Fotopro Tripod Original Review (Has Been Updated)

Fotopro Tripod Original Review (Has Been Updated)

THIS REVIEW HAS BEEN MOVED AND UPDATED. When an idea is good, it’s bound to sprout imitators. There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with this. Often it leads to a product that took the good from one idea and implemented other original concepts to make an end product amazing. But sometimes, and rather frequently in the photo industry, we end up with products that feel like hollow copies, existing to just take advantage of positive consumer feelings towards an existing product. That’s what I feel happened with the Fotopro tripod.

This design is not new. Both Benro (now spinoff brand MeFoto) and Three Legged Thing claim to be the originators of their specific tripod design, but they both have amazing product that function phenomenally, so it really doesn’t matter who came first. What is indisputable is that Fotopro came into existence much later than either of those other two brands with a design that is without argument identical, if not for a few minor aesthetic differences. Fotopro asked me to take a look at their tripod, since I was so smitten with the MeFoto version (and still am).

The Fotopro tripod is designed, like MeFoto and Three Legged Thing, to be small, light weight, and quick to use on location. It’s not designed to be a heavy-duty tripod that can withstand all elements, and that’s ok. We can own other tripods. We don’t need one item to do everything, in fact I argue the opposite. Unfortunately, Fotopro’s attempt at this now-popular design is a feeble one, leaving me with an unfortunate distaste for the product I generally do not have for nearly anything I use. Rarely do I ever speak so frankly about a product I am dissatisfied with, and often times I will not do a review when I am unhappy with a product's performance. However, through a series of photo and video shoots that were seriously hampered by the Fotopro tripod, I couldn't let this one slide.

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A tripod is supposed to do a very short list of things right, otherwise, what is the point? Even though the Fotopro is as equally stable and lightweight as its competitors (aluminum versions anyhow, and the carbon fiber versions of MeFoto and Three Legged Thing are only marginally lighter), the functionality of the Fotopro version left me befuddled and frustrated.

What functionality? The Fotopro tripod is sticky where it should be smooth, and smooth where it should be tightly fastened. What I mean by this is that the legs and most especially the neck tightening ring are badly tuned. I am not exaggerating in this statement:

It took two people pulling with all their strength to get the neck of the Fotopro tripod to extend out of the base.

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This is truly, truly absurd. I would hold onto the legs while Mike Kelley would pull on the head. We would both lean back and pull with all our strength, and the Fotopro would only relent after a few seconds of intense pulling. Why is this important? Because the Fotopro tripod only breaks down to its smallest size when the neck is extended, and I always collapse the neck to maximize stability (a tall neck high above three legs is not the most stable option, and you should only do this if you have to). That means that on my own, I was incapable of putting this tripod away.

The head attaches to the neck of the tripod in the traditional manner, but had a terrible habit of unscrewing. There is a knob to loosen the swivel on the head so that you can pan smoothly, but no matter how loose I made that tightening screw, the head always seem to want to totally unscrew from the neck, which is extremely dangerous for your camera.

Let me simplify that: Attempting to pan head normally instead unscrewed tripod head from tripod 70% of the time.

Leveling with this tripod was also a farce. The little level bubble that you would use to determine the “level” or center of a plane doesn’t actually work right. You have to tilt significantly to get it to move at all, which means it’s impossible to use.

Simplified version: Both built-in levels do not work.

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When I pick the angle I want, I aim my camera (while attached to the tripod), make sure I’m level (via other means than this tripod head's built-in level obviously), and then tighten the head to maintain that angle, right? Not with this head. Like with a lot of lower quality tripod heads (think the really cheap Sunpak tripods you find at Best Buy), even when fully tightened, the head is actually too weak to support a DSLR. So the camera then dips slightly after you let go. This happens with the Fotopro tripod head, and it is extremely irritating.

Simplified version: Tripod head is not strong enough to support a DSLR with a pro-level lens.

The legs, which are twist lock not clip lock, are also quite sticky and often times required significant pulling to get to extend. On their own this would be but a minor annoyance. Combined with the other gripes it was the straw the broke the camel’s back.

Some say imitation is the highest form of flattery, but if MeFoto or Three Legged Thing were anything like this tripod, no one would be happy. Sure it’s available in a ton of colors (so are the competitors) and the design is light weight and packs down to a very small package (just like the competitors), but when put in real business situations where I have clients to please and pictures to take, this tripod crumpled under the stress. It’s obviously not made to be used for anything more than a soccer-field sideline camera rest, and anyone looking for a reliable, lightweight tripod that is small and easy to use would be better served with either competitor to the Fotopro.

