Leofoto's standard Ranger tripods remain the unquestionable leader in value for money on the tripod market. Especially if you're buying with a currency as battered as the Rand. Gitzo has died a slow death in SA due to the ever increasing price and unaffordable spares, while several popular brands in 1st world countries simply aren't feasible here. The LS-323/4/5 kits offer a premium set of carbon legs paired with a premium clamshell ballhead at a price that most brands charge for just one of the two. Their Ranger tripods compete with models that cost 2-3x times as much and they are rated amongst the top 10 on the world's most respected tripod review site, thecentercolumn.com.
Leofoto has however been in the process of improving the foundation that is the ranger to introduce new and improved technologies in a range of higher-end tripods. The standard Rangers will remain for those simply looking for an affordable high quality tripod, while the new models offer improved features and function to those who appreciate quality engineering.
Advancement of Key Tripod Technologies
Throughout 2021, Leofoto released three new key technologies in a range of special edition tripods.
The Poseidon and Athena tripods (same tripod, different colours) are almost identical to the standard Ranger LS-324C. There are two key differences in the joints and feet that make these tripods more suited to seascape photography than a standard ranger.
New Joint Technology
These tripods feature joints that bring a lot of advancements to the Ranger.
- The new joints feature an O-ring gasket at the top and a sealing collet at the bottom, which combine to make the joint nearly air-tight. This keeps sea-water out and that makes a massive difference to the longevity of the tripod when used frequently for seascapes.
- The joints are also made from a much stronger composite and are manufactured to a much higher tolerance, which means the legs lock together better to offer stronger leg rigidity.
- The grips have also been completely redesigned to avoid eventualy slipping. The downside to this is that the grip pads do not line up as in the product images, which detracts from the tripod aesthetics.
Anti-corrosive foot assembly
Over and above this, the caps at the end of the legs as well as the feet are made from titanium, which gives them a much longer lifetime in corrosive environments.
The Athena and Poseidon tripods cost about 25% more than their standard Ranger counterparts, which is a fair price difference for the new joint tech and titanium used in the construction.
The first question everyone asks is where the hell the name "Mr. Q" comes from. The answer is very obvious if you look at the open apex from above as in the image below.
This unique apex design is not for giggles or novelty, it addresses one of the greatest design challenges of tripods - to center-column or not to center-column. As mentioned countless times in our articles and stories about the Leofoto Ranger and Summit tripods, center-columns come with a lot of compromise. They complicate design, increase weight, cost and folded size and offer little in return - some convenience for adjusting shooting height as well as extra extended length without increasing folded length. One of the key aspects of the success of the Ranger series is the lack of a center-column.
Despite all that compromise, a center-column is however nice to have. All of this begs the question of how do you design a tripod that offers the best of both worlds? Most manufacturers have gone the reversed legs route, such as Gitzo's Travelers, but exchanging the long column for the short one is such a pain that most people never ever bother.
Tripod Diameters - Ranger | Mr.Q | Summit
Mr. Q is Leofoto's attempt to offer the best of both worlds. The name stems from the gap in the apex, which if viewed from above, makes the apex resemble the letter Q. This design is very common in larger tripods with a modular apex, like the Summit Range, but due to the intricate manufacturing procedure, has never been done in smaller travel-friendly tripods, until now.
This design turns the apex into a radial clamp and with a large wing-lever on the screw, it can be loosened or tightened in a quick and easy movement. Combined with a quick release safety button, the apex makes it extremely quick to swap out a center column.
Unlike other tripods with exchangeable columns, this does not require a multi-component column to be disassembled and reassembled. The long column and the short column (mounting plate) are two seperate items. The only catch is that you have to remove the head from the one column and mount it to the other. This can however be simplified with Leofoto's quicklink system or, for the real tripod nerds out there, a lighter head to mount on the short column. This will allow you switch between a lighter minimalist setup for hiking and a heavier more convenient setup for the less demanding shoots.
New Carbon Fiber Weave
All of this isn't merely so simple - every single step has been taken to add a center-column without compromising on the simple and compact design of the standard Ranger. Compare the LQ-324 + LH-40 kit to the LS-324 + LH-40 kit and you'll see that:
- LQ-324 offers 29cm more extended length, at the cost of only 1cm more folded length.
- Mr. Q only weighs 100g more (4% increase).
- The radial diameter of Mr. Q has increased by less than 15%, which means that it still has a more compact folded diameter than most other tripods.
- New Carbon Weave Pattern – This tripod also has a new carbon fiber weave pattern, which improves tube strength. More than that, it looks so good you may want to just use this tripod as a display piece in your studio or office.
- Proprietary Leveling Base – Love panos or video work? The Mr. Q range has its own leveling base, which replaces the column - the LBQ-60S for the LQ-324 and LQ-365 and the LBQ-50S for LQ-284.
So, where is the compromise? In the price.
Leofoto knows that this tripod is special and they charge a pretty penny for it. For the average photographer, the standard Ranger remains the better option, but for tripod nerds who love an outstanding piece of engineering, it doesn't get better than this (It actually does...keep reading).
Our favourites are the LQ-284C + LH-30 (R9999) as the column makes it high enough for tall users (158cm), yet it folds down to just over 50cm and weighs just 1530g, making it an ideal hiking tripod. Our second favourite is the monster LQ-365 + LH-47 (R16 999), which offers a huge 1.9m length, yet folds down to under 60cm (with the head) and only weighs 2.3kg. For those who travel with large camera rigs and want support to match, this tripod is a solution made in heaven.
Gabriel & Lucifer
Funky names aside, this model is the epitome of Leofoto's engineering capabilities. Premium tripods like these are sadly priced far beyond what the average South African is willing to pay. Even most of those who spend north of R500k on camera gear are unwilling to fork out R20k for a tripod. We have slashed our margin to try and get the price down slightly lower, but it is still a whopping R17 000 for the LG-324 kit. We carry just one of each colour as show pieces for our office. Perhaps the ZAR will strengthen again one day and these tripods will be affordable to the local market, but for now our focus remains on the highly affordable Ranger models and the slightly more expensive Poseidon/Athena and Mr. Q ranges.
Want to view these tripods? Visit our office in Stellenbosch, any weekday 09:00 - 16:00. By Appointment.