Robus brings very high-quality gear to the market at very attractive prices, and the Robus RC-8860 does not veer from this strategy.
At the continued urging of my B&H rep, I agreed to accept a Robus RC-8860 with an honest review promised. When I first used a Robus product, I was not expecting significant differentiation to be found at the mid-tier price point. Based on what I discovered upon opening that box, I was certain Robus was not worried about the "honest" part of the review requirement.
The Robus RC-8860 is a 5-series tripod model, ready for your strongest, most-rigid needs, including wildlife photography.
As I've said many times before, 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 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.
The RC-8860 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, my 3-series preference is the Robus RC-5570 model.
In the 5-series options, the 80.5" (204.5 cm) RC-8880 seemed excessive for my height needs. The height of the RC-8860 was quite adequate, and this model was my choice.
Let's take a closer look at the Robus RC-8860 Vantage Carbon Fiber Tripod's measurements and specs.
|Specifications||Robus RC-8860 Vantage Carbon Fiber Tripod|
|Load Capacity||77 lb||(34.93 kg)|
|Max Height||63.8"||(162.1 cm)|
|Minimum Height||4.0"||(10.2 cm)|
|Folded Length||24.5"||(62.23 cm)|
|Weight||6.3 lb||(2.86 kg)|
|Measured Weight||5.95 lb||(2.70 kg)|
|Top Plate Diameter||2.94"||(74.7 cm)|
|Spider Max Width||5.68"||(144.3 cm)|
|Top Leg Section Diameter||1.42"||(36 mm)|
The load capacity rating of this tripod will comfortably satisfy practically all needs of all photographers.
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 photographers as well as those shooting from stairways, etc. There are very few people that will find the RC-8860's height inadequate. This tripod has plenty of height for me (6'/1.8m) to shoot upward comfortably from a standing position, and I needed a step ladder to test full height level camera use. 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 is ideal for tabletop work.
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. The RC-8860's 24.5" (62.23 cm) retracted length is very manageable.
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 tripods in its weight capacity class, the RC-8860 is relatively light, and my scales measured under the spec weight (helping slightly was that the hook was removed).
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-8860's top plate is large enough to easily accommodate full size heads.
All other aspects being equal, larger diameter leg sections will provide greater stability and fewer 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-8860'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 this also facilitates 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-8860 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 "88" refers to the load capacity in lbs. Right, that number doesn't match. 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. The "60" refers to the very-approximate maximum height in inches.
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 "apex", this part is referred to as the "spider", "chassis", "main casting" (if appropriate for the model's construction), "spreader", "collar", and likely other terms. The spiders' size and strength are keys to 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 tripod's design features a split-apex 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-8860 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 essential. Especially when using a ball head (usually my primary choice), a level tripod is often un-necessary. Still, 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-8860 comfortable to carry.
Most tripods offer a solid top plate, a height-adjustable vertical/center column, or the option of either with that last option offering the best of both worlds.
With a rapid center column, camera height can quickly be 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 the 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 removable.
The Robus RC-8860 Vantage Carbon Fiber Tripod comes with a solidly-designed machined aluminum top plate. The top plate is ventilated for weight reduction (and for style) 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 versatility of this tripod, and the Robus height-adjustable center column is optionally available.
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 essential 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 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 Robus' angle lock design is excellent. The Robus RC-8860 Vantage Carbon Fiber Tripod's Tripod features substantially-sized, smoothly-contoured, 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 design is smart and similar to what is commonly seen in other high-end tripod models.
Most tripod models offer multiple stop angles, and the specific angles made available are seldom a strong differentiator between models. The Robus Advantage tripods have 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 equally 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. Better would have been to stop the legs in the perfectly folded position.
A tripod differentiating feature is ratcheting locks that snap into the current angle lock position when the direction is reversed from outward to inward. This model does not have those. If you have ever tried to re-assemble a ratcheting lock, you know that sometimes simplicity is an advantage.
Another differentiator is 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 the width 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 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 dampen vibrations more rapidly. Carbon fiber does not transfer heat as quickly as aluminum, and if using the tripod in cold temperatures, you will more appreciate holding the carbon fiber model.
Aluminum's primary advantage in tripod form is low cost. Aluminum generally has a lower friction coefficient than carbon fiber, making the legs 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 or bent legs may remain usable.
All of my full-height tripods are carbon fiber models.
Another important aspect of tripod selection is leg section length combined with the number of sections per leg. Roughly, the number of leg sections times the length of the sections (minus some overlap, plus the chassis height, plus influence from the leg angle set) determines the maximum height of the tripod. 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 extend smoothly. 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 a nice advantage in that regard.
Most tripods have multiple leg sections, allowing them to be set to various heights or retracted compactly. 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 model, the under-1/4 turn release is fast and feels quite good. The locks release nicely, and the legs open very smoothly in them. Initially, the lowest lock on one leg was tighter than the rest, but the difference has become slight with use.
The grippy rubber-coated leg locks are slightly long and rather thick, but they are comfortable to use. The rubber on the top leg locks slips upon being tightened a certain amount. While disconcerting, this effect seems to have no impact.
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 a 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-8860 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 easily managed this excessive weight load, including me bouncing my weight.
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-8860 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 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 Robus RC-8860 performed very well in this test, placing it among the best tripods I've tested.
The leg locks do not feature O-ring seals.
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 a 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 a notably good grip on the slippery surfaces I've used them on, including an epoxy floor and a countertop.
Also included are two valuable alternative feet, solidly-constructed spikes and wide rubber feet, able to accommodate a wide variety of surfaces.
The rated and tested load capacities of this tripod far exceed what most photographers will need to support. 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, "77 lb (34.93 kg)". Even if the common recommendation to use half of the rated weight is followed, the number is still substantially higher than my heaviest camera, lens, and head combination.
To test the Robus RC-8860 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 body was then mounted. The camera was firmly tapped on the side with the view through the viewfinder then carefully observed. This fully-extended tripod dissipated the vibrations in just over 4 seconds for one of the best performances I've seen from a tripod at this height. With the tripod retracted, the time dropped to only 0.5 seconds. The Robus RC-8860 is easily capable of handling your biggest lenses.
The right tripod head can make a significant difference in your experience with a tripod and in your results. Do not let your head be the limiting factor.
A full-sized head will match best with the RC-8860. Those using a large, collared lens should consider a gimbal head such as the Wimberley WH-200-S Sidemount Head or the Really Right Stuff PG-02 Pano-Gimbal Head.
The Oben BC-166 Ball Head would be a good low-budget choice. The Really Right Stuff BH-55 Ball Head is as good as it gets. 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 the Robus tripods to hit their price points, but I have yet to find a significant deficiency. Right out of the box, I've been impressed by the look and feel of the Robus Vantage tripods. The designs are 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 an up-to 4.5" (11.4 cm) 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-8860 Vantage Carbon Fiber Tripod is not "cheap", it is very inexpensive relative 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 a massive number of tripods available today, and choosing the best tripod for your needs 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)|
On a recent photo trip, the RC-8860 spent many hours mostly submerged in the Chesapeake Bay. This tripod worked perfectly for supporting a 600mm f/4 lens and pro camera body.
Once again, a Robus tripod – the Robus RC-8860 Vantage Series 5 Carbon Fiber Tripod, in this case – has the killer-combination of high quality, high functionality, and low price.
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