Leofoto Ranger Series LS-365C – First Look…

I’ve just bought myself a late Christmas present – the Leofoto Ranger Series LS-365C tripod

I’ve had my Sirui N2204 now for over seven (7) years and it was getting a little worse for wear

It was and still is quite a good tripod. However through many years of heavy use and some neglect it’s not what it once was. The leg locks were no longer smooth and reliable as they once were. However more importantly the little lever things at the top of each leg which allow you to ratchet and angle the legs up was basically unusable. It also had one other design flaw. The rubber feet which are supposed to allow you to deploy the twist-out metal spikes. Essentially the rubber ring would decay and gum up almost immediately through normal use and would stop working. After a few months you could no longer deploy the spikes at all

My shooting buddy Gerry convinced me of the merits of moving over to a new up and coming tripod brand. He also recently made the switch from his Sirui N2204 (which he actively disliked) to a Leofoto. In his case he moved to a custom Leofoto Armor Series LN-284CT. The customisations to his model involved extra long leg sections which significantly raised the maximum height of the tripod. This is very necessary for someone like Gerry who is ridiculously tall :). Essentially these customisations made the tripod roughly the same height as the Sirui when extended. That is roughly 135cm (without extending the centre column) – compared to say the standard LN-284CT at 125cm

I (like many photographers I expect) have a couple essential criteria for choosing my tripod legs. This is based on actual usability over many years travelling and in the field. Looking at things I actually use and need day in, day out

Maximum height without extending a centre column
– you want a tripod so that when raised with the camera on the ballhead it can reach your standing (eye) height. You do not want to be constantly bending over and holding uncomfortable positions to look through the viewfinder
– in my case for my height – 135cm from the ground to the top of the plate where the ballhead sits is about the minimum. My Really Right Stuff BH-40 PCLR adds another 64mm on top of that. Then the L bracket and camera sits on top of that
– basically you don’t want to have to extend a centre column. This is because the camera becomes significantly less stable. You’ve bought and are using a tripod for it’s stability – why compromise that

Stability
– essentially if it’s not stable what is the point
– this normally just comes down to things like the thickness of the leg sections, whether there is a centre column or not and how long it is, stability of the central yoke where the legs join (where the centre column goes through) and the head sits, the number of leg sections, and the materials used (e.g. aluminium vs carbon fibre)

Compactness when folded
– this just makes it easier to carry and travel with – the shorter it is the easier it is to carry on the camera backpack, in a backpack or in any luggage
– my Sirui was 53cm folded (plus the ballhead on top of that) – yes it can be reverse folded down to 46cm but I never did that. Too time consuming and cumbersome to do it out in the field. Plus my leg angle lever releases no longer worked anyway

Weight
– if it’s too heavy you won’t want to carry it – the Sirui was extremely light for it’s size at 1.5kg
– you generally have to compromise weight vs things like size, stability, height and cost

With my Sirui I always had the included short centre column on my tripod. This meant I would never extend the tripod to additional height (as it only allowed perhaps a cm or two of extension). It also permitted me to drop the height of the tripod to very low levels (in the case of the Sirui down to 17cm). I’ve used this low height shooting position on many occasions. It’s another feature I desire – something you can’t easily do with a long centre column (as it gets in the way when you splay the legs out)

So I looked at all the Leofoto options and only a couple even came close to meeting most of my requirements

Gerry’s custom LN-284CT would have been an option with an (optional) short centre column for me. Unfortunately it was a one off never to be repeated special 🙁

The next model up – the LN-324CT went to 134cm, with thicker leg sections but was a hefty 2.1kg and 60cm folded

Besides looking at the Armor series I also looked at various Hiker and Mountain series models and the Ranger series. Most were either too short or too heavy (or both)

In the end after reviewing many models I opted to go for a systematic style tripod (no centre column at all)

The Leofoto Ranger Series LS-365C gives me just about everything I wanted

It’s massive 152cm height when extended far surpasses my existing Sirui (by 17cm!) – in fact at maximum height the camera can be well above my head. Useful for those few times when I really needed a really high tripod – e.g. when shooting over something high (like a wall) or on very sloped ground

With very large leg sections (36/32/28/25/22mm) it’s actually much beefier than my Sirui (with 28/25/22/19mm sections). It’s actually beefier than I wanted or needed. I would have been happy with a next model down (e.g. something like 32/28/25/22/19mm (LS-265C)) but alas no such model exists

One major compromise here is that it is a 5 leg section tripod. Unlike my Sirui or most other competing options which have four leg sections

Typically 5 section tripods are reserved for very light and spindly travel tripods. I also have one of those in the MeFOTO C1350 Roadtrip. It has very tiny thin legs and is extremely compact folded but extends quite high and weighs just 1.4kg. But this dramatically compromises stability. I’m hoping the massively oversized leg sections of the LS-365C will make up for any 5 leg section stability issues. It certainly seems to – it appears rock solid when fully extended

The Leofoto’s also have larger oversized twist leg locks, much more robust than on the Sirui. This also likely adds to the overall stability of the tripod

With no centre column at all and the 5 leg sections it’s very compact when folded. Just 48cm (which is (5cm) less than my Sirui). It also allows the tripod to drop down incredibly low with the legs spayed out wide – a tiny 8cm which also bests my old Sirui (by 9cm)

One area where I did have to compromise was weight – it’s 1.77kg which is a little heavier than my old Sirui (by almost 280g). But it’s much less than some of the other competing options at around 2.5kg. Hopefully it’s enhancements in almost every other facet will make up for this. Only time will tell

I’ll report back with a full review when I’ve have a much better chance to use it for an extended time