The Dolica LX Series tripods: MSRP Approximately $170
First now lets not confuse the title with me stating that photography is a stable business plan. I can assure you there are barriers to entry, heavy competition as well as much to learn and continue learning long after you think you have got it down. But with photography, just like business, it requires stability. Tripods, monopods, or combos are the most common form of stability for all outdoor shooters. Tripods can vary in price from under a hundred bucks up to thousands of dollars, and depending on what you need, you can often end up paying a lot more for what you actually require. There are a lot of options out there and more often than not, the cheaper options tend to be plenty for the fair weather photographers and enthusiasts. My first tripod was a lower end Dolica tripod my wife got me as a gift for Christmas when I first started shooting. It lasted me through thick and thin for almost 5 years before I finally decided I might need something a bit sturdier as I upgraded my cameras. That is where my search began.
Like most of us do, I love getting a good deal on high quality equipment. I search for hours on customer reviews, equipment reviews as well as personal preferences. I go through the highs and lows, look thoroughly at the complaints and take the positives with a grain of salt; feel free to title me as a penny pinching pessimist, it’s a fair description of my shopping habits. In my search I decided to start with the brands I knew I could rely on as well as others I had heard many positives about. Manfrotto, MeFoto, Gitzo, Dolica, etc. I had first hand experience with Dolica and had been quite happy with my first tripod and how it handled my semi regular abuse over the course of the previous five years, so I decided moving up the ladder in their products would be a great place to start.
My needs were pretty similar to that of most travel photographers… I needed something sturdy, lightweight, and I needed it to have great adaptability for shooting angles. I wanted it to be relatively compact and feel like high quality goods for my money. For the most part, I never shoot with the tripod fully extended, so I really liked the idea of either a compact 3 section or 4 section pod that would fold up nice and tight. I honestly didn’t even know where to start so I contacted Dolica for assistance, and I did it through Instagram. Within the day I had a response from a willing partner trying to help me find exactly what would work for me the best. They took the info on my camera, accessories and what I waned to do with the tripod, and they essentially married me to a product that fit all of these needs. Needless to say, I was incredibly impressed with the effort that they came forward with, especially when it came to the price of the tripod, $170 with the ball head included.
Now I consider myself a small fry. By no means am I important to the photography community in anyway aside from the occasional witty review. So the effort that came into “fitting” me to my tripod was impressive and definitely noteworthy considering they even responded to me through a message on Instagram. My order was complete, so now I just had to patiently wait for delivery to test out my new sticks. I wasn’t quite ready to make any product judgments until I could get a comprehensive hands-on test and put it into my production process.
Once the tripod arrived it came nicely packaged. I was actually quite surprised how compact the tripod actually was when folded. The tripod featured a very nice anodized black aluminum structure with metal quality twist locks (this is my preferred, I know for some it is not but I feel It works better for me), as well as a nice stout and fluid ball head, definitely an upgrade from my previous entry series kit. The body collapsed into itself through a reverse foldup method further compacting the tripod. The leg locks where nice and sturdy, made of metal rather than plastic, and nice and stiff yet fluid enough to make expanding and collapsing very easy. The kit also came with a nice strapped carry back that the tripod fit in neatly for easier and cleaner carrying.
Just from looks and my initial impressions of the products I could tell the cost/value of the product was exceptional. You get a lot for your money especially in comparison to some of the similarly rated products from the major Italian name brands like Manfrotto. Having had hands on with both Manfrotto and Dolica products, the LX Series was on par or superior in many aspects in comparison with the equivalent products of its competitor. And for nearly half the price, it is hard to deny the value that is there with Dolica.
As I had previously stated, adaptability is a big thing for outdoor and nature photographers. The ones that separate from the pack often use new vantage points, travel to the unvisited locations, and don’t tend to be afraid of getting dirty. With that being said, it is imperative the tripod can keep up with the needs of the photographer in the field. Initial testing yielded very positive results in the field. The Dolica LX series can transform into a plethora of different angles and positions making the dirty work a little less dirty, and all the while keeping a great sturdy foundation for my Prosumer, mid sized DSLR. Folding in on itself to drop angles for macro and unique landscape shots the tripod stays put. I had no issues with stability whatsoever. The product felt high quality in the field, held strong and allowed for me to get far more creative with shooting that the beginner level tripod I had before.
Leg Locks and Monopod
What I previously failed to mention is the tripod also features a built in monopod for when the three legs may not be necessary. One of the primary legs simply twists off from the tripod and pairs with the ball head to create a nice lightweight monopod. The leg locks are nice and study, have great grip with the rubber inserts and do a relatively good job keeping water and sand out of the tripod. Much of the time, the common gripe with twist locks is the potential for sand creeping in and creating some abrasion when locking and unlocking the leg sections, in the first few months of use this has not been and issue, and it appears breaking down the tripod for cleaning and re-lubricating is relatively straight forward. The legs lock tight and have a nice girth to them giving you the perception of a quality and well thought out design. This was a major plus for me as this is the tripod design I prefer and it appears to be set up for long lasting performance.
For a $170 tripod the ball head has a ton to offer. With a small level, professional level metal clasp system that appears would work with most L Brackets, and it has nice fluidity to it. The knobs for adjusting the camera angle as well as direction have a nice quality feel to them and are easy to find. All of the knobs have very nice rubber comfort grips that work great when moisture is present or if gloves are involved. In my experience the ball head has absolutely no trouble handling my mid level, enthusiast DSLR with or without a battery grip attached to it, and it is very easy to adjust, lock down, and hold extremely stable when shooting.
From the beginning I was impressed. This is a professional grade tripod for under $200 and it comes with the ball head. The product is a minimalist’s paradise. Branding is tasteful and and the color scheme of the product points out it means business and isn’t there to attract attention. This might be the most solid tripod I have touched to date in regards to my needs. I am sure at some point it may become the second fiddle in my arsenal, but right now it comes in my car with me everywhere I go. It offers incredible adaptability, stability as well as quality. To me this is a five-star product at it’s price point and could easily sell for what its competitors list at. You get more for your buck that you can imagine with this product and Dolica continues to develop new and exciting enhancements each and everyday. The major selling point to me was the effort the service team put out when I was looking. They took the time to learn about me as a photographer, find me what I needed rather than push me to something I didn’t and made the purchase process simple. I highly recommend this product and am sure most any enthusiast and professional could use this equipment at this price point.
- High Quality Materials
- Adaptability with Monopod and tripod potential, various angles and extremely light andcompact
- Quality Ball head with a lot to offer the enthusiast
- Amazing staff and customer service