Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Vanguard Alta Pro 263 AT and PH-32 Overview

Photography used to be an "artsy" and "hipster" thing to me. Not only did I make an effort not to get any pictures taken, I also made an effort not to have even a camera in my possession until the past few years. Times have obviously changed and I'm slowly getting into photography.

That slow walk into sin has set me back around a grand at this point. It went up further recently when I picked up a new tripod. Was the gear itch or necessity that put me in the market for a new tripod? I really want to say that it was only the latter, but that's probably not true. Regardless, I now have a third tripod: a starter "budget" model, a Joby for travel, and a moderately more expensive non-pro model -- whatever "pro" is.

Vanguard Alta Pro 263AP Unboxed
The Problem
For the past year, I've been using a Dolica AX620B100. It's been an excellent tripod for me and has performed excellent despite its relatively low price. Most of the photos and videos that I've created during this time have been done with a camera attached to the thing.

There have been more than a few occasions when I wished that I had two regular sized tripods so I could use two cameras at once. I did have the Dolica and the Joby, but the Joby was too short. Time for second tripod and/or an upgrade then.

What did I want?
I wanted a reasonably good tripod that was at least as good as the Dolica. The only real requirement I had was for the weight capacity of the legs and head to be at least 10 lb. That left the field pretty wide open.

When I did my research, the Dolica AX620B100 62-Inch Proline Tripod and Ball Head was not available. However, the Dolica GX600B200 Proline GX Series Tripod and Ball Head was available and according to the Dolica website, it was the successor to the AX620B100 model.

The cheapest and simplest route would have been to pick up a second Dolica. Thanks to the desire to burn some money, I began to research some alternatives available at local non-camera specialist stores. Manfrotto popped up as an option, but I kept seeing Vanguard popping up all of the stores I was looking at. Online reviews for the models that I checked out were pretty good, so I thought I'd give Vanguard a shot despite being a tad more than twice the cost of a Dolica.

Vanguard Alta Pro 263AP rotating central column

The Prospects
I managed to narrow my options down to two models with the same pan head:

Vanguard Alta Plus 263AP with Pan Head
Vanguard Alta Pro 263AP with Pan Head

If you had to do a double-take on what the difference was between the two, you're not alone. At the time I was about to pull the trigger, the Alta Plus was about CAD$ 180 and the Alta Pro was about CAD$ 205. Research suggested that the difference between the Plus and Pro models was the addition of a rotatable central column (Multi-Angle Central Column). I could see that feature coming in handy once in a while, so it made sense to blow the extra $25 for the added option -- the price tag was already around CAD$ 200 anyways.

Vangaurd, Dolica, and Joby in one shot

Unboxing the Vanguard Alta Pro 263AP and First Impressions
That's a video link above. I haven't had much time to use the thing yet, but I was impressed unboxing and setting it up for the first time. The central column was easy to move, the entire tripod felt sturdy and higher quality than the Dolica, and the pan head seemed amazing after only having ever used ball heads.

As you can see in the pictures, there is definitely a huge size difference between the Vanguard and the Dolica tripods when fully collapsed. The Dolica, in fairness, does have a shorter maximum height than the Vanguard though -- a few inches. Having a pan head instead of a ball head attached to the 263AT legs makes a difference too.

Well, I'm impressed so far. Hoping that it does deliver. I'll try to throw up a review when I actually get used to it.

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