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Thread: Slik Pro 400DX Tripod - User Review

  1. #1

    Default Slik Pro 400DX Tripod - User Review

    Hello fellow Csers! I finally got some time on my hands, and after finding out just how useful this sub-forum turned out to be, I got inspired and decided to write a couple of reviews too, in hope that others may find it useful.

    1. About the Author
    The author handled his first dSLR in 2002, and considers himself to be fairly knowledgeable in various aspects in photography. He has handled photographic assignments for various clients, including publicly listed firms and MNCs, and, to his incredible fortune and thanks to the guidance from various people he is grateful for, also won a few national level photographic accolades. He ceased full-time operations in photography in 2008 to concentrate on his other interests. However, he continues to pursue photography as a hobby.

    2. About the Tripod
    This tripod was purchased in 2006 by the author, then a not-too-rich undergraduate. The tripod has been used fairly often from 2006 to Jan 2013, where it was retired by the author. Here are some basic statistics of the tripod:

    • Construction Material: Aluminum
    • Folded Length: 650mm
    • Maximum Height: 1,550mm
    • Minimum Height: 330mm
    • Maximum Center Column Extension: 280mm
    • Total Weight: 2,520g
    • Weight (Head only): 520g
    • Number of Leg Sections: 3 (Held by 2 quick-release clips)


    3. First Thoughts on the Tripod
    This occurred more than 6 years ago, so I am certain that I cannot recall every thought that went through my head in verbatim, but here is to the best of my memory:

    I had a growing interest in landscape photography, and have managed to borrow a Manfrotto 190B tripod with a 3-way pan-head from a friend to pursue my passion. Of course, I cannot be borrowing my friend’s tripod forever, so I had to get one myself. As mentioned earlier, I was not blessed financially, so I had to spend my resources wisely, dividing it between a good tripod and a good ultra-wide angle lens.

    I was already familiar with the Manfrotto system, and am keenly aware of the price it commands. Since I found Manfrotto to be fairly challenging financially, that also means other expensive makes such as Gitzo, RRS and Vanguard are immediately eliminated.

    That leaves me with Slik and Benro. The Slik Pro 400DX won me over simply because:

    • I thought the construction was superior over lesser Slik models and the Benro models
    • I can handle the weight (as opposed to spending more to get the carbon fiber models)
    • It comes with a Slik 3-way pan head (makes things easier for a novice like me)
    • I need the tripod to reach a good minimum height (at least 1.5m)
    • It can go really low (read below for details)
    • The tripod can handle the weight of my equipment for years to come (very true!)
    • There was a special promotion for the tripod (very keenly priced, I recall)
    Last edited by Blur Shadow; 18th February 2013 at 09:57 PM.
    KF Photography
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  2. #2

    Default Re: Slik Pro 400DX Tripod - User Review

    4. Basics of the Tripod
    This is a fairly simple and sturdy tripod, with a couple of tricks up its sleeves. First up, when folded, it is somewhat compact, although recent innovations have led to even more compact designs. Note that the handles of the 3-way tripod head can be detached and screwed together to make things more compact.

    Also shown is a Nikon AF 300mm f/4 lens and a Nikon D7000 dSLR


    At about 2.5kg, it is not terribly light, but once again, I needed a cheap and sturdy tripod. Something has to give, and I choose to build stronger muscles.


    When fully extended, it can go up to about 1.85m, although one really should not fully extend the center column.

    Last edited by Blur Shadow; 18th February 2013 at 09:44 PM.
    KF Photography
    Thanks for viewing!

  3. #3

    Default Re: Slik Pro 400DX Tripod - User Review

    An interesting thing about the center column is the dual locking system. This way, your center column would not immediately collapse when you disarm the locking mechanism.


    The Slik tripod uses the Slik proprietary Quick Release Plate, which works well, but has some shortcomings which I shall discuss later.


    As you can see, the Slik can handle the common dSLR setups. Unless you love using f/2.8 telephoto lenses, there really isn’t a problem here. The heaviest setup I have mounted on it is a Nikon D300s with a Nikon AF-S 200mm f/2G. The picture below shows it holding a Nikon D7000 dSLR with a Nikon AF 300mm f/4. I primarily mount various dSLRs with common ultra-wide angle/ wide angle lenses (Sigma 10-20mm, Tokina 12-24mm, Nikon 10-24mm, Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8, Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8 etc.) on this tripod without any problems.


