Many photographers who want to upgrade their tripod are stuck choosing between high-end aluminum tripods and low-end carbon fiber models. These two types of tripod tend to be similar in price, which makes the decision even more difficult. I have been trying out the carbon fiber Oben CC-2461 tripod over the past few months, along with the accompanying BE-126T ballhead. This review covers my experiences and recommendations for photographers trying to decide on a tripod at this price point.
The CC-2461 tripod costs $320, while the BE-126T is $130. They can be bought as a set for $427.50.
Table of Contents
- Stated Load Capacity: 26.4 lb (12.0 kg)
- Ball Sphere Diameter: 38 mm
- Height: 3.9” (9.9 cm)
- Weight: 15.2 oz (430.0 g)
- Number of leg sections: 4 (three flip locks on each leg)
- Stated Load Capacity: 17.6 lb (8 kg)
- Maximum Height: 62.2 inches (158 cm)
- Maximum Height without Column Extended: 52.2 inches (132.6 cm)
- Minimum Height: 6.0 inches (15.2 cm)
- Folded Length: 21 inches (53.3 cm)
- Weight: 3.0 lb (1.36 kg)
2) The Head
The BE-126T ballhead that comes with this combo is very impressive. It operates via two twist knobs – one that loosens/tightens the ball, and one that causes the head to spin 360 degrees horizontally for panoramas. This is typical for most heads around the $130 price point; there is no third knob to control the ballhead’s tension.
The 360 rotation is very smooth, and the knob – though small – is easy to turn. The main knob is not quite as well-made, however, requiring some force to lock and unlock. This is not ideal, especially since the knob itself is made of grooved aluminum. If you aren’t wearing gloves, it can be a bit rough to use. However, the ballhead’s movement is very smooth, and – when locked – stays in place extremely well. At a price of $130, in fact, I have yet to find another ballhead that stays in place so well. I tried pushing down on my 70-200mm f/4 at full zoom, and it didn’t budge.
I also like that the ballhead has a bubble level embedded on the top, which is unusual for any head – especially at this price. Although the bubble level is only a small feature, it is nice for creating multi-shot panoramas on uneven ground.
Lastly, the head is Arca-Swiss compatible. We already discussed the Arca-Swiss system in detail, but the main point is that this ballhead works with the industry’s standard camera plate. The BE-126T, for example, is compatible with the L-bracket that I use on my camera – even though the L-bracket is made to work on a different manufacturer’s ballhead. This means that I can swap my camera from one ballhead to the next without changing the L-bracket.
3) The Tripod
As much as I like the BE-126T head, though, the CC-2461 tripod is not very inspiring. There are a few issues, but the most significant is that it doesn’t fully lock down! Even when every knob is fully tightened, the center column spins ever so slightly from left to right. If you are photographing indoors, it should be fine; the column doesn’t spin unless you apply a moderate amount of force. However, under heavy wind, your setup simply won’t be as effective as possible.
It is worth mentioning that I only tried one copy of this tripod. Others may lock perfectly into place; I am only describing my personal experiences. Even if the tripod does lock completely, though, there are other issues.
For one, the locks on the legs (which are flip-locks rather than twist-locks) will pinch your thumb unless you open them carefully. I have used tripods with flip-locks in the past, and this is the only one that has such a problem. It’s not necessarily a deal breaker, but it definitely is an annoyance.
Also, although the tripod is fairly steady, it is not at the same level as a high-end tripod from Gitzo or Really Right Stuff. This isn’t surprising if you have owned a top-of-the-line tripod, but it shows that not all carbon fiber models are equally stable. Using a 200mm lens at the BE-126T’s full height, it was easy to see vibrations in live-view mode. If I tapped the side of the tripod, it took about ten seconds to dissipate all vibrations at full magnification; my RRS tripod – which, granted, weighs about a pound (a half-kilogram) more – stopped the shaking in about two seconds.
On the positive side, the feet on the CC-2461 are very well-made. It is very easy to switch from spiked feet to standard rubber feet; just twist them a few times. The rest of the tripod is also well-made, and it stands up well to the elements. I would be wary of using it in salt water, but lakes or streams will be no problem.
A low-end carbon fiber tripod like the Oben CC-2461 simply is not on the same playing field as a high-end Gitzo or RRS model. That’s fine; it isn’t meant to compete with those tripods. However, if you do purchase a carbon fiber tripod like the CC-2461, you likely will find yourself wanting something better in the long run. My recommendation is to stick with aluminum tripods until you make the plunge directly to a Gitzo or RRS tripod.
