Over the past two years, I've been trying to replace my Induro CT-114 tripod. Looking through countless offerings of various brands, I learned that finding a tripod that fulfilled all my requirements and didn't cost a fortune wouldn't be easy. As Leofoto released their LQ-365C, I thought I had finally found the perfect tripod. In this article, I share if this assumption turned out to be correct or if I regret my purchase.
Once you start missing photo opportunities because of your equipment, it's about time to replace it. With the Induro CT-114, it was happening for quite some time when I started my search for a new tripod. The CT-114 is a good tripod, don't get me wrong. But over the years, I had to make more and more compromises during my photo shoots.
Requirements for the Perfect Tripod
I created a requirements list for my new tripod, knowing it would be hard to find one that ticked all the boxes. There's no perfect tripod, so you should always be prepared to compromise. The important thing is to make the right compromises by personalizing and prioritizing such a list.
Going through typical tripod specifications, I came up with this:
Stability is important. I take many long exposures, for which I need a solid tripod that doesn't shake.
A tripod must be easy to disassemble and clean. I used the Induro CT-114 for nearly eight years. Such a long life was only possible because I could take it apart and give it a good cleanup after shooting at the coast. If you don't do this regularly, the legs will not operate smoothly or get stuck at some point.
A tripod should allow for photography at eye level. For me, it means a maximum height of at least 160 cm without the ball head attached. Especially for cityscape photography, this is essential if you have to photograph over railings and fences. It was a shortcoming of the CT-114, because of which I missed many shots.
A low minimum height is required for landscape photography. Because this is often problematic for tripods with a center column, there has to be a mechanism to remove it quickly.
I travel a lot, so the folded length should be no more than 50 cm. Then it fits my luggage.
As with folded length, low weight of less than 2 kg is essential for traveling and hiking.
Premium tripods can easily cost more than $1,000. While I recognize the importance of a well-built tripod, this is beyond my budget.
I like tripods with a center column. It comes in handy for making minor height adjustments while keeping everything level. When I film, for example, I use the center column to finetune the framing.
Last on my priority list are twist locks. I'm used to them, and they make disassembling a tripod easy. But I wouldn't mind lever locks if they don't add too many small parts that can get dirty, rusty, or break.
The legs and locks should have some sealing to avoid water entering when submerged. Especially salt water should stay out of the legs if possible.
For most tripods, requirement 3 contradicts points 5 and 6. I also learned that while having more leg sections might solve this problem, most of the time, only travel tripods use five leg sections versus the three or four sections of normal tripods. But those travel tripods don't fulfill my third requirement and are also not the most stable. They often use those additional leg sections to achieve a folded length of around 40 cm, which I honestly don't need. When RRS announced its Ascend-14 tripod, I thought I'd finally found the right fit until I saw its price. So my search continued.
Granted, the Leofoto LQ-365C of the Mr.Q series is not a cheap tripod either. For its build quality and size, it's in the medium range with a price of $899, including the LH-47 ball head. It is a lot of money, and I was glad to get it without the ball head, which saved me $130. It still hurt my wallet, but with travels to Asia coming up and the prospect of cityscape photography in Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok, I finally had to switch tripods.
When I looked through the specifications of the LQ-365C on the official Leofoto homepage, I couldn't believe what I read. A maximum height of more than 190 cm while keeping the weight way below 2 kg sounded too good to be true. It was, and this information has since been updated.
I measured the weight of the Leofoto LQ-365C with the center column at 2,1 kg. Add to that a ball head, and you get quite a hefty package. I was on the brink of sending it back because I felt misled.
But after some contemplation, I kept it, and I'm glad I did.
What I Like
Of my ten requirements, this tripod fulfills 7.5; I count the price requirement as only half fulfilled. It's cheaper than some of the premium tripods, but it's a large investment.
While it's a bit too heavy for my taste, it's still one of the lightest tripods with comparable specifications and stability. And I found that a bit of additional weight is actually beneficial for my photography. While it hurts during a long hike, it makes my camera setup more stable. It's due to the thick carbon legs that give this tripod a solid base. I do a lot of time-blending, and with my Induro tripod, I usually had to auto-align my photos which didn't always work pixel-perfect. With the LQ-365C, even photos taken an hour apart align.
What I love about this tripod is its height. Without using the center column, it extends up to 153 cm. If I add the center column, it goes up to 183 cm. Add a ball head, and you reach more than 190 cm. You might ask when I would ever need such a height. I used it a few times to photograph over railings in Kuala Lumpur. It also helps to photograph landscapes in winter with deep snow. In such conditions, my old tripod was always too short.
Above, I already mentioned the weight, which lies above 2 kg. If I don't need the center column, I switch to a configuration without it. It reduces the weight to 1,9 kg, which I prefer for hiking in the mountains, for example. A locking mechanism in the platform of the Mr.Q tripods enables quick exchange, as I show in the feature video.
Without the center column, the tripod folds down to 50.5 cm, which is very compact. It also allows for taking photos close to the ground.
In addition to that, large, rubberized twist locks make it easy to take the tripod apart. It is important both during and after travels, as I show in my tripod maintenance video below.
There's one bonus feature I no longer want to miss. The Mr.Q platform features a 1/4'' and 3/8'' mounting thread. I use those to attach accessories like the Smallrig Super Clamp. Such a setup can hold an umbrella, for example.
What Could Be Improved
To make this tripod even better, Leofoto should provide some sealing for the twist locks to avoid water entering the legs when they are submerged. Their Poseidon series has this feature.
And although I like the thick legs for stability, I think they could easily make a version with reduced diameter that still feels solid. Currently, the thinnest tube has a diameter of 22 mm. The lightest version in their Mr.Q series uses 19 mm but has only four leg sections. Starting with 19 mm on the LQ-365C should get the total weight of the tripod below 2 kg.
One lost opportunity of having such a thick diameter in the lowest leg section is providing rubber feet with retractable spikes. It would remove the need to exchange the feet for different surfaces.
Another improvement would be a bubble level in the Mr.Q platform. It is a feature my Induro tripod had, and I used it to level the base for panorama photography.
The Leofoto LQ-365C is not the perfect tripod. But the compromises I have to make using it are the right ones. I now carry around 600 g more than with my Induro CT-114, but I don't mind the workout as much as I initially thought I would. I've now used it for nearly five months, of which I traveled for four, climbed mountains with it, and took photos that would have been impossible with my old tripod.
The tripod comes with a bag, interchangeable spikes, and some tools. Currently, it's only available together with the LH-47 ball head for 899$. Like all Leofoto tripods, it has 10 years of warranty.