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Slik SDV 20 Photo and Video TripodLow-priced tripod proves you can get lots more than you pay for
Are you looking for a tripod that will support your camcorder or digital camera, that's extremely light, stable, easy to set up and take down, and above all, cheap? After being spoiled by thousand-dollar tripods and heads, studio-quality pedestals that cost in the tens of thousands of dollars, and other elaborate camera support devices that sometimes were so heavy that it took two people to carry them, I wasn't sure it was even possible to find an inexpensive tripod that could still do the job. Was this a fools errand? Follow me and find out.
I was getting tired of unstable video and blurry stills resulting from my ill-advised attempts to handhold most of my camera shots, which bore no resemblance to those captured using a SteadiCam. Sure, I have access to camera mounts that cost thousands of dollars. But I was looking for a travel tripod that I would be able to keep with me most of the time. Frankly, I intended to leave myself with no excuse for not using a tripod. A quick tip: Using a tripod whenever you can will give your work a professional look, where viewers won't know exactly why, but they'll feel like they're watching something that was shot by an expert.
My camera support mechanism candidate had to be light, and had to cost under $20. Searching around the Web, I spotted my quarry?a Slik SDV-20 tripod that was on sale at Amazon for $14.49. Could this be true? Was it a misprint? Is it at all possible to get a usable tripod for less than $15? Holding my breath, and with the small bit of courage needed when risking such a small sum of money, I chose a book or two to also add to my shopping cart so I could get free shipping, and with a click I summoned the little tripod to our Midwest Test Facility.
Just a few days later, there it was. Inside their very small package, the tiny sticks when folded up were only 23 inches tall and weighed only 2.6 pounds. The manufacturer rates this tripod as capable of holding 3.3 pounds, well within the range of most consumer camcorders and almost all still cameras. When you have the tripod fully extended, it will give you a lens height that I measured at 61 inches. Some people are also interested in how low the tripod can go when it is completely collapsed, and at its lowest your lens height will be approximately 23 inches.
So once all the measuring, prodding, poking, and general sizing up was done, I decided to mount a camcorder and a camera onto these babies and see what they can really do. Spoiled by the silky smooth fluid heads of my TV cameraman youth, I approach this with a cynicism that was probably inappropriate for a reviewer. But the good news is, I was pleasantly surprised by this pan-and-tilt head that sits atop this bargain-basement set of sticks. After mounting a small DV camcorder onto the tripod, using its quick release plate (yes, even these low-rent tripods have quick release plates these days), I was able to execute astonishingly smooth camera moves with this thing. After just a few tweaks of the pan and tilt friction, it felt almost like a fluid head.
|Here's the most important part of any camera support device -- the head. It's crucial when you want to make smooth camera moves. Even though this camera head is simply constructed, it's highly effective.|
I also like the way you can expand the telescoping legs with this tripod. Like other Slik products Ive used in the past, instead of unscrewing the leg holders, there are rubberized plastic tab-like mechanisms that release the legs for extension. With this design, I found it possible to set up the tripod in a matter of seconds. Instead of a crank to raise the center support of the tripod, there is a friction-based telescoping mechanism thats tightened by another rubberized flange. The product, while exceedingly light, felt surprisingly well constructed. The only problem with this light weight is that if youre trying to do some shooting in windy conditions, you wont get the kind of solid platform youll need.
My conclusion after using this tripod for a couple of weeks is that its probably the best $15 Ive ever spent. The overall problem with using a tripod is that its too much trouble and its too heavy to bring along with you. It seems like whenever you need a tripod, you dont have one. And even if you do have one, its just too hard to set up and is seemingly not worth the effort. But with this small, light, easy-to-set-up unit, there will be no more excuses for not using a tripod. Oh, did I mention how important it is to use a tripod whenever possible? This diminutive platform, with its user-friendly design, will practically invite you to take it along on your next photographic adventure. And, at less than $15, it represents a tremendous value. Highly recommended. 10 stars.
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