On the flip side, if you’re looking for a good tripod head at this price, it is hard to find one sturdier than the BE-126T. High-end heads from RRS are still better, but they are several times more expensive; the BE-126T is more than enough for people with aluminum tripods in the $200-$300 range.
Tripods can be a tricky purchase. For a first-time buyer, it seems like anything above $100 would be a waste of money; surely the CC-2461 is more than enough. However, there is a reason why this tripod costs $400, and there is a reason why a RRS tripod costs $800. If you use a telephoto lens (especially 100mm and longer) or shoot in wind and moving water, this tripod doesn’t cut it – and the same would be true even if the center column locked perfectly.
Although I don’t recommend the Oben CC-2461 tripod, the BE-126T head is a good purchase at $130. Its main knob isn’t perfect, but enough force locks this head more sturdily than I would have expected. Even pushing down with a long lens doesn’t cause the head to creep; that is unusual at this price.
Since the tripod itself is not really worth purchasing, the ratings below only apply to the ballhead:
- Build Quality
- Size and Weight
Photography Life Overall Rating
“I wish my carbon fiber Gitzo had a “low-end” price . . . ;~)”
One can look at other brands which has comparable features of Gitzo, but at lower price points. Jobu and Induro are solid choices and are used by many advanced photographers for many years. I have been using the 400 series Induro carbon fiber tripod and cannot be happier with its performance.
A potentially odd thought regarding ‘ringing’. I’m a long time motorcycle rider, and one of the ergonomic issues there is handlebar vibration. One common solution is tuned weights to change the handlebar resonant frequency. Another, less common one is a polymer inside the handlebar (the idea being, much like acoustic damping, to convert vibration into heat) The weights are more effective.
I’m wondering if any of this is applicable to tripod design(?)
That is very interesting. I looked up some info about the weights, and I don’t see why tripod manufacturers couldn’t implement something similar. Maybe we’ll see it from some companies in the future!
“Many photographers who want to upgrade their tripod are stuck choosing between high-end aluminum tripods and low-end carbon fiber models.”
I wish my carbon fiber Gitzo had a “low-end” price . . . ;~)
Thom Hogan has a dated albeit timeless article on his site outlining the usual path of an enthusiast in search of the ultimate set of legs and head; worth the time to read and re-read for those interested.
Appreciate your input as well as those substantively adding to the subject matter for this chosen hobby / profession. Please continue to do what you do – it is appreciated!
I have a question about your RRS tripod and a comment about my light Gitzo. The light Gitzo (3 series) is just not as stable as I think it should be. I am not overloading it but do use a D7100 with 70-200 2.8. It has a Markins Q Ball Head and is light (under 1lb.) I think the problem with this setup is that the tripod is simply too small for this weight so it may have issues with vibration. I would like something between the Gitzo 3 and 5 series (my 5 series is big and heavy) I don’t know what model of RRS tripod you have, but I am curious about how it compares with the Gitzo. Do you have any experience in this regard. As I thought about it, I would be open to selling the Gitzo and looking at an alternative. Any thoughts are welcome.
I haven’t tested Gitzo tripods side-by-side next to my RRS, unfortunately. I use the RRS TVC-24 tripod. Comparing the weights, the two tripods should have fairly comparable vibration.
There is no perfectly scientific way to test this. However, at 200mm full-frame (at full live view magnification), I see about one seconds of significant vibration followed by another second of less vibration if I flick one of the twist-locks solidly. My tripod was at its maximum height of 50 inches, and I used the BH-40 ballhead. If you see far more vibration than this at about 135mm on your D7100, you may consider trading in your tripod. Even expensive tripods aren’t perfect, though. At full height and 200mm on a D7100, you will get vibration no matter what you use.
Thanks for taking a moment to reply. I feel a little embarrassed by asking the question above because I recalled, after I hit post, that you wrote a detailed review of your RRS tripod – DOH!
So, I re-read your review and did a little digging. After some thought about some of my frustration with the Gitzo I have decided to budget for one of the two RRS tripods you mentioned. Because it’s expensive, I will have to wait a few months, but selling the Gitzo will ease the pain a little :)
I am weight conscious, but will probably opt for the slightly heavier one (can’t remember the model, but the slightly heavier one you didn’t get). Both are a little lighter then the Gitzo and I am pretty sure, more stable.
