Prepare to be impressed. Privileged to use the best tripods available for decades, I still get the "Wow!" feeling when using the ProMediaGear TR424L Pro-Stix Carbon Fiber Tripod.
Do you appreciate no-compromise, high-quality USA precision CNC-machined camera accessories? If so, ProMediaGear should be on your favorite tripods, heads, and accessories brand list.
My first experience with ProMediaGear tripods was at the PhotoPlus Expo in New York City, where I was so impressed that I bought one for long-term evaluation. In the never-ending quest to find the ultimate tripod, this brand deserved a place on the very short list.
ProMediaGear's invitation to review the ProMediaGear TR424/TR424L Pro-Stix Carbon Fiber Tripod was divinely aligned with the expected arrival of the Canon RF 800mm F5.6 L IS and Canon RF 1200mm F8 L IS USM Lenses, two lens evaluations that require the rock-solid support the TR424 and TR424L tripods provide. This tripod will not be even slightly stressed by the size, weight, and magnification of these lenses.
Tripods come in all sizes, ranging from tiny table-top models to towering models such as the TR424L (Long) that require a step ladder when fully extended on a flat surface.
Along with a vast size differential, a large weight differential exists. You can carry the lightest tripod all day without fatigue, while the heaviest quickly become burdensome. Strength and rigidity are often the balancing factors between size and weight.
A heavy short tripod is likely to be 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 offers, for the need.
The ProMediaGear TR424 and TR424L are among the strongest, most rigid tripods made, and the TR424L is one of the tallest models available. Still, the weight penalty paid to gain these attributes is not big.
Let's look at the ProMediaGear TR424 and TR424L Pro-Stix Carbon Fiber Tripods' measurements and specs, followed by a related discussion.
|Load Capacity||125 lbs||(56.7 kg)||125 lbs||(56.7 kg)||60 lbs||(27.2 kg)||60 lbs||(27.2 kg)|
|Max Height||58"||(147.3 cm)||77"||(195.6 cm)||59.3"||(150 cm)||70.7"||(179 cm)|
|to 3rd Sec Ext||20"||(50.8 cm)||58.0"||(147.3 cm)|
|to 2nd Sec Ext||31.75"||(80.6 cm)||40.75"||(103.5 cm)|
|to 1st Sec||20.0"||(50.8 cm)||24.5"||(62.2 cm)|
|Minimum Height||6.0"||(15.2 cm)||6.7"||(17 cm)||3.80"||(9.70 cm)||3.80"||(9.70 cm)|
|Folded Length||21.25"||(53.98 cm)||26.3"||(66.8 cm)||20.80"||(53 cm)||23.80"||(60 cm)|
|Weight||5.9 lbs||(2.68 kg)||6.4 lbs||(2.9 kg)||4.0 lbs||(1.815 kg)||4.3 lbs||(1.950 kg)|
|Measured Weight||6.5 lbs||(2.95 kg)||4.5 lbs||(2.04 kg)|
|Top Plate Dia||3.362"||(85.4 cm)||3.362"||(85.4 cm)||2.736"||(6.95 cm)||2.736"||(6.95 cm)|
|Apex Max Wid||6.10"||(154.9 cm)||6.10"||(154.9 cm)||4.506"||(114.4 cm)||4.506"||(114.4 cm)|
|Top Leg Dia||1.656"||(42.0 cm)||1.656"||(42.0 cm)||1.349"||(3.42 cm)||1.349"||(3.42 cm)|
The 3-leg-section ProMediaGear TR423 is additionally available.
ProMediaGear's USA machine shop produces high-grade products worthy of strong confidence. While a much heavier than stated capacity load can be placed on most quality-rated tripods, the amount of vibration experienced can become too high. That point is often considerably lower than the load capacity, and 1/2 is a fraction commonly used. Don't underestimate the importance of vibration control, especially in the wind.
Even half of the ProMediaGear TR424 and TR424L Tripods' 125 lbs (56.7 kg) load rating will far exceed what most photographers expect to place on it. I'll provide more-specific gear capacity advice later in the review, but this tripod is extremely strong.
I watch a lot of photographers shooting from a bent-over forward body position — because their tripod does not extend high enough — not because the composition calls for the awkward camera height. The taller a tripod is, the more likely it will accommodate your eye-level height, even when one or more tripod foot is positioned below you. The latter is a frequent need for outdoor photography, for those shooting from stairways, etc. Photographing upward, such as the night sky, is considerably easier with a tripod that positions the camera overhead. Sometimes, the optimal composition requires the high camera position afforded by a tall tripod.
