So many tripod choices out there for photographers to choose from, but where does one start? This time, we're looking at two affordable options suitable both for professionals as well as amateurs.
During the lockdown, I realized that the tripod I have been using throughout my photography career may actually need to be replaced with something more lightweight and user-friendly. As someone who does not shoot landscapes or architecture on a regular basis, my current tripod, which was a hand-me-down from my mentor, was more than what I needed for the lifestyle shots that I do. It was heavy, took up a lot of space, and was not the easiest to use, albeit very precise and stable, which is ideal for minute adjustments when you're shooting outdoors, especially if weather conditions are poor. This is why I was thrilled to review not just one but two tripods from K&F Concept!
The two tripods I am reviewing are the more lightweight and mobile SA254M1 and the larger and sturdier SA254T1. Both tripods, although different sizes and characteristics, sport a similar design and provide the same user experience. The SA254M1 tripod, currently in stock at $74.99:
- Made of military magnesium-aluminum alloy
- Weighs 1.5kg with the ball head, extends up to 62" with two-section center column, and can be folded to 16.5"
- Has a 28mm large KF-28 metal ball head
- Provides 10 kg load capacity and can be rotated 360 degrees
- Has a detachable monopod
- Supports low-angle and macro shooting through an inverted central axis.
The SA254T1 model, sold for $139:
- Made of military magnesium-aluminum alloy
- Weighs 2.7 kg with the ball head and extends up to 93.8" with two-section center column
- Has a 28mm KF-28 metal head
- Provides 10 kg load capacity and can be rotated 360 degrees
- The central column moves from 0 to 180 degrees, allowing lay flat photography and more
- Has a detachable monopod
- Also supports low angle and macro shooting
Both tripods are very similar in the user experience they provide, except the fact that SA254T1 is larger and sturdier and the central column moves, allowing you to use it for lay-flat photography or use it for other types of photography where this comes in handy. Both tripods have the same type of metal head and a tripod plate, which screws in easily on the bottom of your camera. It was nice not to be looking for keys or a small coin to attach it, as these tripods have a small hook, which allows you to screw it in without using any other tools.
These tripods don't have a lock-in system for attaching the camera to them; instead, you loosen the grip on the top and slide the plate in and then tighten it. As someone coming from using a system with a lock-in, it took me a moment to get used to it and to fully trust the tripod that my camera was secure!
The movements of the ball head feel smooth but secure enough. As you loosen it up, you can manually move your camera in any direction with ease, but it also means compromising on not having a knob or lever that would permit very precise and minute movements of it. Although I don't shoot architecture or interiors very often, I know this can be crucial for that type of photography where you may only want to move your camera slightly to get the perfect composition or angle.
The legs on both tripods extend easily, as does the center column. When changing the angle of legs, you need to press down the angle adjustment button and use your strength to move the legs either in or out depending on what you are trying to achieve. I say "use your strength" because it can be a bit of hard work at times, but once you get used to it, you will soon learn the best way to change the angle. For me, it is pressing the tripod against me and then pushing the leg out to change the angle. The adjustment button will lock in place and the leg will not move. However, there may be times where the angle required may fall between the two adjustment levels, which means the leg isn't locked in. I still found that the tripod was sturdy enough even in times like that, and it did not bother me that they weren't fully locked in.
Ease of Use
I used both tripods primarily with my Fuji XT-3 with a variety of lenses, but they held my heavier Nikon D750 just fine, too. My work and personal photography are generally in quite controlled and safe environments, as I don't generally use a tripod and shoot in nature. Both felt sturdy and safe enough to hold my cameras at a variety of angles and arrangements. When using the SA254T1 model to shoot flat-lay photography, you will need to ensure that it doesn't become too top-heavy; however, both tripods allow you to hang any sandbags or anything heavy enough underneath them to hold them down.
