Vanguard Alta Pro 284CT Tripod Review

Tripods are one of those big dollar purchases that many photographers put off well past then they should and I can’t count how many photographers I know that rarely use their tripod because they dislike it so much. With me, I tend to only replace one when the current one is in a state that is significantly past the point that it should have been retired. Case in point, my current Calumet has been falling apart for a long time, requires constant maintenance, and is a very heavy metal set of legs. Even though it has traveled thousands of miles, I have despised it for years. What has kept me from getting one before now? Mostly the cost. Good tripods are usually over $500 making it a large investment for something that isn’t used as often as a new lens might be.

The Vanguard Alta Pro 284CT Tripod

I first saw the Vanguard Alta Pro line of tripods at PMA last year and decided right on the spot that I just had to have one. There was one feature of the Alto Pro tripods that stood out from the rest for me, that was the ability of the central rod to be able to rotate from 0 to 130 degrees  in order for you to be able to shoot straight down onto something or for better angles for macro photography. For me, this is highly useful for product photography.

Other features include advanced camera vibration and shock control, legs that adjust to 25, 50 and 80-degree angles, quarter-twist leg locks,  patented premium magnesium die-cast canopy and head, hexagon-shaped central column for extra stability, and non-slip, spiked rubber feet for changing terrains and a removable hook for hanging camera accessories. Alta Pro 284CT is carbon fiber making it very light weight.

Specifications

  • Extended height(inch): 63
  • Folded height(inch): 21
  • Weight(lbs): 3.71
  • Maximum loading capacity(lbs): 18
  • Titled Loading Capacity(lbs): 15.4
  • Number of Leg Sections: 4
  • Leg Diameter(mm): 28

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Another feature that I was looking for in a new tripod was the ability to spread the legs out to multiple angles in order to get the camera as close to the ground as possible. With the Alta Pro’s ability to rotate the center column over and spread the legs out up to 80 degrees, this gives you some of the most control of any tripod available. The ability to screw up the rubber feet to expose metal spikes should help the Alta Pro tripods stay put on uneven terrain. This should be a welcome feature for landscape photographers. On the bottom of central column is a metal loop that you can use to strap down to a sand bag to steady the tripod when using it in the wind. The Alta Pro tripods all come with a slinging bag (SB-100 Stone Bag). This can be used to store all your basic “keep handy” gear like lens caps, light meters, and turkey sandwiches, or you can fill it with rocks to help keep the tripod sturdy. When looking at the different models of the Alta Pro series, the model number gives you some clues to it’s specs. The first two number designate the diameter of the legs while the third digit tells you how many segments the legs have, hence the 284CT has 28mm legs and 4 segments.

Usage

There is a lot to like about the Vanguard Alta Pro 284CT, the construction is solid, it has a great set of features, and is easy to use. My last tripod had clunky brackets to release the legs where the 284CT uses a twist-lock that takes only 1/4 of a turn to lock or unlock.

The leg angle adjustment is solid and easy to use as well with a simple push button release. To swing the central column over you raise up the column and push a safety button to release it up into the neck. Once up, you release the Instant Swivel Stop-n-Lock (ISSL) System and the central post will be free to move around.

Keep in mind that the 284CT is not a complete tripod system, it is just the legs and the central column. In order to actually attach a camera, you have to have some kind of head on it.  Currently, my most used head is a Manfrotto 322RC2 ball head. This head requires a larger screw mount than comes standard on the 284CT. Fortunately, Vanguard thought this could be an issue. The 284CT comes with a little tool kit that allows you to remove  a larger screw mount from the top mount and attach it on top of the existing screw mount to allow for a wider variety of heads to be used. The small tool kit also has an Allen wrench and sockets for maintaining the legs.

Along with the stone bag, you also get a carrying bag for everything. I only wish the bag would have been a bit longer to accommodate having a head attached to it. Even so, its nice to have a bag with a carrying strap to help haul it around.

Results

Ok, so remember at the beginning I said that good tripod legs go for upwards of $400 or more, and sometimes, much more. And notice how much attention to detail Vanguard has put into the Alta Pro 284CT. The best part, is you can get all of this for a low price. Sure, that is still a heft chunk of change especially when you add in another $50 – $100 for a good ball head. Is an investment of close to $400 really worth it for something as simple as a tripod? That sounds like a simple question but as someone who has gone through a handful of tripods over the years, I can attest to the fact that it does. Let me give you a brief history of my tripods over the years.

My first tripod was a cheap $14 special that actually came free when I bought a Hi8 digital camera once. While initially fine indoors for product photography, it was very wobbly and wouldn’t hold up a heavier camera/lens combo. As I upgraded and the cameras and lenses got heavier, it simply wouldn’t cut it.

The next tripod was in the low-end of the pro spectrum. It extended much taller, was more sturdy, and could hold heavier gear. Over time, the movements got gritty, the legs got looser, and it just didn’t feel stable enough. This tripod still serves duty for my much lighter camcorder.

My last tripod was a nice Calumet. While for a while, it was nice to have a good tripod with a nice Manfrotto head on it, eventually it really began to fall apart. In recent days the clasps are held together with JB Weld, O-Rings have fallen off, and I have to tighten up the screws all the time.

The Vanguard Alta Pro 284CT is easily the most expensive tripod I have owned to date but the features it had, along with much better construction should allow it to last longer and hold up to my abuse, while at the same time giving me functionality I never had before.

Summary

So far, I am impressed with the Alta Pro 284CT. It has the features I was looking for, it is reasonable priced for the class of tripod it is in, and has a nice, professional feel to it. Its also much lighter than my previous tripod which will be very handy as I do travel quite a bit.

But who is Vanguard? I bet most of you have never heard of them before. For 24 years, Vanguard has been a leader in high-quality photo-video accessories (tripods, monopods, ball heads, camera bags and cases), hunting accessories (archery bow cases, gun cases and gun pods/shooting sticks) and sporting optics (binoculars and spotting scopes).

Score Card

Features 5.0
Setup: 5.0
Usage: 5.0
Results: 5.0
Overall: 5.0

Vanguard Website: http://www.vanguardworld.com

KerryG

Kerry Garrison lives in Castle Rock, Colorado with his wife and two dogs. With 10 years of experience shooting products and 5 years of experience in the wedding industry, Kerry brings a good deal of technical know-how and can explain topics in easy-to-understand terms.

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3 Responses

  1. March 26, 2010

    […] first met Vanguard at PMA 2009 in Las Vegas and recently reviewed the Vanguard Alta Pro 284CT Tripod. We caught up with Jodi at PMA this week to talk about their new messenger style bags, some new […]

  2. October 18, 2010

    […] while back, Kerry did a review of the Vanguard Alta Pro 284CT, which is a really nice, $300 carbon fiber tripod.  As great of a tripod as that one is, I would […]

  3. March 16, 2012

    […] raved about Vanguard’s products at last year’s PMA show and recently reviewed the Alta Pro 284CT tripod. This year they have some new stylish and extremely affordable messenger style bags as well as some […]

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