Review Feisol CT-3301 Carbon Fibre Tripod Initial Review

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Gordon
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Maker/Provider: Feisol

Product: CT-3301 Carbon Fibre, 3 Section Tripod

Price:£ 187 (Rapid Version) direct from FeisolUK.

Overall Rating: 10 /10

Overall Summary: Brilliant.

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Detailed Review

Hi all, I tried posting this in the "Reviews" forum but I had insufficient privilages. Hope it's not a trouble posting it here?


I love writing reviews of stuff so apologies it's so long. Hopefully it's comprehensive enough without drivel!

Ok, so I used to have a Slik Pro 340DX Tripod with Giottos MH1302 head & MH631 Large Plate. I sold it on fleabay after it sat for over 2 years whilst I was on Photographic hiatus. As is the way, as soon as I sold it I decided I wanted to get back in to photography. The Slik was carried most places with me and it was a good tripod. However it was short, and the legs were thin. In order to get any height I had to extend the centre column up - this caused a lot of flex. I did love the foam covered legs and build quality was excellent.

So when researching for my new tripod I looked for a few key things:

  • Standard height without column had to be big. I'm 6ft tall and I don't want any slouching in the field. I also liked the idea of not having a big protruding column upon which my camera was perched. Plus, without the centre column extended I'd have more stability.
  • A maximum of 3 sections. Again for rigidity and stability. I do a lot of munro walking and didn't fancy a 4 section tripod that I needed to extend each time I stopped. 2 locks per leg, bish bash bosh.
  • No gimmicks. The less features, the less potential breakage. 3 legs and a platform would be lovely.
  • Carbon Fibre if my budget stretched.
  • Quality of construction and finish
  • Warranty of more than 1 year.
  • Future proof.
  • Within £200 for legs only, head if possible.

Right, off to google we go with a nice, geeky spreadsheet at the ready.... I have spent the past week trawling every review I could cram in to my eyes trying to get myself up to speed with what was on the market, what was good, what wasn't so good etc. I came back with a shortlist that included the FotoPro MGC-684 (£179.99), the smaller FotoPro MGC-584 (159.95) both carbon fibre and both 4 section. The FotoPro C5i (£119.95) but again 4 section and aluminium in construction.

The Giottos MTL8261B (£189.00) which looked great and was 3 sections was one of the serious contenders. Good height, if a WEE bit short, but it won a few round-robins and despite being officially discontinued, was still available. However, it had clippy legs and the centre column needed to be extended to get to full height.

The 2nd of the serious contenders was the Giottos YTL9213 (£129) and was the sure thing until I decided the weight was just too much of a compromise. Once the head on top and camera on top of that...it'd be teetering around the 5/6kg mark. But thick legs, SUPERB height and very slim when folded - all good for the avid munro walker. I would have loved to get the carbon version, the YTL8213 but its £319.

Then I stumbled upon Feisol. Who? Feisol seemed to be a relatively unknown compared to Giottos, Gitso, Slik et al. However their "Standard Tripod" range looked brilliant, carbon fibre legs, within budget price. 3 Legs and a platform! The tournament and elite looked even nicer! But price went vastly upwards with those ones...

Decisions!



So what did the Feisol have that the others didn't? Well looking at the list of wanted key features, for a start it's carbon fibre, and light at that - tipping the scales at a claimed 1.18kg on the website (although the box states 1.4kg. However the box is wrong. Tell you later). That's really really light! The Giottos YTL8213 carbon fibre is 1.6kg!

It's also just 3 legs and a platform, which is absolutely perfect, especially given the fully extended height of 1345mm. Again the website stats are a bit wonky and the box even more so. Anyway, with my chosen ball head on top, this would sit my gripped D7000 at a perfect height to not be slouching! The lack of bulky plastic or metal castings made it even more inciting. I hate big cumbersome things.

The legs are 3 section, twisty (G-Clamp?) legs with a foam covering to all 3 legs. I opted for the "Rapid" version at a £20 premium over the non-Rapid version. What this gives me is the ability to unlock both legs simultaneously and slide the legs out to extended position and lock them off. Same in reverse, both locks loosened, slide shut, both clamps tightened. Most of this can be done with one hand at the same time. The non-rapid version had to be sequential, 1 at a time; unlock, slide, clamp. I chose to not have this additional wait whilst I extended my tripod, whether it's worth £20 is up to you.



In terms of future proofing, the centre column aficionados need not worry, as the middle section of the platform removes with the loosening of 3 grub screws around the circumference. This allows the drop in of a centre column at a price of £38.49 delivered!! Not a lot of money for a carbon fibre column that would offer a big of height extension!! I can't see me opting to get this...maybe if I am going to do macro or find that I am not getting the height I desire in special scenarios (if I have to splay the legs out to get stability). At least it's not a £100 optional accessory, which really makes me happy and a decision to get it wouldn't be a nail-biter. Why can't everyone follow this approach? I mean 40 notes for that is not crazy is it?

Finally the warranty for a Feisol is 3 years, servicing direct from FeisolUK (Not sent internationally for repair) and apparently a very keen customer satisfaction approach. All sitting very much in the positive box for me. Add to that the price and blimey charley where's my credit card?
 
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gordonfraser
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Gordon
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In Use

This is an initial review to get initial thoughts out there before I use it in the field. However it's a total cinch to set up, extending legs is effortless with the rapid versions, one hand can undo both leg locks and then extending them out is simple. Quick half to full turn to lock off and we're ready to rock. Stability is unbelievable compared to what I'm used to. No movement at all when pressure put on the platform, and I exerted quite a force down and the legs stayed straight, didn't twist or bend at all.


