A fun part of my job is being approached by manufacturers requesting product evaluations. Of course, camera and lens reviews are always the highest priority here, and the volume of that work leaves little time remaining to focus on accessories. That said, I use accessories, especially tripods, a lot, and having the best of these accessories helps me produce better work. In addition, knowledge of accessories enables me to help others needing the same.
I have handled a significant percentage of the better tripods available, including at the B&H showroom, PhotoPlus Expo, and other venues. However, one such model that eluded me was the K&F Concept X324C4 Multifunction Carbon Fiber Tripod (formerly model EP324C). K&F is a popular, high-value brand that intrigued me, and the X324C4 was their highest-performing model. So, when K&F Concept offered the X324C4 for review, I decided that a few days could be allocated in the schedule for evaluating this tripod.
As I often talk about, there are thousands of tripod models vying for a place in your kit. The tripod market is crowded, and discerning the good from the bad is challenging.
Unfortunately, most beginners start out buying a low-quality tripod, which typically means buying a second tripod. With the ultra-high resolution of the current generation of digital cameras, a steady camera is more important than ever, meaning that selecting a good quality tripod is more important than ever.
A tripod's purpose is to hold a camera (or sometimes something else). If a moving subject is being followed, the tripod's job is to take the weight burden from the photographer, but otherwise, holding a camera perfectly still is nearly always the goal. There are many reasons a camera needs to be held still, but to get sharper images is a big one. A still camera is optimal for multi-shot strategies, including HDR and focus stacking.
Tripods come in all sizes, ranging from tiny tabletop models to super-tall versions that can require a tall step ladder to use. Along with a vast size differential, a large weight differential exists. You can carry the lightest tripod all day and barely know it is there, while the heaviest will become burdensome in a short period. Strength and rigidity are often the balancing factors between size and weight. A heavy short tripod is likely much stronger and more rigid than a super-light tall tripod. So, tripod selection involves finding a model that offers the right balance between dimensions and weight, along with the features it provides, for the need.
Let's take a look at the K&F Concept X324C4 Multifunction Carbon Fiber Tripod's measurements and specs.
|Specifications||K&F Concept X324C4 Tripod|
|Load Capacity||44 lb||(22 kg)|
|Max Height w/o Column||54"||(137.2 cm)|
|Max Height w/ Column Ext||70"||(177.8 cm)|
|Minimum Height||3.0"||(7.6 cm)|
|Folded Length||19.8"||(50.3 cm)|
|Measured Weight||3.45 lb||(1.75 kg)|
|Measured Weight w/ Column||3.85 lb||(1.81 kg)|
|Top Plate Diameter||1.8"||(45.8 cm)|
|Apex Max Width||2.9"||(73.6 cm)|
|Top Leg Section Diameter||1.26"||(31.9 cm)|
You likely do not have a camera, lens, and accessory combination that weighs even half of this tripod's capacity. Still, the significant capacity rating usually reflects lower amounts of vibration under commonly used weight loads. Don't underestimate the importance of vibration control as there are many causes of vibration, including wind.
The taller a tripod is, the more likely it will accommodate eye-level height when shooting on a level surface, or even eye-level height with one or more tripod feet positioned downhill below you. The latter is a frequent occurrence for outdoor photographers as well as those shooting from stairways, etc. In addition, those photographing the night sky will appreciate tall tripods.
Most will find the X324C4's extended height very adequate for standing work. At 6' (1.8 m), I find the X324C4's center column retracted 54" (137.2 cm) height slightly short for standing position use on a flat surface. Bending over slightly is required.
While high is good, so is low, and this tripod goes down to a very low 3.0" (7.6 cm). Getting the camera right down on the ground can be ideal for some compositions and also for tabletop work. Note that the center column must be removed for this and most other tripods to reach their minimum working height.
A tripod's folded length is of primary concern for transporting. Regardless of its maximum height capability, a smaller retracted tripod consumes less space, is easier to fit into luggage, and does not protrude as far above a backpack. Another benefit of a short retracted length is that the tripod can be more-easily used on a table top or similar. This tripod's 19.8" (50.3 cm) retracted height is relatively short.
All other aspects being equal, larger diameter leg sections will provide greater stability and lower vibrations than smaller diameters. Leg wall thickness and construction details come heavily into play here. Likely, you carry a tripod by the top leg section, and very thick leg sections can become more difficult to control. The X324C4's modest 1.26" (31.9 cm) max leg diameter seems an ideal balance.
