Photo packs have come a long way in the past decade, especially those that are targeted toward outdoor and adventure photographers. Alaska-based adventure photographer Dan Bailey takes a closer look...
The VELBON MAXi 343E isn't the world's most stable tripod, but then again it
makes no claims on that score. Its selling point is that it's a small, light,
inexpensive and relatively stable travel tripod.
The basic specifications are:
Length - 17.5 inches folded
Weight - 1.9 pounds
Height - Extends to 62 inches (with center column)
Comes with removable ball head
Spiked and rubber feet
Mostly metal construction
Carrying case included
My usual "travel" tripod is a Bogen 3001 with a 3262 ball head, but on a
recent trip this was too large and heavy at a weight of 4.65lbs. The Velbon (with
head) is only 1.9lbs, a saving of 2.75lbs in weight. The 3001 (with head removed)
is 21" long when folded, while the VELBON MAXi 343E is only 15.5" (the ballhead
adds 2"), so it's significantly shorter. The Velbon tripod will fit inside my
LowePro Trekker photo backpack, while the Bogen 3001 will not. Below you can see
the two tripods compared.
The image below shows the two tripods extended:
The two tripods are very similar in extended height.
The next shot shows both tripods with their center columns fully extended.
As you can see, the Velbon MAXi 343E tripod is actually a few inches
Finally here's a shot of an EOS 20D with a 75-300IS lens extended to 300mm.
The ballhead is small, but will hold this camera/lens combination quite
So how stable is it?
However, even fully extended it does provide useful and usable additional
stability over hand holding a lens, even a pretty long lens. I used a 75-300IS
zoom on an EOS 20D to test stability. To get sharp images with this lens without
IS being turned on, a shutter speed of around 1/500s is required. The "1/focal
length" rule of thumb for handholdability gets modified by the sensor cropping
factor of 1.6x, giving an estimated 1/480s required shutter speed.
When used on the VELBON MAXi 343E at full extension and with the center column
at full height, I found I could get sharp images at around 1/100s with IS off and
the lens zoomed out to 300mm. This increase in stability is comparable to what
you'd get by turning IS on. However, if you DO turn IS on, then you can get sharp
images down to about 1/25s. Normally you shouldn't use IS on this lens when it's
on a tripod, but that assumes a rock stable tripod. Since the VELBON MAXi 343E
isn't rock stable when fully extended, IS is still effective.
Below is a 100% crop from the center of the image which was shot at 1/100s
using the 75-300mm lens, set to 300mm with IS off. The camera was mounted on the
VELBON MAXi 343E with the center column fully extended.
Next, here are two shots taken at 1/25s, the shot on the left is with IS
turned on, the shot on the right is with IS turned off. It's clear that IS helps
in this case!
Finally, below is a shot taken at 300mm, with IS off and at a shutter speed of
1/6s using mirror lockup.
As you can see, at 1/6s with MLU (in the absence of wind), even with the
VELBON MAXi 343E and center column fully extended, the image is sharp.
Where to buy
The VELBON MAXi 343E tripod is available from several vendors who support
photo.net when purchases are made via these links: