It is not surprising if you are not familiar with the Robus brand. Robus is new on the market and they are definitely making a mark in the tripod marketplace. The primary reason is because these tripods are hard-to-believe-nice-for-the-price. This is an impressive tripod at any price but really impressive for the price assigned to it.
At the very strong urging of my B&H rep, I agreed to accept the Robus RC-5570 with an honest review promised. My agreement was largely due to my rep's trustworthiness as this yet-unknown brand tripod was not priced high enough to be especially exciting. I was not expecting significant differentiation to be found at this price point. Based on what I discovered upon opening the box, I'm guessing that Robus was not worried about the "honest" part of this review.
Tripods come in all sizes, ranging from tiny tabletop models to super-tall models 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 of time. Strength and rigidity are often the balancing factor 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 offers, for the need.
The RC-5570 is one of four Vantage carbon fiber tripods initially released by Robus. Two are 3-series models, very solidly supporting anything in most photographer's kit and two are 5-series models, offering extremely rigid support to the biggest camera and lens combinations. Within each series are two height options with the 5-series models being taller than the respective 3-series model.
The 3-series tripod models are my typical primary-use tripod choice and the height options within the Robus 3-series are what I consider normal for this class. The 58.5" model is tall enough for most of my uses (I'm 6' / 1.8m), but I have more frequently been opting for the taller models. These add some height flexibility that is especially useful when shooting with the tripod legs positioned below my own or when shooting upward. Thus, I requested the Robus RC-5570 for my evaluation model.
Let's take a closer look at the Robus RC-5570 Vantage Carbon Fiber Tripod's measurements and specs.
|Specifications||Robus RC-5570 Vantage Carbon Fiber Tripod|
|Load Capacity||55 lb||(24.95 kg)|
|Max Height||70.1"||(178.1 cm)|
|Minimum Height||4.0"||(10.2 cm)|
|Folded Length||25.4"||(64.52 cm)|
|Weight||5.6 lb||(2.54 kg)|
|Measured Weight||5.5 lb||(2.49 kg)|
|Top Plate Diameter||2.93"||(7.44 cm)|
|Spider Max Width||4.96"||(125.9 cm)|
|Top Leg Section Diameter||1.278"||(32.4 mm)|
The load capacity rating of this tripod will comfortably satisfy all of my needs.
I talked in brief about the height of this model. The taller a tripod is, the more likely it will accommodate your eye-level height or even your eye-level height with one or more tripod legs positioned downhill below you. The latter is a frequent occurrence for outdoor photography as well as those shooting from stairways, etc. There are very few people that will find the RC-5570's height inadequate. This tripod has plenty of height for me (6'/1.8m) to comfortably shoot upward from a standing position. Remember that your tripod ball head and the camera/lens' tripod-mount-to-viewfinder height add significantly to the tripod's height during use.
While high is good, so is low. This tripod's 4" minimum height takes it to near ground level. This height has been ideal for some tabletop work I did with it.
A tripod's folded length is of primary concern for packing. A smaller retracted tripod, regardless of its maximum height capability, consumes less space. This means it is easier to fit into luggage and it does not protrude as far above a backpack. This isn't the shortest 3-series, 4-leg-section tripod ever made, but 25.4" (64.52 cm) is not bad, especially when the max height is considered.
All other aspects being equal, lighter is better. All other aspects are not always equal and a compromise is always being made to achieve the lightest weights. In relation to the best in this class, this tripod is carrying some extra weight.
The spider 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 spider 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 spider max width measurement. I'll save the full spider discussion for later, but this design seems ideal.
While the diameter of the top plate may hint at the strength of the tripod's spider, 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. This measurement is taken from the perimeter of the top-most portion of the top plate, the surface width available for contact with a head. The measurement reveals that the RC-5570's top plate is large enough to accommodate full size heads.
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 of course come heavily into play here. In general, you carry a tripod by the top leg section and very thick leg sections can become more difficult to control. The RC-5570's top leg sections are especially thin for this tripod's rating. The rubber grip surface on top of two legs adds some diameter, but they also facilitate control of the tripod.
