Review: The Versatile and Unique Vanguard Abeo Pro 283CGH with Built-in Cable Release Trigger
I have become a fan of Vanguard’s products ever since I reviewed their Alta Pro 284CT carbon fiber tripod and the BBH-200 ballhead. One of the reasons why that tripod received a solid 5 out of 5 stars in our review is its versatility. The central column, also known as the “Multi-Angle Central Column (MACC), can be fully extend out and tilt over to the side of tripod to give you camera angles that would be very difficult to do with a traditional tripod. This is especially useful when shooting product and macro photography where you are limited in where you can place tripod itself and you need that extra reach for a high-overhead shot of the product.
The Vanguard Abeo Pro 283CGH Carbon Fiber Tripod with GH-300T Pistol Grip Head
The Vanguard Abeo Pro 283CGH consists of the Vanguard 283CT carbon fiber tripod and the GH-300T Pistol Grip Head. The Abeo Pro tripod is essentially a beefier version of that Vanguard Alta Pro 284CT carbon fiber tripod. Although both tripods have a maximum load of 18 lbs (8 kg), the thicker, sturdier legs of the Abeo Pro provided a more stable platform than the Alta Pro.
Of course the Alta Pro is no slouch and as I stated in my review of that tripod, the Alta Pro is a very capable tripod.
GH-300T Pistol Grip Head
- Unique built-in cable release trigger not found in any other tripod head
- Dual-panhead with both precise and smooth panning options
- Can rotate the pistol grip orientation in around 8 position for a more comfortable operation
- The pistol grip is surprisingly more maneuverable than I thought it would be
Abeo Pro 283CT
- Solid quality carbon fiber tripod
- Very versatile center column can be tilted to just about any angle possible and can still hold a good deal of gear at extreme angles
- Each of the tripod foot can convert into a snow/sand shoe or ice spike
GH-300T Pistol Grip Head
- You have to fiddle around with the tension knob to find a good balance between having enough tension to hold a camera at any angle and not having too much resistance in the pistol grip itself
- The Arca-Swiss quick release doesn’t open far enough to easily use with my Capture plate
- Full-frame Canon and Nikon DSLR cables are optional extras
- The pistol grip takes up a larger amount of space than a ballhead when storing away
Abeo Pro 283CT
- One of the more expensive carbon fiber tripods in the market
- The tripod bag is only a drawstring variety and does not have a pocket to hold the included tool kit and the release cables
The GH-300T Pistol Grip Head
Normally, I’m a ballhead kind of guy, but what really sets this pistol grip head apart from all the others on the market is the built-in camera cable trigger. I’m actually surprised no one else have done this before, since it does make sense to use it for this style of tripod head. Vanguard supplies two cables that should work with the majority of your non-full frame Canon/Nikon cameras, plus more. Optional cables can be purchased if you want to use it for your full-frame Canon, Nikon, or any Sony DSLRs.
For this review, we did obtain the optional Vanguard TC1 Shutter Cable to trigger our Canon 5D Mark III.
As you can see, the cable connects to a standard 2.5mm cable port at the bottom of the grip. There is a round orange button near the base of grip that acts as your shutter button. You can also half-press it to start AF, and there is a slider that allows you to hold the shutter open in Bulb mode. It’s a real nice efficient design and most importantly, it just works.
Although this pistol grip can be used for just about any genre of photography, sports and wildlife photographers will probably gain the most benefit from this cable-release set up because they can move the camera around with pistol grip and fire their camera quicker without having to move their right hand from the grip to the camera.
Landscape photographers and anyone who shoots in long shutter speed on a regular basis will also appreciate the additional stability of capturing a long exposure image without touching the camera. Plus, it’s really nice not to have to carry an extra piece of gear as well.
There are a lot of levers to adjust the movements of the GH-300T. This includes dual panheads, which is great if you want to be precise with your panorama shots. The top panhead that is right under the quick release plate have physical grooves that allows you to pan at precise interval distances. The bottom panhead does not have the grooves and allows for smooth, fluid movements.
If you never used a pistol grip head before, you control the tension of the head squeezing the pistol grip itself. There is also a knob behind the grip itself that lets you control how much tension you need to squeeze the grip as well as how much tension the grip head needs to hold the camera stationary. For some reason, the amount of adjustability seems a bit off and sometimes it’s not that easy to find a good balance between how much weight the tripod head will hold versus how much effort you need to squeeze the grip. I find that I have fiddle around with it for a bit until I find the right amount of tension that is enough to hold the camera in place and does not require way too much force to squeeze.
The grey ring around middle of the tripod head is for rotating the grip itself in 8 different position. It’s a nice feature if you don’t like the grip pointing down vertically. For me, I do like it at the 4 o’clock position so my right hand falls on it naturally.
Finally, there is the Arca-Swiss compatible quick release at the top. The clasps that secure the my Capture Camera Clip quick release plate do not open up wide enough to simply lift my camera off the the tripod head. Instead, I have to slide it out from the back. The problem is that there is a safety catch pin on the quick release that catches the the plate and makes it a harder to get the camera off the tripod easily.
