Theoretically, a good set of tripod legs should last a very long time and outlive several camera bodies. However, you quickly learn that what you initially thought was a nice feature or a ‘must-have’ need turns out to be either cumbersome or completely irrelevant to your day-to-day workflow and you realize it's time to upgrade.
For a long time, I used the baby boomer/weekend warrior favorite Manfrotto MT055XPRO3 aluminum tripod. Paired with the Manfrotto 410 Junior geared head, this was an extremely solid, well-built piece of equipment great for various assignments and architectural shoots. However, several issues arose that are specific to the day-to-day real estate and architectural photography grind.
Mainly, this combination was HEAVY. The 410 head is 2.2 lbs alone, while the legs are 5.5 lbs. Yes, I know - that doesn’t seem like very much weight, but loading and unloading from the car, taking the rig up and down stairs and various rooms, gets tiring after a while. Additionally, so much setup and breakdown caused the leg extension locks to break prematurely. Regardless of price range, the flip-lock mechanism (whether it’s the pin or the actual tab breaking) always seems to be the weakest part of a tripod.
Because of these 2 problems, I began searching for a new set of tripod legs that 1) were made of carbon fiber since it’s lighter than aluminum. 2) Needed to have twist locks. Bonus points for height; the taller, the better!
A CHALLENGER APPEARS
I honestly don't remember how I even came across this tripod. The company is relatively unknown, and the few reviews available are mostly solicited by retailers. Fortunately for me, I was intrigued enough to pull the trigger and order a set.
The CT-2491 tripod is made of 6x carbon fiber, which weighs in at only 3.5 lbs. With center column extended, the maximum height is 72.5 inches, but because these legs are broken down into 4 sections, the folded length is only 23.3 inches. Finally, one of the most impressive features is that the load capacity is 39.6 lbs. That is one big, beefy, but surprisingly light tripod!
The angle of each leg can be adjusted independently, which is nice if you need ever need to put any of the legs up on a counter while one or two other legs are on the floor. The locks on this tripod feel great to the touch, and are weather sealed to keep out dirt and grime. One knock against this tripod is how much you have to twist the locks to extend or retract the legs compared to similar tripods; not major problem, but definitely a consideration if you have joint problems.
The rubber footpads (with retractable spikes) are nice and soft, and won’t scratch or mark a floor. I tested this by repeatedly rubbing the feet back and forth on my own floors at home while my dog looked on, confused and worried.
The center column is perhaps the Achilles heel of this tripod. On the plus side, the column is grooved along its entire length to prevent rotation. Additionally, the entire column can be removed or reversed if you want to get your camera as low as possible, not really a feature that’s ever needed for architectural work. Finally, one nice feature is the rubber dampening ring under the mounting plate that helps soften the impact of on your gear when lowering the column.
Unfortunately, this is bar-none the wobbliest center columns I’ve ever come across. Is it that the tightening collar is too thin or not tight enough? I’m not sure, but the only time this feels truly secure is when the column is all the way down. I never fully extend the center column on any tripod, but it is kind of a let down knowing that this is a limitation.
After making this my everyday tripod, I can honestly say that this is a very well-built set of legs. So far it has taken the beating of my daily routine and every moving part still moving smoothly without any resistance. However, the most impressive feature of these legs is how light they are relative to their size and how much weight they can support. Even with the 410 head on it, it’s still much lighter than my previous set up. I understand that this tripod isn’t exactly in the same league as a Gitzo 3-series or RRS TVC-33, but for the price, you'll be amazed at the amount of features this tripod has.