Travel Tripods for under $125. MeFOTO vs. Vanguard. What you really get

posted in Photo Gear Reviews

Travel Tripods for under $125. MeFOTO vs. Vanguard. What you really get

2016 has been an extremely interesting and even more fast paced earthen I could have imagined. Phones are taking over the world and there is no more question that mirrorless cameras and what comes after them are the future. With all that, we’ve also seen a crazy shift to everyone being a photographer and this whole category of influencer/traveler accounts just exploding over the last 12 months. With all that, I just had to understand what the new travel tripods had to offer. So I got MeFOTO BackPacker Air Travel Tripod  and Vanguard VEO 235AB Aluminum Tripod for review and took them to Marina Del Rey in California to put them to the test.

Both tripods were under $150 dollars. You can get a pretty good bigger heavy tripod for that sum. But we all want featherweight, mobile size, and 20 lbs hold capacity. I purchased a $200 tripod for my needs this year and a slider that I got from someone else. This technically is my main kit. I’m not ready mentally for mobile photography to take over the world.

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As I was walking through the yacht decks in the marina, I could not be more surprised how different the two tripods were. So almost the same budget yo can have something that is awesome and also something that’s completely scary to put your camera on. Where is the problem? How can this be? Isn’t everything cheaper and more awesome every month?

There is no such thing as universally perfect. We are all unique with our own unique needs and preferences. So don’t take my opinion as an unquestionable and undeniable recommendation. I’ve always said everything is personal. My thoughts are my thoughts and that’s about it.

If you don’t mind, I’ll start with the good news. MeFOTO killed it with the new small and light tripod. It’s just so pleasant to use and so easy to extend and control the head.. Sometimes even these simple features can be a tremendous pain. But not in this case. I picked the orange version just because it’s fun to add some color pop, but really the engineering idea is what deserves more credit. I know one thing – this tripod will go places with me, for all its limited capacity for weight. I haven’t seen an easier leg section extension than in this case. You simply rotate the same knob until you get the extension you want. That is it. At first, I thought that this knob might break after extensive use. All the pressure is on a single point of the tripod. But the solution is refreshing and for someone like me, not a huge fan of tripods in general, this was a very welcome feature.

Quality of the build always plays a big role for me. I have my own online store, and it it’s not the quality of the product and thought behind it, then what do you really pay for? MeFOTO , for $125, somehow was able to give no room to unacceptable production quality. I think it’s mostly because of the volume of tripods they produced and years or experience and making what they make.

MeFOTO tripod is very light, but I didn’t have concerns putting my camera on it and worrying about movement and strong winds. This thing just locks in place. Same goes for the ball head. It’s solid and pleasant to use. No weight shifts. I can’t stand those. The tripod also comes with a mobile phone holder. It’s not as well made, but fits larger phones and gets the job done. You also get a small remote that can trigger the phone to capture images. Neat feature, but I didn’t test it much.

The more I was using the tripod, the more fun it was getting. But then I switched to Vanguard, and things changed. Sure, the two constructions are different, but for almost the same $ you get two completely different options. I’m not normally complaining much in my reviews because I do prior research and mostly get the products that I’m already interested in that do well. But this time I just felt bad for everyone who bought this Vanguard tripod.

Vanguard seems to have some great designers behind products, but might not always have perfect execution of the ideas. I will just speak for this one product I have in front of me and it’s very questionable why you’d even spend $100 on it. Maybe I’m spoiled, but I truly believe that great quality will eventually bring more customers in. I’ve done reviews of Vanguard products that were pretty sweet, so I have no beef with the company and it’s just my honest reflection of what’s in my hand.

I don’t think this Vanguard tripod can handle much weight. The legs and leg sections are wobbly. I didn’t want to extend everything fully and put my Sony a6300 on it. Overall build shows signs of production issues or cost savers. I don’t blame them, $100 is not much to go on. But I have expensive equipment and I don’t trust this tripod to hold it. It’s also heavier than MeFOTO. For someone like me, who rarely takes tripods to outdoor adventures, this is quite a big decision factor. I got exhausted extending and locking each leg section. I felt like I got a workout of out it. Not necessarily what you want to do with a tripod.

The overall feeling you get when using both tripods on the same day is that it just can’t be. For almost the same budget you get two completely different tripods that are really far apart in build quality and functionality. I’m not used to this. So by the end of the day, I had a very strange expression of puzzlement on my face. The reality is that some brands adapt well to new trends and some don’t. I think Vanguard is a bit stronger when it comes to outdoor adventure bag series. But in this tripod battle, they have a lot of room for improvement, which is a great thing.

I will take my travel size MeFOTO to my next adventure in New Mexico, but I’ll also have my main tripod with me as the primary option. Mobile revolution is gaining speed and all of us need to adjust in the marketplace where every second person is a photographer or an influencer. We live in interesting times. Shoot what you like and read up on the gear you want to purchase. Happy Holidays!

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