In memory of our
brave spirited friend, may the long winding trails continue for you.
PEDCO ULTRA-POD DIGITAL TRIPOD
TEST SERIES BY YI-JIEN HWA
July 19, 2008
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO
THE FIELD REPORT
yijien AT alumni DOT bates DOT edu
1" (1.85 m)
lb (72.60 kg)
I backpacked a few times
in high school and college, but only got "into it" (ok, I'm a little
obsessed) last year. I'm a busy seminary student, but whenever we can,
my wife and I hike in Kentucky's Red River Gorge. Thus far, we've hiked
Isle Royale, Hawaii's Big Island, the Smokey Mountains and are planning
several trips this summer. Our combined summer base weight is about 45
lbs (22-25 kg), which we are trying to cut.
PRODUCT INFORMATION &
PRODUCT INFORMATION &
Manufacturer: Pedco, for Industrial Revolution
Year of Manufacture: 2008
MSRP: US$ 24.95
MANUFACTURER'S PRODUCT INFORMATION:*
Small, lightweight, folding camera tripod with adjustable ball & socket
head and Velcro securing strap.
Camera mounting screw: ¼-20 thread.
Pan Adjustment: 360 degrees.
Tilt Adjustment: +/- 90 degrees.
Angular Adjustment: +/- 20 degrees.
Body, Legs & Clamps: Injection molded glass reinforced Nylon
Clamping Screw: Machined Aluminum alloy.
Velcro Strap: Woven Nylon.
Ball Mount: Molded Urethane with machined Aluminum alloy mounting screw
Feet: Molded Vinyl.
Size-Folded: 7½" long x 2" wide x 2½" high.
Height-Open: 6¼" high.
Footprint-Open: Triangular - 9" wide x
Maximum Design Load: 4 lbs.
Maximum Safe Load: 6 lbs.
* All these specifications are for the Ultra-pod II, of which the
Ultra-pod Digital is a "slightly modified version." Based on the
pictures and my measurements, I believe that they are essentially the
same product, with cosmetic differences--my tripod even says "Ultra-Pod
II" on it.
Weight: 4.2 oz (120 g)
Length of Body: 7 ¼" (18.2 cm)
Length of Legs (measured to base of ball head): 6.5 " (16.8 cm)
Minimum Height (measured to base of clamping screw): 5.5 " (14 cm)
Maximum Stable Height Achieved (with my 2 lb 5.5 oz [1069 g] SLR and
18-70mm Lens, and legs extended 4 " [10 cm] from main leg): 8 " (20.5
The packaging of this tripod is nicer than many other blister packages
which I have had to pry and slice. Once I removed the staples, it opened
easily, and seems reusable--if I were ever to desire to ship it
securely, I suppose. The tripod's material exceeded my expectations. The
material seems to be of pretty good quality--not cheap and plasticky--but
neither is it bombproof. The legs have a little flex to them, and it
seems like I could snap them if I applied enough pressure. They seem
strong and reliable enough for the job however, and do not seem like
they would break under normal conditions. The body on the other hand is
pretty rigid, and there is no way I could break it with my hands. Though
time will tell, the vinyl feet of both body and legs seem pretty durable
to my touch, and are sticky enough for smooth surfaces like my table.
I am quite pleased with the mechanics of the tripod. I was expecting the
tripod to be only usable extended fully, but I found that the adjustment
knob tightens not only the ball head, but also clamps down the clamp
assembly pretty well. Thus, as long as the legs are gripping well--and
they were doing fine on my table--I can raise the tripod a little higher
if I need to--I managed to raise it up to 8 " (20.5 cm) with my 2 1/2 lb
SLR and 18-70mm lens. I would probably not like to do this if there was
much wind, but this seems ok at least in the house. The clamp assembly
rotates 180 degrees with index notches, and has a little ring at the end
of the screw that seems that it might be forced off if I am not
sufficiently careful. The plastic of the adjustment knob and screw mount
seem to be of excellent quality--no complaints there--but the ball
itself is only decent. It has a little ridge where the two halves were
probably joined, and there are discernible pot marks. This does affect
the smoothness of the rotation of the ball, which is just a tiny bit
rough, but functionally it doesn't seem like it should be a problem. The
ball can rotate about 20 degrees on either side, and 270 degrees forward
and back. Together with the clamp assembly, this allows a great degree
of flexibility in how the tripod is set up.