Initially, I thought I would be using the SA254T1 tripod more, but having used the lightweight SA254M1, I realized I can shoot most of my photography and video footage using it instead. The lightweight factor was something completely new to me because my previous tripod weighed a ton, and it always felt almost like an arm exercise session every time I had to use it for a shoot. After I took SA254M1 with me to one shoot in the city, I couldn't get over how light it is and how much more flexible I feel walking to the shoot on foot, carrying my camera bag, and this small tripod in its bag. Ever since then, I would only use SA254T1 if I had the necessity to shoot flat-lay. Of course, this is based on the equipment I use and may not appeal to others who use heavier photography equipment and need that extra level of sturdiness and safety.
What I Liked
- Both tripods are relatively light, yet feel secure.
- Both tripods fold down and are compact to store and carry in a bag. As somebody who often uses tripods in different locations as opposed to a permanent studio, I found this to be very important.
- Monopod legs have a smooth grip material around them, which makes handling and carrying the tripod easier, especially in cold weather.
- SA254T1 gives the option to shoot lay-flat, making it a good budget option for content creators.
- The inverted central axis on both tripods allows us to shoot low angles, very useful for a variety of photography and video needs.
- A detachable monopod is a bonus that can come in handy.
- Both are priced very reasonably.
What Could Be Improved
- I haven't been a fan of the leg angle adjustment button system. I sometimes found it hard to press down the button and move the leg at the same time. Although I like how the legs feel and are built, I still would have preferred a slightly more comfortable button to press down.
- I would have preferred a more secure-feeling way to attach the camera to the tripod. It can be fiddly at times to slide it in, and I can see this being a slight issue or an annoyance for photographers who may be working in low-light scenarios or are working with gloves on.
I have officially retired my previous heavy-duty tripod in favor of these two ever since I tested them out. The smaller SA254M1 is perfect for photographers or videographers who need a lightweight travel tripod, which can still be used for a wide range of scenarios indoors, too. Being able to carry all my gear easily from my car to the shoot has been great, because with my previous tripod, I wouldn't be able to hold anything else in the hand that's carrying it. Whereas with the SA254M1, I can just throw it over my shoulder or easily carry it in hand, which then makes it easier to carry other accessories, such as a reflector and more.
Unfortunately, the SA254M1 does not support flat-lat photography, which means that having the two is a perfect combination for a photographer or videographer who produces very varied content. The larger SA254T1 can be stored at home or at a studio to make the most of the flat-lay shooting, while the SA254M1 is something that can travel with you all the time without taking up that much space. The price of them both combined is still less than some of the more known tripods on the market, which makes these two a very good option for budget-conscious photographers and videographers.
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I just bought an LED panel from K&F, the quality is so good for the price ill definitely be looking at their other stuff.
Then I guess this article isn't for you! :-)
That's quite an unnecessary comment.
That sounds harsh but given my own experience with K&F Concepts, not entirely unjustified.
Godox products are also sold by my local camera shop. So I don't know how bad they are (I have no personal experience with them).
K&F Concept have their own webshop apart from selling on Amazon, even in Dutch language (not many of these cheap knock-off brands have multi-lingual websites).
Also, not all such cheap Chinese brands selling via Amazon are necessarily bad. I'm very happy with my Elefront tripod collar for the Sigma 100-400mm -- Sigma doesn't sell one and theirs fits very well, and is very affordable to official Sigma tripod collars!
Back to K&F Concept, I've seen tripods on Amazon with other brand-names on them that happen to look just exactly like those from K&FC, down to the red and orange colour accents... Which gives me a strong feeling that they're not even designing their own tripods.
I'm intrigued by these tripods. Curious about the stability. Would either or both of them handle a rig with a larger lens like Canon's 70-200? My current travel tripod is a small, similarly priced Manfrotto and I just gave up with larger lenses.
I'll give it a go with my heaviest body and lens (d750 + sigma 35mm) and let you know how it got on.
You seem pretty happy that it will support your ' heavier Nikon D750 just fine, too'. Well why wouldn't you? With a capacity load of 10kg (22 lbs), it should easily hold my Fuji GX680 as well. I will look more seriously into these. I bought several items from K&F and they work just fine. I have the huge Bogen 3036 for use with heavy medium formats, but this one looks like it just might fit the bill. Thank you for the article and enjoy all that neat photo equipment.
