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Vanguard Nivelo 245BK Tripod Review

Safari & Travel Tripods

Like most travel gear, the ideal safari and travel tripod needs to be as lightweight and as compact as possible. It also needs to be strong and sturdy enough to easily carry the weight of your camera without any movement or creeping. The best travel and safari tripods are also quick to set up and take down – this ensures that you don’t miss that one in a life time shot that you have travelled all the way to Africa to get whilst you were trying to get your camera set up and into position.

Vanguard Nivelo 245BK Tripod

Main Specifications & Highlights

  • Extended height: 1.61 meters
  • Folded height(mm): 370
  • Maximum loading capacity: 3kg (6.6 lbs)
  • Lightweight design: Weight 1.41 kg’s (2.51 lbs)
  • Central column reverses for macro photography
  • Legs can be positioned at 25 and 50-degree angles
  • Quick setup
  • 5 leg sections

Size and Weight
Even before you have unpacked it, the size of the box that it comes in lets you know that the Vanguard Nivelo 245BK Tripod is compact. Fully collapsed, it is only 37cm tall, which is much more smaller than a full sized tripod and as compact most top level travel tripods. This small size can be attributed to the 5 section legs and the invertible central column that can be stored in between the legs. This allows the tripod to collapse down into a very small package making this Vanguard tripod easily fit inside most full sized camera bags.

With all 5 legs sections out and locked at 20° and the main central column fully extended the tripod stands at 1.42 meters tall (55.9in) – this includes the height of the tripod head and which I measured from the floor to the base of the platform. With the central column fully retracted the height extends is 1.19m (46.9in). Vanguard advertise that the tripod’s maximum height is 1.61m, which is achieved by unscrewing the twist lock on the central column allowing it to extending it even further.

Weighing just 1.41 kg’s (2.51 lbs) it is ideal as a lightweight travel tripod, yet is still capable of securely carrying fairly heavy equipment (see Sturdiness & Carrying Capacity below).


Sturdiness & Carrying Capacity
This Vanguard Nivelo tripod has an advertised maximum loading capacity of 3kg (6.6 lbs) which is more than enough to carry most superzoom bridge cameras, the new compact mirrorless, interchangeable lens cameras, DSLR-like cameras or even some lightweight DSLRs, which these days can tip the scales at just 0.5kg with a small lens.

The test the tripod and it’s head, I used the excellent Fujifilm FinePix HS30EXR, which at 687g (24.23 oz) is one of the heaviest bridge cameras on the market and it had no problems holding it. To test the head even further, I attached my 2.2x Raynox DCR-2025PRO Super Telephoto Conversion Lens to the camera which not only adds some weight, but as you can see from the photo shifts the balancing point of the camera quite considerably.

Even with this rather ungainly looking set-up, the Vanguard 245BK tripod and the head had no problems holding the camera completely still without any creeping what so ever – although you do need to make sure the levers on the head are fairly tight.

So in terms of sturdiness and load carrying capacity, it understandably cannot match a full sized tripod like my Vanguard Alta Pro 263AT, but if you take into consideration it’s low weight and just how small it folds down to, and remember it’s designed to be a travel tripod, it will make an ideal base for your camera whilst on safari.


The Tripod Legs
This Vanguard Nivelo 245BK Tripod uses twist locks to open and close the leg sections. I love the fact that you only need to twist one lock on each foot to loosen all the other twist locks on that leg, which makes setting up and folding away the tripod especially quick.

The legs themselves have a maximum diameter of 24mm and considering how light this tripod is and in comparison to other tripods in this class, I thought that even when fully extended they feel relatively strong. They open and close with a nice smooth action, without being too loose. Each leg can move independently of each other and can click stop and lock at 2 positions: at 25° and at 50°. To move the legs from one of these locked positions, you just push the button located on the shoulder of each leg (see image above).

The 5 leg sections enable the tripod to fold up into it’s very small size and because all sections can be locked and unlocked at once, it does slow down setup times which is great.

Rubber Feet
The 245BK tripod comes with rubber feet, which will provide plenty of grip on a large variety of surfaces. It is a small thing, but the feet cannot be unscrewed and replaced with spiked feet, a feature which you sometimes fined of full sized tripods and which can help gain stability in some situations.