Finally, one of the most interesting aspects of this tripod is the 16.5
" (42 cm) Velcro strap. In theory at least, it should allow one to mount
the tripod on a branch, post or any other suitable object. The strap
itself is of a very pleasant type of Velcro that I have never
encountered before. The side with the tiny hooks is not as prickly as
most Velcro, and the reverse side where it needs to stick is velvety.
Moreover, it feels pretty sturdy. I am intrigued by this feature of the
tripod. We will see how useful it will be in the field.
The Ultra-pod Digital
comes with two sheets of instructions, one which one can be obtained of
the manufacturer's website (look
under the Ultra-pod II). It is specifically written for the Ultra-pod
II, and while most of it applies, the Ultra-pod Digital is lacking a
cinch wring, which is why I think they included a little sheet which
seems quite useful to me. (I assume their technical writers are working
on the Digital's own instruction sheet?) One useful little errata that
the little sheet notes is that one can remove the strap. I would no
doubt have tried this eventually, but now I have, and the strap comes
out easily enough with a little dexterity, and goes back in pretty
easily. I am not one for instruction sheets in general--unless something
is broke or really hard to figure out--but I do recommend reading the
little sheet at least, especially for the care instructions, which
specify no machine oils are necessary, and could be damaging.
TRYING IT OUT
As a traditional--well
short, traditional--tripod, the Ultra-pod Digital so far seems to be a
great piece of gear. It is amply stable when fully extended with my
equipment. Moreover, it is a bonus that the tripod could be raised
higher than its specification, and demonstrates the tripod's stability.
I would be happy attaching a slightly larger lens on it myself; and my
impression is that the manufacturer's specification of 4-6 lbs (1.8-2.7
kg) is not unrealistic.
So far as you can see from my pictures, I have tried to hang it in my
bathroom shower curtain railing, and on a tree branch in our apartment
quadrangle. In both cases it worked alright, and in the latter case, I
was able to get the camera to stay pointed horizontally enough to get a
picture. In both cases, I felt confident enough in the Velcro strap to
let the camera and tripod hang. I am not so sure whether or not this
will work with a vertical object, and whether or not suitable vertical
objects can be found easily enough to make it practical. On the other
hand when we use it with my wife's little pocket-sized digital camera
which I used to take the pictures you see in this review--and something
which I have not yet tried--I think it would be much more stable, and
more likely to be stable when attached to vertical objects.
Besides questions about the practicality of the Velcro strap with my
camera, the only other worries I have about the material of the tripod
thus far are with regard to the ball head and socket, and the clamp
assembly (see picture above). When clamping down the ball and legs
tightly, the clamp assembly often bends in a little on itself, and there
are already some marks of tension on the material. (It's possible that I
have been over-tightening a little, but then I have a fairly important
piece of equipment riding on it!)
Finally, I did not measure everything carefully when applying to test
this piece of gear, and found that the tripod just barely squeezes into
my little camera bag--though it does fit.
I tested the tripod on an
overnighter yesterday (5/21/2008) while scouting out our route through
Kentucky's Red River with our youth group. Then in the first week of
June it will travel with us for a week as we lead our youth group on
their first backpacking trip through the Gorge. I expect it to get used
for group portraits especially. Then in August and September my wife and
I will be backpacking in the Theodore Roosevelt, Glacier, Yellowstone,
Grand Teton, Zion and Grand Canyon National Parks.