Great review! I've had a carbon fibre K&F tripod for a couple of years now and its been one of my best purchases as I like the fact that its so light yet sturdy too. Just purchased the TM 2515T1 (for the advantage of having a detachable monopod) to use with my Sigma 150-600 so I'm looking forward to testing that next!
Before these, I had only tried a heavy duty one that was quite old so didn't really have the technology within it to make it light yet sturdy (it was like my first pro camera (Nikon D3) - a reliable brick basically) or one of those cheap light ones people use when they start out, where a light gust of wind just takes it away. I was usually quite sceptical of the lighter ones for that reason but I am glad to be using a tripod now that doesn't make me feel like I am about to dislocate my shoulder as I carry it around with me, haha.
About a year ago I bought a tripod from K&F Concept, model TM2534T which just like the model discussed here, can twist the centre column to lay flat.
I thought this would be ideal for macro shooting to get closer to the subject.
In practice I found this not to work very well.
The mechanism to adjust this was a bit cumbersome, and since it only goes fully flat, adjusting to the right height was always a hassle.
The overall construction felt OK-ish to me but made of lower quality materials. The twist-lock mechanism for the legs feels cheap and quite regularly, I find that one of the legs retracts under the weight -- need to twist the lock a bit tighter.
With some of the heavier lenses, the ballhead starts sagging if the weight cannot be balanced sufficiently. That's an issue with any tripod -- but seems to me it is worse on this one.
(NB: The lens I most had this issue with is a Sigma 100-400mm which doesn't come with a lens collar. With any lens like this, if you want to use it on a tripod, get a lens collar for the lens instead of using the tripod mount from your camera. It will just start sagging under the weight, the faceplate screws will come looses after adjusting the camera a few times, etc).
Overall I was sufficiently disappointed that I got another tripod, from Vanguard, that has an adjustable centre column that can go at multiple angles (if I had seen it a year ago I would have not bothered with the K&F Concept tripod).
This one is not very expensive either but feels overall much sturdier, better quality of construction and materials than the K&F Concept tripod and the mechanism to lay down the centre column is much easier to use and much more flexible also since it can be angled to many more positions.
The ballhead also feels much better.
The pros of the K&F Concept tripod vs the Vanguard tripod are:
- Lighter weight
- Can extend higher
- Folds up smaller for travel
So overall, personally I'm disappointed and wouldn't recommend buying from them.
If you do however want to buy from them, I'd strongly recommend you to do so via Amazon instead of their own website since their return-policy is that if you wish to return an item because you're not satisfied with it, you will have to pay for the cost of return-shipping to China.
Amazon returns are much easier.
(I also bought from them a fish-eye / macro lens adapter that screws on the filter thread of your lens. The quality of it was so poor as to be unusable; soft and camera was unable to achieve focus most of the time. Returning it though would cost me more in shipping than I spent on the product... Lesson learned).
Lightweight and affordable is what I am looking for. Thanks.
READ THIS BEFORE ODERING FROM K& F
I ordered a tripod from their website on 5th Dec 2020 . It is 4th JAN 2021 and I have not received the product.
I checked the status of the package through the tracking number given it arrived in Australia on 15th Dev 2020.
The seller did not reply for days on my query and when he did just send the same tracking number which I already have.
I raised a dispute via Paypal as I had that option from K&F site The seller accepted that there was an issue with delivery and instead of refunding offered 20% . Which I refused.
I will really recommend you not to order K&F products as their is 0 customer service. If delivery is like this you can imaging how warranty will be ?
Well after spending much time trying one in a reputable mainly used camera shop in Brighton, England for my new Sony A7S iii + FE 4/24-105 G and reading the reviews, I bought a new one from the aforementioned shop. It seams very versatile and other than the mentioned in reviews plastic lock threads, well made too. I rarely leave my camera unattended on a tripod so if things begin to go wobbly, I'll catch my £5000 toy first. I am not impressed with most tripods from the well known brands, finding them lacking in design innovation and features. I don't like buying Chinese made anything but most popular Western brands are made there anyway. This is just a more honest example being one knows in advance where it came from.