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Review: Adorama 3Pod V2AH Tripod

If you're looking for a tripod for tracking high-motion events and have only $150 to spend, you should check out the Adorama 3Pod V2AH.

Mounting a Camera

As with most tripods, you slide the camera in from the back, and a locking mechanism clicks into place so your camera can’t slide off the mount, with a button release to remove the camera on the back. The top of the head is only about 3” wide, so if your camera is too wide, you won’t be able to spin the plate-tensioning knob around to tighten the plate unless you spin it to the almost closed position before you mount the camera.

This was a problem with a Panasonic AVCHD camcorder that I mounted on the tripod, but not the Canon XL2 that I also tested. Either way, this probably will only be a problem the first time you mount a wide-body camcorder or DSLR camera because it’s easy enough to address once you experience it and know it’s coming.

Figure 6. If you have wide-body camera, you may not be able to tighten this knob and secure the plate without removing the camera and turning the knob to its final revolution. Click the image to see it at full size.

Once you mount the camera, you can place the handle on either side of the head. I found you had to really tighten the locking knob to prevent the handle from spinning, which always concerns me because of the risk of stripping the screw, but that didn’t happen. The handle is about 11.5” long, as compared to 14.25” for the Manfrotto. For most users, this probably won’t matter. For me, when I’m following the action in an event, I tuck the handle into my armpit and follow the motion by moving my upper body, which frees me to run the zoom control with my right hand, and adjust aperture with my left. I was able to get this done with the 3Pod, but could have used an extra couple of inches on the handle.

Panning and Tilting

Panning-and-tilting motion is controlled via knobs (Figure 7, below) that were supposed to perform double duty, adjusting tension and locking the head into place. While they functioned well in their locking role, the tension adjustment was very limited. This worked well for me because the tilt-and-pan tension felt good, but if you’re looking for the ability to really fine-tune this function, it may be a problem. For perspective, my Manfrotto unit has separate tension knobs in both axes, but I can’t remember ever using them.

Figure 7. This lock performed its namesake function well, but didn’t really adjust tension all that well. Click the image to see it at full size.

Regarding tilting, though this isn’t mentioned in the spec sheet, it felt like there was a counterbalance system in place, which would push back slightly if the camera nose pointed too high or too load. This helps balance the camera and avoid camera droop in either direction.

So How Smooth Was the Motion?

Typically, you buy a tripod to play one of two roles: either to serve as a stable, locked-down camera base, or to follow a subject’s motion. In the latter role, the tripod needs to move smoothly in both axes, and to start and stop all motion without jerking of any kind. In this regard, the V2AH was exceptional for a unit in its price range.

To test the tripod, I used it to film a ballet, the spring performance of La Fille Mal Gardee. Though the performance was by my wife’s company, failure was not an option, as my 16-year-old daughter (Figure 8, below) was performing and jerkiness and other indicia of tripod malfunction would have subjected me to months of teenage disdain. The initial results are in and the report is positive; the tripod started, stopped, and moved very smoothly, and my daughter didn’t notice that I had substituted in a $150 tripod in place of my $400 Manfrotto unit.

Figure 8. The V2AH let me smoothly follow the action; here, my 16-year old daughter. Click the image to see it at full size.

I shot the ballet with my Panasonic AG-HMC150 AVCHD camcorder, which weighs about 3.8 pounds with battery. Back in the lab, I mounted up my ancient Canon XL2, which weighs in at 5.3 pounds, and is balanced awkwardly, with a heavy 20X lens on the front. The aforementioned flexibility in the mounting plate let me mount the camera so it was almost perfectly balanced, and motion was just as smooth at the higher weight. This bodes well for DSLR shooters with big heavy lenses up front, or those with lots of gear on the camera or rails system.

How Stable Was The Platform?

Once I got familiar with the tripod, my biggest concern was how stable the tripod would be when the center brace (Figure 9, below) wasn’t fully extended, which can happen when you’re working in limited floor space. With the XL2 mounted, I raised the tripod to the full 77” and restricted the leg distance to about 24”. Standing on a stool I was able to pan and tilt and the tripod remained completely stable.

Figure 9. I was concerned that the center brace wouldn't be as stable as a locking spreader, but it proved very stable and secure.

Overall, the tripod’s most unique selling proposition is its height, but beyond that, it proved stable and smooth enough to follow a high-motion ballet. While there were some rough edges, you can expect these in any tripod in this price range. If you’re looking for a tripod for tracking high-motion events and have only $150 to spend, you should check out the V2AH.

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