Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB 100 review


Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB 100 review

This is a review of the Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB 100 tripod legs and head kit which comprises the 263AT tripod legs and the SB100 ball head.

There are some great features that I really appreciated when I tested both items out, but there are also some things that could be improved. Overall, I think the tripod and the ball head are great buys for the price you pay and the features that you get.

My First Impressions

Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB 100 tripod packaging

The 263AB 100 comes well packaged

The Alta Pro tripod was nicely packaged with the feel of a high quality product. Included in the box are the legs and head, bag, pouch (which hangs underneath the tripod and can be used to add weight or just for storage) toolkit and documentation. I was impressed with the attention to detail on the tripod and the ball head, which can be seen in the fact that even the thread that attaches the legs to the ball head had a cap over it. I also liked that the tripod was light and easy to carry, weighing only 2.44kg for both the head and legs compared to the heavier Manfrotto 055xprob tripod which I own, whose legs alone weigh 2.4kg .

Manfrotto quick release plate(left) seen with the Vanguard and provided key (right)

The Alta ball head comes with two quick release plates which is very generous, however I found them a bit more difficult to use than the Manfrotto ones as you need a key(provided) to adjust and tighten them. I would certainly worry that I would lose this but you could use an alternative in its place.

Vanguard SBH 100 Ball head

The SBH100 ball head at 0 degrees

Another difference to the tripod compared to some that was apparent to me at the start was the fact that the ball head can operate at 0 degrees on one side only, technically you only need this on one side but when you’re in the heat of taking pictures, having the second choice can be useful. However, the ball head action was nice and smooth and can rotate 360 degrees. A really useful feature is that both the head and legs feature bubble spirit levels and the one on the head is a dual spirit level and fitted to the head plate so it actually shows you the orientation of the camera on both the vertical and horizontal axis.

Attaching the head to the legs

When I started setting up the Alta Pro tripod, I got sightly confused with the screws — it wasn’t really clear to me how to lock the head onto the legs, but that could be just me. If you’re better at following directions than I am, you’ll have no problems.

The flexible centre column locking system on the 263AT legs

Once everything was set up, I was happy with how the centre column held solid at any angle using Vanguard’s innovative Multi-Angle Central Column (MACC) System . I also thought the leg locking system was very easy to  use and a little smoother than the Manfrotto. When I put the tripod on the floor, it felt very secure due to its ingenious leg spike system – the feet are made of rubber which is great for solid floors, but then when you screw the feet up, it reveals spikes for extra grip on unstable ground, like grass or at the beach. This feature is especially useful when you use your tripod on a variety of different terrain.

Rubber feet

Spike Feet

There’s a limited lifetime warranty for the tripod and the ball head, which shows real confidence in it, although having felt the build quality first hand I doubt you’ll need to call on it.

Putting It In Use

Photographer using a tripod and DSLR at the beach

The 263AB 100 with legs fully extended

I’ve used the tripod kit on loads of different shoots including up on the beaches of the Isle of Lewis. This was a great opportunity for me to test out the Alta Pro tripod in very tough outdoor conditions. The tripod was very easy to work with, even at the beach. I could set up the legs really quickly and it was easy to operate. As I predicted, the rubber feet and the spikes on the feet really helped the tripod to be secure even on the sand.

Vanguard's 263AB 100 is stable at virtually any angle

The SBH 100 ball head held my Canon 5dmk2 _ EF17-40mm lens firmly in place in any position thanks to it’s maximum load capacity of 7kg. I really did test it out, moving the ball head at different angles, but the camera didn’t budge. The tripod also helped me get sharp images, thanks to its ability to damp vibrations quickly and effectively, thanks in part to the damper found where the centre column connects to the main legs. When the legs of the tripod were completely extended the ball head sat at 142cm, which was still not quite high enough for me to look through the view finder when standing up straight, but I’m 6’1. Of course the centre column extends higher than this ( upto a maximum of approx 175cm) but I wouldn’t advise using a tripod with the centre column exteneded unless you have to as it’s nowhere near as stable. If you’re not quite as tall as me then the tripod will be tall enough for you. At the other end of the scale, the Alta Pro tripod worked very well for low-angle photos with it’s centre column being easy to manouvre and lock in place.

 

 

I found the Alta Pro tripod to be easy to carry thanks to its light weight. However, the SBH 100 ball head did slip slightly when I carried the tripod over my shoulder with my Canon 5d mk 2 + EF70-200 f/2.8 IS attached although this is quite a heavy combination and perhaps more suited to the bigger ball heads in the Vanguard range. I enjoyed using the Alta Pro tripod, although the Manfrotto tripod has a few advantages in some areas. For one, the quick release plate on the Alta Pro was a little more difficult to operate than the Manfrotto — I had to slide it in place, while with the Manfrotto all I have to do is to click it into place, which makes it quicker to operate, although both systems work well.

Quick release plate on the Manfrotto

Vanguard SB100 quick release plate

The sliding mechanism of the Vanguard SB100 quick release plate

Also, the controls to lock the head in place on the Alta Pro were more difficult to use in the cold weather, because I had to turn a dial to lock it whereas the Manfrotto comes with a lever lock, which is easier to get leverage on with cold hands.

My Overall Opinion

I would not hesitate to use the Alta Pro tripod as it is made to a very high standard. It easily equals any other tripod that I’ve used in terms of build quality. It’s solid, light, and durable. The Alta Pro tripod comes with excellent features, including the two quick release plates while most other heads will only come with one. The rubber feet and spikes are another feature that makes it a great buy. You’ll be able to use it on a variety of surfaces. Also, photographers who carry their kit any distance will really appreciate the Alta Pro tripod, due to its light weight, ease of use, and its ability to stand still on a variety of surfaces yet at a more affordable price than carbon fibre tripods.

The tripod bag and pouch are thoughtful accessories

There’s also a tripod bag and a storage pouch that come included which are nice added features and generous at this price point. If you’re six feet tall or more, you might want to look elsewhere for a tripod that can extend higher than the Alta Pro, but for most people this tripod will be tall enough. And if you have a heavy set up and like to carry your gear attached to your tripod over your shoulder, then the tripod will work for you but you might want to consider the larger and more robust SB300 ball head. If the Alta Pro tripod and SBH 100 ball head seem to be the right fit for you and this review helped then I’d appreciate it if you bought them through my link (don’t worry it wont cost you anymore but It will help to pay for the running of the site)

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