In-depth review of the Leofoto Summit Series tripod and NB-40 ball head

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🇳🇱 For my Dutch version of this review, check out: DeGreef&Partner

Introduction

As I shoot a wide variety of subjects (including landscapes, cityscapes, forest photography and even macro photography) I have always been looking for a tripod that is suitable for all of these purposes. During my photography adventures, I regularly need to travel great distances, so I always look for ways to carry as little weight as possible. Therefore, of my main requirements was to find a tripod that is both lightweight and at the same time as sturdy as possible. Other requirements are ease of use and durability.

In my search for this ‘perfect’ tripod, I eventually came across a brand that is relatively unknown to me: Leofoto. After a bit of research, DeGreef&Partner offered me the chance to review the Summit Series LM-324C carbon tripod with the NB-40 ball head. They also provided me with the separately available DC-326C center column and the Summit Series 75mm Leveling base, which make the Summit Series tripod probably one of the most versatile tripods on the market.

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What I've Tested

During this review I received to following from DeGreef&Partner to review:

- Leofoto Summit Series LM-324C carbon tripod

- Leofoto DC-364C center column

- Leofoto Summit Series 75mm leveling base

- Leofoto NB-40 ball head


The LM-324C Summit Series tripod - First Impressions

This Leofoto tripod comes complete with a sturdy carrying bag and various accessories, including a removable center platform, video bowl, stainless steel spikes, Allen keys and a handy multi-tool. One thing you immediately notice when unboxing the tripod, is the extensive level of attention that has been paid to the appearance of the tripod. Thanks to its modern design and anodized finish, the tripod exudes quality. The entire tripod has been constructed with extreme precision and you notice this immediately as there is virtually no play between the various parts. Everything just feels right and solid.

Tech specs

- Maximum height of 145 cm (57.1")

- Minimum height of 9 cm (3.5")

- Three leg angles (23° / 56° / 87°)

- Four leg sections

- Folds to 53 cm (20.8") with 14 cm (5.5") diameter

- Weight 1.92 kg (4.23 lbs)  

- Load limit 30kg (66 lbs)

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Using the Summit Series Tripod in the field

The Leofoto LM-324C Summit Series tripod has a maximum working height of 1.45 meters (without ball head) and can be folded to a relatively compact 52 cm, which is small enough to attach it to the side of my camera bag. Thanks to the use of carbon of lightweight aluminum, this tripod also reasonably light, with a weight of only 1. 62 kilograms. But make no mistake, despite its size and weight, the tripod is a real powerhouse with a maximum load capacity of 30 kilograms and it’s extremely stable. I tested the tripod on multiple occasions in variable weather condition, but even during a storm with heavy winds, this tripod did not flinch and was completely vibration-free. At slow shutter speeds, I actually saw no motion blur in my images. The tripod was solid as a rock!

The legs of the tripod consist of 4 parts and are easy to adjust with one hand by means of the Twist-Lock system. These locks operate very smoothly and once properly tightened, the legs do not collapse. The tripod legs are attached to the center column by a high quality, semi-automatic mechanisms, by which you can easily adjust the angle of the legs (in fixed positions of 85, 55 and 23 degrees). The legs can also be spread almost entirely flat, achieving a minimum height (including ball head) of only 17 centimeters. This can be very useful when shooting from a low point of view and makes the tripod very suitable for macro photography. One minor inconvenience of this system is that the legs can go inwards too far when folding up the tripod. This problem is mostly solved when using the center column, but still a bit inconvenient nonetheless.

The central part of the tripod consists of an anodized aluminum  'hollow-out spider' design, which contains a removable center platform and a level. When you remove this center platform, you can still use the tripod with a separately available center column or leveling base.

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Going to great heights with the (optional) DC-364C Center Column

The Summit LM-324C does not come with a center column as standard. Even without a center column, the maximum working height is already 1.45 meters. Add the height of a ball head and the camera will already be at eye level for the majority of people. However, if you now want even more height, you can use the separately available DC-364C center column and reach a height of up to 1.82 meters (without ball head). Another advantage of this center column is that it can also be reversed, so that you can also work 'underneath' your tripod. Just like the tripod, the center column is made of carbon and also of the same quality and finish as the tripod. Even when fully extended, I found the center column to be very sturdy and it showed hardly any play when force was applied.

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Straightening my horizon with the Summit 75mm leveling base

As a landscape photographer I regularly shoot panoramic photos, something that has become a lot easier since I use the Summit Series tripod with leveling base. Whilst shooting panoramas, it is essential to set your tripod a 100% level. With a conventional tripod this can be a time consuming and frustrating process, as you often need to adjust the length of each leg several times until your tripod is completely level. Thanks to the Summit Series leveling base, however, this process has become so much simpler. In order to use the leveling base, you first need to switch out the removable center platform with the supplied video bowl. Next you can place the leveling base. Securing the leveling base into place is done by means of the rotary knob at the bottom and works very easily. After the knob has been tightened, the leveling base sets in place very strongly.

