I feel priveleged to have fantastic opporutnities come up from time to time in the astronomy/astrophotography space due to my involve in the community within WA. Many are due to volunteering but I don’t take them for granted. In September I enjoyed an absolutely awesome 4 night road trip with Perth Observatory to volunteer at a public viewing night for the Gascoyne Junciton community. I would like to give a huge thank you to Matthew Woods of the Perth Observatory for this efforts in making this road trip happen.
It is through my involve volunteering at Perth Observatory that I have come to run astrophotography workshops at the observatory and now offsite for them also. On this road trip we finished up with an astrophotography workshop at Kalbarri National Park.
I have put a small collection of photographs here to show the fantastic regions we visited. You may have seen these and some more on my social media accounts during and after the trip.
More astrophotography from the trip to come as I have time to process the shots.
Those who have participated in my workshops know that most of my tripod gear is Manfrotto, rounded out with a Velbon compact carbon fibre tripod that fits in carry-on luggage. The Manfrotto gear has served me well, the Velbon carbon fibre less so, but overall I have got by without a problem. I have used Manfrotto heads across the board to standardise quick release plates. Early in 2020 I was offered this Leofoto tripod to test out, and have finally after all these years fallen for the benefits of a good carbon fibre tripod. I’ll elaborate more in this review.
Technical Specifications of the tripod:
Max Height: 1550mm
Height (column down): 1253mm
Folded Length: 497mm
Leg Section: 4
Max Load: 6kg
Column Tilt Range: 180
Column Panning: 360
It turns out not all carbon fibre is the same. Not all give you the full benefits of carbon fibre. There are different carbon fibre products of different quality. This has become 100% clear to me having owned a Velbon carbon fibre tripod (GEO E540) for many years that has been a bit “meh” – not very satisfactory, and now, this Leofoto – so solid, study, refined, and yet so light. The quality difference is like night and day between the two tripods. Part of it is the finish of the attachments (hooks, locks, points of movement) but there is definitely something more sturdy about the Leofoto carbon fibre. I am told the carbon fibre for Leofoto is manufactured in Japan and assembled in China, if that fact makes a different I cannot say other than this carbon fibre tripod is of excellent quality.
Comparing my aluminium Manfrotto 190xprob with the weight of the Leofoto, the difference is in easily carrying the Leofoto with Vixen Polarie head and ballhead attached for long distances without tiring as compared to the heavier 190xprob aluminium tripod or straining to carry all my gear. Both can be carried but the Leofoto carbon fibre is a more pleasant experience.
Where my trusty workhorse Manfrotto 190xprob has slop or some play in the fittings, the Leofoto does not. Case in point is the rotating centre mast. The rotation is smooth and precise, not lose or “floppy” when loosened. When rotating there is minimal (barely any) flexure and when tightened very minimal movement lateral movement in the centre mast as tension is applied. This makes it significantly easier to use the centre mast rotation for aligning a tracking head with the celestial pole then tightening it in place as there is not movement that puts it off alignment when tightening.
Adjusting the tripod via the knobs and clamps has a more precise and definitive feel with less travel required in turning knobs to loosen and tighten them.
Twist style Leg Clamps
I have traditionally stuck to the Manfrotto clamp-style leg clamps since having a bad experience with a tripod that had twist style leg clamps. I was concerned about the Leofoto having twist style leg clamps initially. While I do still like the clamp style of Manfrotto it was immediately obvious that the Leofoto is different to the twist-style tripod leg clamps I have used in the past. Leofoto have re-engineered twist-style leg clamps to be effective and quick to use. Leofoto have made the thread on the twist coarser I would guess, the result is very quick to tighten and loosen. They maintain a firm controlled feel in all adjustments. The legs can be fully separated and disassembled for cleaning, making it easy to remove grit. I have not needed to clean mine in the months I have had it.
In one swift twist you can grip all three twist clamps of each leg, one leg at a time, unlocking all leg segments in three quick motions. From there you can give the tripod a short sharp shake down to extend the legs before tightening each clamp.
While on the topic of legs, they are adjustable to different angles as well, all the way out to flat. So you can have the tripod very low, or over awkward obstacles like large granite outcrops and such where legs may need to support against uneven terrain.
Fully Featured Ball-head
The Ranger LS-284CVL package features a LH-30 ball head. This head is fully featured, Arca Swiss compatible.
What do I mean by fully featured?
Separate rotation vs ball adjustment
Smooth, controlled motion
Degree graduations on both bottom and top plate rotation points
Lateral movement graduations on the quick release plate saddle
A top plate that has separate rotation capability
Bubble level in the top plate
No unnecessary tension adjustment knobs to get in the way
Refined and precise brushed aluminium adjustment knobs of appropriate sizes.
Below are some photographs to show the features of this very capable ball head.
Carry Bag & Accessories
The Leofoto Ranger LS-284CVL comes with a well made padded carry bag and a set of tools for maintaining the tripod. I particularly like that they have made the bag large enough to handle a wide range of tripod heads, there is sufficient space to have heads on top of the tripod when in the bag. The carry strap is adequate and comfortable, and front pocket handy for storing tools/extras.
What would I change?
To be honest the biggest thing I would change is to remove a feature. While the centre column rotation is required for my purposes, the ability to pull the centre column out and tilt it on a angle up to horizontal is not. Having that feature adds an extra knob and small bit of height to the head area that I don’t need.
I honestly have trouble thinking of other changes I would make to the tripod at this point.
The Leofoto Ranger LS-284CVL is for me a comfortable companion which provides a nice upgrade from the Manfrotto gear I have been using. I say comfortable because I easily became adapt at using it and it instantly melded in to my collection of astrophotography gear. With the Leofoto I consider walking further and carry more other gear thanks to its light weight. It’s precise and refined features make it a joy to use.
This tripod has changed my mind about carbon fibre tripods.
Where to from here? I have my eye on a awesome little powerhouse of a tripod for my every-day backpack and Fuji kit, but you’ll have to wait to hear more about that soon ….. !
Disclaimer: The tripod was provided to me by Leofoto Australia for free. That being said, I don’t advertise rubbish whether it is given to me or not. Truth be told, this is a tripod I would purchase regardless for my next astrophotography tripod.
It is only recently (January) that I finally installed my first ever set of narrowband filters. They are installed on my William Optics Megrez 90mm with ZWO 1600MM camera. Recently I have taken some time to process a few shots from this, and Eta Carina is one of these.
Here is a relatively straight forward exposure but which looked particularly stunning I thought, when I saw the initial result. It is 16 exposures of 5 minutes each, all using a h-alpha filter.
Check out the hoops, knots, holes of the nebula. Fantastic I think. There’s a couple of crops to show you some more detail close up.