Sunday, November 03, 2013

Dolica AX620B100 Tripod Review

Once upon a time, I needed a tripod because I was getting sick of my small Joby pod tipping over and only about 6" tall. This led to a relatively short search on Amazon for relatively cheap tripods. People were recommending that I get a Manfrotto for over $100, but I'm sub-amateur in terms of photography skill, so I thought I'd cheap out. My decision: as long as it stands up and can support a reasonable amount of weight, I'd be happy. This led to the Dolica AX620B100 Proline Tripod and Ball Head with a very large number of reviews on Amazon, mostly positive, and relatively cheap.

The Dolica is a relatively cheap tripod. I'm not sure how to classify it in terms of features or target audience. I got it for about CAD$ 80 (US$ 40 on Amazon at time of writing) about a year ago. According to the Amazon site, the AX620B100 comes with a 62" tripod and ball head, and the unit is capable of supporting a maximum of 13.2 lb. Its net weight is 2.5 lb and constructed of an aluminum alloy.

Looking at the tripod in my possession, it has one bubble level on the leg plate, another bubble level on the ball head, and a compass on the leg plate. The legs on mine extend and contract using a snap-shut mechanism with three portions per leg. Also, the legs are capable of going completely flat (i.e. ball head can go as low as a few inches above the ground) using another snap-shut mechanism.
Dolica beside a Joby GorillaPod SLR Zoom
I've been using this tripod for a bit under a year intermittently with a very light-weight Canon ELPH 320 point & shoot, and a new Canon SX50 bridge camera. Both are relatively light and, if I remember right, even the SX50 weighs less than 5 lb with battery and a filter (+ filter adapter) attached. Given a 13.2 lb rated capacity, I definitely haven't "really" used it to its limits.

It stays indoors mainly to hold my cameras up in a fixed position. I don't use it for anything extraordinary or interesting. Most of the time, I keep the legs in the fully collapsed (lowest) position. The centre-column has rarely been used and was left half-way up until recently -- decided to fully collapse it for safety.
Bubble Level and Compass
Ease of Use
To me, this Dolica is very simple to use and I discovered most of its features just by playing with it. I found the various mechanisms for the legs and ball head to be intuitive. Even early on, moveable parts looked like moveable parts, and not too much strength was required to move things. As I got more used to the tripod, I found locks and mechanisms move more easily when in certain positions (e.g. legs collapsed to unlock mechanism to lay legs flat).

The ball head moves smoothly and gives a range of movements. I find it very easy to use the base plate to attach it to the camera and lock it onto the tripod itself. There's also a two lever mechanism for locking and removing the base plate, which I believe is a safety feature to minimize accidental releases.
Lower legs extended
One complaint I have is that the foam used on the legs stinks. Once I pulled the tripod out of the box, I could smell the classic plastic off-gassing odour (e.g. new car, shower curtain). It still hasn't gone away after nearly a year, but it has weakened.

Otherwise, it works. The tripod holds up my relatively light cameras well and still. Only when I use my SX50 and zoom in 50x to 200x do I notice the ball head resting or moving down slightly after locking. At such a high zoom, I can forgive this short coming. It is kind of annoying and makes it hard to zero in on objects in the distance perfectly though -- hard but doable.
Height with legs fully extended, centre-column mostly collapsed
I like it and would recommend it, especially for the price. Only complaints I have are relatively minor. Long zoom photography is the only major issue I have. Hopefully I can fix that by just getting a different ball head.

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