April 19, 2010

Trek-Tech Essentials Kit
MagMount STAR Quick Release System
Trek-Tech - $199.00 (promotional)

by David A. Saraceno

I wish the adage “the best camera is the one you have with you” also applied to tripods.  Unfortunately, tripods are often essential, and seldom convenient.   They are too big, long and heavy to fit in a camera bag or backpack.  The market has yet to respond with a small, stable and easily transportable tripod to provide convenient access to stable shots for still cameras, small prosumer camcorders, and lightweight professional cams.

With these thoughts in mind, I evaluated a unique solution from Trek-Tech that packages two tripods and useable accessories in an easily accessible, transportable, and convenient kit.  The company’s multipurpose collection of tools performs well for most jobs, but isn’t intended to be a complete solution for every job.  It’s worth a look, particularly during its promotional pricing. 

What’s Included.  Trek-Tech’s Essentials Kit consists of four lightweight tripod modules and table top tripod that travel conveniently in Trek Pod Go! PRO's carrying case.   Included are a set of MagMount ball heads, a tripod clamping arm, and a small pan/tilt/swivel head.  The kit weighs about 28 ounces, breaks down to under two feet, and qualifies as carry-on luggage. 

TrekPod Go! PRO.  The Go! PRO sets up quickly into multiple configurations.  It can be configured as a telescoping monopod, or small footprint tripod.  For monopod use, thread the lower tube to the leg assembly, and tighten the locking nut.  Insert the middle tube into the lower tube, adjust to desired height, and tighten the middle locking nut.  Height reference guides are conveniently located on the middle tube at set intervals.  Attach the shorter top tube, and tighten the locking nut and you are done.  The top tube includes a “ski style” wrist strap to assist while hiking.  For tripod use, simply extend the three tripod legs.

The MagMount Pro ball head fastens to the top of the Go! PRO.  A smooth Life Force adapter is used for smaller, lighter equipment or cameras, and a beefier STAR (Square Tooth Anti Rotation) adapter is used to lock in larger, and heavier cams and devices.  Thread the adapter into your device, and then attach it to the Rare Earth Neodymium Magnet on the MagMount.  Rotate the safety lock until to clicks to further secure the device to the ball head. 

Once set up and tightened down, the Go! PRO provided good stable shots with my Leica D-Lux 4 and Nikon D300s, but less so with my Panasonic AG-HPX170 camcorder.  The cam was securely attached, but as a full height tripod the PRO exhibited some minor shaking.  In a pinch, however, it produced some good solid shots over handheld, and worked much better at lower heights.  And it worked just fine as a monopod.  For smaller camcorders like the Panasonic HMC-40, this would be convenient and useful.

Trek-Tech includes a small “optimount clamping arm” accessory for attaching a camera, light, shoes, or other gear to the Go! PRO and tripod legs up to 1.25-inch in diameter.  The pan/tilt video head accessory incorporates the MagMount system for attaching devices, uses a ¼-20 threaded stud or a 3/8th stud, swivels 360 degrees, up and down in a plastic assembly. 

The Table Top T-Pod.  The diminutive Trek-Tech T-Pod uses the same MagMount quick release system to attach cams or gear.  Setup takes seconds.  Unfold the legs, and adjust the length of the upper tube to extend the height of the unit to about a foot and a half.  Or attach the ball head directly to the T-Pod legs to configure a highly stable 4-inch high table tripod. The unit easily and solidly supported our D300s with 200mm telephoto lens and the Panasonic AG-HPX170.  The ball head can support a maximum of nine (9) pounds.  I had no hesitation when using the T-Pod with our 170.

The Attraction.  The company rates the ball head magnetic locking assembly, using the Rare Earth Neodymium Magnets, at 13.5 pounds.   I had no reason to doubt that claim during my tests.  Our HPX-170 with battery and two p2 cards weighed about five pounds, and the connection was solid.  Be careful when attaching device to the magnets, because you can easily pinch your fingertips.

The Specs.  The Go! PRO weighs 30 ounces, and is constructed using aircraft grade aluminum alloys, high strength polymers, and stainless steel.  It extends to just under 58-inches in the tripod mode and 62.5-inches in the monopod mode.   The fully extended tripod legs fit in a 22-inch square space.  The travel case is 23”x4”x2.5” and the longest tube is less than 22-inches.  Each Mag Adapter is constructed from nickel plated steel with a ¼"-20 threaded adapter.  The MagMount Magnet is a Rare Earth Neodymium Magnet. 

The T Pod weighs 13 ounces and fits into a 3.5”x1.5”x8.5” carry case.  Its open leg base is 13.5-inches and its maximum height is 13.5-inches.  Both products carry lifetime limited warranties.

Summing Up.  The Essentials Kit is well constructed, easy to set up, and eminently useful within the context of its multipurpose intended use.  In this sense, the kit is akin to multi-use printers that combine inkjet printing with scanning, faxing, and copying.  Each function is supported, but not necessarily as well as if an individual device was used.  The Essentials Kit isn’t a perfect solution for every locked down shot, but it certainly is a convenient and serviceable one.  For those of you who occasionally say “I wish I had something to help stabilize this shot” -- this might be your solution.

Copyright ©2010 David A. Saraceno

David A. Saraceno is a motion graphics artist located in Spokane, Washington. He runs a video blog and review site called secondchairvideo that provides up to date information on most things Final Cut Pro and video related.  He has written for DV Magazine, AV Video, MacHome Journal, and several state and national legal technology magazines. David moderates several forums on 2-pop.com, is active on the Apple Support Discussions forum for their Pro Applications, ranked as among the highest contributor as a Level IV in the pro apps forums, and contributes at dvxuser.com


This article first appeared on lafcpug and is reprinted here with permission.

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