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REVIEW – Velbon Neo Carmagne 830 Tripod & QHD-65D Head

The Velbon Neo Carmagne 830 Tripod & QHD-65D Head is an essential part of my gear bag. As part of my on going unbiased review series of blogs today I look at one of the biggest pieces of my camera equipment.  I’ve been as guilty of many in the many of spending money of the obvious tools like camera but not investing properly into tools that have unheralded positive impact on ones work.  Any photographer who wants to produce quality time lapse, long exposure images that could be night images or day shots using heavy filters must have a sturdy tripod.  Shooting locations must be taken into consideration.  As you can see from the main image above my tripod is very much exposed to the elements and usually mounted on rocks.  I also wanted to have a camera that would give a perspective that would not be the usual and that being at ones eye level.  Most tripods from my experience are set-up to shoot in the range of 5 foot to 6 foot.  This means that most images are shot from the same perspective.  I’m looking for something that is not about sameness and can capture more of the big picture.

Golden Rules of Tripods

“Tripods can be stable, cheap and light but you can only choose two of those.”

A light and stable tripod is expensive.
A light and cheap tripod is unstable.
A stable and cheap tripod is heavy.

I also have a rule for 99.9% of the tripods out there. Don’t raise the the centerpost.  The tripod by itself is a wonderful design.  The centerpost is contradictory to the benefits and is the weakest part of the tripod.  Any gust of wind will knock it over.  This is not the case with the Velbon Neo Carmagne 830.  I can raise the post with confidence and also attach a couple of short arm mounting arms as well.

Construction Material:

I quote this from Velbon website as it is a bit technical and I don’t want to mislead anyone. “The carbon fiber leg tubes of the Geo Series tripods have been strengthened by the addition of a small quantity of basalt, offering greater resistance and rigidity for bending and crushing forces. The reason for the use of carbon is its quick absorption of vibration.
Carbon is not only light in weight, it is ideal for stopping the vibration caused by the release of the shutter and restraining the movement of the camera for the next shot. Tripod components and furniture are constructed of magnesium alloy, a material that is lightweight and easy to process, making Geo Series tripods both solid and stylish. Velbon was the world’s first manufacturer to use magnesium alloy in tripods.
With its high processing temperature and remarkable fineness, magnesium alloy is emblematic of Velbon’s state-of-the-art technology.” 

Velbon Geo N830 overview image.

Velbon Geo N830 overview image.

The tripod is made to last but due to the sheer height of it it is heavy.  Weighing it at 22lbs without head one can expect a bit of a workout carrying it around.  I’ve had this tripod for almost two years and in most cases it’s the first choice of mounting devices regarding to how remote the location is.

Height:

This is one of the main reasons I went hunting for this product.  I have visions of images I want to capture.  I wanted to capture images in a perspective that is not the normal 5 foot to 6 foot range.  As someone who stands above the crowd at over six foot this was more a way of trying to capture the world I see.  I just wanted to capture more of that so in order to do that I also need to shoot above my head.  Part of capturing the essence of Hong Kong means I need to not just capture the obvious but also the others layers that we often exclude or give little thought to.  This all came to be a part of my time lapse photography that has some very solid and steadfast rules.  It should be noted that because of the extreme height and ability to use the centerpost I need to bring a 3 step ladder to shoots where I will need to have more hands on setup of cameras.  This can really be a benefit as it does draw attention, something that I’m very much used to but also gains respect as people see something that stands above the crowd.

 

Yes it really is that tall and makes me look small.

Yes it really is that tall and makes me look small.

The tripod in most compact is 3 foot and also a very workable height that is not a normal perspective but that makes it more interesting.  Extending the top leg will bring the tripod to 53 inches with equal leg distribution.  With both legs extended they reach 75 inches.  Now one can add another 8 inches by extending the centerpost (not recommended on any other tripod I’ve used or most I’ve ever seen)

 Stability:

The most important aspect of any tripod especially for what I do.  The cameras and yes I often mount more than one on this tripod.  For many events one gets one chance to capture it and with such a large scene to capture even with a wide angle lens one stills needs to work on a few crops.  I have used panning heads in the past but my preference is to use stable cameras as the results are more conducive to have flexibility with the media.  I will also set-up cameras with different filters and other settings to keep expanding and challenging myself and limitations of my gear.  This tripod has never let me down and I’ve been caught is some amber rain, high winds on mountain peaks etc.  I always jokingly say that I kill cameras, gear and myself but one thing that I’ve not killed yet is my Velbon 830.  The following image is why I first purchased this tripod.