Thanks for the help again.
No worries — I actually wrote the review over the TQC-14, but I now own the TVC-24 (the heavier model). I did see a noticeable gain in stability with the TVC-24.
I have heavy and light Gitzo’s, and an aluminum Mefoto Globetrotter (fairly heavy inexpensive tripod I wanted for a specific feature which was holding the camera a couple inches off the ground, wonderful for some crazy wide angle shots). The heavy Gitzo is over 20 years old and still works well. It’s also unbelievably stable for use with large telephoto’s. It was worth the investment. Unfortunately, the lighter one has been more problematic and has been repaired a couple of times. Also, even with a lighter load, it’s just not as stable as I think it should be. I would be open to alternatives to Gitzo were I to purchase another lightweight tripod.
BTW – I think the Mefoto is very nice for $200 but it has all the limitations of inexpensive tripods in terms of vibration. It does lock down tight though, so not bad.
Why do Oben tripods get reviewed so frequently here. I mean. There are other brands. I would like to see a manfrotto reviewed. I have travelled all over the world, and manfrotto is availabale everywhere. Even in canada and Europe and Australia it is tough to find tripods from Oben/RRS/ Feisol etc. Gitzo can be found a tiny bit more frequently but manfrotto is most frequently available. I have wanted to buy a good tripod for so long but most of the ones getting reviewed here are simply not available in most countries.
Out of interest (because I own a Manfrotto tripod and head), I’ve just performed a Google search using the words: review manfrotto tripod. Google ‘astutely’ returned “About 493,000 results” for me to read through!
My carbon fibre Manfrotto is excellent for wide-angle to medium-telephoto shots, in a variety of lighting conditions, but it performs very poorly for my night-time long-telephoto work: Horses for courses. Every mechanical structure has various modes of resonance, each with their associated Q factor. E.g. a tripod having rubberized spiked feet (such as mine) will perform very differently on a hard surface from a tripod that has metal spiked feet. Many people, including myself, object to having metal spikes poking holes in their carpets and wooden floors, therefore there is no such thing as “the best tripod” to buy/own.
RRS and Gitzo tripods have interchangeable feet (rubber, spikes, etc) so you get a choice.
I see no point in getting a cheap tripod that vibrates.
The whole raison d’etre of a tripod is that it should not vibrate, shake, wobble or bend, no matter what.
Thank you for your feedback — we will work to review Manfrotto tripods as well.
Every gear may have its own strength and weakness. I acquired several Oben tripods and monopods during last few years. Simply, they are of good value for the money I paid. However, they needed a lot of repairs. They are OK to occasional photographers like me. I don’t recommend Oben to pros or active shooters.
If you have bought several and they have neede a lot of repairs surely they cannot be good value?
Better to spend more money just once on a top quality RRS or Gitzo and have a reliable tripod for life.
I bought the similar Oben CT-2420 tripod and the BB-2 balhead (3 knobs) 4 years ago. I have used it for astrophotography, night photography, macro and landscape. It was slightly more expensive (530 usd) but I am still very happy with both. The gear is still in perfect conditions and has been used in dust and salt water. The only detail is that the ball moves slightly downwards when I apply the final tension, I must compensate for this while framing. Apart of that, nothing to say. Not central column issues, the clamps are not there but are rotary knobs, my impression still remains that this product is very sturdy and stable. Maybe as a hobbyist I am not so demanding as you are, but more then enough for me needs. Rgds, stijn
Thanks for sharing your impressions, Stijn! The issues very well could be confined to this specific tripod model — I know other people who use and enjoy Oben tripods, and their experiences are much more positive than mine.
Thanks for the honest review. I bought my Gitzo 1542 Tripod with Gitzo head for about the same price as this combo after rebates. The specs are very similar but the weight is less. I have been very happy with it. I agree with your final recommendation. I just bit the bullet and bought the tripod that I can keep for life. I wanted a tripod that I could take with me everywhere with sufficient capacity for most uses and this has fi the bill perfectly. It fits nicely inside my Lowepro Photosport 200 and my roller bag. I may still buy a larger tripod for long lenses but that would be only to compliment rather than replace this one. If you but quality once you will never need to replace it.
Chris, it sounds like you got a good deal on the Gitzo! Thanks for the feedback and interesting information.