Adjustable Leg Angle Stops
Just like many far more expensive full sized tripods, the tripod legs can be independently locked into place at two different angles (25° or 50°’s) – this added flexibility has really helped me out in the past and can give the tripod a far more sturdier base at the wider angle. Being able to have diffident legs at different angles can also help and I can remember one occasion when I was taking some bird shots, but was positioned on the side of a steep embankment where I had my tripod legs at different lengths and different angles!

Invertible Central Column

The central column feels very strong and has a couple of grooves cut into it that prevent it from twisting when it’s lock is loosened. For me this is both a good and a bad thing as I do sometimes like to pan about by just loosening the central column on another tripod that I use.

The column itself is 29cm long, but you can also loosen the collar around it, which release an inner tube allowing you to extend it to a length of almost 51cm which is great, but does make it a little less sturdy.

Under this collar is a orange rubber buffer, which adds a little suspension to the system and helps to cushion the blow when you drop the column down with your camera attached to the tripod. It is a small thing, but even so it’s a nice touch.

Invertible Central Column - Ideal for Macro Photography

Macro Photography
A nice feature is that the main tripod shoulder has a section cut out of it and you can invert the column. This means that you can position your camera between the legs of the tripod, which makes an incredibly sturdy set-up for macro photography. This feature also helps to make the tripod as short as possible when you are packing it away.

The Pan-Tilt Head

Essentially the included head is of a Pan head design, but to keep it’s size and weight to a minimum it does not have long levers as you would usually find on standard pan heads. Instead you control it’s movements with a couple of knobs (one for panning, one for tilting).

With this and all Pan head designs you can independently control each of the camera’s two axes of rotation: left-right (yaw) and up/down (pitch). This can be very useful if you have already gone to great care in leveling the tripod, but need to shift the composition slightly. It is also great, if like me you also often use your camera to shoot films, or if you also use a video camera as it allows you to easily “pan” over a wide area taking 360 degree smooth panoramic shots or follow a slowly moving Zebra for example.

One of the most annoying things on any tripod head is if it creeps/slips under a heavy weight. To test for this I attached my 2.2x teleconverter lens to the Fujifilm HS30EXR camera on the tripod and took a photo with an exposure of 30 seconds (the maximum my camera can do). I then checked to see whether the image had even the slightest motion blur which it didn’t, showing that there was no camera creep at all.

Taking Portrait Shots
The Pan-Tilt Head makes it really simple to take portrait shots – you just loosen the knob that controls up and down movement and tilt it so that the camera is at 90°, tighten and you are ready to go.

Quick Shoe and Bubble Level on the Vanguard Nivelo 245BK Tripod

Quick Shoe
The addition of a quick release shoe on the head is one of the biggest improvements of this Nivelo 245BK tripod over the lighter and even smaller Nivelo 204BK Tripod.

The advantage of this is that it enables you to quickly and with minimum effort either attach or take your camera off the tripod when you want to take hand held photos or when you are packing away.

Bubble Level
The bubble level is located on the quick release plate lever, which will also you to get perfectly level when shooting in the standard landscape mode. This tripod does not have a second bubble level for when you are shooting in portrait.

Conclusion

Overall I thought that the build quality is good and I was very pleasantly surprised with the strength and stability of the Vanguard Nivelo 245BK Tripod. This is even more impressive when you consider it’s low weight and compact design and it is for these main reasons that I have no hesitation in recommending it as a very good option as a safari and general travel tripod if you are using any superzoom bridge camera, the new compact mirrorless, interchangeable lens cameras, DSLR-like cameras or even a lightweight DSLRs.

I also really love the invertible central column which allows you to position your camera between the legs of the tripod making a very sturdy set-up for macro photography.

Cost & Where to buy

The Vanguard Nivelo 245BK currently costs about £120 in the UK and about $150 in the US – take a look at the links below to check the current prices and to buy:

Buy in the UK UK: Amazon.co.uk

Vanguard Nivelo Tripods on Amazon.co.uk

Buy in the USA USA: Amazon.com

Vanguard Nivelo Tripods on Amazon.com


Further Reading & Related Products

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