Choosing the right tripod from Velbon

Foto: Pontus Stigberg

Velbon is a popular brand for up-and-coming photographers, thanks to their excellent value for money. They have models starting from very compact tripods, which you can deploy with one hand, all the way to advanced tripods for ambitious filmmakers. This article will look at the most popular models from the famous Velbon brand.

Velbon is considered an old friend to many acclaimed photographers today. For decades, Velbon has been helping amateurs make their first steps on their photographic journey, so it is very likely to find one of Velbons' models in a photographer's closet.

The excellent price-to-quality ratio has become a sort of Velbon's mission statement, and even today, its products are the first choice of many demanding photographers. Very few people know that Velbon has a long history and they have been developing its product lines for more than 60 years. And there's more. Many breakthrough patents and solutions used in these products today are the credit of this Japanese manufacturer's engineers. 

For example, Velbon was the first manufacturer to use magnesium alloy in its tripods. The universal QRA-635L quick release plate of magnesium alloy remains one of Japan's most popular choices. Velbon was also one of the first to implement carbon-fiber sections manufactured in France for its top-end products. Velbon developed a line of professional tripods under the name CARMAGNE (CARbon + MAGNEsium) from the fusion of both technologies. Since that was difficult to pronounce, it's now known under a friendlier name, Velbon GEO.

Velbon provides top-tier, professional carbon-fiber models and cost-effective designs at prices attractive to every amateur photographer. There is also a very extensive lineup of robust and inexpensive tripods between the two product ranges, bound to satisfy ambitious photographers' demands — without ruining their home budgets. In this article, we'll look at this particular segment.

Velbon UT-3AR — it can't get any smaller!

One of the most exciting products from Velbon is the UT-3AR. This small tripod measures only 29.7 cm when folded and weighs 787 g, making a massive difference to the photographer's backpack. It is hard to believe that the model is a full-size tripod that you can set up in seconds up to 133 cm. Made of aluminium alloy, the tripod can easily support three kg of weight, which means a larger camera with a professional lens.

The compact design makes UT-3AR a perfect choice for active explorers, travelers, bloggers, and all types of content creators who like to carry their one-person portable production studio everywhere.

This small tripod's key difference is the twist-lock system, which quickly sets up the product. You extend the legs by operating the small ring at each leg's end. It only takes one firm twist of the wrist in the opposite direction to securely lock all parts of the tripod. It's ready to shoot in mere seconds.

The top of the telescopic center column has a small, integrated ball head with an Arca Swiss quick release plate. You lock the camera in place with a single handle located on the head. The legs' rubber feet keep the tripod firm and stable on slippery and wet ground. There's also an included bag for carrying the tripod.

"M" means mobility

The M-series is a lineup of three models, with variations of the tripod head. Each head style determines your work style, shooting capabilities, and the tripod's recommended use. Let's focus on the tripod's construction first. 

The M-series is relatively new and designed for versatile photographers who like to strap the tripod to their backpacks on a weekend field trip. The Velbon M tripods weigh less than one kilogram each, so they will not put a strain on your back even after a long trek. 

With the four aluminum sections, the tripod can reach a height of 155 cm. With the clamping system's design, you can quickly lock and release all the clips at the same time. All three models feature an integrated spirit level and rubber feet for a firm deployment on the ground. 

Now to the differences. M43 features a small ball head with a QB-32 quick-release plate. It is the lightest in the pack and the easiest to work with if you like to quickly compose your picture. The trade-off is the low weight capacity, which can only securely support weights up to two kilos.

The M45 uses a three-way head, and the M47 model a two-way head. Both models have an arm with a twist-lock that allows you to pan, tilt and lock, all in the same move. These tripods are great for those who just got started with their filmmaking.

The two-way fluid head model makes it easy for the filmmaker, with smooth panning and camera tilt. You adjust the panning resistance with a large knob operated with your left hand and twist the handle grip clockwise and counterclockwise to set the tilt resistance. 

You can secure the universal quick release plate from both ends with the square design. It works just as well for easy mounting of binoculars. M45 and M47 have a load capacity of 2.5 kg to mount cameras with longer and heavier lens tubes. 

Remember that the M series is lightweight tripods for hobby photography on the road and the first steps into filmmaking. If you need more robust stability, you should go for the EX series.

Your best EX

The Velbon EX series is the most diverse family of tripods. It spans from the minuscule EX-Mini with a weight under 0.5 kg, all the way to the 170 cm tall EX-630, which can easily support up to five kilos!