Tripod manufacturers typically offer many different models and the model name often describes how the model fits into the family. The Robus RC-5570 Vantage Carbon Fiber Tripod model name breaks down simply as follows: The "R" stands for "Robus" and the "C" refers to "Carbon" (I'm guessing here). The "55" refers to the load capacity in lbs. and the "70" refers to the approximate maximum height in inches.
You will notice that some of the other Robus tripod models do not properly align with that naming convention. In an attempt to under promise and over deliver, some rating adjustments were made after these models were already in the supply chain. Look for future models to better align with the product naming convention described above.
Starting at the top of the tripod, we have a key part that is the basis for the rest of the tripod. In addition to "spider", this part is referred to as the "apex", "chassis", "main casting" (if appropriate for the model's construction), "spreader", "collar" and likely other terms. The spiders' size and strength are keys for the overall strength and rigidity of the tripod.
The Robus Vantage carbon fiber tripod spiders feature corrosion resistant, anodized CNC-machined aluminum construction. The design of the spider is excellent with very robust metal thickness encircling the top plate and transitioning into the leg axles. Triangular shaped metal extends over the top of the leg axles, providing excellent lateral rigidity. The relatively large width of this spider creates a very stable platform.
This is a split-spider design that clamps around the top plate, applying even pressure from all sides. A captive, spring-ratcheting thumb lock (disengaged without pressure applied) is provided for easy in-the-field removal of the top plate. A spring loaded metal safety pull latch ensures the top plate does not release unintentionally, even under pressure. On the third side of the head is a metal swivel loop for attaching a tripod strap.
The Robus RC-5570 Vantage Carbon Fiber Tripod has a slightly-recessed spirit/bubble level above one of the legs, useful for those times when a level tripod is important. Especially when using a ball head (usually my primary choice), the level of the tripod is often not important, but there are times when I need the tripod's top plate to be completely level. These times include when I'm using a gimbal head or want to create a panorama image using the ball head's panning base.
The smoothly-curved bottom of this spider helps make the RC-5570 a very comfortable-to-carry tripod.
Most tripods offer a solid top plate, a height-adjustable vertical/center column or the option of either with that last option of course 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. The huge disadvantage of a center column is significantly increased vibration experienced when the column is in a raised position, especially at full height where the difference in vibration dampening can be dramatic. Another disadvantage is that the tripod's minimum height is limited by the length of the center column, unless it is removeable.
The Robus RC-5570 Vantage Carbon Fiber Tripod comes with a solidly-designed machined aluminum top plate. The top plate is ventilated for weight reduction (and to look good) and has a tough thin plastic surface for the head interface. The tripod head mount screw is the standard 3/8"-16 thread size, ready to fit nearly all available appropriately-sized heads. A hook is provided under the top plate, useful for stabilizing the tripod via weight (such as your backpack) or even tying it down. I found the hook to be a bit large and opted to remove it.
Also included is a 75mm video bowl, adding to the value of this tripod.
At review time, the Robus height-adjustable center column was unavailable, but it showed up in B&H's inventory shortly before the review's publication. Other brands using the same center column standard will also likely work in this Robus spider.
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 that allows the tripod legs to open at various angles to accommodate whatever terrain you may encounter.
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 functionality. One of the primary tripod design observations to make is how strongly the leg angle locks transition into the stops provided on the spider. Is the stop a weak little tab that protrudes from the spider? Such a design invites failure and it must be considered that this failure may mean your camera and lens 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?
As you can see in the product image above, the Robus' angle lock design is excellent. The Robus RC-5570 Vantage Carbon Fiber Tripod's Tripod features substantially-sized, smoothly-tapered, CNC-machined aluminum leg cups with also-significantly-sized angle locks and stops that, when all are locked in place, provide a very high strength setup with weight being directly transferred straight into the legs. This is a smart design that is similar to what is commonly seen in high end tripod models. This design works great.