I'm (6'/1.8m), and the standard height TR424 (58" / 147.3 cm) is often adequate for me. However, Long "L" tripod versions are usually my preference, and the TR424L was the model selected for this review. I'll not likely use this tripod's full 77" (195.6 cm) height frequently. Still, legs heights set beyond those afforded by the standard height tripod are often encountered.
Remember that your tripod's head and the camera or lens's tripod-mount-to-viewfinder height add significantly to the tripod's height during use. Also, note that taller tripods will show slightly more vibration than shorter equivalents.
While high is good, so is low. Getting the camera low can be ideal for some compositions, including for table-top work. The ProMediaGear TR424 and TR424L tripods' 6" (15.2 cm) and 6.7" (17 cm) minimum heights (legs fully splayed) are not remarkably low, but most will find the available range adequate.
A tripod's folded length is of primary concern for packing. A smaller retracted tripod consumes less space regardless of its maximum height capability. This means it is easier to fit into luggage, and it does not protrude as far above a backpack. For their overall length, the TR424 and TR424L are especially short when folded, with the slightly narrow leg angle in the normal position partially responsible for this attribute.
Light weight is a desirable tripod attribute, and all other aspects being equal, lighter is better. However, all other aspects are not always the same, and a compromise is always made to achieve lighter weight. The farther and longer you carry a tripod, the more important light weight becomes. Weight does not matter much for studio-use tripods that are only carried around within a room, and a heavier tripod is less top-heavy, a concern when using heavy camera and lens combinations. Multi-day backpackers must think much differently, and those boarding aircraft must deal with luggage weight restrictions.
Though the TR424L tips the scales just slightly beyond the specified weight (to 6.5 lbs / 2.95 kg), this is still a very lightweight tripod for its size and strength.
The apex is a substantial part of the tripod, adding noticeably to the overall weight and width dimension. However, a larger apex is less able to flex, making the entire tripod more rigid.
The TR424 and TR424L share a large apex, but the design utilizes a triangular shape to maximize strength relative to size, and it has another advantage. This apex is relatively deep with a thick wall, increasing strength and rigidity without increasing the diameter.
While the diameter of the top plate may hint at the strength of the tripod's apex, it directly ties into the base size of the head being attached. This measurement is taken from the perimeter of the top-most portion of the top plate, showing the surface width available for contact with a head. A tripod head with a base that exceeds the top plate dimensions (or vice versa) can be used, but some width benefit (improved stability for example) will not be fully realized. This tripod top plate is wider than all of the ball heads I've used.
All other aspects being equal, larger diameter leg sections will provide greater stability and lower vibrations, though leg wall thickness and construction details are also important. A downside to thick leg sections is that they make a tripod more difficult to carry and control via the top leg section.
The TR424 and TR424L top leg sections have a significant 1.656" (42.0 cm) diameter. While they are not problematically wide, the legs are about as wide as comfortable to grasp with a medium-large hand.
Tripod manufacturers typically offer many different models, and tripod model names often incorporate meaning. The ProMediaGear TR424/TR424L Pro-Stix Carbon Fiber Tripod model name breaks down as follows: TR is for "Tr"ipod, 42 refers to 42mm leg diameter, 4 indicates four sections per leg, and the L in the TR424L refers to long.
The Apex is the foundation of a tripod, and the apex's size and strength are integral to the overall strength and rigidity of the tripod.
Adding to the above apex discussion started above, the ProMediaGear TR424 and TR424L Pro-Stix Carbon Fiber Tripods have a very solid one-piece, anodized, precision-machined aluminum apex with a modular top plate. The top plate is secured by a short rotation locking lever, with a split apex design permitting plate removal.
"The Truss Apex includes a safety lock button that won't allow the plate to prematurely fall out of the apex without depressing the release." [ProMediaGear]
With the top plate removed, the apex can accommodate a ProMediaGear TRBU75 Pro-Stix 75mm Half Ball Leveling Head or a ProMediaGear TRB3475 Pro-Stix 75mm Bowl Adapter.
My Cartoni Focus 10 Fluid Video Head's 100mm ball works fine in the 75mm adapter, though the ball seats a bit high.
The quick removal feature enables fast head swaps with multiple ProMediaGear TRP42 top plates (or TRBU75 leveling heads) in the kit.
Especially when using a ball-style head, the tripod's levelness is often not important. But, there are times when the tripod's top plate must be level. Examples include using a gimbal head or creating a panorama image using the ball head's panning base. For those times, the ProMediaGear TR424/TR424L Pro-Stix Carbon Fiber Tripod has a large, easy-to-read spirit (bubble) level built into the apex. Note that the leveling head does yet include a bubble level — the head's base is expected to feature this.