A few times a year the city puts on a special event that makes the skyline look even more spectacular than usual.

A few times a year the city puts on a special event that makes the skyline look even more spectacular than usual.

Leg Locks:

I use the nut locking and as it uses a twisting motion I find that I never pinch my fingers and it’s very quick and easy. The strong point of lever locking is quick extension of the legs and quick locking, allowing a rapid shift to shooting.  Locking is more of a minor feature for myself as I’m a set it up and leave it kind of guy.  Once it’s setup I’m committed to the shoot.  On the other hand I do love the fact that after a shoot I know what to expect like a reliable friend.

Centerpost:

As I mentioned before centerposts an all but a few tripods should ever be used. It’s recommended for studio use where you want to get the camera to subjects eye-level. For landscape and really any outside activity it’s should not be used.  The one on the Velbon 840 is a brilliant.  It’s so well constructed there is no movement even if one does not lock it tightly that can happen during a quick setup.  The geared column is smooth and never had an issue.  Even fully extended the camera sits solid and no issues with instability.  With a radius of 5 inches this is not an afterthought but very part of the the tripod.  Most manufactures might have pushed the limits higher but I respect Velbon for being conservative in their thinking.

Weight Hook:

Great to have as well as the bag they provide for adding extra weight when shooting in windy locations.  I don’t have to use it very often but great to have it all covered and thought out.

Feet:

Perfect for both inside and outside as well as urban or rural locations.  The metal spike or rubber feet options are solid as well.  The spike heads are revealed by using a twist motion from the more traditional flat feet.  To date I’ve not had any problems while shooting on the toughest rock face conditions.

2-way adjustable legs tips provide metal spike or rubber feet options.

2-way adjustable legs tips provide metal spike or rubber feet options.

Velbon QHD-65D Head Review:

Much like the tripod itself this is a rugged heavy duty beast.  It adds another pound and a bit to the over all weight.  The place is large and offers a secure stable connection.  They have looked at all the typical week areas of a tripod to ensure the most stable platform possible.  I’ve attached a picture for more details.  My only complaint and this is more of a user issue than anything is I wish that the plate would always fall back into the exact same location.  I’ve removed the camera for a moment to take a freehand pano and when I put it back in to resume the time lapse it was off slightly.  It was not a stabilization issue with the tripod it was because being gentle with camera I should have double checked it was securely locked.  Being in the field babysitting cameras we do push everything to there limits.  Otherwise I have no complaints about this head.

 

Excellent pairing. Well thought out and holding up excellently. Large plate makes for firm solid connection.

Excellent pairing. Well thought out and holding up excellently. Large plate makes for firm solid connection.

NOTE: CAMERAS should never be ATTACHED to TRIPODS when MOVING them – yes I do it if moving a few inches or it’s a time vs shot.  Carry tripod over the shoulder with camera hanging like a hobo’s bag then you have an accident looking for a place to happen.

 

Build Quality:

After two years of heavy and often harsh conditions this tripod is holding up very well.  I’m sure with 3 DSLR cameras and two short arms for other two cameras the weight load is on the higher end of it’s recommendations but if you where looking to put a large lens on this for nature photography it would be worth considering.   The only thing that is wearing is the foam that wraps around the legs to make carrying more comfortable.  As I don’t have a bag and hold it by hand that can often be covered in sweet due to local conditions and extreme locations it’s holding up very well.

This review is unbiased and was done to provide useful information to photographers.  As a community we need to support ourselves as well as companies like Velbon who have proven they understand us.

In order to get the true essence of an event one must shoot it like no other.

In order to get the true essence of an event one must shoot it like no other.

Manufactures Link: http://www.velbon.biz/product/geo.html

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