Review of the Polaroid PLTRIC: A Beginner’s Budget Tripod Worth Considering

My philosophy on tripods is to spend the money first and get a tripod that you will love for a long time, but not everyone is willing to spend $300-$800 on a tripod.  I understand that because it took years of photography before I felt like I could justify an expensive tripod.  The one mistake I would avoid if at all possible is buying the $50 tripod that is too heavy, not sturdy or poorly made.  The difficult thing for many photographers is finding an option in that next category-cheap enough to not break the bank, but good enough to reliably assist you in making great images without hassle.

The Polaroid PLTRIC Carbon Fiber Tripod is an interesting tripod that fits right in that range of a comfortable balance between cost and quality.  Like any tripod in this range, there are some definite drawbacks.  The short version is this–The carbon fiber tripod legs are great: Light, but still stable and not too large.  The ball head leaves a lot to be desired, but at $139, you could not expect much more.

The Specifications

  • Maximum Height: 65 inches
  • Maximum Height without Column Extended: 52 inches
  • Minimum Height: 23 inches
  • Weight: 5 pounds (I believe this includes the ball head)
  • Advertised Load Capacity: 20.1 pounds
  • Folded Height: 24 inches
  • Tripod Legs: 4 sections, flip locks
  • Rubber feet with Metal Spikes
  • Articulating Ball Head
  • Single Bubble Level
  • Locking Center Column

The Ballhead

This is by far the weakest part of this set up.  The biggest downfall is that it is not arca swiss compatible.  The quick-release plate is a special design that is not going to fit with any other quick release plates you may have.  For me, this is a deal breaker as I like to have multiple quick release plates in the rare occasion I am not shooting with an L bracket.  Because you can't use an L bracket with this ball head, you have to shoot vertically the old awkward way of finding the right angle to drop the camera down in the one position it will go completely vertical.  I made it less than an afternoon trying to shoot panoramas like this before switching to a different ball head that allowed me to use my L bracket.  The levers on the head are quick and easy to use and the quality feels okay.

That is my opinion on the ball head, but I also have multiple ball heads that are more expensive than this whole set up.  I have an L bracket and other gear that makes me a lot more critical of these shortcomings than an entry photographer looking for a budget tripod.  I think back to my first tripod (actually my second, but my first was so bad I only used it once), and the ball head on this tripod is head and shoulders above the quality on the Dolica tripod I had.  The quick release plate is not a big deal if you only have one plate and don't use an L bracket.  This is where I suggest to look forward and plan for these things, but if you are looking for a tripod in this range, those are the limitations you are going to have to live with.

Portability

The portability on this tripod is adequate.  I would love if this folded down smaller like a travel tripod, but you would lose stability and ease of use if it did.  I found this tripod too big to carry comfortably with a small backpack like the Mindshift UltraLight that I initially used with this tripod.  If you are using a normal to larger size bag, you will be fine.  The legs are not reversible, but I would be surprised to find any tripod in this range that offered reversible legs.

Weight

The five-pound weight isn't ideal, but it is far from a deal breaker.  i have had lighter, but I have also had heavier.  Most of the weight is in the top of the tripod and ball head as the carbon fiber legs are quite light.  While lighter is always better, I think this tripod does a great job of balancing weight with stability.

Height

Again, I have tripods that go higher and some that don't go as high.  I had no issues with the height as I rarely extend a tripod the full height.  Part of that is because I like shooting lower and part of it is because I hate extending the leg columns.  Because this tripod has flip locks rather than twist locks, I did find myself extending the legs more often because it was so easy.

Stability

I was really happy with the stability of this tripod.  The carbon fiber legs are fairly thick and felt very solid.  I had no issues whatsoever.  At this price point and weight, I don't think you are going to find a tripod with greater stability.

Ease of Use

The tripod was really easy to use.  The flip locks and only having four leg sections made it really easy and quick to set up or take down the tripod.  The flip locks do concern me as I usually shy away from them due to fears of them breaking or becoming loose.  I would need a lot more time and use to determine whether that is a justified concern with this tripod.  I did sit and watch TV while opening and shutting the lock somewhat aggressively and did not notice any loosening or weakening of the lock at all.  The ball head worked as you would expect.  I found it annoying to shoot vertically, but a lot of that is because I am used to using an L Bracket.

Conclusion

You can currently get this tripod and ball head on Amazon for $139.  You are probably not going to find a better deal on a reliable carbon fiber tripod.  I really like the legs on this tripod.  They are very sturdy and easy to use.  I do have concerns with there being flip locks instead of twist locks, but if you are okay with flip locks, these appeared to perform very well.  I personally prefer my tripod to fold down a little smaller, but you are going to lose stability in this price range if you go smaller.

The ball head is the real concern I have with this set up.  I hate that they use a specialized quick release plate that limits the gear you can use with your camera.  The nice thing is you can always swap out the ball head when you reach a level where you are willing to invest a little more in a quality ball head.  With many budget options, the next step is switching out the legs and head, but I would feel pretty confident about sticking with these legs even if I wanted to upgrade the ball head.

My recommendation on tripods is almost always to spend more to get a really nice one, but I personally know that is just not feasible for most beginning or hobbyist photographers.  If you are looking in this price range at tripods with flip locks  and are okay with the quick release plate, then I think this could be a very nice set up that is going to be sturdy and easy to use.

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