Most tripod models offer multiple stop angles and the specific angles made available are seldom a strong differentiator between models. The Robus Advantage tripods having locking leg angles of 25, 55, and 85° and non-locking angles can be used if conditions permit.
The Robus legs are not prevented from going well beyond their all-legs-folded position. While this is not an unusual design, I can't think of a case where folding the legs beyond the all-equally-folded angle is helpful.
A tripod differentiator is ratcheting locks that snap into the current angle lock position when direction is reversed from outward to inward. This model does not have those.
One more differentiator can be the angle locks' ease of use and carrying comfort. The Robus 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 easy to use from the inside.
Don't like the force required to spread the tripod's legs? Loosen or tighten the axle bolts with the included wrenches. Brass bushings keep leg angle movements very smooth.
Like the apex, the legs are of course a critical part of a tripod. One of the primary considerations for tripod legs is what they are constructed of with aluminum and carbon fiber being the two most-common options.
Carbon fiber models are typically lighter than equally-weight-rated aluminum models and a huge carbon fiber advantage is its ability to better dampen vibrations. Carbon fiber does not transfer heat as easily as aluminum and if using the tripod in cold temperatures, you will much-appreciate holding the carbon fiber model. Also for consideration is that carbon fiber is less susceptible to corrosion than aluminum – especially if used in/around salt water.
Aluminum's primary advantage in tripod form is low cost. Aluminum generally has a lower friction coefficient than carbon fiber, making it slide more easily for height adjustment. Aluminum dents and bends while carbon fiber breaks. Neither is good and the latter is less likely, but dented and/or bent may remain usable.
Most of my tripods are carbon fiber models.
Another important aspect to 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 and plus the chassis 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 give me a relatively-compact retracted size that is especially appreciated when traveling with a maximum height that works well for me. With quality-constructed tripod models, I don't find the stability of the thinner lower leg section to be an issue.
The Robus Advantage tripod legs feature 10x carbon fiber construction that looks great and the legs are smooth to extend and retract. The legs are very strong and quite rigid.
Two of the legs have a very nice quality firm rubber grip surface on the top section. I didn't notice much temperature advantage to the rubber grips when shooting in low temperatures, but they are grippier than the smooth carbon fiber leg and are an advantage in that regard.
Most tripods have multiple legs sections, allowing them to be set to various heights or retracted compactly. This means that leg section locks are needed and the first choice to be made is often between lever or flip-locks and twist locks. I've had both and much-prefer the twist locks.
However, not all twist locks are the same. I find those requiring a long rotation to release or lock to be annoying after becoming accustomed to the speed of short rotation locks. While some high end tripods have shorter rotation locks than those on this Robus, this model's 1/4 turn release is fast and feels quite good. The locks release nicely and the legs open very smoothly in them.
The grippy rubber-coated leg locks are slightly long and very comfortable to use.
Want to know how strong a tripod's leg locks are (at your own risk)? 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. Exceeding the weight limit of a tripod could break it, but quality leg locks will not retract under the pressure of my weight (170 lb / 77 kg) and the Robus RC-5570 Vantage Carbon Fiber Tripod's leg extension locks pass that test.
To further test the strength of a tripod, also testing the spider's strength, I fully extend the tripod legs, spread them to the first leg angle stop on a non-slippery surface and then 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). The legs showed slight bowing under this excessive weight load, but the Robus RC-5570 Vantage Carbon Fiber Tripod holds my weight and I am confident in loading expensive gear onto these legs.
Supporting my weight may seem like an excessive requirement, but I do sometimes rely on my tripod to hold me personally. While not all photographers get themselves into the situations I get into, those of us who do 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 Robus RC-5570 Vantage 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 and/or flex that exists. Also, with the tripod setup 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 Robus RC-5570 performed very well in this test, placing it among the best but not quite the absolute best.
It's only logical that legs have feet and the standard rubber feet typically arriving installed on most tripods are what I use most often. On the Robus, these firm feet are contoured for slightly increased surface area at each leg angle lock position and they are wide enough to hold the leg locks above a flat surface when the legs are fully-splayed. At least when new, these feet have notably good grip on the slippery surfaces I've used them on including an epoxy floor and a countertop.
