A good tripod is stable, robust and carries a heavy load without sagging. Hähnel’s Triad 90PG fulfils all the criteria but after a week of intensive usage I still have mixed feelings.
A tripod is a commodity, right? Well, not always. A video tripod worth the name might cost you more than a prosumer video camera — some Millers and Sachtlers cost in excess of 4,000.00 Euros. Calling these tripods commodities only goes if you just won Euromillions. Some manufacturers make an effort to offer decent quality for a decent price. Manfrotto has an extremely broad range of equipment that won’t break the bank, but as many photographers and video shooters will tell you, their tripods offer average quality.
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Price (approx.): €127.50
Leaves us with vendors like Hähnel who compete at the lower end of the market. At about €127.50 for the 90PG, you really can’t go wrong, and so I was curious and got one to put to the test.
The Triad Triad 90PG is made from aluminium alloy and takes on 7kg of weight. The tripod’s own weight surprised me: it’s a feather compared to my old Manfrotto 055CLB. The three tripod legs or “sticks” have a telescopic system that reminds me of Gitzo’s system. The handles to fix the sticks in position are rubberised. In their default setup, the sticks open up at a slightly smaller angle than the Manfrotto. However, you can increase the angle to almost ground level by sliding out a lock on each stick — this way you can have three levels in all.
The Triad 90PG cones with a centre column of about 40 cm. A second aluminium column with screw threads is delivered in a side pocket of the soft nylon tripod case. That one is only about 15 cm long and enables near-ground level photography, which is useful for macro photography. The feet have spikes, which you reveal by screwing in the rubberised feet.
The head is a pistol grip head. It’s the first time that I used such a head, so I was curious to its performance and robustness. The head has a nice degree of motion freedom. It comes with its own quick release plate.
I tested the maximum load using first my trusted Sony Alpha 700 with Zeiss lens and vertical grip with two batteries loaded. This makes for about 3 kilos of weight. The tripod nor the head were impressed.
I then took the Glidetrack that I still have from its review, loaded it with a Ninja with two large batteries and the video camera. This weighed in at just under 7 kilos, the Triad 90PG’s max weight. It didn’t feel wobbly or maxed out at all, but when I moved the Glidetrack from dead centre, the head gave way — I consider this normal, given the weight was at its maximum and the Glidetrack served as a lever. No bad marks here, either.
I decided it was time to exchange the long centre column for the short one. And that’s where it went wrong. The centre column came out but I needed to pull really hard and the plastic ring that apparently serves to keep the column’s notch from turning around broke loose. Luckily, the ring didn’t break and it was easy to glue it back in place. It did give me an in-sight in the materials underneath, and I was relieved to find only metal.
The second thing that still makes me have mixed feelings, is the sticky lubricating stuff used on the angle locking mechanism. Whenever you come close to them — and you can’t avoid coming close — your fingers touch that greasy substance. Instead of just being greasy, however, it really sticks. That’s a negative mark because I hate making my equipment dirty when it’s not absolutely necessary.
The extension locks are fine and they work well. The head proved to be good too. It has a spirit bubble so it’s easy to level. Its vertical freedom is limited, but there’s certainly enough freedom for every sort of photography. The horizontal freedom is unlimited. The part of the head that takes the QR-plate can rotate 360 degrees around its axis and does so with a fluid feel to it.
However, a second negative mark for me is the QR-plate itself is proprietary. It’s not an Arca-style plate and it also isn’t compatible with Hähnel’s own ball head. That makes it impossible to freely exchange tripods for gliders or other plate accepting contraptions.