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Gear Reviews

Oben AC-1321 3-Section Aluminum Tripod Full Review

By Tanya Goodall Smith on September 1st 2014

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Sooooo, I’ve been using a super cheap, generic tripod for the last 10 years. Granted, the only time I use one these days is when I want to try a special technique like light painting or for video. My cheapy tripod isn’t really cutting it for me anymore, so I’m on the lookout for a new one. I had the opportunity to check out the Oben AC-1321 3-Section Aluminum Tripod with BA-106 Ball Head and here are my thoughts, in case you’re looking for a new tripod, too…

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01-performance-2-stars
I really wanted to love this tripod because it has a lot of great features (see below). However, it felt flimsy when used with my Canon 5D Mark III and 24-70 f/2.8L II lens. The supposed weight capacity of this tripod is over 6 pounds, so I was surprised that it kind of buckled under the weight of my 3+ pound camera. Plus, the quick release lever was almost impossible push to in so I could attach my camera to the plate. I had to ask my super strong husband to get it off for me. Embarrassing!

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If you’re looking for a tripod that can get super low to the ground, this might be the one for you. The legs are adjustable in several different configurations that will allow you to film or shoot from a very low angle. The levers and buttons used for adjusting the legs feel a little too light weight plastic for me, though. I was concerned they might break at some point.

The included ball head was easy to adjust, but also didn’t seem to stay secure. It kept coming loose and I was a little afraid to leave my camera on there. Perhaps I hadn’t tightened it enough? Maybe this tripod is specifically made for men with strong muscles, which I’m clearly lacking. For these reasons, I had to give it 2.5 stars for performance.

09-features-5-stars

The unique features of this tripod may be its saving grace. Of course, it has your standard bubble level on both the tripod and the head. The legs can adjust to three different angles, which is helpful on uneven terrain or, as previously mentioned, if you want to lower it way down to the ground. There’s a spring loaded hook to hold a sand bag on the bottom of the center column, which is handy.

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The center column can also be removed and flipped around so you can mount your camera on the underside of the tripod, which I was really excited to try out. I found it to be a little clunky and time consuming to switch it out, though.

14-design-5-stars

One reason I chose to review this item was because the design looked ideal. It looks pretty sleek, right? It’s very lightweight, compact and comes in a cool canvas carrying case. It also comes with a shoulder strap that you can clip directly to the item and carry without the case. It’s so light and small that it wouldn’t be a problem at all to carry along on location. I would say this is an ideal tripod for shooting outdoors, especially if you have to hike a little to your location. I don’t think I would choose it for a studio tripod, though. It’s just not sturdy enough.

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18-quality-4-stars

This tripod seems to be well constructed, but as I’ve already mentioned, it has some quality issues. Many of the parts are plastic, which are probably necessary for this to be so light weight. When the legs are extended to allow for very low shots, they really bow under the weight of my DSLR. The included carrying case and strap are very well made.

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23-value-4-stars

At just $79.99, I think this is a pretty good value. If you’re looking for an affordable, lightweight, portable tripod that you can carry along with you on location, I say go for it. Considering the ball head, travel bag and strap are included, this is a great price. For heavier duty jobs, or a tripod you’ll want to leave set up for extended periods of time, maybe you’ll need to invest a little more.

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32-overall-score-4-stars

I love some of the unique features of this tripod, most especially the portability. The ability to make so many adjustments to the legs is an excellent feature, too. If you think it’s the right one for your needs, you can grab the Oben AC-1321 3-Section Aluminum Tripod with BA-106 Ball Head over at B&H.

Tanya Goodall Smith is the owner, brand strategist and commercial photographer at WorkStory Corporate Photography in Spokane, Washington. WorkStory creates visual communications that make your brand irresistible to your target market. Join the stock photo rebellion at workstoryphotography.com.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Basit Zargar

    Looks awesome

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  2. Phil Bautista

    My current tripod is a cheap ($120) carbon fibre travel tripod that’s rated up to 12 kg. It can handle my jib (5kg), DSLR, motorized head and counterweights (about 10 lbs. on each end). The legs bend too when fully extended so I just stick the slimmest section in and it’s all good. But for just $40 more than this Oben tripod, it can handle more than four times the weight. That’s value. And if I need to, I can take out one of the legs and turn it into a monopod.

    $80 for an aluminum tripod you can’t trust your camera on isn’t my idea of money well spent.

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    • Matthew Saville

      Phil I’m extremely curious to hear what tripod system you claim can support all that weight, stably, and costs only $120 for a CF version!!! It sounds like you have your cake and eat it too!

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    • Phil Bautista

      Q666C. Rated at 8 kg but the head is rated at 12 kg. Haven’t really tested the head but the body works fine, punching above its weight class. But given its origins, experiences may vary.

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    • Phil Bautista

      I posted a picture in facebook with all the gear mounted on it but unless you want me doing a review on the tripod, you’ll just have to take my word for it.

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    • Hannes Nitzsche

      That doesn’t look too bad! At least on the photos it looks like some good materials have been used.

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  3. David Lara

    For a lower cost alternative, i would highly recommend the Beike BK-475 Tripod/Monopod (http://www.cowboystudio.com/product_p/bk-475.htm). At just over a $100 it’s more than a suitable & strudy tripod (rated weight capacity at 22lbs). I’ve had it and used it over the last 8-9 months and it’s been more than reliable. The biggest draw initially for me was the detachable monopod leg that you are able to attached the ball head on to it. For on the go street & personal work, It’s perfect.