The Summit 75mm leveling base has a built-in level and can tilt 360 degrees to an angle of 15 degrees. This means you can quickly level your camera on most flat surfaces. However, if you are on a very steep slope, you might have to adjust one leg of your tripod first after which you can use the leveling base for final adjustment.

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NB-40 Ball Head

In addition to the tripod, I also tested the Leofoto NB-40 ball head. It has the same modern design and contemporary look thanks its anodized matte-black finish. The ball head comes with its own separate bag and a NP-50 Arca-swiss release plate. With a weight of 490 grams, the ball head is quite heavy, but in return it is also extremely solid and has a load capacity of no less than 25 kilograms. The NB-40 can be used on all tripods from Leofoto and on other brands with a 3/8-inch tripod screw.

Attaching your camera is very easy thanks to the Arca-Swiss quick-release mechanism. The ball head can also be used it with other Arca-Swiss compatible baseplates, meaning I could continue to use my current L-bracket. Positioning the camera at the right angle can be done with the ergonomic, large adjustment knobs. The main adjustment knob works smoothly and precise. This knob also has a tension setting knob, which has a nice ‘clicky’ mechanical feedback to accurately set the amount of friction. In addition, there is a second smaller knob to allow 360 degrees panning, which can be done very precisely thanks to laser-engraved scale. If you don't have an L-bracket, the notch on the side also allows you to quickly go from horizontal to vertical positioning.

The quick-release base itself, is equipped with a built-in spirit level and rotation mechanism, so that it can also rotate 360 degrees. The NB-40 thus has ‘double panning’ capabilities making it the ideal ball head for panoramic photography (especially when paired with the before mentioned leveling base).

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Durability & Maintenance

At the time of writing this review I have been using the Leofoto tripod for a little over a month and have subjected it to a variety of demanding conditions. I have used the tripod in the sands and salty seawater of the coastal areas in Zeeland, but also in the muddy pools of the Dutch forests. So although I have not used the tripod for very long, I have no doubts about its quality and durability. The tripod legs of this tripod consist of 10 layers of carbon and I do not expect them to damage easily. Leofoto has also used very durable materials for the other parts of the tripod. It is therefore not surprising that Leofoto offers a 10-year warranty on their products. As far as I'm concerned, this shows how confident Leofoto is of the durability and quality of their tripods.

Thanks to the design of the twistlocks, the inside of the legs remained free of dirt and the tripod can generally be cleaned using a simple, damp cleaning cloth. When extra cleaning is required (which I usually do after shooting in harsh conditions, especially when working in salt water), the tripod legs can be easily disassembled by unscrewing the twist locks. I find the best way to thoroughly clean them, is by rinsing the separate parts under the shower to remove sand, salt and mud. Next, it is a matter of drying the parts with a cloth and reassembling the legs. Thanks to the ease of this maintenance, your tripod will be ready for the next day in no time.

Update (October 2021): I have now used the Summit Series tripod for little over a year, and I can happily report it is still performing as the day I got it. The tripod is still sturdy as ever and everything works like it should. It hardly shows any signs of wear after being put through various demanding conditions. In conclusion, durability has been excellent!

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Conclusion – the perfect allrounder?

The Leofoto LM-324C tripod comes complete with several accessories and it is made of high-quality materials. Thanks to its high carrying capacity, you can easily use it to hold a full-frame camera with a heavy telephoto lens. The tripod will remain extremely stable even during the toughest conditions, allowing you to shoot vibration-free images, eliminating motion blur even at slow shutter speeds. In addition, the tripod is easy to set up and maintenance is also a piece of cake.

Thanks to the removable center platform, the LM-324C is also one of the most versatile tripods I've ever used. The platform can be easily replaced with either the optional DC-364 center column or the provided video bowl and optional 75mm leveling base, making the tripod the ideal companion for shooting panoramas and architectural photos. The tripod legs can be positioned virtually flat, allowing you to shoot from a very low point of view, which is ideal for macro photography (although the legs are quite long and can get in the way of your composition).

All this makes the tripod a real all-rounder and ensures that this tripod is extremely suitable for the all-round landscape photographer. Paired with the very solid NB-40 ball head, I have found myself a virtually ‘perfect; tripod to suit all my needs in my future photo adventures.

What I Liked:

- Very competitive price / quality ratio- High quality materials and excellent finishing

- Comes complete with carrying bag, half-bowl and spikes

- Very sturdy with great vibration resistance, even in extreme weather conditions

- High load capacity despite its light weight

- Easy maintenance  

- 10 year warranty

What can be improved:

- Tripod legs can tilt a bit too far inwards when folding up the tripod

- Middle column is not included as standard


This review was made possible by:

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