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Review: iKan E-Image Tripods

This review looks at 2 affordable E-Image tripod systems sold by iKan, assessing the tilt, panning, and counterbalance adjustment controls on the heads; the locking systems on the legs, and more.

Head

I first started using Sachtler heads years ago, and he ability to go from zero--no friction at all--to multiple higher steps of friction, each one with the distinct click, is very impressive. It’s the kind of tripod system you work with once and then wish you had in your own personal arsenal every day thereafter. They cost more than other tripods, but they are definitely worth what they cost.

I was surprised to see the ability to click through different tensions on the tripod head (Figure 6, below) on a system that was priced as low as the EH06. When I started using this system, I found the different settings to be pretty much as I expected them to be. In addition, this system has an adjustable counterbalance. Zero is no counterbalance, and then you add various intensities as you go up the scale.

Figure 6. Tilt, panning, and counterbalance adjustment controls on the E-Image GH06 tripod head

In using the system I liked being able to vary the friction for panting and tilting as I needed to do between the different steps. I found that my camera setup's weight does not vary enough that I needed all of the counterbalanced settings that are possible in the tripod head. In fact, I ended up needing a counter balance setting between #1 and #2.

This meant that if I had the counterbalance set to #1, then I could tilt it over, and the camera would just keep going. You would think that you could increase the friction and that would make up for the difference. But in reality on this tripod, that's not the case. I set the head with the highest level of friction, #3, for tilting and when the counter balance was set to number one it would still not stay where I put it. I demonstrate this in the video that accompanies this article.

If I increased the counter balance setting to #2, then when I would tilt and let go, it would re-center itself back to level. This would happen when I was at any friction level setting on the tilt. So when I was trying to use the head for my small, lightweight camera, I found that there was too much counterbalance, and too little drag. If you have a bigger and heavier system then you can easily select more counterbalance appropriate for your camera system, and then the friction would be more appropriate as well because you wouldn’t need to offset the counterbalance.

Overall, the ball head on the E-Image tripod is good. There were a few times where I tightened it down and then a moment later it slipped. All I needed to do was re-center the balance, and then tighten it again, this time a little tighter. It’s definitely not a deal-breaker, because the issue really doesn’t take that much time to fix, but it can be annoying when you think you’ve got the right shot, you’re panning, and the ball head slips and ruins the shot.

GH03

Looking at the brochure or for the E-Image tripod systems, I saw that there was a lighter-weight head that could possibly be the right solution for my lightweight system. I asked iKan to let me review that one as well.

The GH03 (Figure 7, below) differs from the higher-end GH06 head in several ways. First of all, there is no panning adjustment other than a lock. Tilting has a friction adjustment and a lock, but there are no steps to this adjustment. The counter balance is built-in and non-adjustable.

Figure 7. The GH03 tripod head

It has mounting points for two tripod arms as opposed to the one on the GH06 head (Figure 8, below). The GH06 head has a threaded hole to mount a magic arm for an accessory, such as a monitor; the GH03 does not. Clearly, the GH03 is a much more basic tripod head than the GH06, and the comparative prices reflect that.

Figure 8. Tripod arm mounted on the GH06

In actual use, for my camera system that usually weighs between 3 and 4 pounds, this lighter-weight head is perfect. I can point my camera setup up or down, rigged up with microphone and light, and it stays where I point it without requiring me to lock down anything. This is exactly what I want in a tripod system.

The smaller head comes in a kit that includes the same tripod legs that the higher-end GH06 has. So everything I love about the tripod continues to apply when I use this lighter-weight head that seems to be perfectly suited for my camera system.

One thing I have not mentioned yet is the camera plate that goes into the top of the tripod head (shown in Figure 7), which has several noteworthy features. The plate can be slid in to the tripod from the back or the front and it locks in place once it is on the head, without you having to twist a knob or anything. There is a pin that keeps it from sliding out even when it's loosened for adjusting the balance.

If trying to get a thin little plate in the right place to slide it into a tiny little wedge in the top of a tripod head has always proven challenging for you, then the fact that you can just put your camera down on the top of the tripod head, and the camera plate will click into place, will be a very welcome feature. This is especially handy if you’re going to use the tripod with something that is wide and you can’t easily see where the tripod plate is. It clicks into place going down and will not pull back up once it clicks into place.

The tripod plate has both 1/4-20 and 3/8" threaded bolts, as well as an anti-rotation pin for camcorders that have the second hole. The tripod arms have replaceable rosettes if you strip them. The tripod spreader can be removed from each leg individually by taking out a pin, and each arm of the spreader has a length adjustment. The feet are spikes and they come with pads for each foot.

The tripod range is from 30" to 67". The list price for the EG03A2 (aluminum 2-stage legs) is $280. The list price for the EG06A2 is $600. A carbon fiber leg alternative saves you a pound of weight, but costs a bit more.

Conclusion

In the end, I felt that I had found a perfect replacement for a tripod that had served me well for over a decade. My specific needs for my DSLR shooting were matched very well by this particular tripod setup. I actually purchased the review unit of the GHO3 to be my new tripod; that's how much I liked it. Heavier camera setups with bigger lenses, cages, bigger battery setups, external monitor/recorders, etc. will likely require the services of a heavier-duty system than the GH03 that I picked for myself. Thankfully, the E-Image tripod range extends up to payloads of 33 pounds, so you can likely find a setup that works for you.

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