Leofoto Summit LM-324C - review by Olof Fredrikze
Looking at your composition in peace
I like to use a tripod, I consider myself a real tripod enthusiast. I have become a tripod lover because I used to photograph almost everything handheld which was difficult. To us a tripod is nice and quick, but above all: you can easily change your point of view. And you can train yourself very well in it - just like a sniper.
Written by Olof Fredrikze
Photography has always been more than a hobby. Something I could not resist. I always walked around with a camera. Photographing plays and performances at school, birds and plants in nature. And people. In the 1980s, I went to a coronation party and experienced countless evictions. And photographed them. Worked in a professional lab, went to photography school. But never became a photographer. Always other things or also other things. Teacher training in biology, worked in an outdoor sports shop, did PR and marketing for an outdoor sports shop and gradually became a designer / web designer - following in my father's footsteps. But also always photographed. So if there is one thing I can't resist, it is photography. As long as it clicks. Check out his website Olof Fredrikze.
Table of Contents:
- The beginning of a quest: tripods are becoming lighter and stronger.
- The return of the tripod.
- Shooting from the hand is possible, but often not optimal.
- Buying a tripod is not a Friday afternoon task.
- Surprised by a mistake.
- What counts for me is that you can exchange it for another head very quickly.
- A centre column is almost indispensable for studio work.
- Great if you don't have to bend over very much to look through the viewfinder.
- Spikes provide more grip on rocks, but they also work very well on forest ground.
- Save weight but not at the expense of stability.
- My conclusion
- Related products
Tripods are making a comeback in all types of photography. This is not surprising: tripods are becoming lighter and stronger, and the current state of photographic technology allows you to see any blur mercilessly. Next to that, there is more attention for a calm image composition, making exposure brackets and using 10-stop ND filters so that you can expose 3 minutes in broad daylight. I am joining that trend so it is time to search for a great tripod!
If you put the camera on a tripod, you give yourself more time to look at the composition. That is how it works, at least for me. With this knowledge I started to photograph differently. It is a bit like looking for the first time at the frosted glass of a 6x6 camera, where left and right are mirrored - you look at and approach your subject differently. Where I used to be proud of my almost sharp 1/6 sec hand-held shots, I now put down my tripod to see how I am going to photograph the subject.
There is another good reason to have a sturdy tripod: long telephoto lenses. Shooting birds, deers, hares and rowers on the forest course with a 300 or 500mm handheld is possible, but often not optimal. The modern technology with stabilisation helps a lot to be able to shoot sharply with a long telephoto lens, but then there is a second good reason: the weight. Because every long-lens-camera combo quickly weighs more than 5 kilos. After an hour you are done with it (or else your arms will be).
Buying a tripod is not a Friday afternoon task. Especially if you're already doubting your choice on Saturday. So start looking for reviews and videos and you'll soon find out that reviewing is usually just advertising. This review might also be seen as such, were it not for the fact that my chosen Leofoto tripod is simply the result of my search.
Buying a tripod is not a Friday afternoon chore.
These days almost all tripods are made of carbon, carbon fibre reinforced plastic, and it has driven aluminum off the market almost everywhere, simply because carbon is lighter and more stable. However, you cannot say 'carbon, then it will be good'. There is a considerable difference in quality, which is not immediately apparent from the outside. The quality of the fibres, the way they are processed, the number of layers that are wrapped over one another, the diameter of the tubes - it all has an influence, very much on the stiffness but also on the durability.
Therefore I spent a long time searching for 'the best tripod' and I know, every tripod is a compromise and every choice of a certain model is also a compromise. Based on my wishes and a race between several tripods, I finally chose a tripod. This is it, the Leofoto Summit LM-324C.
At a trade fair in Antwerp I had the opportunity to get hold of all the brands and turn their legs, slide them in, feel and weigh them. By chance, I went to have a look at Leofoto - I'm here now anyway. I thought: "another Chinese brand of much-for-little", but that soon turned out to be a big mistake. I was pleasantly surprised by the wide range of products, the more than perfect finish and the solidity that radiated from it.
What I was looking for was a tripod that would weigh less than 2 kilos without the head, about 155cm high and when fully extended would still be stable and sturdy so that it can carry a heavy telephoto lens. And about 50cm when folded. The trend in tripod land is 'compact'. This is a trend that I do not participate in. Compact means that you bundle the legs as three tubes and bring them together at the top with a small 'spider'. In my opinion, this combination is too fragile for longer lenses and even more so if you use your tripod at standing height. The forces on the hinge points are then so great that you get stability problems. You can find a large spider on the tripods from the Leofoto Summit-series. Those who still want to go for compact can get their money's worth at the Leofoto Ranger-series.