So, why is this lineup so popular? It seems that Velbon succeeded in finding the perfect middle way between weight, stability, and price. You can get a reliable aluminum tripod for your gear in most use cases for a relatively low cost.

We had the opportunity to look at three (out of ten) models, which vary in implemented functions. The series starts with the small EX-330, followed by the semi-professional bigger brother EX-430, and finally the full-size EX-530, which is a good choice for larger body cameras.

The first model is the most mobile one. With a weight of 830 grams and a mere 50 cm when folded sounds good, but the integrated head is two-way only and features no quick release system. The maximum height is also just 145 cm. Still, this is quite enough for small cameras. The image's composition is more straightforward with a lockable handle grip. 

EX-430 provides just about everything you might need. A three-way pan-and-tilt head, a telescopic center column, a level gauge, and a spirit level. Its bigger brother, the EX-530, can be 156 cm tall when fully extended and supports double the weight, which means four kilos in total. 

The common feature of all models in the series is the bracing arms connected between the tripod's legs and the center console, which keep the leg angle constant and significantly improve the tripod's stability. This feature is also popular in video camera tripods.

Velbon EX for smartphones

Velbon EX with smartphone holder is a series of lightweight tripods with a flexible design that fit both beginners and advanced photographers.

It is an affordable aluminium tripod for those who value high flexibility. Smooth 360 ° panning, quick-release camera plate and easy to switch to portrait mode are just some of the many features this tripod offers.

Whether you shoot for Instagram Reel, TikTok or live streams, Velbon EX with smartphone holder is a tripod for you!

Velbon DV-7000N

This tripod is the entry-level choice on your way to professional filmmaking. The model packs several dedicated features for stable and smooth camera panning and tilting and suits camera operators and video producers.

DV-7000N weighs 3.47 kg (lightweight by a cinematographer's standard), which is enough to keep it stable — but still being mobile during a long shooting day. This tripod series also has bracing arms connected between the tripod's legs and the center console to improve stability.

The three leg sections of robust aluminum tubes measure 29 mm in diameter. The tripod is very stable, even with the center column fully extended. The Friction Control feature known in the other Velbon tripod series helps lock the head at the turn of a wrist.

The Mini Pro PH-368 fluid head deserves a separate section. The head is designed for video cameras and features a large, cork-padded quick release plate with an extra lock to prevent accidental detachment. It also has a convenient handle grip, a spirit level at the head's top, and precision pan-and-tilt scales.

When you loosen the locking knobs on the tripod's head, you will have a very smooth pan and tilt motion because of the built-in resistance control. Two small knobs on the head adjust the resistance for a firmer or looser grip. This feature helps control the camera's motion smoothness with great accuracy, which is helpful to any filmmaker.

How about Videomate?

There are other options if you feel like the DV-7000N is a bit too much for your needs. The Videomate series is a budget-friendly alternative, targeted towards video cameras — as you can tell by its name.

The Videomate 638 still sports an advanced fluid head, with 171 cm of maximum height with three leg sections. The bracing function supports the legs for stable shots, has four kilos of load capacity, and is 67 cm long when folded. The whole set weighs less than two kilos. If you prefer a more mobile approach to your filmmaking and don't require a more robust load capacity, this model will likely be the best one for you.

Velbon did not forget about those who work with small mirrorless cameras, do occasional photo sessions, or are making their first steps into filmmaking. Videomate 438 provides excellent balance for the height (153.5 cm maximum), reasonable weight (1.23 kg), strong load capacity (2 kg), and a great price.

How do I choose a tripod? 

A higher price doesn't necessarily mean a better tripod. When looking for a specific model, you should first answer a few questions to guide you.

  • How often will you use it?
    If you need a tripod for occasional use only, it might be a better idea to choose a cheaper one.
  • Do you need a high load capacity?
    If you like small cameras, do not use long lenses, or don't have many camera accessories, you'll most likely be okay with approximately two kilos of load capacity.
  • How tall should my tripod be?
    The primary criteria are your body height. Still, it is a great idea to choose a model that won't require extending the center column too high. Nearly all modern cameras have a tilting display, so you might just as well go with a smaller and lighter tripod.
  • How heavy is a good tripod?
    If you're not buying a carbon-fiber tripod (made of lightweight material), a heavier model will provide better stability. An aluminium tripod with enough durability weighs about 1.5 kg. 
  • Ball-head or three-way, which one should I get?
    It depends on what you shoot. If the horizon level is essential to your photography, and you like to fine-tune your composition, you should go with a pan-and-tilt head. The ball head is great for those who want their shots set up and done quickly.
Foto: Pontus Stigberg

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