So how well does the Vanguard GH-300T Grip Head work? Well I used it not only with the Canon 5D Mark III and the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II zoom lens, but also with the larger and heavier Phase One 645DF and IQ180 digital back along with a Schneider 55mm prime lens. Both camera setups work well and were easy to maneuver and control.
As I mentioned before, the cable release trigger works flawlessly and is a unique feature not found anywhere else. It sure beats carrying an extra trigger around and having to fuss about how it will hang off the camera.
The Vanguard Abeo Pro 283CT (283CHG) Tripod
The Vanguard Abeo Pro 283CT compliments nicely with the GH-300T Grip Head, providing a sturdy carbon-fiber base in a relatively lightweight package. After using the flip leg locks on this tripod, I have to say that I prefer this over the Alta Pro 284CT’s twist-leg locks.
The legs themselves are solid and slides in and out smoothly. Given that the Alta Pro’s legs haven’t given me any problems for the last year, I expect that the Abeo Pro’s leg to be as durable.
The upper section of each legs is wrapped with foam, which is a nice touch for carrying the tripod around. The other really nice feature is the three different feet that attaches to one another.
Starting from the outside, we have the chunky, oversized snow/sand feet. This provides a larger surface area and is actually nice to use in any smooth terrain. When you remove that, there is the typical tripod feet. Finally, under that feet is the ice spike for when you have to use the tripod on ice.
The main draw for the Abeo Pro over its lesser siblings, the Abeo and Abeo Plus models is the Instant Swivel Stop-n-Lock (ISSL) System and the Multi-Angle Central Column (MACC). They work together hand-in-hand to allow the center column to come out and swing out to just about any angle you can think of. The ISSL System is a quick lever at the tripod collar that locks the center column quickly once you have the angle that you want. To use it, you first rotatethe knob next to the lever to slide the center column upwards. There is a ball bearing stopper near the bottom edge of the column that you push in so you can slide the column past the tripod collar. You then flip open the ISSL lever in order to angle the column over. Once you reach the desired tilt, you simply lock the lever again.
You can see how this works in the video and images below.
When I said earlier that the column can be tilted in just about any angle that you want, I wasn’t kidding. You can actually bring the column completely over the side if you wish, and as you can see, the column and the tripod is sturdy enough to hold unto the Canon 5D mark III and the 70-200mm f/2.8 USM II lens. Granted, the big telephoto lens may be overkill for this example, but it’s nice to see that it can hold on to this setup.
Abeo Pro 283CT Tripod
As I mention before, the Abeo Pro 283CT is essentially a bigger and beefier version of the Alta Pro 284CT, and improves over it with its flip leg locks, its three feet-in-one, and its improved sturdiness due to thicker legs and central column. Of course, the Abeo Pro is bigger and not as travel friendly. Nevertheless, the Abeo Pro will feel right at home as a workhorse in the studio as well as on location, and as a result, we award the tripod 5 stars.
If you are in the market for a full-size carbon fiber tripod, then you should consider the Vanguard Abeo Pro 283CT.
GH-300T Pistol Grip Head
Although I am more used to the ballhead, I find that the GH-300T Grip Head is an intriguing alternative to the traditional ballhead because of its built-in cable release trigger. Using a pistol grip to control the camera does take a bit getting used to at first, but it is surprisingly maneuverable and can hold its position quite well.
The biggest gripe I have with the GH-300T is that it takes a bit of fiddling with the tension knob in order to hold the camera in place securely without requiring too much force to squeeze the pistrol grip. The GH-300T still earn a solid 4 stars from SLR Lounge.
There is usually a good premium when paying for a carbon fiber tripod over its aluminum counterpart and the Abeo Pro is no different. Surprisingly, Amazon and B&H only sells the carbon fiber version of the Abeo Pro as a bundle with the GH-300T Pistol Grip Head for $689 and $549 respectively. If you are more on a budget, you can also buy the aluminum version of the Abeo Pro by itself, or with either the GH-300T or the excellent BBH-200 ballhead (which we also reviewed here). Either way, the versatility of the Abeo Pro makes it worth the extra money over regular tripods.
Abeo Pro 283CGH Carbon Fiber Tripod with GH-300T Pistol Grip Head: $689
Abeo Pro 283AGH Aluminum Tripod with GH-300T Pistol Grip Head: $499
Abeo Pro 283AB Aluminum Tripod with BBH-200 Ballhead: $369
Abeo Pro 283AT Aluminum Tripod
Specifications (From B&H)
Maximum Height: 70.23″ (178.4 cm)
Folded Length: 33.25″ (84.4 cm)
Leg Stages/Sections: 3
Independent Leg Spread: Yes, 25, 50, and 80 degree angles
Feet: Rubber feet, spikes, snow/sand shoes
Load Capacity: 13.2 lb (6.0 kg)
Weight: 6.7 lb (3.05 kg)