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.
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.
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.
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.