While I do a fair amount of still photography, the majority of my client work is shooting video with my DSLR and mirrorless cameras. When buying tripods and heads I need to consider their functionality from both perspectives.
When I recently added a camera jib to my video equipment arsenal I started seriously considering a heavier capacity tripod and head. My current tripods, which are capacity rated to 17.6 lbs. (8.8 Kg), were falling a bit short in terms of providing the degree of stability that I need when shooting video. And, my existing fluid video head wasn’t quite able to provide the stability I needed when using my slider kit loaded with my D800 and a heavy FX lens. I also felt that a taller tripod would allow me to get the most out of my camera jib by capturing higher, more dramatic video scenes.
(NOTE: click on images to enlarge them)
I began looking for a good quality, cost effective solution for my needs and came upon the Oben CC-2491 Tripod and Oben BC-139 Ball Head Kit. The first thing that caught my eye was the load capacity rating on the kit components: both the CC-2491 tripod and BC-139 ball head are rated for 39.6 lbs (18 Kg). Since I’m a ‘solo shooter’, equipment size and weight are also important considerations for me when I buy gear. The CC-2491 tripod is made of 6x carbon fiber, and weighs in at only 4.1 lbs. (1.86 Kg). The 4-section legs are beefy enough to provide solid support and allow for a folded length of only 23.8 inches (60.5 cm). The Oben BC-139 ball head weighs 1.4 lbs. (0.6 Kg) and is 4.2 inches (10.6 cm) in height.
The supplied Oben TB-60 carrying case for the kit allows the ball head to be mounted to the tripod and still fit inside the padded bag. This is a welcome feature and saves me some set-up time when on site at a client shoot.
The tripod bag is made of ballistic nylon with a heavy-duty zipper and a detachable shoulder strap.
It features two carry handles that are stitched all the way around the bag. The overall construction is solid and I anticipate that the bag will provide many years of durable service. The padding in the Oben kit bag is about half as thick as in the Hakuba bags I use for my other gear, but given the contents for which it is designed, the amount of padding in the Oben bag appears sufficient. There is a zippered pocket on the inside of the bag to store the supplied hex keys or other items.
The Oben CC-2491 tripod features spring-loaded flip locks which are user adjustable. A clockwise rotation of the supplied hex key makes the locking action firmer. People who suffer from finger/thumb joint issues will find this useful as they’ll be able to adjust the amount of tension to suit their relative strength. Some care is needed to not over-loosen the flip locks to the point that they will not grip securely, especially with a heavy load on the tripod.
The centre column is grooved to prevent rotation and can be extended quickly by twisting a fastening knob.
This is easy to do as the knob has two large, textured wings that provide good torque and grip. There are three locking screws on the collar to help secure a tripod head more securely.
A rubber dampening ring is located underneath the centre column post. It does not look as robust as the one on my Manfrotto 055CXPRO3, but appears adequate for the job. On the positive side, if it ever did wear out it looks like it would be simple and inexpensive to replace with a standard, rubber O-ring.
The centre column is reversible which can help when shooting subjects close to the ground. To get even lower to the ground the centre column can be split into two sections by loosening a small Allen nut with the supplied key.
In this configuration the shorter column does not protrude below the cast aluminum alloy chassis so the legs of the tripod can be spread to their maximum to facilitate almost ground level shooting. Photographers who never extend the centre column of their tripods would likely just remove the lower section of the centre column to reduce weight and save time when shooting at extremely low angles.
To provide additional stability you can hang your camera bag or weights from the spring loaded hook on the underside of the centre column, or from the loop on the cast aluminum alloy chassis. The spring loaded hook also serves as a stopper for the centre column.
There is an easy-to-read bubble level on the top of the cast aluminum alloy chassis.
As you can see from the above photo, the Oben CC-2491 is a large tripod when compared to a Manfrotto 055CXPRO3 or a MeFOTO Convertible Travel Tripod. The Oben has a minimum height of 6.3” (16cm) and the maximum height without the centre column extended is 61.2” (155.4 cm). Taller photographers will appreciate the added shooting comfort that the Oben CC-2491 provides even in its centre column down position. With the centre column extended the tripod has a maximum height of 71.3” (181.1 cm).