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Mike Wilkinson's picture

Glad to hear an unbiased review this product. Funny that what you like most of all seemed to be the bag lol

Funny, Matthew Saville over at SLR Lounge loves these things (prefers them over the MeFoto even). My bet is you got a bad unit. But still odd of them not to reply after you asked about it though.

Jaron Schneider's picture

I saw that review and was baffled, because his experience was in such stark contrast to mine.

Von Wong's picture

hm. I think that before doing such a review it would have been fair to actually request a second unit before critiquing the entire brand line.

I've toyed around with the Fotopro and it was nowhere nearly that disastrous.

Jaron Schneider's picture

I did. They didn't respond.

Von Wong's picture

ah I missed that line.
Still feel like the review is unit specific... + a nice F on customer service

Jaron Schneider's picture

If I receive an updated one I will edit the review accordingly.

For what it's worth, I have another clone -- the Dolica TX570B150SL "Ultra Compact" (without bubble level) when it was on sale for $60. Everything works just fine. No adjustability problems like you found in the Fotopro, though not quite as nice as a Gitzo + Manfrotto combo I have, but that combo was several times more expensive.

I think it can be commonly be found for $70 at various places. And Costco is selling the 60" carbon fiber model for $80.

Also: it's possible the individual Fotopro unit you got was a lemon. Still doesn't speak well of their QA process, but just because you got one that is this problematic does not mean that they all are...

Jaron Schneider's picture

True, but I can only give judgement on what I have. I can't guess that things are better when I have nothing to go on except the tripod I was sent.

What would you recommend under this type of design?

Jaron Schneider's picture

I absolutely love my MeFoto Globetrotter. It's truly excellent.

I really want to like the MeFoto options, they're definitely well-made, but the 5-section legs are a deal breaker for me. That plus a few other minor design preferences...

I recently got a Brian 3 Legged Thing, and absolutely love it. It's a real solid tripod.

I have to totally disagree with your review I have it as a travel tripod and have found none but one problem with it and that it is difficult to level at times, the legs I can unscrew and pull out with one hand, I have a a99 and battery grip and when in portrait orientation it grips surprisingly well for what it is. Would I use it if I don't have to no, but will I use it while I'm on holiday and be happy definitely.

Yeah, my friends call me "The destroyer of tripods"... I have completely disintegrated numerous tripods from pretty much every manufacturer except the most reliable big names.

This review definitely raises more eyebrows than I have to raise.

Firstly, did you realize that there are multiple points of security for the center column? There is the large rubber ring however there is also a smaller set screw that was a brilliant addition IMO because anybody who isn't used to removing their center column is likely to just forget that it's off and then yank their camera right off their tripod. I can definitely attest to the center column being fantastic and smooth. For the record I have had other center columns of nearly identical design from major brands (Giottos, Induro) that got completely crappy and rattle-y after just 1 year's use.

Regarding the ballhead, you simply forgot to lock down the tension bolt that is a small allen under the bottom of the ballhead. All / most tripods have one of these, and it is very necessary to tighten it down before using the tripod.

Regarding overall strength, I simply have to disagree. The 8mm Nikon fisheye would be happy to verify this. ;-)

Overall there are numerous aspects of general tripod design that I feel FotoPro picked the winning design compared to the others that are very much like it. I'll have to record a video that explains these things in greater detail because they're hard to grasp in writing.

Chinese made budget tripods will always be Chinese made budget tripods. I wouldn't consider this thing to come close to a Gitzo or an RRS tripod, that's for sure. So be gentle on the legs and knobs in general. Every tripod has a few internal parts that are delicate and plastic. But if you don't have $1,500 to spend on a high-end tripod LOL, and you plan on taking decent care of whatever you do buy, I don't thing you'll have a bad experience using these. I've been using both the C5i and the C5c for some pretty serious adventures plus daily work, without any issues thus far.


cy sawyer's picture

Hmm, As pointed out above, Looks like you simply forgot to tighten the tension bolt. Honestly, My experience with this tripod is much more aligned with the review from SLRLounge. I love this unit and have not had any issues at all.

This seems like quite a harsh review for having only experienced the one unit.

I have moved from Manfroto to these, They are that good.

Jaron Schneider's picture

So what you're suggesting is that I, as a reviewer, should always receive at least two or three of each item sent to me for review in order to be sure it's not a singularly bad item or a problem with the whole line?