The apex is a substantial part of the tripod, and it puts a mark on the overall weight and width of the tripod. However, as a rule, the larger the apex and the closer it is to a true triangle in shape (vs. a circle with leg pivots attached to the outside), the less able it is to flex, and in turn, the more rigid it is. Thus, I'm interested in the apex max-width measurement. The X324C4's apex is compact yet substantially constructed, with a shape optimized for strength.
While the diameter of the top plate may hint at the strength of the tripod's apex, it more directly ties into the base size of the head being attached, though often a differing-size head base will fit fine. Either way, the smaller diameter of the two could be a limiting factor for stability. The top plate is relatively compact especially for this tripod's weight rating.
All other aspects being equal, lighter is better. Unfortunately, all other aspects are not always equal, and a compromise is always being made to achieve the lightest weights. The farther/longer you have to carry a tripod, the more important light weight becomes. Weight does not matter much for studio-use tripods that are seldom carried for more than a minute and where ballast weight can be advantageous, while multi-day backpackers live at the other end of the spectrum. Those flying need to comply with luggage weight restrictions, and in this case, tripod weight becomes a strong consideration.
For this tripod's weight capacity, the 3.45 lb (1.81 kg) (measured) center-column-removed weight is light, and the center column adds little to this number.
Tripod manufacturers typically offer many different models and the model name often describes how the model fits into the family. The K&F Concept X324C4 Multifunction Carbon Fiber Tripod model name breaks down as follows:
32 represents 32mm, C is for carbon fiber, and 4 is the number of segments per leg.
Starting at the top of the tripod, we have the part that holds everything together. In addition to "apex", this part is referred to as the "chassis", "main casting" (if appropriate for the model's construction), "spreader", "spider", "collar" and likely terms I do not remember at the moment. The apex's size and strength are keys to the overall strength and rigidity of the tripod. Skimp here, and nothing else matters.
The X324C4's anodized CNC-machined aluminum apex is, as mentioned, compact yet substantially constructed, with a shape optimized for strength.
A pair of 3/8"-16 threaded accessory sockets for attaching a wide range of accessories, including arms, are built into this tripod's apex, with a pair of reducer bushings provided to accommodate the 1/4"-20 thread size.
This apex does not feature a spirit/bubble level, presumably due to the lack of space for such.
Relatively smooth shape transitions on the bottom of the apex make this tripod reasonably comfortable in the hand while carrying.
Most tripods offer a solid top plate, a height-adjustable vertical/center/rapid column, or the option of either, with that last option offering the best of both worlds.
With a rapid center column, camera height can be quickly fine-tuned, and very high camera positions are enabled without impacting the tripod's fully-retracted length. However, the huge disadvantage of a center column is significantly increased vibration experienced when the column is raised, especially at full height where the difference in vibration dampening can be dramatic. Another center column disadvantage is that the tripod's minimum height is limited by the column — unless the column is removable.
You've likely already determined that the K&F Concept X324C4 Multifunction Carbon Fiber Tripod has a center column and that it is removable. A substantial aluminum wing nut on the apex is responsible for locking the center column height, with a rubber O-ring cushioning the column at the lowest setting. Twisting the weight hook at the bottom of the center column retracts a pair of aluminum locks that prevent or allow center column removal from the apex. Twist the weight hook, loosen the large wing nut, and the center column slides out — a fast procedure.
As the completely removed center column leaves the tripod without a top plate, provisions are made to quickly remove the top plate and its assembly from the center column. After loosening the large wing nut at the top of the center column, a pair of aluminum release buttons can be squeezed to release the top plate. The top plate section, featuring significant aluminum construction, drops into the apex for a solid metal-on-metal connection, with the apex wing nut locking it tightly in place. A second safety hook threads onto the bottom of the top plate assembly, providing safety retention. This system is well-engineered.
The X324C4's center column is constructed of carbon fiber. While carbon fiber material is not always smooth in this implementation, the X324C4's Delrin apex lining enables relatively smooth center column adjustments. Still, expect some minor sticking with a camera and medium or large lens influencing the movement laterally. This tripod's center column has an anti-twist feature to maintain the camera direction during height adjustment.
Additionally, the center column can be reversed to place the camera under the apex, and in this case, the camera can be positioned upside down as low as ground level.
The tripod head mount screw is the standard 3/8"-16 thread size, ready to fit nearly all available head models.
A hook is provided under the top plate, useful for stabilizing the tripod via weight (such as your backpack) or other anchoring strategies.
