The world of sub $200 tripods seems to be an ever-growing category. In this post, we are going to take a look at one of the newest entries to the party, the Oben AC-1310 with BA-0 ball head. So, is this tripod simply another “disposable” tripod (i.e. you will most likely need to replace it in a year or two), or is this a hidden jewel in the world of tripods? Let’s put it through the ringer and find out.
Look and Feel
This is a $99 tripod…let’s just put that out there from the get-go. It isn’t the greatest tripod in the world and you won’t be blown away by the build quality or the features. With that said, it isn’t all that bad.
At first look, I was actually surprised (in a good way) by the build quality of the Oben AC-1310. The tripod is very light and it feels relatively well made for a $99 tripod. You can tell the aluminum legs are thin and I’m not sure how well they will hold up over time. If you are careful with your gear they should hold up. The Oben AC-1310 sports three section legs that have a channel that runs the length of them to prevent twisting. That is a nice touch. Locking down the legs are flip locks. I’m assuming twist locks were avoided due to cost. The flip locks work well and they securely hold the legs in place but their build quality leaves much to be desired. They are made of what feels to be a very cheap plastic. If I were a betting man, I would bet that out of everything on the tripod, these would be the first to go. With that being said, I didn’t run into any issues with the flip locks while using the tripod…the same can’t be said for the rest of the tripod.
The center column of the tripod is actually quite solid and it too has a single channel that runs down the entire column to prevent the column from twisting when being tightened down. At the bottom of the center column is a hook which can be used to weigh down the tripod for added stability. I wouldn’t add too much weight to the hook as I don’t think the hook or the legs could support any more than what is advertised (11lbs.).
At first glance, the ball head (that is removable/replaceable) seems to be the nicest looking part of the rig. It has a smooth action, lots of levels and the lock on the quick-release mechanism is surprising to see on a tripod of this price. The mounting plate is abnormally small…it looks rather ridiculous on my Canon 5D. Then again, this tripod is really targeted to shooters with smaller, entry level cameras. This tripod seemed more at home with my Panasonic GF-1 mounted to the top instead of my Canon 5D.
There are a few niceties that included that I found surprising for a tripod in this price range.
- Carrying Case: The case is well padded and it comes with a shoulder strap to make transporting this light tripod even easier.
- Leg wraps: These are key on an aluminum tripod as the legs can get VERY cold.
- Lots of bubble levels: These can really make your life easier. There’s nothing worse than spending time straighten photos in post…very boring.
One of the best things about the Oben AC-1310 is it’s size and weight. Carrying the Oben AC-1310 in it’s included carrying case is actually pretty comfortable. Weighing in at only 3.4lbs., you can carry this thing around for hours without issue. The included carrying case also makes transportation much easier.
The first couple of times I used the Oben AC-1310, I was pleasantly surprised and I ran into little to no issues even when using my Canon 5D. The ball head was able to hold my 5D and there was little to no creep after the head was securely locked down. I really like the series of levels on the head as ensuring your camera is level. Sadly, after a few uses, the ball head’s performance started to go down hill. The quick release plate locking mechanism began to stick and it wouldn’t tighten down with plate without me forcing the level into position. Also, the ball head itself began to stick. I would loosen up the release knob and the head wouldn’t move without a good amount of force. This is good for security reasons (your camera won’t flop over), but it isn’t ideal when you are trying to make minor adjustments. I also found out that there is no stop on the screw that is used to tighten/loosen the ball head. If you loosen it too much, the screw simply falls out. Not cool.
All of the issues above were exacerbated when I used the tripod out in the cold. The ball head was super stiff and the plate locking mechanism was very finicky. This doesn’t happen to the tripod that I own, but I also paid about six times the price of the Oben.
OK, so the ball head isn’t stellar, so how about the legs? Overall, the legs performed well and I didn’t have any major issues. Like I said earlier, the aluminum is VERY thin which makes the legs feel fragile. When fully extended, there is a bit of flex under moderate loads. If you do not extend the last section the tripod becomes much more stable. This isn’t ideal for a tripod that only has three sections.
The other bits on the legs also worked without issue. While the flip locks on the legs feel cheap, they held up fine and didn’t give me any grief. They never slipped, failed, or produced any other issues. The center column is probably the beefiest part of the tripod. It, along with its locking mechanism, worked flawlessly.
To get the best results when shooting with the Oben, I highly recommend using a wired or wireless trigger. When I was shooting, I framed my shot, waited roughly 5-10 seconds and then used a wireless trigger to fire the shutter. I also used the mirror lockup custom function to ensure there was no shaking/movement when shooting. I was able to get good results using the method above but it took a lot of patience and extra time.
While the legs performed relatively well, I did have a few small complaints:
- The feet have an angle cut to them which works great when you are using the tripod on flat, smooth surfaces. Unfortunately, the cut feet do not work well in grass or uneven surfaces. I noticed that the tripod slipped quite a bit when I was using it in grass. It would be nice if they included spikes or even had the option for spiked feet.
- As noted above, even with a light load, the tripod is not incredibly stable when the legs are full extended. There is quite a bit of flex and you can easily twist the tripod from side-to-side when the legs are fully extended.
Let’s be honest here, the Oben AC-1310 is not an amazing tripod, but it will also only set you back $99. So here’s my final thoughts on this tripod…
If you are just starting out with photography and/or you are on a super tight budget, the Oben AC-1310 should keep you happy provided you are shooting with nothing larger than a very small DSLR and kit lens. With that being said, I wouldn’t be surprised if you had to replace it after a few years. If you’re OK with that, then I would say go for it…you’ll probably be pretty happy with your $99 investment.
If you’re an avid photographer that has started to build up a decent kit but you have yet to pull the trigger on a tripod, I would say take another route. The Oben AC-1310 may be able to fulfill your needs for immediate future, but I honestly think you will be disappointed in the long run. Many photography enthusiasts make the mistake of buying a cheap tripod for $100-200 instead of buying a quality setup and then end up regretting it because their cheap tripod craps out after a few years. I’ve been there and done that. Trust me, if you’ve already made an investment in photography by purchasing a quality body and glass, invest in a good tripod from the get go. A quality tripod and head could easily last you 20-30 years. So, before you go out and drop $1k-2k on a new DSLR that you will replace in a few years, go and invest in a quality tripod setup that will provide you years of worry free shooting.
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