather use the hook at the base of the head stem with a camera bag, but the stone bag will be usable even when the central column is being used in a pivoted position. The legs are aluminium and magnesium alloy, which is heavier than carbon fiber but damn slightly cheaper. They have foam grips. This Vanguard is a medium-sized kit, but certainly big enough for most DSLR gear. I’ll be happy to hang my Canon EOS 1D Mark II N & 300mm f/2.8Lon it, but that would be as big as I’d go, I reckon. The tripod head itself is innovative. The pistol grip can be positioned at an angle in respect to the ball head itself simply by pulling back the gray collar. Tension on the pistol grip is adjustable. The panoramic platform allows 5-degree changes to the angle in click stops as you rotate the camera.

At just under 3kg (6.5lb) packed up in its bag, it’s no lightweight, but that’s always been the price of stability. The other price is around $240 for the kit. It comes with a limited lifetime warranty, too.

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