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Reviews > Cameras > Photography Accessories > Ultra Pod Digital > Test Report by Leesa Joiner

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
FIELD REPORT
July 19, 2008

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TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Yi-Jien Hwa
EMAIL: yijien AT alumni DOT bates DOT edu
AGE: 27
LOCATION: Wilmore, Kentucky
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 6' 1" (1.85 m)
WEIGHT: 160 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.


INITIAL REPORT
 

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Pedco, for Industrial Revolution
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer's Websites:
Pedco: Pedco
Industrial Revolution: Industrial Revolution
MSRP: US$ 24.95

MANUFACTURER'S PRODUCT INFORMATION:*

IMAGE 1

DEFINITION:
Small, lightweight, folding camera tripod with adjustable ball & socket head and Velcro securing strap.

MECHANICAL:
Camera mounting screw: -20 thread.
Pan Adjustment: 360 degrees.
Tilt Adjustment: +/- 90 degrees.
Angular Adjustment: +/- 20 degrees.

MATERIALS:
Body, Legs & Clamps: Injection molded glass reinforced Nylon thermoplastic resin.
Clamping Screw: Machined Aluminum alloy.
Velcro Strap: Woven Nylon.
Ball Mount: Molded Urethane with machined Aluminum alloy mounting screw molded in.
Feet: Molded Vinyl.

SPECIFICATIONS:
Weight: 4.0-oz.
Size-Folded: 7" long x 2" wide x 2" high.
Height-Open: 6" high.
Footprint-Open: Triangular - 9" wide x
8" long.
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.

MY MEASUREMENTS:
Weight: 4.2 oz (120 g)
Length of Body: 7 " (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 cm)

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

IMAGE 6

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.

IMAGE 2

IMAGE 3

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.

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

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.

IMAGE 4

IMAGE 5

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.
 

TESTING STRATEGY

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.

SUMMARY

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 use.

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 REPORT
 

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

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 FIELD

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 field.

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.

SUMMARY

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.

TESTING STRATEGY

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.



Read more reviews of Industrial Revolution gear
Read more gear reviews by Yi-Jien Hwa

Reviews > Cameras > Photography Accessories > Ultra Pod Digital > Test Report by Leesa Joiner



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