In particular I will report on the following: 1) the stability of the
tripod legs, the ball head and clamp assembly. 2) The stability and
usefulness of the Velcro strap. 3) The versatility of the tripod in
general. How well it adjusts, and all its mechanisms. 4) How durable it
proves to be, and whether it needs any maintenance or not.
In short, my initial
impression thus far is that it is a versatile, well thought-out piece of
equipment, that should be durable enough, and well-worth its weight for
me. My only qualms thus far, are concerning the practicality of the
Velcro strap, and the strain on the clamp assembly that can result from
tightening the screw too much. We will see how this plays out in field
This concludes my initial report on the Ultra-Pod. I will report by July
15, 2008 on its use in the field, and you will see the long-term report
on this page by September 15, 2008. Come back soon!
FIELD LOCATIONS AND
I've backpacked 5 nights
with this tripod in the Red River Gorge, Kentucky. We scouted the Gorge
for camping sites and water sources with one of our college-aged youth
on an overnight mission, and then the following week we spent four
nights covering more or less the same ground with 6 of our youth. The
weather was between 50 F (10 C) and 80 F (27 C) throughout both trips.
It rained torrentially throughout one day, and was muddy in places, but
otherwise the weather was great.
PERFORMANCE IN THE
Setting up a tripod
always takes a few seconds. With the complications of the terrain
(normally perched atop a backpack on our two trips--though high ground
or a pile of stones would also work), or finding an appropriate branch
or tree to hang the camera on, it naturally takes awhile. When one adds
to the equation a bunch of often cantankerous,
how-far-do-we-have-to-walk-again youth, the opportunities for picture
taking were fewer than I expected--they declined my offer of group
portraits several times. Nevertheless, I managed about 5-6 pictures with
the tripod, which gave me a decent idea of its capabilities in the
To cut to the chase, I have been very impressed with this little hunk of
thermoplastic resin. With some finagling, I have managed to successfully
take nice pictures from the top of my backpack--not exactly ideal
terrain!--and convenient trees. The legs have proven amply sturdy to
sustain my SLR and lens, even when I have to push them a little higher
than fully extended. Together, the ball head and clamp assembly is
really an ingenious design. The notched clamp assembly makes all kinds
of interesting and useful contortions possible. As for the ball head per
se, I am happy to report that in use, it is as easy to use and adjust as
one could reasonably expect from a ball head on a tripod of this sort (I
didn't expect Arca-Swiss so I wasn't disappointed). While it is not of
the highest manufacturing quality as I noted in my initial report, the
minor defects have not affected its functionality so far.
The Velcro strap has proven itself to be more functional than I had
anticipated. I was able to hang my SLR safely enough from a tree with
just an inch (2.5 cm) of contact. The only downside of the strap thus
far, is that it is susceptible to accumulating all kinds of dirt and
leaves. I was a little careless early on, and allowed it to drag about,
and it still has a few little souvenirs from the Gorge. This means that
one has to choose between letting the strap get dirty, or rewrapping it
round the main body when taking pictures, and then unwrapping and
rewrapping it again to close the legs. The Velcro strap is difficult or
impossible to clean well, so annoying though it is, two wrapping-unwrappings
seem mandatory for its longevity.
Thus far, I have been
supremely pleased with the performance of this tripod. For the weight I
can hardly imagine a more useful and versatile little gizmo. Thus far my
only long-term convenience/maintenance issue is the Velcro strap. But
that goes with the turf.
I will be car camping and
backpacking with just my wife for about a month before the long-term
report is due in the aforementioned places. If the youth were a little
camera shy, my wife is not, so I anticipate plenty of self-portraits
from likely and unlikely perches and supports. I may even have a picture
or two of the tripod in action. Thus far taking an extra camera to take
one has not been an appealing idea, but possibly while car-camping, or
on a day trip.
This concludes my field report on the Pedco Ultra-Pod Digital. The
long-term report will follow in two months, so come back soon.