As promised in my previous blog post, I’m revisiting my thoughts on the Leofoto LN-324C Systematic Carbon Fiber tripod I picked up before going to Forks, WA. The trip gave me my first chance to use the tripod in a real world setting for photos I cared about. One aspect I was hoping to seriously test was the viability for use in panoramic photography but unfortunately, the panos I took were ruined by parallax and wouldn’t align properly in Photoshop. While my largest, a 12 shot pano of the beach, managed to merge 8 of the photos together, the other 4 wouldn’t work no matter how hard I tried in Photoshop. Without those 4 panels, the image lost perspective and I ended up dumping it. Another try in Skagit, an attempt at focus stacking, was ruined by the wind as the tulips I wanted to photograph had moved too much between frames. These attempts reflect my level of ability and preparation and not on the tripod whatsoever. To address this aspect first, the tripod and ball head held completely still throughout the motion. I’ve gone through, and currently use, many different styles of tripods and this one is by far the most stable platform I own by a long shot.
Weight was not a concern. While a pound or so heavier than my previous largest setup, the Benro Adventure Series 2 Carbon, it in no way made itself an inconvenience either during the hike in and out of locations or during setup and takedown. The extra stability far outweighs any inconveniences caused by increased weight or size but it was negligible on both accounts.
Setup and teardown was no more or less convenient than any other tripod of it’s design. Despite operating on sand and dirt, in humid, salty air and in the rain, not once did the legs ever fail. The twist locks, while not weather sealed, managed to keep water and sand out of the legs and not once penetrated any of the moving parts. All twist locks and clevis joints sound and feel like new. My only complaint would be the lack of vent ports in the legs, adding resistance to leg extension and retraction due to vacuum and pressure, respectively. While I knew this going in due to the tight tolerances of the leg sections’ bushings and shims, it’s still something I wish had been addressed in the design.
The Leofoto LH-40 ball head worked like a champ. It never once bound, stuck, or dropped. No stiction, friction or unevenness in its operation during the whole trip despite the salty air and sand. My only wish would be the addition of detents to the friction adjustment knob for positive clicks to hold it in place. It does tend to freewheel when the locking knob is tightened down due to the placement so close to the panning knob. Also, making the knob shorter to differentiate it from the panning lock would help greatly. If you try one, you’ll notice the panning lock knob has a lot of tension while turning and the friction knob spins with far less resistance. In my opinion, it should be the other way around to better keep the friction knob in the desired position. I may disassemble the ball head to see if I can adjust the tension of the knobs to better suit my tastes. Either way, I still feel the friction knob of all ball heads should have detents.
In the 90 degree, gimbaled position, the ball head held firmly and the tripod was steady, even on sand. Granted, my Fujifilm X-T3 and 50-140mm ƒ/2.8 lens isn’t the heaviest combo, but the tripod and head combo held like a champ, allowing me to put the body and lens combination in a more stable position to prevent any unlocked ball mishaps. I was able to balance the setup fore and aft while the stability of the tripod itself never once betrayed the unbalanced load. No stakes or additional weight was added to the tripod for stability.
For a mirrorless setup, this tripod is hard to beat. At my height, a not at all towering 5′ 6″, the Leofoto LN-324C landed at just about the right height, with room for leveling the legs. The tripod combination is more than stable enough and reaches high enough. For those who are taller than I, the center column is available to prevent stooping over with minimal impact on the stability, within reason of course. There is of course a minor weight penalty as it adds nearly an extra pound to the combo, and so for me the center column is not a necessity.
While I’ve opted to adapt a half ball leveling base as an optional accessory with my setup, I’ve also chosen to add a panning clamp to the LH-40 ball head, replacing the clamp it is supplied with. This should allow me to create panos without the additional weight a leveling base would add. Another option I’m considering is the purchase of an Arca-Swiss P0 Monoball, with its inverted ball design to facilitate easier setups for panorama photography. I’ll first see how the cheaper option of adding a panning clamp works out and will replace it with the Arca-Swiss P0 if it’s unsatisfactory. I’ll explain in a later blog post as to why I’m so focused lately on panorama photography.
To wrap this up, after putting the Leofoto LN-324C and LH-40 ball head through the roughest conditions I ever plan to use it in, it has stood up admirably. There are no conditions to this conclusion. It is an excellent tripod, full stop. The value oriented pricing only makes this combo that much more appealing. My only real complaints are the lack of air vents at the top of the legs for extension/retraction, water sealed twist locks, friction control knob on the LH-40 ball head, and the travel bag being a tad too short for the complete tripod with center column. If you value cash in your wallet over branding, ignore the Gitzo Series 3 or Really Right Stuff TVC-34 and go with the Leofoto LN-324C or LN-364C. You won’t be let down.
Additional components purchased: Manfrotto 60mm Leveling Half Ball, Sunwayfoto Leg Wraps, Op/Tech USA Tripod Strap, Peak Design Anchor Kit, Vanguard Alta Action 80 Tripod Bag. Gimbal kit includes: Neewer 200mm Nodal Rail and Clamp, Kirk Enterprises Universal Short L-Bracket, Leofoto Indexing Clamp x2. Head swap kit includes: Sunwayfoto 58mm Round Clamp x2, Sunwayfoto 64mm Round Clamp, Sunwayfoto 38mm Low Profile Bi-Directional Dovetail Plate, Desmond 60mm Spacer, Leofoto 60mm Round Panning Clamp.