Induro Tripod and Kirk Ball Head - school
Brought to you by the photographers at SmugMug

Photos and review by Chris Skopec, SmugMug QA Tester. Thanks to our friends at BorrowLenses.com for supplying the gear for these reviews!


What did you rent?

I rented the Landscape Essentials Package for Canon, which includes a Kirk BH-1 heavy duty ballhead, Induro carbon fiber tripod legs and a Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L lens.

(Check out Chris' review of the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L lens!)


What did you like about the Induro tripod?

I won’t try to dazzle you with weight comparisons between these carbon fiber legs and my regular aluminum legs, there are more than enough reviews out there that will try to wow you by throwing numbers in your face. But I can say that I’ve always been a little jealous of folks who could secure their tripod to their camera bags leaving their hands free for a long hike. I’ve tried with my aluminum legs before and just found the extra weight on my back too uncomfortable. These carbon fiber legs were light enough that they could easily be carried attached to my camera bag for a long hike.

My regular tripod uses lever/flip locks for the legs. I have no real complaint with this style of leg lock but the ease of using the twist locks on these legs really impressed me. The twist locks are fast and easy to loosen, making it quick and easy to set up my tripod or adjust the height when a new composition caught my eye.

My “big adventure” with my rented gear was a trip to Yosemite National Park and the cold mountain air, so to keep my California fingers from freezing I wore gloves most of the day. I only admit that (knowing that plenty of folks in the Northeast will read it) so I can say that the twist locks were much easier to use than the lever locks on my regular tripod with gloved hands. I always go through a fair bit of fumbling with the lever locks when I have gloves on so it was a joy to not have to worry about that with the twist locks. So much so that my next tripod will have twist locks on the legs.

The center column lock is large and even easier to use with gloves on. I hardly ever use the center column on a tripod, so this isn’t a huge selling point for me, but a nice bonus.

In cold weather it was nice that the carbon fiber never got as cold as my aluminum tripod legs did, so they were more comfortable to handle bare handed.


Is there anything you didn't like about the tripod?

The height. I stand close to 6’4” tall so I need a large tripod in order to shoot comfortably. Fully extended, these legs top out at just under 4’2” tall without the center column raised. Of course, whatever head you use will add a few more inches to the overall height of the tripod but it’s still not enough for me look through the viewfinder without hunching over. This probably isn’t a problem for everyone, and I find it to be more of an inconvenience than a deal breaker, but in a perfect world I would have a taller tripod.

The leg angle locks weren’t the easiest to use with gloves on. In order to adjust the leg angle, you first need to pull up the locking mechanism the adjust the legs and push the locking mechanism back down to lock the angle in place. The locking mechanism is the full width of the leg and there are small tabs on the sides to help you grip it but they aren’t very large. While shooting in the cold, I was able to pull the mechanism up with some effort, but often found myself just taking my gloves off to adjust the tripod legs because I found taking at least one glove off, adjusting the angle of the tripod leg(s) and then putting my glove back on to be less of an effort than trying to work the lock with my gloves on.

Did you love it enough to want to buy your own Induro?

As for Induro’s carbon fiber legs, I  wouldn’t buy this exact model, but I see on their website that they do have taller varieties. I really liked the overall construction of these legs and the leg angle lock action wasn’t a deal breaker for me as I’m not often shooting in cold conditions. My next tripod will almost definitely be one of Induro’s taller carbon fiber models.


What did you like about the Kirk ball head?

This ball head was solid. With everything tightened down, I’m pretty sure this ball head could have held me up without drifting a fraction of an inch. (I didn’t try this, mind you, but I’m still 99% certain it wouldn’t have budged.) Even with only one of the two locking knobs tightened down my camera and lens never moved after I set it in place. Likewise, the Arca Swiss style quick release clamp held my camera securely to the head, enough so that I had no fear carrying the tripod around with my camera still attached (I know, I know… famous last words, right?).

Despite the solid hold, the movement of the ball was incredibly smooth once the appropriate knobs were loosened. The fluid movement of the head made composition adjustments from very fine, minor tweaks up to major, swinging 90 degrees an absolute breeze. Simply twist 2 knobs (or 1 if you’re occasionally lazy like me) and you have a full range of movement to recompose your image.

All of the knobs on this head were large enough and had enough grip on them that they were easy to use regardless of whether I had my gloves on or had frozen fingers.

What didn't you like about the Ball Head?