Also included are solidly-constructed spikes and wide rubber feet to accommodate a wide variety of surfaces.
The rated and tested load capacities of this tripod far exceed what most photographers will need supported. But, being able to hold heavy weights doesn't always mean that it will hold those loads without vibration and vibration is often the enemy.
For their recommendations, Robus says "55 lbs. (24.9 kg)". Even if the common recommendation to use half of the rated weight is followed, the number is still far higher than my heaviest camera, lens and head combination.
To test the Robus RC-5570 Vantage tripod's ability to dampen vibrations, it was fully extended, tightly locked and a strong, tightly-locked ball head was mounted. A 600mm f/4 lens on a pro body was then mounted. To create vibrations, the camera was firmly tapped on the side with the view through the viewfinder then carefully observed. This tripod dissipated the vibrations in about 4-5 seconds for one of the best performances I've seen from a tripod at this height. Retracted modestly, that time dropped slightly to about 4 seconds. The Robus RC-5570 is easily really-big-lens-ready.
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.
For some of my Robus tripod use, I had a Oben BC-139 Ball Head mounted (shown in some product image in this review). This is a good value head that worked well. From a physical size standpoint, it seemed somewhat small in relation to the top plate and the Oben BC-166 Ball Head might be a better fit for that family of heads. While using the front-heavy Canon RF 28-70mm f/2L USM Lens, I moved to the excellent Really Right Stuff BH-55 Ball Head for a more solid setup. The Arca-Swiss Z1 Ball Head is another of my favorites and the UniqBall UBH 45X Ball Head would also be a good choice.
Overall build quality is what I expected to be sacrificed for this tripod to hit the price point it is selling at, but I still have not found what sacrifice has been made. Right out of the box, I was impressed by the look and feel of the Robus Vantage. The shape and texture of the design are quite modern and the overall quality seems very high even under close inspection.
In the past, I've found it difficult to find cases that ideally fit my tripods. Robus erases this issue by providing a nice padded nylon case in the box. The case is ideally-sized for this tripod and a 4" high head. The case has handles, a removable shoulder strap and a small zippered interior pocket for storing small items like the spiked feet.
Buying a cheap, low-quality tripod will usually be a mistake later regretted. For a variety of reasons, cheap tripods usually end up costing you more than a quality model in the long run.
While the Robus RC-5570 Vantage Carbon Fiber Tripod is not "cheap", it is very inexpensive compared to the models it is performing comparably to. Its overall quality and performance make it is a very impressive value. That a case, spiked feet and a video bowl are included in the box make it an even greater bargain.
Robus backs up their tripods with an impressive (limited) 10-yr warranty.
There are an incredible number of tripods available today and choosing the ultimate one has never been harder. Fortunately, the number of good options is increasing and this one can now be added to that count. Here is a table that includes some other excellent choices:
|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)|
The Really Right Stuff TVC-34L Mk2 Tripod is currently my primary choice and from a specification perspective, it aligns closely with the Robus RC-5570. So, I'll briefly compare these two models.
The RRS legs have a more-matte finish with a different pattern than the Robus and they extend slightly more smoothly, at least early in this Robus tripod's life (break in might negate that difference). The RRS has a more streamlined design around the leg cups and angle locks, making it slightly more comfortable to carry. The Robus top plate is tool-lessly removable and its spider appears to be a stronger design.
The RRS tripod's larger diameter legs have slightly better lateral strength. Significant is that the RRS weighs .9 lbs (.4 kg) less and also that the RRS leg locks release in about 1/8 of a rotation while the Robus requires 1/4 turn. The two tripods are similar in terms of vibration dampening under heavy load.
The price differential between these two tripods will be found dramatic by most. That the RRS video bowl, case and spikes are an additional cost adds to that equation.
The Robus RC-5570 Vantage Series 3 Carbon Fiber Tripod has the killer-combination of high quality, high functionality and low price.
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