The large spider of Summit tripod has also an interchangeable ø100mm plateau. This seems a bit overkill but there are several reasons for this. The first one is that you can also put a bowl in it (which is even included with the tripod) to level a video head or a separate leveler. For me it is important that you can quickly exchange it for another plateau with different head. Do you want to change your ball head for a swing head? Unscrew, pull the lock and change, it only takes 10 seconds. That's a lot quicker than unscrewing the head and putting another one on, especially if you also seal the head with the lock-in bush - something I highly recommend. The 100mm is a bit of a standard - my Gitzo platform fits nicely in it, although it lacks the lock function.
For me it is important that you can quickly exchange it for another plateau with different head.
There is also the option of installing a central column. Of course, this is heavier and can get in the way when travelling. But if you also do studio work, a center column is almost indispensable and being able to choose with or without is ideal. So you have a centipede with three legs. The plateau also has, as it should, a lock-in bush to prevent your head from spontaneously turning loose. Well, spontaneously: most of the time you unscrew it yourself, if you have adjusted and secured your head nicely and then want to turn the camera a bit to the left. Even the non-slip plastic ring on the plate cannot completely prevent this.
If you never change the plateau and don't want to use a center column, then the whole construction with lock button and spring-loaded lever is just susceptible to sand and dirt and it might get in the way. Yes always a small complain, it's never good enough - but I think an interchangeable platform is a huge plus, a tripod without one it's almost a deal-breaker.
A very high tripod is nice to have. You can sometimes achieve positions that would otherwise be more difficult to create, but it is also nice not to have to bend over to look through the viewfinder. Next to that, if you are standing on a slope, a tripod with long legs comes quite in handy, because you have to slide in the legs to get the tripod level. The Summit LM-324C is 145cm high and that seems a bit short for someone of 188cm, but on top there is also around ball head with a height of 8cm and the camera itself. When using the tripod in the field the height is always exactly enough. The big advantage here is the weight: one more section in the legs or much longer legs and the tripod weights already over 2 kilos - without the head. And the retracted size is also important when transporting a tripod in a suitcase or even as cabin luggage in the airplane.
In a shop or at a trade fair, you naturally look at the tripods on display and don't look at the bells and whistles. However, when you open the box of your newly purchased tripod at home, it is nice to find some extras. I already mentioned that it comes with a 'bowl' for a video head, but there is more. The Summit tripod comes in a neat and usable bag, a multi-tool is included to tighten the allen screws (and to pop a bottle cap) and sturdy stainless steel spikes are also included. The standard rubber caps are easily exchanged for the spikes. These spikes give more grip on rocks but also on forest soil. You just prick the spikes into the ground and the tripod legs no longer can slip. It's a good thing that there is a small rubber O-ring on the screw thread so the caps and the spikes do not loosen due to vibration.
Sculpting is quite easy - you only remove what you don't need. There have been many variants of this. Tripod builders will probably have this tile of wisdom somewhere. At Leofoto, they do their best to handle this very artfully. All aluminum parts are beautifully milled out of a solid block of metal in the CNC machine. You can save a lot of weight with this. The real art is to do it in such a way that it does not come at the expense of stability. Less is really better in this case. And for those wondering: that thread is meant to hold an accessory arm. This is one of those smart extras Leofoto.
I was pleasantly surprised by the quality that the tripod radiated when I first saw the brand Leofoto in Antwerp and that feeling has not changed at all after 3/4 years of use. I can really recommend the tripods from Leofoto to everyone - even if your requirements are different from mine, because they make a lot of different tripods types.
For serious work, you want a sturdy tripod with thick legs like the Summit LM-324C, but when travelling with a bridge camera, a light tripod for a selfie or a night shot of the Eiffel Tower is a lot easier. Leofoto has also small, more compact tripods for a bridge camera or a lighter mirrorless camera with a standard zoom. For those times that you can't or don't want to carry a big tripod into the mountains or during your city trip: the sturdiness of the Ranger LS-224C met LH-25 ball head is exceptional. It is not an expensive tripod, because it is just as solid and precisely built as its big brothers, and it is definitely recommended. With the supplied separate centre column, when fully extended, it can even reach up to 150cm but I don't think you will be using that too often. But it can be done.