Of all the pieces of equipment I rented, the ball head was the most disappointing. And that isn't to say that it's not a great piece of equipment (it is) or that I didn't lack experience using one (I do). The root of my disappointment is that I've had "a ball head" written on my gear wish list for a long time now, so I had the highest expectations for it among all the gear I rented.

1) The first thing I noticed that irked me was the need for an Allen wrench to secure the quick release plate to my camera. Luckily I had one that fit in my toolbox but that's another piece of equipment that would need to go in my camera bag. Keep in mind that Allen wrenches (unless you have a large, bulky combo set) are small and could be easily lost in the field.

The shot on the right shows the difference between the Kirk QR plate (on the right) and the QR plate from my Manfroto tripod head (on the left) With thumbscrew on my Manfroto QR plate, I can attach or detach the plate as needed in the field without the need to carry a specialized tool in my bag.


2. This particular model was heavy (it was the heavy duty model after all) and nearly negated the benefit of having carbon fiber tripod legs. The head itself weighs almost 2 pounds, nearly even with the weight of the legs themselves. I don't have a need for such a heavy duty ball head so if/when I finally purchase one I can make do with a lighter duty model and rent this heavy duty one when the need for long, heavy glass arises.

3. Switching to vertically oriented images was a bit of a hassle. There’s only one notch on the head where you can place the ball so that you can frame a vertical image. It’s definitely a manageable problem, but if/when I buy a ball head, I’ll be sure to get an L bracket for my camera along with it.

4. The knob to release the quick release plate from the ball head is too similar to the other knobs on the tripod head. In the dark (with dead batteries in my flashlight and cell phone) it was nearly impossible tell the difference between the knobs by feel. In fact, I at one point did release my camera on accident when I really just wanted to adjust my composition.

5. The ball head’s biggest strength during the day became one of the most disappointing features on my last shot of the day. I needed to tilt my camera up slightly without moving it in any other direction, something that I could have easily handled with my basic pan and tilt style head due to its separate controls for the various axes of movement. However, with the ball head, as soon as you release tension on the ball, it’s free to move in any and all directions making a subtle adjustment in only one direction extremely difficult, if not downright impossible. I expected this and tried my absolute best to hold the camera steady once the tension was released. I thought I had done a really good job at that until I got home and realized that not only was I off a few degrees horizontally but I had also unknowingly zoomed in a few millimeters while trying to hold the camera steady.

I was able to overcome this with Photoshop, but I would have greatly prefered to have been able to cleanly capture the final exposure in camera rather than have to fudge it later in post.

Would you buy this ball head for your own use?

After working with the ball head, I can say that I probably, maybe definitely will buy a ball head in the future. It won’t be this exact model because I don’t need the heavy duty or the weight that comes with it. My reply is so non-committal because I really enjoyed using this style head for most of the day, but my last 2 points under “What I didn’t like about it” really stuck with me.

With a little more familiarity I doubt I would be releasing the QR plate again, but making a precise adjustment in just one directions is something I want to be able to do and I don’t feel like carrying around 2 tripod heads just to use one in only certain situations. So this is definitely a maybe, possibly purchase for me and I think it over a little more.


Who's Chris?

I’m just a guy that loves my job as a SmugMug QA Tester and loves to get out in nature to capture the beauty of it with a camera. (And the fact that my job also involves my hobby, just makes me love it even more.) As a photographer I would say that I’m daring and adventurous, in a “Let’s-take-thousands-of-photos-and-not-process-any-of-them” kind of way, because more often than not I would rather go out and capture more images than sit and process the ones I already have sitting on my hard drive.

I’m definitely not a gear guy. Of course I care about the quality of my equipment, but I’m not about to start paying attention to every minute detail of my equipment or every spec that most review sites throw at their readers. I care about my equipment being able to capture the scene and being able to represent the feeling I had while I was there. I’ve often found that I’m able to do that with the “budget” camera kit I own. 

Besides, I would much rather use perfectly good equipment instead of incredibly good equipment and put the money saved towards trips to great photographic locations. With the right light and location I was able to capture some great images with just a Canon XTi and an old Tamron 19-35mm wide angle lens my dad found on eBay for me. And to this day that camera/lens combo still dominates the images on my SmugMug site. So I definitely believe it’s best to be in the right location with camera gear you know how to use than to just buy the most shiniest, expensive equipment you can find.


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