The last few years I have limped through storm seasons with tripods that left a lot to be desired. They were either too light weight to take on any kind of winds, or made of heavy duty plastic that damaged easily if the tripod was blown over, or flat out broke due to over tightening of the screws as time went on. I needed a tougher tripod, one that could withstand the elements and carry the weight of a heavy camera and lens.
So this year, I'm going with the Vanguard Alta 263AP.
Coming in at just under 5 lbs, it's lightweight enough to carry longer distances when I'm doing landscapes and heavy enough that when I have my Canon 7D attached it will hold steady in the heavier winds. It's made of heavy duty aluminum and feels pretty solid around the legs, and encased with a foam grip around the top of the legs for easier carrying. I'm a little concerned about tearing this section up as I pull it in and out of the vehicle so quickly combined with the rain and wind, but it's only a small concern.
Like many other tripods in its class, the tripod locks in with stop screws. Although this has caused me some grief in the past with the heavy plastic composite tripods due to accidental over-tightening because I couldn't really get a good feel for when it was set in place, it really doesn't cause an issue for me here because of the heavy duty aluminum construction.
The release for the camera is a quick push of the orange button, so attaching and detaching my camera is quick and easy. There are also three different level gauges to ensure you are set for a level shot, saving cropping time in post processing.
Another great feature is the tripod's ability to release the legs out to get really low angle shots. Each leg has a button at the top that release the leg out, so if you're looking to do macro shots or get a photo from a different perspective this will really work for that.
Another great feature is the ability to do solid panorama shots while holding the camera steady. A knob on the pan grip allows you to switch between photo mode where you want the camera to be absolutely still and the panorama mode that allows you to pan the camera left and right while holding the vertical movement of the camera still.
As far as price goes, it can be found online between $130 and $170 depending on where you want to shop. It is a very reasonable price considering the solid build of the tripod and the flexible features in its design. I love the build and the solidness it provides with my heavier camera equipment attached. All in all, this is a great tripod for the photographer that is looking for higher quality equipment but doesn't want to break the bank for basic equipment. As far as pan heads go, this tripod is well worth the money and will help provide those tack sharp images.
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