Science

Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB Tripod Review

The Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB tripod has been around for at least the last ten years and is well loved by those who use it. It’s a good all-around tripod if you’re dabbling in a variety of different types of photography, but for astro-specific photography its bulk and weight along with a complicated connection plate make it something you might think twice about going out for a night. .

Since the most important considerations when choosing a tripod for night sky photography are portability, ease of use, and stability, while this tripod can be heavy to carry, it is quite stable once raised. If it doesn’t fit your needs or budget, we’ve reviewed many other models in our best tripod guide.

Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB – Key Specifications

Material: Aluminum

Leg sections: 3

Weight: 5.38 pounds

Maximum load: 15.4 pounds

Folded Height: 28.15 inches

Ball Head or Pan / Tilt Head: Ball Head

The Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB tripod scores well for stability, primarily due to its weight. But at over 5 pounds, it’s not something you want to accomplish on a long hike and with a folded length of around 30 inches it wouldn’t fit in an airline carry-on bag. However, it has a great feature that could make it worth the extra back pain of carrying it: its legs open from the center column and the center column can be rotated 180º, which means that it can be worn very low. to the ground, which is ideal for very long exposures of Star Trails.

Today’s Best Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB Tripod Deals

Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB Tripod: Design

  • Flexible leg position
  • Adjustable central column
  • Too heavy and bulky for long trips

Image shows Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB tripod with camera attached, facing up.

(Image credit: Diana Jarvis)

The star attraction of the Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB is its multifaceted flexibility and the myriad of positions in which you can place it. You can place it in a standard tripod position and get all the variations that the ball head allows, but a neat thumb push button on the top of the legs allows you to extend them from anywhere between the standard 25 ° at its furthest position. vertical. the path at almost 90º to the central column.

Not only that, but the center column retracts and can be positioned at a 90 degree angle from the extended legs, meaning the camera can be as low as ten inches from the ground. The ball joint can rotate, allowing you to point the camera straight up at the sky and the two bubble levels next to the connector plate mean you can easily check the position without necessarily looking at the back of the camera. This unusual setting is perfect for night sky photography, especially since once the camera is closer to the ground, there is much less risk of a sudden gust of wind affecting your carefully timed long exposure.

But this flexibility and stability come with a downside and that’s the weight of the tripod. Made of aluminum and weighing just over 5 pounds, it’s the heaviest tripod we’ve tested so far. It is also the bulkiest to carry. It comes with a sturdy nylon bag that opens at the top and has an adjustable shoulder strap, but you still don’t want to carry it more than a few minutes on foot from your home or car.

The legs consist of three sections that are held in place with clip caps rather than twisting in place like most of the others we’ve tested. This does not appear to impede stability, as the plugs are made of strong plastic and have enough strength when closed to suggest they won’t loosen anytime soon. The top of the legs have added spongy grip that is satisfying to handle and is designed to get a good grip in cold or wet conditions.

The Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB comes with rubber feet, but they can be screwed in and reveal a spike that will allow you to drill into the ground for an additional purchase. This makes them easy to replace if they wear out. You can also purchase larger screw clamps and skewers if you are going to use the tripod on softer or more rugged terrain.

Image shows a close-up of the foot of a Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB tripod.

(Image credit: Diana Jarvis)

Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB Tripod – Functionality

  • Complicated screw connection plate and connection mechanism
  • Solid and stable once up
  • Leg clip easy to attach and detach in the dark

With only three leg sections on each leg, it means that the Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB only has two clips to fix in place when mounting the tripod. This was done very easily in the dark and was up in no time, but the same cannot be said for the connection plate that attaches the camera to the tripod. The connector plate uses a screw instead of a D-ring, which means you need a coin or tool to tighten and loosen it. Practically, Vanguard has included a small kit that features such a tool and is supplied hanging on a durable rope from the apex of the legs. Hanging from here means you won’t lose it and it’s there when you need it, but the rocking and rattling against your legs became quite annoying and during long exposures it was not good at reducing wobble.

The image shows a Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB on a patio.

(Image credit: Diana Jarvis)

Ideally, you would place your patch plate in the light before going out for the night and then simply leave it on your camera. The kit comes with a replacement plate, which means you can use two cameras at the same time, but, during the testing process, we had to use multiple tripods and the lack of easy D-ring disconnection became quite annoying. Vanguard may have solved some of the problems found with this screw plate design by supplying the tools, but it creates problems if you later want to remove the tool kit and store it elsewhere. It would be a lot easier if they had just designed the plate to incorporate a D-ring.

The plate itself should slide in and out easily, but it took a while to master. There is a knob with a rubber grip that squeezes the plate into place and there is a small red quick-release button that will prevent the camera from popping out if the knob gets loose a bit. However, we found that colder conditions affected the properties of the metals used in the plate and holder, which meant that the mechanism was much smoother on the inside before taking it out than when we were outside in the dark and cold when it was a day. much tighter fit.

The Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB is great for mirrorless cameras and will also happily carry a DSLR with an equally heavy lens attached. There is no “snap in place” that you sometimes get with heavy lenses on some tripods. Where you put it is where it stays.

Should you buy the Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB tripod?

The image shows a photo of the night sky taken with the Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB tripod

(Image credit: Diana Jarvis)

If you don’t intend to walk or travel too far with your tripod, the Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB is a great option, as it is well suited for photographers who don’t travel too far from home or stray too far from their car. If you enjoy other types of photography, especially macro and close-ups, you will find the multiple options for positioning the camera as a great way to develop your composition technique.

Features that can wear out, like the rubber feet and the ball head itself, can be easily removed and replaced. The price is very reasonable considering the versatility it incorporates and it is certainly something you can invest in knowing that it is built with solid components, well designed and designed to last.

If this product is not for you

If you’re looking for something similarly priced, but lighter to pack into a suitcase or to walk far to your vantage point, the Benro Slim weighs just over half the weight at 2.2 pounds and packs up to 20 inches.

If it’s the versatility of the pivoting center column that draws you, the Manfrotto 190 Go! It has a similar mechanism and the carbon fiber version is slightly lighter and weighs just over 4 pounds, although it is a more premium product and is priced similarly.

For those who don’t intend to take their tripod anywhere and don’t care about bulk, the Benro Mach3 9X CF Series 3 is still lightweight at around 4 pounds, but it does come with a variety of head options including angled heads. and ball heads.

Today’s Best Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB Tripod Deals

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