Velbon Ultra Maxi M Tripod

      Photo Review 8

      In summary

       A lightweight tripod for travellers and bushwalkers.Velbon’s Ultra Maxi tripods combine compact size with light weight and feature a patented Trunnion Shaft System (TSS) which minimises their length when folded. Each unit is supplied with a sturdy nylon carry-bag that has dual drawstring closures and a sling strap for easy carrying. Compact enough to fit into a backpack they are ideal for travellers and bushwalkers.  . . [more]

      Full review



      Velbon’s Ultra Maxi tripods combine compact size with light weight and feature a patented Trunnion Shaft System (TSS) which minimises their length when folded. Each unit is supplied with a sturdy nylon carry-bag that has dual drawstring closures and a sling strap for easy carrying. Compact enough to fit into a backpack they are ideal for travellers and bushwalkers.
      We wanted to test just how suitable it was for the target audience so we took the Ultra Maxi M along on our recent walking trip in the Simpson Desert. Our main use for the tripod was taking shots of fellow trekkers around the campfire and for long exposures recording star trails in the night sky.
      The Ultra Maxi M is designed for a maximum load of two kilograms, which means it can be used with most consumer DSLR cameras and kit lenses. It’s also suitable for all compact digicams – even the larger advanced models. Video camcorders could also be used although, with a maximum height of well under 1.5 metres, shooting angles will be limited and taller users may find it difficult to use a viewfinder.


      Made mainly from aluminium, the Ultra Maxi M is solidly constructed with a three-way pan head and quick-release plate that has a lever lock. The head has two adjustments: one for pan (sideways movement) and the other for tilt (up and down). The former covers a 360-degree circle, while the latter ranges through about 130 degrees.
      Each leg ends in a large rubber foot, which has grooved sides to make the legs easily adjustable. In the Trunnion Shaft System, each leg extends the entire inside length of the outer leg casing, making the tripod extremely compact when folded. A simple ‘Twist Lock’ technique is used for extending and retracting the legs.

      The usability of any tripod depends on three factors:
      1. How easy it is to extend the legs and lock them into place.
      2. How easy it is to attach the camera plus lens.
      3. The overall stability of the set-up.
      In this review, we report on our findings for each of them.
      To extend each of the Ultra Maxi M’s legs you twist the section you wish to extend and pull it out from the head while holding the adjoining section above it steady. Another twist locks the leg in place. To retract the leg, twist again and push the section in the opposite direction. The system is simple in concept and can be implemented at a relatively low cost. However, its success depends on how well the legs actually lock into place.
      On the review sample, positive locking required a fair amount of force as leg sections can slip if they are not locked into place. Locking can also be compromised if dust is allowed into the joints between the leg sections. In addition, twisting the legs too tightly may cause them to become jammed. Getting the right balance between too tight and too loose takes a fair bit of practice.
      Fortunately, we had no major problems with the tripod on our trip, although we were constantly reminded of the need to keep checking that the legs were securely locked in place before embarking on long exposures by minor locking failures when setting the review tripod up.
      Attaching a DSLR camera to the tripod wasn’t as easy as it should have been because the quick-release plate was rather small (which was expected). You have to pull off the plate by grabbing the screw thread with your fingertips and you need a coin to screw the plate onto the base of the camera. The lever on the lock is small and a bit awkward to use when the camera is mounted, although the locking mechanism is relatively secure, thanks to a pressure grip.
      The camera platform can be adjusted through about 160 when you unlock the tensioning knob. A click stop at the horizontal position is the only levelling aid provided. The pan head uses the traditional lever control with a rotating handle for locking and unlocking it. A screw lock holds the central column in place by friction. All three locks performed satisfactorily in our tests.
      Stability is a concern when you’re planning to put more than a kilogram of DSLR-plus-lens on a lightweight tripod. We found the Ultra Maxi M unable to withstand anything stronger than a moderate breeze before passing vibrations through to the camera. However, once the wind had dropped, we were able to take exposures of 40 minutes without evidence of camera movement appearing in the shot. An example is shown below.


      A 40-minute exposure taken with a Canon EOS 40D camera with 10-22mm lens mounted on the Velbon Ultra Maxi M tripod.

      Finding a genuinely lightweight tripod with high stability and an efficient and easy-to-use camera platform is a difficult task. There’s almost nothing in the under-one-kilogram category that combines light weight with features that provide easy usability and reliability plus an affordable price tag. While carbon fibre tripods combine light weight with high rigidity, you may need to put up with a tripod head that offers limited adjustability and lacks a quick-release plate just to keep the overall weight under a kilogram.
      If you read the round-up of compact tripods published in Issue 37 of Photo Review Australia magazine, you will conclude (as we did) that Velbon’s Ultra Maxi M represents the best compromise in the current market. Its build quality is a cut above competing budget-priced models while its head, although not perfect, provides adjustments that are genuinely useful. If you can tolerate these imperfections, the Ultra Maxi M is worth a look.





      Maximum Height: 138.5 cm
      Minimum Height: 16.5 cm
      Head type: PHD-31Q 3-way pan-head
      Quick-release Plate: Yes
      Leg Sections: 5
      Leg lock type: Twist-lock
      Levelling aids: No
      Maximum Load: 2 kg
      Folded Height: 33.5 cm
      Weight: 920 g





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      RRP: $159

      Rating (out of 10):

      • Build: 9.0
      • Features: 7.5
      • Usability: 8.5
      • OVERALL: 8.0