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Field Test: Giottos YTL 8314 Tripod & MH 1300-657 Ball Head

A quality tripod and ball head are necessary in the arsenal of a landscape photographer. Keith Briley puts the Giottos YTL 8314 Tripod & MH 1300-657 Ball Head to the test

Capturing the movement of clouds or the silkiness of rushing water, while keeping the remainder of the composition tack sharp, requires a good tripod and ball head. That is exactly what we have here – a great tripod and ball head in fact! Not only is it a very good-looking combo, its mechanics make shooting in the field an absolute breeze.

Within the world of gadgetry, these two work hand-in-hand without the bells and whistles that most are trying to implement. Its sleek simplicity leaves you wondering why would you ever want more. For starters, this 100% carbon fibre (8 layers) tripod is light; it weighs in at a whopping 4.2 lbs without the ball head. Adding the ball head will give you an additional 1/2 lb that you probably won’t even notice. That is one of the beautiful things about this unit – simplicity equals less weight!

It stands at 75.6 inches tall with the Y-Tube center column extended and 63 inches without. With the ball head installed, include an additional 2.36 inches. For fans of the pano, the center column cantilevers to tilt 180 degrees and rotates 360 degrees. When the Y-Tube center column is extended, there is very little movement. If I were a betting man, I’d say the unique shape of this center column probably contributes to that.

Giottos DiagramThis one-of-a-kind center column brings something new to the game. Instead of your traditional pipe type column, this unit boasts a space saving Y shape. The space from the column that the legs would contact when stowed has been removed, giving you a 30% slimmer tripod. The sleeve in which the column slides up and down is the same Y shape, supplying additional support that you can’t get with a round column. When folded, this unit becomes a length of 23.6 inches. The space saving Y-Tube and compact folded length make traveling a little bit easier.

The three legs include 8 graduated calibrations (2 inches apart) and are constructed of 4 sections. Their push button leg locks make life so much easier for those of us that have no fingernails, and will allow you to get as close as 7.9 inches to the ground. The length is adjusted with the Quick Lever Leg Locks (QELSystem).

I live in the Charleston, South Carolina area, and subsequently a lot of my equipment is exposed to sand and salt whilst shooting. Some tripod leg clamps will stop clamping with the slightest amount of debris, but not these. I put them to the test multiple times, as did my clients, who all loved this unit! After several exposures to the coast, one clamp became a little tough to close. Based on previous experience I thought that regardless of what I did to clean it, I would still have to adjust the clamp to get it to close again. Surprisingly, I gave it a quick bath and it was working like new again! There is nothing more frustrating than being out in the field fighting your tripod. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked around making sure there wasn’t anyone watching me and an inanimate object go round and round! (For the record, I lost every time…)

The MH 1300 Ball Head with the MH657 Quick Release gave me a whole new perspective on ball heads. I had fallen into the trap of ‘more is better’. The more knobs and levers it has, the more it can do, right? Boy, was I wrong. Not only is this thing very functional, it is good looking too. It is constructed of cast aluminium and covered in a satin black paint. The knobs are covered in a solid rubber with a really nice grip on each. They are all marked with icons and arrows, rather than numbers, which add to its elegance.

The panning of the base is very fluid and smooth. The tension knob became a favorite of mine. I was able to adjust the knob so that I could move the camera during a stitch, never having to make an adjustment. You can apply just enough tension that the camera will move and stay wherever you put it. It has the ability to handle 33 pounds and handled my Nikon D810 and 14-24mm beautifully.

It includes a reversible ARCA compatible quick release camera mount, which has pop-up tabs to prevent accidental camera rotation when shooting vertically. And, last but not least, the camera plate includes a locking screw with a d-ring! No searching the ground for something to use as a screwdriver when the camera becomes loose. That’s another one of those scuffles with an inanimate object that we can talk about at a later date…

Besides the obvious, a quality tripod and ball head are necessary in the arsenal of a landscape photographer. They have to be light in weight, easy to travel with and sturdy as a rock. This combo has it all and then some. You won’t be disappointed.

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About Author

Keith Briley

Keith is a professional landscape photographer and owner of Charleston Photography Tours in South Carolina, USA. When he is not on a quest to capture light and chasing adventures, Keith can be found instructing workshops.

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