For added flexibility the head attachment fitting is a reversible screw that accommodates both ¼”-20 and 3/8”-16 heads. This is easily switched over by rotating the top plate counter-clockwise and removing it.
Each of the three legs has push/pull tabs that allow independent adjustment at three different angles. This allows for shooting on uneven terrain or to shoot from low angles. The push/pull tabs are not as elegantly designed or quite as easy to use as the spring loaded tabs on my Manfrotto 055CXPRO3, but they do get the job done.
There are metal spikes on each leg that provide additional stability when shooting on softer ground. They can be covered up to avoid damage on interior floors by rotating the rubber feet in a clockwise motion.
Overall, I was very impressed with the construction and operation of the Oben CC-2491 carbon fiber tripod. I found that it did a great job with my camera jib and slider, and easily handled my D800 with any of my lenses.
I could even operate my jib with the centre column of the tripod partially extended for even more height and range of motion as you can see from the above photo of me filming a ‘work in progress’ I’m building in my back yard.
The Oben CC-2491 tripod has more than met my needs for a heavier load capacity tripod. It has enabled me to improve the quality of my video footage when I use my Nikon D800 and video gear like my Cinevate Atlas FLT 26” camera slider and Kessler Pocket Jib Traveler. Photographers using larger, heavy lenses like the Tamron 150-600 should be pleased with the level of support the Oben CC-2491 tripod provides.
I’m always looking for ways to extend the use of my gear when shooting video as unusual camera angles, and especially unique camera movements, can add a lot of production value to client video projects. When I first started considering the Oben BC-139 ball head I was intrigued with the idea of mounting my camera slider on this ball head and then being able to set my slider in wide range of unique angles. The big question was whether the Oben BC-139 would be sufficiently strong to hold my camera slider steady enough to get good video clips.
As you can see from the above photo my Cinevate Altas FLT 26” slider, Manfrotto 327RC2 pistol grip and Nikon D800 with lens were well supported by the Oben BC-139 ball head.
I did a number of tests with this configuration and by adjusting the legs on the Oben CC-2491 tripod I was even able to have my Cinevate FLT slider mount in a vertical orientation. I was able to get smooth camera movements in a variety of angles when using the Oben BC-139 ball head with my slider.
As a video shooter, having the capability to anchor my slider in a wide range of custom angles opens up a huge range of additional creativity. I now have the Arca-type QR-30 plate that comes with the Oben BC-139 ball head permanently mounted to my camera slider.
Photographers will appreciate the solid feel and smooth movement of the main locking knob. Another nice feature is the tension thumbscrew which enables the user to set the desired amount of tension for a specific camera/lens combination that they may be using with the Oben BC-139 ball head. The instructions on how to do this are well documented in the user’s guide.
The small, lower adjustment knob on the ball head controls 360-degree panning movement. The head operates very smoothly and degrees are clearly marked on the flanged base of the ball head to help facilitate panorama shooting.
Bubble levels are found on the top of the Arca-type mounting bracket
and also on the side of the bracket.
The Oben BC-139 comes with an Arca-type QR-30 plate. It features two safety screws on the bottom to help prevent your camera from accidentally being released when adjusting the plate fore and aft.
Overall, the Oben BC-139 ball head will be a welcome addition to any photographer’s kit. It operates very smoothly and locks into position without the hassles of having to reframe shots. I was impressed at its ability to handle the load and torque of my camera slider set-up. The Oben CC-2491 Tripod and Oben BC-139 Ball Head Kit represents great value. The components are well matched, easy-to-use, lightweight given their load capacity, and easy to transport in the supplied case. Any photographer looking for a higher load capacity tripod and head that provides a lot of flexibility should have a look at this kit.
As a reminder to our Canadian readers, you can get a special 5% discount when ordering Tamron or Rokinon lenses and other products directly from the Amplis Store.
Article and all images Copyright 2014, Thomas Stirr. All rights reserved. No use, reproduction or duplication including electronic is allowed without written consent.