“ Manufacturer: Opticron / Tripod / Supported Devices: Camera „
As a birdwatcher and bird photographer, I have a need for a sturdy tripod to support both my telescope and my camera/500mm lens combination. Both are heavy and lengthy, which shows up any instability if there is any wind at all.
With an unstable tripod, the pictures produced by the long lens and camera will show blurriness due to camera shake. Looking through the telescope in windy conditions can be an unpleasant experience as the view moves around in the wind.
There is more to a birdwatching tripod than stability, however. Weight is important: yomping across the moors can be made even more tiring with a massive steel construction strapped to one's back!
Also, the tripod should be tall enough to avoid using the central column. These raise the height of the tripod, but on a single stalk, which inevitably makes the tripod even more unstable.
As you can see, a tripod suitable for birdwatching puts severe demands on the manufacturer: lightweight but sturdy, tall without being too heavy.
Opticron make some good birdwatching equipment so I looked at their range first. Warehouseexpress.com had the 42804 model complete with head for £99.00.
First impressions were extremely good. The tripod height is a generous 55 inches, so I did not need to use the central column at all. The tripod packs down to a reasonable 25 inches for transportation.
The legs are made of tubular steel of one inch diameter, a good compromise between bulk and stability. On cold days, handheld metal objects conduct heat away from the hand, making them uncomfortable to carry. Realising this, Opticron have thoughtfully padded one of the legs with foam; nice and warm for holding or carrying the tripod.
Extending the legs is easy, simply release the two large clips on each leg, slide the leg to the required length and close the clips. This is a simple operation, even when wearing gloves.
Also impressive is the magnesium alloy head. This operates with a quick smooth tilting and panning motion controlled by a large lever. The action appears dampened, so that precise movements can be made (essential when trying to focus on a small object, far away).
Once set up, the tripod does give a very stable platform for a scope or camera. Even my long telescope feels rock solid when locked into place with the large securing plate. I've had this for about a year now and it's been tested in all weather conditions. Only very strong winds cause any shake at all; quite an impressive performance.
The only downsize to the tripod is the weight. At 2180g, this is just about as heavy as I'd want to carry on a day out. Carbon tripods are available, and are around 30% lighter. This light weight comes at a considerable cost, however, up to double the price of the 42804.
The tripod is certainly durable. After a year's use, there are no signs of wear at all and the unit feels as solid as the day I bought it. This tripod comes with a five year guarantee, and feels as if it will last much longer than that.
Overall, I'm really pleased with my Opticron tripod. It provides a very sturdy platform for my telescope or camera in all weathers. It's not too bulky and it is just about light enough to carry all day. Best of all is the price. At £99.00, for the tripod and head, this is an excellent compromise between price and performance. Highly recommended for the birdwatcher who also likes to watch the pennies!