With great thanks to Opticron, I have been trying out the Opticron XFS-C Traveller 4-sec Tripod with a Manfrotto 700RC2 head setup. I must admit I was a little taken back when the box arrived since it was huge but once opened everything was neatly packed up safe. The tripod has a retail price of £150, and the panhead has a retail price of £86.95.
Once out of the boxes, I had a good look over both pieces and being my usual self I was a little wary that there were a lot of knobs on the panhead! I usually go for the simple look of things since I often get in a pickle trying to remember which knob I need to turn when following a bird. The tripod itself was extremely light! Perfect weight for me since I use a scopac on my scope so I have arms to climb over gates and use my camera when out birding and surveying, I assembled the two pieces together and it still remained light enough to carry on my back.
The first proper outing where I put the scope to the test was a visit to Kenfig NNR in South Wales. The weather was nice so a day to just get used to the setup and carrying the scope over dunes to see how practical the setup was. To release the legs you twist around the stoppers and pull out the leg, it did take some time to get used to twisting to the right amount instead of twisting all the way and the piece falling out! It’s a simple twist to the left to release and the leg piece slides out, the height of the legs is just a little short for me but there is a central pole which gives a great deal of height so a few inches of that provides the ideal height for me. I’m 5″8 and using the tripod itself brings the eyepiece up to my neck/chin, doing WeBS counts where you spend a good few hours hunched over a scope at that height would be sore after a while, so the extra height from the central pole is perfect.
I really wanted to put the scope to the test and the perfect time turned out to be during my WeBS count for November! It was a classic Welsh weather day- windy; so was perfect to try out the stability of the tripod at its full height, despite being extremely light it didn’t shake or fall over at all. I have a weatherproof case to protect the scope and haven’t actually gotten it soaked before, just as I thought this, it poured it down! The scope didn’t fog up as previous ones have done nor did it get moisture inside. I could continue with my WeBS count knowing the scope, tripod and headpiece were able to cope. The only thing that I find difficult but can be sorted easily is the piece to move the scope, it’s rather long, for sitting down on a bench for seawatching it’s ideal but for standing up you have to adjust it quite often depending on the way you are standing. There is a knob for this and you can turn it to wherever you want and tighten it, I just find altering the 360° panhead as well as the tilt on the scope is enough to do, you only have to alter it depending on the height and person, after a lot of adjusting I have found a position that suits me for standing up.
For the price of the head and the tripod I found it ideal! The head moves so smoothly with no jumping or skipping areas like you get with some heads which makes it perfect for WeBS or cetacean surveying off a headland as well as seawatching. It gives you a lot of options to make the setup personal to you which is a big plus, although the amount of knobs look daunting you only have to alter two for each time you use it, the rest are there for you to personalise the setup and only have to be adjusted every now-and-then.
I am more than happy with the setup and can’t wait to take it out more!