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  4. Hannes Nitzsche

    A few weeks back, I attended a photography masterclass by Steven Fraser and he said something quite interesting. He said “go out and look for a tripod that you think will perfectly suit your needs, and then buy the next model up.” It totally makes sense! We constantly evolve in our hobby/trade and so do our demands to gear. When I first started photography. I got a $50 tripod, some cheap filters, a cheap camera bag, bought the two kit lenses used from a friend for $100. My first DSLR, a Canon 400D, got passed down to me by my sister who , back then, upgraded to a 5DM MkII. Everything was cheap as chips – I even modded an old set of earphones into a remote shutter release. Of course, everyone starts out like this. We first don’t know if this hobby is something we’re really going to pursue for a long time or if it’s just a thing that passes by so we want to spend as little as possible. But if you’ve already spent a year shooting and you find yourself passionate enough about photography (e.g. you’re reading photography related articles or books, watching tutorials), practicing techniques), then trust me and do yourself a favor and save a little more for better gear. Yes, you can totally go out and shoot with a cheap $15 tripod (been there – done that!), it may as well hold your gear in place and suffice for a few months, maybe even more. But chances are the materials used in the construction are gonna wear out faster, screw threads wear off, plastic clips snap apart… best case scenario: your shot will be ruined and you have to improvise. But if you’re really unlucky, your tripod collapses and you damage or kill your camera&lens. Think a little bit ahead. If you’re already semi-serious about photography, you will want to buy something that keeps your gear safe and that you can use for the next 5+ years to come. It’s a one-off investment in quality you won’t regret :) I bought 4 cheap little tripods before spending a little bit more to get a good Manfrotto. And even now I think I should have gone for the next model up. Hindsight is a beautiful thing lol! I’m still only a hobby photog and don’t make any money with my images, but think about where you want to take your photography and plan ahead. Hope my advise will save you the same headache! :)

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    • Matthew Saville

      This is great advice! As a general rule, people aren’t very excited about tripod purchasing. (Unless they’re a bearded, middle-age landscape photographer…)

      So people always tend to skimp on their first purchase or two. It is a tale very classically told by Thom Hogan’s famous article, in which he suggests spending $700-1000 right off the bat. But that was years ago, and mainly aimed at outdoor / landscape photographers who are using a tripod for the majority of their work.

      Today, many casual photographers are doing just fine hand-holding 90% of their images, but might need a tripod for those handful of times where shutter speeds drop too low, or when they’re feeling experimentally creative with sparklers, glow-sticks, or the milky way. (Or all three?)

      So now we come upon purchasing decisions in which, maybe, the “next model up” may always wind up being overkill.

      So while I agree with what you’re saying for certain types of photographers, I would amend it to say, if you know exactly what you’re going to use the tripod for for the foreseeable future, then don’t necessarily just buy the next model up, but buy one that is well suited for your needs, and buy one that is simply going to STAY rock-solid for your foreseeable future.

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    • Hannes Nitzsche

      Good point, Matthew! As our cameras are evolving, the need for tripods for general photography becomes smaller. I mainly shoot city- and landscapes or long exposures and can’t live without a good tripod. The one problem I have is that I’m 1,83m tall and most tripods in the lower price range won’t reach that high – and even if they do, I’m very reluctant to use my tripod with the middle column fully extended.
      It’s a tough topic and a really hard decision for starting photogs (and many pro’s alike) as there are literally countless options available in any price range. My mate uses Really Right Stuff and swears by it. And I truly believe these are amazing tripods, But, unless I rob a bank or win the lottery, I can’t see myself investing $1500+ in an accessory. Not unless I start earning money with my photography…
      Keen to hear which system Phil(comment below) is talking about, tho!

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    • Tanya Smith

      Great tip!

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  5. Rafael Steffen

    There are lighter options but with a stronger body to hold more equipment. Better safe than sorry.

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  6. Mark Iuzzolino

    I would pass on this also. I found the Sirui N-1004KX 4-Section Aluminum Alloy Tripod, 63″ Tripod Max Height, 61.4″ Monopod Max Height, 26.5 lbs Load Capacity to be a good tripod with a Manfrotto ball head.

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    • Hannes Nitzsche

      This one looks just like the Benro or Mefoto tripods. Did anyone have the chance to compare these tripods, side-by-side?

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    • Matthew Saville

      Hannes, do you mean compare them all against each other? Benro, Mefoto, and Sirui?

      No, we have not done this, but yes it is widely rumored that they’re made from a very similar blueprint.

      We’d love to review every single tripod under the sun, but so far we’ve only been able to scratch the surface. Thus we can report that the Mefoto series is AWESOME, just do a search here for Pye’s review(s) of them.

      However, stay tuned for plenty more tripod reviews in the future! I’m a pretty abusive landscape / adventure photographer so I won’t hesitate to speak my mind about the quality of something like this…

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  7. Eric Sharpe

    Based on this review, I think I would pass on this tripod. I get it, it’s less expensive. However, the fact that you don’t feel at ease leaving your camera on this tripod, would probably prevent me from recommending it to someone else. $80 doesn’t seem worth the risk.

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    • Anthony Thurston

      I think it all depends on the camera you have Eric. If you’re shooting with a smaller camera, this may be a good option.

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    • Eric Sharpe

      Still seems weird. If it’s rated for 6 lbs, but feels less sturdy with a camera/lens setup weighing about 3 lbs, still seems like a pass in my opinion.

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    • Tanya Smith

      For my heavy camera and lens I’m passing on this too. For a smaller consumer grade DSLR with kit lens or mirrorless camera, this would be great.

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