Perhaps not obviously important to you is the comfort of the tripod in the hand. Any sharp design features around the apex and top of the legs, a natural handholding location, meet not-well-padded parts of the hand when carried. Thus, a smoothly-design leg to chassis transition can make a big difference in the pleasure of using a tripod, and this tripod has one of the better designs available in this regard.
1/4"-20 (with anti-rotation holes) and 3/8"-16 threaded ports are provided on two sides of the apex (the locking lever consumes the third side), enabling a variety of accessories (arms, cameras, displays, phones, etc.) to be mounted on the sides of the tripod. The leg cups are so significant in size that a 1/4"-20 port (with anti-rotation holes) is provided on each side of each cup (six total).
I generally prefer all black tripods (and other photo accessories). Black is usually the easiest color to hide in a reflection, and it does not reflect color into an image. For those interested in a different look, ProMediaGear offers also-stylish red and silver apex options.
Overall, with its anodized finish and attractive machined design, this apex looks impressive and performs even more impressively.
Most tripods offer a solid top plate, a height-adjustable center column, or the option of either, with that last option offering the best of both worlds.
A rapid center column enables quick fine-tuning of camera height, and very high camera positions are enabled without impacting the tripod's fully-retracted length. The huge disadvantage of a raised center column is the significantly increased vibration, especially at full height, where the difference in vibration dampening is typically dramatic. Another disadvantage is that the tripod's minimum height is limited by the length of the center column, unless the column is removable or reversible. Also, a center column typically adds weight and cost to the tripod.
The ProMediaGear TR42C Pro-Stix Center Column optionally provides height versatility (and an additional 15" / 38 cm of height). This column's 42mm Carbon Fiber construction promises the best-available performance.
The top plate's tripod head mount screw is the common 3/8"-16 thread standard.
The strong machined hook provided under the top plate (and on the optional center column) is ideal for hanging stabilizing weight (ensure that the hanging weight does not also move in the wind).
Unless you are only going to use the tripod on a completely flat surface, typically a floor, you want a tripod model with independent leg spread, and most tripods feature such. Models having independent leg spread feature angle stops around the leg pivot axles, and this seemingly basic design feature plays an important role in the tripod's performance.
When reviewing a tripod design, an important observation to make is the leg angle lock transition into the angle stops provided on the apex. Is the stop a weak little tab that protrudes from the chassis? That design invites failure, and it must be considered that this failure may mean your camera and lens hitting the ground.
Also, does the supported weight distribution go straight through the apex into the leg through the leg cups? Or is a vibration-inviting angle design used?
The ProMediaGear TR424 and TR424L Pro-Stix Tripods' angle stops, ideally integrated into the apex, were obviously designed from a strength perspective. The stops are solid, and a thick section of apex directly resists any leg pressure.
The leg angle locks are also solid, made of machined aluminum. Both sides of the locks are curved for comfort and functionality, assuring a finger does not slip from position when making adjustments. In addition, the exterior of the locks is grooved. The angle locks slide within a machined groove in the leg cups.
The ProMediaGear TR424 and TR424L Tripods feature large, smoothly-tapered, CNC-machined aluminum leg cups.
ProMediaGear tripod leg angle stops lock at 22.5°, 50°, and 84°. Most tripod models offer multiple stop angles, and the specific angles made available are seldom a strong differentiator between models. However, in comparison, others brands offer slightly wider 24°, 55°, and 90° angle stops.
The ProMediaGear legs set at slightly narrower angles create a taller tripod relative to the retracted size. ProMediaGear tripods are also slightly lighter and more rigid relative to their extended height. The only downside to the narrower leg angle set feature is that the tripod becomes very slightly easier to tip over.
Another leg angle lock differentiator is a ratcheting feature that snaps the angle locks into the locked position when the leg angle direction is reversed from outward to inward. This tripod omits that feature. While I like the ratcheting designs, that feature adds complication from a tear-down perspective.
The force required to open and close the leg angles is adjustable via a convenient hex key wrench magnetically held under the top plate. Nice is that only a single wrench is required to adjust a leg axle vs. two for some tripod designs. Brass bushings keep leg angle movements very smooth.
The legs are another basic but critical component of a tripod. A primary consideration is leg construction material, 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; its primary advantage is 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, a dented or bent tripod may remain usable.
Carbon fiber is my nearly-exclusive choice.
