January 22, 2014
Flashpoint Tabletop Tripod
Review by Steve Douglas
Flashpoint 3Pod PTT1H Table Top Aluminum Tripod with Ball Head
The world has become a united community of photographers and videographers all made possible over the last several years by the growth and improvements in the photo and video capabilities of a plethora of cell phones, tablets and small consumer camcorders that have flooded the market from as many companies as I can think of.
All too often I witness a multitude of people filming themselves, their friends and various events while holding onto their cellphones. Very often I see them holding their cellphone vertically while taking video which only creates a VVS situation (Vertical Video Syndrome). When they get their videos home, I wonder if they are surprised by the thick pillar bars on the right and left. Even when they correctly hold them horizontally I am, to this day, still amazed that they believe they can hold these very light weight devices steady enough to produce a good video image. Often I see this around a stage where many are filming their friends playing in bands at different events. The person films while moving around the stage to focus on one player or the other and, still, they think they are holding the camera steady. Just by breathing in and out, there is going to be camera movement.
Adorama, long a large East coast distributer of film and photo equipment, has moved into creating their own Flashpoint lines of video and photo gear. One of these pieces is a small table top tripod that should perfectly fit the needs of these small DSLR and cell phone shooters who really do not desire to carry around a large tripod for their little camcorders and iPads.
Designated the 'PTT1H' Mini Tabletop Tripod, I was very pleased with the quality of the tripod's build. The legs are made from a sturdy aluminum which have no flex or bend-ability to them so that bending out of shape after many uses should not be an issue for the future. The legs are 3 sided, not round and are textured to the touch, not wholly smooth, which contributes to their solid feel.
Folded away, the tripod has a 7.5" length, and in setting the legs to be at its highest point, while retaining stability, I also measured it to be 7.5" high. When spreading the legs to its lowest point, the top of the tripod reaches 4.5". This allows you to place your small DSLR or iPhone pretty darn low fitting into places and providing angles that hand holding will not allow.
The PTT1H 3Pod ball head permits a full 90° tilt for your camera and the side locking mechanism is sturdy enough to hold your camera's position quite securely even while panning the camera. Setting a horizontal horizon will have to be done manually since there is no leveling bubble, but this tripod is so small I'm not sure just where there would be room for a bubble anyway.
Currently, the MSRP price is listed at $34.95 but when checking the Adorama website, I noticed that there is a $10 instant rebate. Oy vey, such a bargain!
Flashpoint 3Pod Flat Folding Tripod/Hybrid Monopod with H2 Ballhead
Especially when traveling long distances by plane, carrying a full sized heavy duty tripod can be cumbersome. I have always hesitated to put any of my more delicate camera gear, including my tripod, into checked luggage. I would never call any of the many baggage handlers I have seen to be the more careful of workers when loading a flyer's luggage into the plane or when offloading onto the airlines carousel.
Adorama, with its ownl line of camera and video gear, has developed a very worthwhile tripod/monopod combo that fits most neatly into a small but sturdy padded fabric case measuring only 18" long, 7.5" wide and 3"deep. Looking at the case you wouldn't think there was a full sized quality tripod hiding within.
The tripod/monopod system is a multipurpose and very compact support system consisting of strong carbon fiber legs, each of which are anodized, making this tripod not only lighter but also considerably more durable than many tripods on the market. The apex of the tripod legs utilizes a flat design so that, when folded away, the tripod doesn't collapse with the normal round folding aspect of most tripods. This flat, collapsed design enables it to fit neatly back into its diminutive case.
The 3 Pod tripod was super easy to set up quickly, even in the dark during a moonless night shoot. Fully extended, with the ball head mounted, the tripod reached a height of 66" up to the camera mounting plate. The minimum height is 13" for those low down shots. The Flashpoint 3Pod has a suggested maximum load of 28.6 lbs.
Each leg has a textured rubber pad at its base for solid gripping on slippery or smooth surfaces and center leg has a firm foam wrap for gripping with confidence. The rubber grip covers at each leg's bottom can be removed to expose spikes for soft terrain. I found that I had to exert some real strength to pull them off and was initially afraid of doing damage, but once I saw just how much force to use, there was no problem. (Just don't lose the rubber caps when removed.) The base of the legs has both a leveling bubble and a small compass for directional shooting. The legs themselves lock themselves into place with a small twist, as do most tripod legs, and are each fully adjustable in length should you need to compensate for uneven surfaces such as rocky ledges or in hilly environments.
The H2 Aluminum Ballhead screwed onto the leg system flat mounting base without any issues. In use, the head pans and tilts very smoothly utilizing a hydraulic dampening for a full 360° movement. There are two directional adjustment knobs, each with degree markings for accuracy of photo or video placement as well as for the amount of friction you feel necessary for the head. While this tripod doesn't have a panning arm for video, I found that by simply applying directional pressure to the adjustment knobs a very smooth pan or tilt can be accomplished without jerking of the image. The head's quick release plate arrives with a universal 3/8" mounting screw for cameras of every size and locks the camera to the ballhead most securely. The head has two leveling bubbles for horizontal and vertical head placement.
The Flashpoint 3Pod comes with two allen wrenches in order to enable you to remove two of the legs and lock the center leg to use the 3Pod in a monopod configuration. When done, it felt well balanced when holding and the solid foam grip made for comfortable gripping without the fear of it slipping from my hand.
Weighing in at only 5.75 lbs, I would hesitate to leave the tripod alone in a heavy wind but it does seem to be a pretty sturdy piece of gear that, especially when traveling with weight considerations, would make it an ideal tripod to go with.
Sometimes, we buy things that appear so nice in their cases. Then we get take them out, use them, but can't seem to replace to them to fit as we originally found them. Not so with Adorama's Flashpoint 3 Pod, it was easy to set up and just as easy to replace in the padded bag until next time.
Bottom line is that Adorama, in creating their own line of camera gear, has used their insights in the business to develop what many shooters will find the most convenient, useful and professional equipment at very decent prices.
Steve Douglas is a certified Apple Pro for Final Cut Pro 7 and underwater videographer. A winner of the 1999 Pacific Coast Underwater Film Competition, 2003 IVIE competition, 2004 Los Angeles Underwater Photographic competition, and the prestigious 2005 International Beneath the Sea Film Competition, where he also won the Stan Waterman Award for Excellence in Underwater Videography and 'Diver of the Year', Steve was a safety diver on the feature film "The Deep Blue Sea", contributed footage to the Seaworld Park's Atlantis Production, and Productions for National Geographic and the History channels. Steve was a feature writer for Asian Diver Magazine and is one of the founding organizers of the San Diego UnderSea Film Exhibition.
copyright © Steve Douglas 2014
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