Build Quality


The quality of construction is flawless. In a few of the many many reviews I discovered that some people had a bit of an issue with the higher grade Tournament Feisol tripods in that the leg/spider joint would come unstuck, and in doing so revealed the lack of overlap between leg and spider cast. It was a minority issue and one that a bit of Araldite or a return to Feisol sorted no hassle, but it was a worry. It is with hand clapping delight I can report that the CT-3301 doesn't have this issue, and there is a generous overlap with the carbon legs seated quite far in to the spider case and thus a more bullet-proof join. The legs are finished to a lovely matte gloss with the glistening carbon weave below. It's a shame the carbon weave is not twisted up the leg like the Giottos tripods but who cares. The legs when extended and retracted make a whistling noise which apparently is a sign of quality only found on high end tripods....sounds good, feels good, plays good.


Strengths

Well let's be honest, the price of this is the main strength. For little under £200 you are getting a tripod of such quality that it feels almost like I've got away with a binger on Feisol's part. The quality of the tripod is second to none. Everything is simple, clean, maintainable and robust. The castings are all high-quality, the foam used thick, the leg clamps are rubber coated metal, not plastic....it's all there for the price of the lower end Giottos or Manfrotto equivalent.

The weight. The height. The bag hook on the centre plate. The leg locking mechanisms. The whistle from retracting the legs. The future proofing. The price. The minor cost for centre column accessory...It all adds up to a massively strong package.

There's no gimmicks at all. The legs have 3 levels of splay, to where you can have the tripod almost lying flat on the floor albeit 100mm off it. I think the closed/folded size may be an issue for people looking for a really portable tripod. It's 600mm when closed, which could prevent people from getting it in a hand-bag or back pocket. But for me, strapping it to my rucksack or slinging it over my shoulder, it's a perfect length.



Weaknesses

There's one main weakness I've found, and it's the only weakness I can even begin to find. I opted for the additional "Long Spikes" for snow/mud/grass that I will encounter up the munros, and I wouldn't mind a bit of long-spikage, especially when it could come in handy for arrestment if I find myself sliding down a snowy slope with only a tripod in my hand...However the method of attachment seems a bit...daft. In order to get the metal spikes on (with the supplied wrench!) I need to remove the rubber bungs on the ends of the legs. But these are fairly well jammed on and Feisol state on their website :

"Remove the rubber end cap on the end of legs by using a wood stick or similar object to gently prise between the rubber cap / aluminum ring and push forward and around the ring to remove the rubber cap."



It seems a bit silly to not just have say a hollow rubber cap with a rubber or plastic bung that you can remove easily and screw in the metal spike, and visa versa. Once I have the metal spike on it's not a simple task to get them off and rubber back on...I may have to find a way to drill out the rubber caps in order to make screwing the metal spikes on a more simple task.

Anyway, it's just a small pip on an otherwise flawless tripod. By the way - note the individual sealed parcels for each long-spike....beautiful!



Now Feisol...what are you doing with your figures? The UK Feisol website states for the CT-3301 a max height of 139cm, a folded length of 60cm, a minimum height of 21cm and a weight of 1.28kg. Don't even attempt the Feisol.com website...it says the CT-3301 has 4 sections...

On the box...well you can see for yourself!

I guess it's all just marketing at the end of the day. I mean what's 1cm between friends? 4.5cm is a bit more of an issue though if you are on the edge of acceptable height. But it's quite obvious now just how unclear it could be for someone quickly looking over stats. I could see me quickly scanning the figures and seeing a height of 139cm and thinking good. Or I could see 127cm and think oh, that's a bit short....in reality its not a deal breaker but for a quick glance it could quickly give people the wrong impression.


In reality the height is 134.5cm fully extended to top of platform without centre column. I don't know how light it is as I don't have scales capable. Feisol need to get themselves together with literature and propagate it across their dealer/distribution network so that people can get a consistent report of their products. It's too easy to discount a product because a figure doesn't exceed a set benchmark...if you get me?


PHEW!!

So I guess for now I'll cap the review there. I have a Cullmann Magnesit MB-6.1 on the way from Amazon, which arrives tomorrow. I'll do a similar review of that when it arrives because I spent just as much time choosing that as I did choosing this! It is similarly minimalist looking, very simple and very straightforward. Not too many gimmicks and a hefty weight rating. The only thing left to get is an adapter plate, but I'm limited to Arca Swiss compatible as I have a Herringbone leather grip with an Arca plate. I may just modify another plate if I can't find one I like though. I think this will be one simple, non-gimmicky, great looking tripod setup!


There you go. I hope this has been informative for people looking for a new tripod, or people wondering about Feisol. I am so so delighted with my tripod.

Comments, questions or criticisms welcome.
 
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gordonfraser
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Gordon
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#8
Just a wee update - I decided to try the long spikes to see just how difficult a process it was, and it wasn't. I locked off the smallest section and with a little bit of a push, the rubber end cap was removed. This revealed another metal cap with a threaded hole on the end, on to which the long spikes screw in to. With a little tighten using the supplied wrench they sit securely on the ends.

It might just be me, but I think these look bad-ass.



 
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Anthony
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They do indeed look cool mate, looks like a very good tripod indeed. I had unto now been looking at 3LT but am also considering these now as well.
 
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nigel
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#10
Many thanks for the review. Could you please let us know if you are still happy with the Feisol ? Also, when making your original decision, did you consider any of their four section models (which would fit inside a rucsac) ? finally, can you describe how you attach your tripod to (i presume) your rucsac when climbing Munros ? Cheers.
 
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