Another important aspect of tripod selection is leg section length and 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 tripod's maximum height. 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, so they generally cost modestly more. Increasing the number of leg sections also increases the setup and take-down time slightly. 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 ideally. With quality-constructed tripod models, especially this one, I don't find the stability of the thinner lower leg section to be an issue.
The TR424 and TR424L tripods feature 10x layer woven carbon fiber for ideal strength and rigidity while maintaining light weight. These leg sections look and feel great, just as you would expect for a high-end tripod.
The TR424 and TR424L leg sections smoothly slide through the leg locks, with gravity imparting extension. The latter attribute saves the time and effort required to manually pull each leg section out, though there is a loud "clack" if a section reaches its limit at full gravity speed.
The legs fold slightly past their proper fully folded position.
Most tripods have multiple leg sections, allowing them to be set up at various heights or retracted compactly. This means that leg section locks are required, frequently used, and differentiating between models.
The first choice is often between lever or flip locks and twist locks. I've used both and 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 slowly 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 fast can be very important. 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 tripod height, instead analyzing the scene and selecting the right camera height from a compositional perspective. Hopefully, you also vary that height while working a composition.
When retracted, all three of the ProMediaGear TR424/TR424L Pro-Stix Carbon Fiber Tripod's legs extension locks on each leg can be simultaneously grasped and twisted only about 1/8th of a turn to loosen the leg sections for fast setup.
If not using the tripod at full height, conventional wisdom says that the lowest legs should be the most retracted as they are the thinnest. Quality tripods, including this one, have strong 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 often hold the tripod head at the desired height and extend the legs in lowest-first sequence until I have the tripod secured at the desired height.
While lever locks can be adjusted to hold solidly against leg section retraction, that often means a very tight lever and a very loud snap upon tightening (wildlife photographers and those shooting in quiet venues take note). Quality twist locks hold very tightly with only a moderately-strong, silent twist.
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 out), pull straight down, gradually increasing pressure until significant weight is applied. Note that exceeding the weight limit of a tripod could break it (I do so at my own risk), but the highest quality leg locks will not retract under the pressure of my weight (170 lb / 77 kg). The ProMediaGear TR424/TR424L Pro-Stix Carbon Fiber Tripod's leg extension locks make the grade, solidly holding my full weight.
To further test a tripod's strength, also testing the apex's strength, I fully extend the tripod legs, spread them to the first stop, and then hang from the apex. Again, exceeding the weight limit risks breaking the tripod (and there is a chance that I will hit the ground fast if that happens). However, the ProMediaGear TR424/TR424L Pro-Stix Carbon Fiber Tripod solidly holds my weight, even when swinging from the tripod with the feet on a slippery epoxy floor. This tripod is impressively strong.
Supporting my weight may seem like an excessive requirement, but it tells part of the story — I often rely on my tripod to hold me personally. While not all photographers frequently go off trail, some of us rely on tripod legs to support ourselves while navigating steep trails, narrow ledges, stream banks, large rocks, and other difficult terrain especially need strong gear. Even pole-vaulting small streams happens on occasion.
Also 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 produced today support this feature, and the ProMediaGear TR424/TR424L Pro-Stix 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. 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. This tripod shows little flex, and very few tripods dissipate vibration faster than this one.
Unique among similar-grade tripods is that this one forgoes rubber over-molded leg locks for a machined aluminum design. I inquired about this design decision, and ProMediaGear responsed that they were a machine shop, not a rubber over-mold shop. There is much to be said about keeping production in-house, including for quality control and supply reasons.
I'm still weighing the advantages and disadvantages of the metal locks, but the large anodized aluminum locks look great, and they are very strong (as are the matching aluminum threads provided on the leg sections). In terms of comfort, rubber is softer in the hand and transfers heat less rapidly. Rubber is also less likely to scratch when contacting rocks and similar, including when leg locks are positioned near ground level on a tripod setup. However, lower-quality rubber coatings sometimes roll up or tear. Personal preference will play strongly into the preference for this feature.
O-rings are provided on the leg section threads, helping keep water and debris out of the threads and leg tubes.
At the bottom of the tripod are the parts we logically call "feet". The TR424 and TR424L tripods' strong rubber-molded feet are ideally shaped. The feet retain ground contact even when the legs are fully splayed.
Significant threads lock the feet into the legs.
Conveniently contained within the feet are gasketed, reversible hardened stainless steel spikes. Unscrew the feet, unscrew the spikes from their retracted position, attach them in their outward position, and thread the feet back into the lower leg section to deal with slippery surfaces.