Unless you will only use the tripod on a completely flat surface, typically a floor, you want a tripod model with independent leg spread, allowing the tripod legs to open at various angles to accommodate whatever terrain is encountered. Most quality general-purpose tripods, including this one, feature this option.
Models having independent leg spread feature angle stops around the leg pivot axles, a seemingly basic design feature that plays an important role in the tripod's functionality. One of the primary tripod design observations to make is how strongly the leg angle locks transition into the stops provided on the apex. Is the stop a weak little tab that protrudes from the apex?
The latter invites failure, and it must be considered that this failure may mean your camera and lens are hitting the ground. Also, does the weight distribution go straight into the leg through the leg cups? Or is there a vibration-inviting angle design being used?
The K&F Concept X324C4 Multifunction Carbon Fiber Tripod features substantially-sized CNC-machined aluminum leg cups, with also-significantly sized angle locks and stops that, when all are locked in place, provides a very high strength setup with weight being directly transferred straight into the legs. This design is optimal.
Most tripod models offer multiple stop angles, and the specific angles made available are seldom a strong differentiator between models. The K&F Concept X324C4 Tripod's leg lock angles seem standard, and non-locking angles can be used if conditions allow.
A tripod differentiator is ratcheting locks that snap into the current angle lock position when the direction is reversed from outward to inward. Push from the inside or pull from the outside to open a tripod leg lock, open the leg just beyond the desired angle stop and reverse direction, or simply open the leg fully. The angle lock gently snaps into the appropriate locked position as it slides over narrower set positions when the leg is moved inward.
One more differentiator can be the angle locks' ease of use and carrying comfort. The K&F Concept X324C4 Multifunction Carbon Fiber Tripod leg locks are substantial in size, an especially good attribute from a strength position. That they are somewhat wide makes them easy to pull out, though it also makes them slightly uncomfortable if they are in the hand while the tripod is being carried. The smoothly integrated backs of the leg angle locks are quite comfortable, and though recessed modestly, they are still easy to use from the inside.
Don't like the force required to spread the legs? Loosen or tighten the axle bolts with the included wrenches. Brass bushings keep leg angle movements very smooth.
The legs are another critical component of a tripod. A primary consideration is what the legs are constructed of, with aluminum and carbon fiber being the two most common options.
What are the advantages of carbon fiber tripod legs? Carbon fiber models are typically lighter than equally-weight-rated aluminum models, and carbon fiber dampens vibrations faster. In addition, carbon fiber does not transfer heat as easily as aluminum, making carbon fiber preferable to hands in cold weather.
What are the advantages of aluminum tripod legs? Aluminum is also a great material, and its primary advantage in tripod form is its low cost. In addition, aluminum generally has a lower friction coefficient than carbon fiber, making it slide more easily during height adjustment.
Aluminum dents and bends while carbon fiber breaks. Neither is good, and while the latter is less likely, dented or bent may remain usable.
Carbon fiber is my nearly-exclusive choice.
Another important aspect of tripod selection is leg section length, along with the number of sections per leg. Roughly, the number of leg sections times the length of the sections (minus some overlap plus the apex height along with the leg angle set) determines the maximum height of the tripod. Also, the length of the leg sections is a strong factor in a tripod's retracted length.
Because there is one leg lock on each leg section joint, tripods with more leg sections have more locks, and for that reason, they generally cost modestly more. Increasing the number of leg sections also slightly increases the setup and take-down time. With each leg section having a smaller diameter than the one above it, tripods with more leg sections generally have a narrower lower leg section than the equivalent tripod with fewer leg sections.
General-purpose tripods are most frequently offered in 3 or 4 leg section models, and I generally choose 4-section legs for my primary tripods. Four leg sections provide a relatively-compact retracted size that is especially appreciated when traveling with a maximum height that typically works well for me. With quality-constructed tripod models, including this one, I don't find the stability of the thinner lower leg section to be an issue.
The X324C4's leg sections slide through the leg locks with the smoothness expected from a high-quality carbon fiber model, and this smoothness usually increases with use (as long as the locks remain clean).
When the center column is installed, the fully folded legs impact the bottom of the center column and the center column retention nubs, creating a rub mark on each leg. The legs fold only slightly past their fully folded position with the center column out of the way (extended or removed).
One leg has a thin, firm, grippy rubber surface that is great for holding the tripod.
