Giottos MTL8261B tripod with VH6011-658D video/birding head
The MTL8261B is the middle model of a new range of three Giottos tripods aimed specifically at the birding market. Combining carbon fibre construction with a real value for money price, the 8261 looks good on paper; I married it up with the new VH6011-658D video/birding head assembly and took to the field with high expectations.
Attaching the head to the tripod’s centre column is easy – it screws on and is held securely in place by three screws, which are tightened using an Allen key. The latter comes as part of a kit, along with a spanner for adjusting the tightness of the angle of the leg sections where they meet at the top plate apex of the tripod.
There are three telescopic leg sections, which extend and retract smoothly, with the modicum of friction delivered by the carbon fibre just enough to ensure that the legs do not clatter out noisily. A grippable foam layer covers almost 40 per cent of the top leg section. The legs are locked quickly and easily by hardened plastic locking levers, the tension of which can be adjusted using the Allen key. A pull-out lever at the top of each leg allows the leg angles to be adjusted independently.
When the legs were fully extended I did not have to raise the aluminium centre column by more than 10 cm to achieve a comfortable viewing stance through a straight-bodied telescope, though even at full column extension there was no obvious deterioration in stability.
The head is manufactured from die-cast aluminium and features independent pan and tilt locks, pan handle, counterbalance spring and an adjustable sliding quick-release platform. The scope’s position can be varied on the plate, which has an integral sliding screw and video pin assembly, but a potential problem arises with the diameter of the video pin being too large for some scope models. This means there is the possibility that the scope can work loose, which it did when I attached both Pentax PF80 ED and Kowa TSN2 scopes. Giottos assured me that the system will accommodate ‘most popular scope brands’ and when they tested it with Leica, Zeiss and Swarovski they had no problems.
The head has a weight capacity of 4 kg (the legs will support up to 8 kg) and the sliding platform allows for the centre of gravity on a scope or digiscoping outfit to be adjusted to allow a more balanced pan and tilt movement. I discovered that the tilt was more ‘fluid’ than the pan, which offered just a tiny bit more turning resistance than I would have liked. This did not really detract from the overall user experience, however, and following birds in flight was easily accomplished. The sprung tilt mechanism returns the head plate to the horizontal position when not locked, helping to keep equipment in position.
I liked this tripod and head, which appear well made, very user friendly, light to carry and attractively priced. However, I would suggest that Giottos offers two video pin diameter sizes as standard, to overcome any issues with some scope models potentially working loose.
Price: tripod £160, head £65 (approx)