When the spikes are reversed, they fill most of the gap in the bottom of the feet. I expected dirt in the threads of the remaining gap to be a problem, but this has been a non-issue.
ProMediaGear TR424 and TR424L tripods come with a good quality locking-drawstring dust case. This case is often all that is needed to avoid dust and scratches.
For padded protection, consider the optional padded ProMediaGear Tripod Bag.
As discussed earlier, the load capacity of this tripod is high enough to support nearly any camera and lens, and reassuring is that it easily holds me. But, being able to hold large weights doesn't directly translate to holding loads without vibration, and vibration cannot always be tolerated. In regards to vibration dampening, this tripod performs exceptionally well.
Under this load, the fully extended TR424L tripod dissipated vibrations from a strong tap on the side of the camera in about five seconds. While this is not the shortest time I've recorded, longer tripods will show more vibration than shorter ones, and the fully extended TR424L is crazy high — I needed an over-2' (.7 m) step ladder just to reach the viewfinder.
With the top leg sections fully retracted, the vibrations dissipated in about two seconds, surpassing all tripods I've used (equaling the Cartoni L507 Carbon Fiber Tripod and Cartoni Focus 10 Fluid Video Head combination).
With all leg sections fully retracted, the vibrations dissipated in only one second.
This tripod is remarkably solid, even for long focal length video capture under a fluid head.
I've not seen ProMediaGear accused of sacrificing build and design qualities for economic reasons, and the ProMediaGear TR424 and TR424L Pro-Stix Carbon Fiber Tripods reflect expectations in that regard. This is a high-quality piece of kit that features the best available materials and construction.
I'll keep repeating the high-quality tripod advice. Cheap, low-quality tripods are (usually) a waste of money. They will leave you disillusioned with what a tripod can do for you and dissuade you from using one.
Your time is valuable, and researching the purchase of a tripod costs you in that regard. The cost of a tripod failing, either mechanical failure or failure to function at a satisfactory level, can be far higher. This failure results in having to invest in research time again. Of course, paying for a replacement tripod is similarly inefficient.
Buy right the first time, and spend your time photographing (and enjoying the gear you are working with). Using a high-quality tripod model will potentially improve your image quality.
I do not recall talking to a single photographer who wished they would have purchased a lower-grade tripod model, but I regularly meet those with regrets.
No one will mistake the price of ProMediaGear tripods with one of the cheap options. However, quality has a cost, and the quality price must be paid upfront. The good news is that this tripod should last a very long time, and its value will be appreciated every time it is used.
ProMediaGear offers a limited 5-yr warranty on the TR424 and TR424L, and this tripod will likely last a lifetime for most.
Stuff happens and getting a tripod back into service quickly can be very important. ProMediaGear's customer service has been especially great to work with.
The TR424L review tripod was provided by ProMediaGear.
The right tripod head can make a huge difference in your experience and your results. Do not let your head be the limiting factor to a good support setup.
This tripod was tested using the Really Right Stuff BH-55 Ball Head. I have not (yet) had the chance to use the ProMediaGear heads, but the ProMediaGear Katana and Katana Jr are sitting on my desk in the review queue.
|RRS TVC-34 / TFC-34 Mk2||3||4||58.5"||(148.6)||3.8"||(9.7)||21.1"||(53.6)||4.40||(2.00)||50||(22.7)|
|RRS TVC-34L / TFC-34L Mk2||3||4||68.8"||(174.8)||4.0"||(10.2)||24.4"||(62.0)||4.70||(2.13)||50||(22.7)|
As I began this review, the Canon RF 800mm F5.6 L IS USM and Canon RF 1200mm F8 L IS USM Lenses were expected to arrive soon, and they would require a rock-solid tripod for evaluation. The ProMediaGear TR424L Pro-Stix Carbon Fiber Tripod was my choice for wringing the best performance from these lenses.
The ProMediaGear TR424 and TR424L Tripod are not compact or lightweight models, but they are compact and lightweight relative to their performance and capabilities. This tripod is the strongest and most-rigid model I've used, ready for your largest gear, heavy winds, and other tough photography conditions.
ProMediaGear cut no corners on the TR424/TR424L Pro-Stix Tripod from design and construction perspectives. Most metal parts are machined, including the leg section locks, which have a very short rotation and quickly lock tightly. The TR424 and TR424L tripods are aesthetically attractive, making you look good in the boardroom or at a high altitude on a mountain pass.
When no-compromise support is needed, even for the largest and heaviest setups, the ProMediaGear TR424/TR424L Pro-Stix Carbon Fiber Tripod is the perfect solution.
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