The Vanguard VEO 265CB + BBH-200 Ballhead Review
Vanguard VEO 265CB Tripod and Vanguard BBH-200 Ballhead
Vanguard VEO 265CB Carbon Fiber Tripod
I can't believe it has been so long since I have written a product review! I think maybe it has been a long time since I've gotten a product I enjoyed enough to take time out from my schedule to write a review. :) But before I start I have to mention that this tripod and ballhead were sent to me by Vanguard to review. So keep that in mind. Although I will admit right now that the fact it was sent to me has had no bearing on my feelings about this setup.
With an astrophotography workshop in Arizona coming up I decided it was time to start looking at some different option for travel tripods. I had been using the MeFoto tripods for a while now and while they are good, they are not great. I was in the market for something lighter, something compact, and of course, something that was easy to set up and adjust.
The VEO 265CB was just the thing I needed.
Let's talk about some of the things that the Vanguard VEO does that in my mind make it a great choice for not only the travelling photographer, but for ANYONE looking to invest in a great tripod. And notice I said invest. A good tripod is an investment, one whose dividends are paid in clear photos and the ability to enjoy shooting without fumbling with a clumsy tripod.
The way the Vanguard folds up is through a unique swiveling mechanism that keeps the legs oriented in the downward position all the time. What this means is that instead of folding out three legs to set up (like you do on almost all tripods) you instead swivel the center column into position to set up. Thus removing a few extra, and I think, unnecessary steps. Check out the photo below for a little more clarification of how this works.
The VEO 265CB uses clamp style leg locks which I used to not be a fan of. But after using them on the VEO I realize what it takes to make them successful. . On an aluminum tripod with clamping leg locks the clamps are often made of plastic, and that is fine. But plastic expands and contracts at a different rate than aluminum does. So what ends up happening is that the aluminum legs may contract in cold weather, causing the clamps to loosen ever so slightly. And that is all it takes for a leg to collapse and drop your camera. I have had a close call in the past because of this. But Vanguard has chosen to use the clamping style leg locks on this tripod knowing that carbon fiber and plastic share similar physical properties in regards to expansion and contraction. So while using this in the mountains of Flagstaff in freezing temperatures, and then warmer temperatures in Sedona, I NEVER ONCE had the clamps loosen or become too tight.
Another thing I'd like to mention, which may sound like nothing of note to some, is the choice of material Vanguard chose for the grip pad on the tripod leg. Almost all tripods have one leg which features a padded grip of some sort. Most have a foam grip, and that is alright. Not great, just alright. But foam gets waterlogged, and when wet gets slippery. Yes...I HAVE lost control of a wet tripod thanks to a slick pad. You can get a little careless when running from a thunderstorm and you are getting soaked with rain. Vanguard has opted for a grip material and design that is well, let's just say, a bit "sportier". The grip design AND material seems to be the same sort used on golf clubs. This may seem odd if you have never golfed, but for those of us who have, we totally get it. This material remains grippy even when wet. And as a bonus it is also thinner than the foam used on most tripods. Oh, and it looks awesome ;)
While hiking around the Grand Canyon and Sedona there were a few places I wanted to shoot a low perspective shot, and putting the VEO 265CB into a low stance was easy. Vanguard makes adjusting the leg angle simple by the using a big plunger button versus a flip up latch like some other brands. If you look at the collage photo above you will see the big easy to find and use plunger button in the lower right image. And when it comes to getting down low for the shot, the VEO can get you right down to the ground.
The shot above shows the VEO and my Olympus E-M5 MkII in action making this shot.
This wraps up the tripod portion of the review, and I will leave you with one last shot of the beautiful carbon fiber legs. Light, strong, and gorgeous.
Vanguard BBH-200 Ballhead
I can honestly say that until I started using the BBH-200, I had NEVER received compliments or been asked questions about my ballhead. But when you look at this design, it is easy to see why it intrigues people. While at the Grand Canyon I had a tourist come up and tell me,"man that is a cool tripod! The part the camera sits on looks high tech!." Haha...Pretty cool if I do say so myself. But aside from the "wow factor" this ballhead has the performance to match its looks.
When it comes to ballhead design you would think that there is nothing to change or improve upon other than how well it will hold your gear steady, but Vanguard thought there was more to be improved. The most notable thing (again, aside from the "open" design concept) they did was add this head centering locking mechanism. See the image below and note the orange slide.
This slide lock feature makes it easy to get the head centered in the upright position and secure enough to not have to lock the camera down with the tension knob you see to the left in the image above. At first I didn't get it, but then I realized how many times I subconsciously centered the camera up, then twisted down the tension knob to secure the camera while I got into my bag, or tied my boots, or made a phone call. Then I would have to loosen the knob to get back to shooting. The more simple solution is to flip the locking switch to the right, move the head up to center and that is it. The other benefit of this locking system is that it brings your camera to the level position quickly. Just move the camera to the upright position with the switch engaged, and it will "lock" into a leveled centered position. From there just tighten the tension knob to secure. If this is a little tough to follow make sure you subscribe to me on Youtube as I will be doing a video review of this set up. It may help clarify some of these more intricate features.
If you look at the image above you will notice the silicone bumper under the ballhead (very bottom of image) which will help to absorb some of the impact of having the center column drop down to the legs if you forget to tighten the center column tensioner. I've done this on lesser tripods in the past and it is a scary thing!
The plate system on the BBH-200 will accommodate a variety of plates from Vanguard as well as ArcaSwiss plates. The plate system also has not one, but two bubble levels. This might seem like no big deal, but when you flip the head into portrait orientation it sure is nice to have a level to use in that orientation. The provided plate from Vanguard, as well as several other no name plates I bought on Amazon take advantage of the locking pin on this head. Not visible in the photo above, is a pin that sticks up and engages the ArcaSwiss plate to prevent your camera from sliding off the head if you don't have the plate clamped all the way down.
There is only one other lever on the head and that locks the panning motion. When not engaged the head pans in a firm but smooth motion. It reminds me of panning a fluid head. I was able to get several sweeping panoramic video shots at the Grand Canyon using this head. While I am sure it is not the same as a high end fluid head designed for professional video, I think this will more than suffice for 90% of us out there who shoot video from time to time.
I think this should about wrap up my review of both the Vanguard VEO 265CB tripod and the Vanguard BBH-200 ballhead. Both of which are beyond capable of delivering the support and flexibility you need when out shooting in any conditions. And all these features come in a form factor that makes travelling with them a breeze. So if you are in the market for a GOOD tripod, I think you should give the VEO line and BBH line a serious look. And as I mentioned above, subscribe to me on Youtube to see a video review in the coming weeks. That review will be a video which covers how the system has held up over time.
Thanks for reading and I hope to see you out shooting soon!