Most tripods have multiple leg sections, allowing them to be set to various heights or retracted compactly. This means that leg section locks are required, and the first choice to be made is often between lever or flip-locks and twist locks. I've used both and strongly prefer the twist locks.
What are the downsides to flip-locks? Some can pinch your fingers (it's painful), they are loud if not being very carefully closed (and closing slowing may lead to the first downside), the levers can catch on camera straps, backpack straps, branches, etc., and I find the levers to be considerably slower to use.
Twist locks, especially the short-rotation designs, are fast to use, and speed can be very important for getting the shot. Some may argue that you only extend your tripod legs once when shooting and that speed is therefore not important. For some, that may be the case, but hopefully, you do not walk up to a scene and automatically select the full standing height, instead analyzing the scene and selecting the right camera height from a composition perspective. Hopefully, you also vary that height, capturing variations on the composition.
When retracted, all three extension locks on each leg can be simultaneously grasped and twisted 1/4 turn to loosen fully. Follow the three quick turns with leg extensions, and then give each leg lock the short turn that is needed to tighten it. Splay the legs, and the tripod is ready to go in a very short time (at full height). Reverse the process to retract the tripod.
If not using the tripod at full height, conventional wisdom says the lowest legs should be the most-retracted as they are the thinnest. However, quality tripods have very solid lower-leg sections. It is easier to reach the top leg extension locks to fine-tune the height, so leaving the top section at least modestly retracted can make sense regardless of the lowest section's extension. If I want a less-than-fully-extended position, I generally hold the tripod head at the desired height and extend the legs in the lowest-first sequence until I have the tripod secured at the desired height.
Want to know how strong a tripod's leg locks are? Fully extend one leg, firmly tighten the leg locks, and, while keeping the leg vertical (not spread), pull straight down, gradually increasing pressure until significant weight is applied. Note that exceeding the weight limit of a tripod could break it, but quality leg locks will not retract under the pressure of my weight (165 lb / 75 kg).
The K&F Concept X324C4 Multifunction Carbon Fiber Tripod's leg extension locks make the grade, holding solidly under my total weight.
To further test the tripod and apex strength, I fully extend the tripod legs, spread them to the first stop, and hang from them. Again, exceeding the weight limit risks breaking the tripod (and there is a chance that I will hit the ground fast if that happens). But, I know that the K&F Concept X324C4 Multifunction Carbon Fiber Tripod holds my weight, even on a relatively slippery epoxy floor. That gives me the confidence to load expensive gear onto these legs.
Supporting my weight may seem like an excessive requirement, but I often rely on my tripod to hold me personally. While not all photographers get themselves into the situations I get into, those of us going out into nature may need to rely on the tripod legs to support ourselves while navigating steep trails, stream banks, large rocks, and other difficult terrain.
Important to me is that the leg sections do not rotate when unlocked, allowing any individual leg lock to be tightened before the others. Most quality tripods made today support this feature, and the K&F Concept X324C4 Multifunction Carbon Fiber Tripod checks that box.
Lateral rigidity is a primary responsibility of the leg section locks. Applying lateral pressure (but not too much as this is a breakage risk) to fully locked legs will quickly illuminate any play or flex that exists. Also, with the tripod set up and legs fully extended with modest pressure on the top plate, a tap to the middle of the extended leg will cause visible vibration. How quickly that vibration dissipates is the observation to make during this test.
The X324C4's legs have great lateral rigidity, and vibrations dissipate relatively quickly.
These leg locks do not feature O-rings, and the leg release is not indicated haptically. Instead, learn the ideal release rotation amount.
The tripod must rest on something, and we logically call those features "feet". The X324C4 tripod's removable, non-slip, firm rubber feet feature a teardrop shape that helps to keep the legs off of the ground even when fully splayed.
Remove the rubber feet to access spiked feet. The spiked feet are also removable, with a provided wrench suitable for that purpose.
As discussed earlier, the load capacity of this tripod is high enough to support nearly all camera and lens combinations, and it can hold me. But, holding heavy weights doesn't always mean that a tripod will hold the load without vibration, and vibration cannot always be tolerated. Thus, testing is important.
To establish a comfort level for this tripod, the Canon EOS R5 (1.6 lbs / 0.74 kg) mounted to a RF 600mm F4 L IS USM Lens (6.8 lbs / 3.1 kg) and a RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1 L IS USM Lens (3.0 lbs / 1.37 kg) were utilized.
