Choosing a tripod can be a tricky process, especially if you need it to tick a number of boxes. For me, my main focus is travel photography and I often find myself needing camera support for landscapes, long exposures or capturing small details when handheld shooting won't cut it. On top of all that, I want something that's light and easy to transport as I know it will get left at home if it becomes too much hassle. Not too much to ask then!
I was asked to test the Velbon Ultrek UT-43D Tripod - described as a "new breed of travel tripod" according to the manufacturer - so I was looking forward to giving it a go and secretly hoping that it might just be the perfect tripod.
I was expecting the Velbon Ultrek to be compact, but I was impressed by how small it really was when I pulled it from the drawstring bag it was packaged in inside the box. It measures just 29.5cm when folded down, mostly down to the innovative 180 degree folding leg design - yep, the legs fold right back on themselves, making it a great option for travelling photographers with limited space in their kit bags. The folding leg feature is no gimmick though, the tripod is cleverly designed to lock the legs firmly in place once they’re back around the right way.
Compared to other aluminium tripods with a similar maximum height, the Ultrek UT-43D is a lightweight at just 1170g. In the interests of testing how small and light it really is, I packed it away in my carry on suitcase (and only piece of luggage), and took it with me to Switzerland for a long weekend away. It took up very little space or precious weight, a great size for when you're on the move - whether it’s in a weekend carryall or a hiking pack.
Despite the tripod’s diminutive size and weight, it still does its job and provides a sturdy support. With a maximum weight load of 2kg, this one is suitable for an entry to mid-level DSLR with lens attached and would even handle a higher end body with a lightweight lens too. I was using a Canon 450D with 28-75mm Tamron Lens and it was a comfortable fit.
One thing I loved about this tripod is the lack of clip-style locks on each leg section, a process which I usually find to be pretty tedious. Instead, Velbon’s clever Trunnion Shaft System allows you to extend all 6 leg sections with one quick twist and in practice it’s just as simple – a very quick and easy-to-use mechanism.
I’m not too proud to admit that it took me a little while to figure out (in the absence of any instructions) how to lock the legs in place on the Ultrek UT-43D once they’d been turned around from their 180 degree closed position. Like a riddle, it seemed all too obvious once I’d figured it out and I’ll spare you any confusion. With the tripod standing upright, slide the round, three-pronged metal piece at the base of the centre column upward and rotate to fit the 3-position lock system in place. Very simple and quick once you know what you’re doing.
As you can see in one of the images above, the lowest leg section tapers off to quite a narrow point when extended to full-height (156.5cm) but it still feels really sturdy and supportive. The rubber feet are excellent as well, adding more support and non-slip reassurance on smoother surfaces. The Velbon Ultrek also performs well as a support for macro photography, making it a great all-rounder. At its lowest leg height, and with the legs splayed in the widest lock position, it sits just 29cm off the ground.
This tripod comes equipped with the Velbon QHD-53D ball and socket head and its all-angle movement makes for flexible photography. Overall I found it quick and easy to adjust and manipulate but depending on what you shoot most of the time, it could always be swapped for a different style of head that's more suitable to your needs. The three built-in spirit levels are another handy extra that photographers with a penchant for landscapes will surely appreciate.
I’ve been using this tripod for a couple of months now and in a variety of situations – from travel shots in Switzerland to macro photography in the woods. It’s an excellent tripod for photographers who shoot a range of subjects and need adaptable kit. The Velbon Ultrek would be suitable for landscapes, macro and on-the-go photographers who need something small but sturdy and light but strong.
If you shoot with a telephoto lens most of the time or have other specific requirements, this one may not be for you but if you want something flexible that won't get left at home, then the Velbon Ultrek UT-43D is an outstanding all-rounder.
|Build||9/10||extremely compact and reassuringly robust|
|Handling||8/10||the innovative design makes this a breeze to use|
|Value||9/10||great value for a tripod that's useful in many shooting situations|