Initially, a Really Right Stuff BH-55 Ball Head was used for testing. This solid head was selected to better isolate tripod-caused vibrations vs. those introduced by the ball head.
The fully extended tripod without the center column failed to dampen the 600mm f/4 lens vibrations in under 30 seconds, even without a wind factor, indicating that this lens exceeded the tripod's designed capacity (as expected). However, image stabilization can overcome the vibration limitation, and the fully retracted tripod impressively eliminates the vibrations from this lens in only 3 seconds or so.
With the tripod fully extended sans center column, vibrations caused by a firm tap to the camera with the RF 100-500mm lens mounted and set to 500mm lasted only 2 or 3 seconds and less than 1 second with the tripod fully retracted for excellent performance. Add the retracted center column to the equation, and vibrations are only very slightly longer enduring.
Vibrations with the tripod extended with the center column extended halfway remained for approximately twice as long, about 5 seconds. With the center column fully extended, I expected performance to unravel, but the vibrations remained for only a modestly longer duration than the 50% extension. Retracted tripod center column performance differences were similar in comparison to the extended comparison, with only very slightly longer enduring vibrations when fully retracted. Again, vibrations lasted approximately twice as long at 50% extension, and the extended center column vibrations remained only modestly longer than the 50% extension, about 8 seconds.
A wider focal length from the same lens does not show vibrations as readily due to lower magnification. While this tripod managed the mid-sized lens at 500mm rather well, the 100mm focal length is easily accommodated.
The right tripod head can make a huge difference in your experience with a tripod and in your results. Do not let your head be the limiting factor.
K&F Concept includes the KF-35P Ball Head in the X324C4 Tripod box. When a ball head is included with a tripod, you hope that it is matched in quality and capacity and fear that it is an inferior model used to sell the tripod. Fortunately, the former is the case with the K&F Concept KF-35P Ball Head.
I found the 600 F4 too large and heavy to safely use on this head from a load performance perspective. However, it managed the RF 100-500 nicely and only added a second or two to the vibration duration numbers, despite its compact size.
From a usability standpoint, the KF-35P is well designed. The machined aluminum main locking knob is nicely sized, with a click-stop minimum friction control inside of it. The nested control eliminates a potential third knob to confuse with the panning base locking knob. The knob's rate of ball locking is not fast, and even when fully tightened, I am able to move the clamp and ball. That said, doing so left a mark on my hand – the ball gets tight enough for the tripod-matched mid-sized load.
The 35mm ball remains smooth until the lock knob is tight, permitting slight composition changes before locking the ball. When the head is locked tight, the framing shift is modest, primarily only noticeable at long focal lengths.
When loosened, the panning base adjustment is very smooth. When slightly tight, it is not (this is common ball head panning base behavior).
The Arca-standard clamp is smartly designed, compact and attractive. The clamp lock is not a fast-thread design, but it locks very tightly. A spirit level protrudes behind the camera where it is readily visible.
A universal camera (or lens) plate with safety screws is included.
The KF-35P ball head is light, weighing only 13 oz (369g), and compact, measuring 3.9 x 2.2 x 3.4" (98.5 x 54.7 x 87.1mm) (WxDxH). The 1.9" (47.3mm) base diameter is a good match for the X324C4 tripod's top plate.
The X324C4 is a quality-built tripod model featuring great asthetics. The parts appear to be premium grade.
I find it difficult to match available tripod cases to my tripods, and K&F Concept erases this issue by including my favorite packing material, a padded case, in the box.
The case is ideally-sized for this tripod and the included ball head. The case has handles, a removable shoulder strap, and a small zippered interior pocket for storing small items like the wrenches.
The case is attractive and seems nicely constructed.
You've likely heard me say it before. Cheap, low-quality tripods are usually a waste of money and will leave you disillusioned about what a tripod can do for you. They will also dissuade you from using a tripod. On the other hand, using a high-quality tripod model has the potential to improve your image quality significantly, and such will be a pleasure to use and carry. Photographers that wished they would have purchased a lower-grade tripod model are rare (I have not met one), but many have regretted the purchase of a cheap model.
To state it succinctly, the K&F Concept X324C4 Multifunction Carbon Fiber Tripod with Ball Head is a great deal. The price would represent a good value without the ball head, but including the head makes this kit an especially great value.
K&F Concept provides a 1-year warranty.
Bringing you this site is my full-time job (typically 60-80 hours per week). Thus, I depend solely on the commissions received from you using the links on this site to make any purchase. I am grateful for your support! - Bryan