    Picture shown here is a Nikon D7000 dSLR and a Nikon AF 300mm f/4 mounted on the tripod via a lens collar
    Last edited by Blur Shadow; 18th February 2013 at 09:46 PM.
    KF Photography
    Thanks for viewing!

  4. #4

    Default Re: Slik Pro 400DX Tripod - User Review

    5. Features to Highlight
    It is a simple tripod, but it does have a few features that I quite like.

    5.1 Leg Section - Quick Release Clips
    The Quick Release Clips work very well, and since there are only two of them per leg, you can flick both open with your palm. Because of this, I can easily set up the tripod in less than 15 seconds (that’s 5 seconds per leg).


    How to open the catch in one go - BEFORE


    How to open the catch in one go - AFTER
    Last edited by Blur Shadow; 18th February 2013 at 09:29 PM.
    KF Photography
    Thanks for viewing!

  5. #5

    Default Re: Slik Pro 400DX Tripod - User Review

    5.2 Leg Section – Going really wide and really low
    One of its winning features that bought me over was its ability to go really low; about 30cm above the ground. This is achieved by flicking a locking mechanism on each leg to allow the legs to stretch almost flat. What about the center column? It can be split into 2, by unscrewing the lower half, leading to a center column of about 12cm. Pretty neat.

    This also allows you the flexibility to have one of the legs to lean on a ledge or wall for support. Your creativity is the limit really.


    5.3 Corrosion Free (Wow!)
    I have used this tripod for over 6 years, and dunked it into sea water, mud, dirt and all sorts of unsavory locations. But after some light cleaning, it is good as new! Here’s a close up of the legs. They still look good!

    KF Photography
    Thanks for viewing!

  6. #6

    Default Re: Slik Pro 400DX Tripod - User Review

    6. Shortcomings of the Tripod
    You certainly cannot figure out what is wrong with the tripod until you bring it to its limits. I have to emphasize that this tripod (like most tripods, probably) serves its purpose 95% of the time. But it is that 5% where you bring it to the limits will the shortcomings be apparent.

    6.1 Limits of the 3-way pan-head
    My excitement on this tripod’s ability to go close to the ground ended when I realized that the handles of the 3-way pan head hinders the head from being angled past a certain angle. While the angle it can reach isn’t too bad, it is those moments where you need it more that you wish you got yourself a better tripod head.


    Pictured here is the handle on the 3-way pan head being blocked by the tripod

    It is a pretty good incline already, but sometimes you just need a little more!

    Last edited by Blur Shadow; 18th February 2013 at 09:58 PM.
    KF Photography
    Thanks for viewing!

  7. #7

    Default Re: Slik Pro 400DX Tripod - User Review

    6.2 Limits of the Quick Release Plate
    This tripod can handle a lot of weight… If you constantly use your camera in landscape orientation. Using the tripod in portrait orientation without a L-plate or a lens collar means you got to swing the head vertically. What’s wrong? Well, the vertical orientation of the camera in relation to the tripod is kept firm by friction between the camera base and the quick release plate. Once things get too heavy, the camera setup will start slipping down. And that started with I begun using the Nikon AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8G lens. Of course, this is not a critical shortcoming, because it can be easily overcome by using an L-plate.


    As you can see, the entire dSLR setup is held only by the friction between the camera base and the Slik base plate when on portrait orientation

    So what happens when you mount a heavy lens on it?

    (Note: The Sigma AF 85mm f/1.4 HSM mounted on the Nikon D70 is for ILLUSTRATION PURPOSES ONLY. The setup is stable with this lens. It is with the heavier lenses where the CG is further away from the base that gives it trouble. Some lenses include the Nikon AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8G as mentioned earlier)


    The use of the Sigma AF 85mm f/1.4 HSM is for illustration purposes only

    The entire setup may start to angle downwards.

    (Note: The author deliberately tilted the setup to demonstrate the effect. Using the Sigma AF 85mm f/1.4 HSM lens on this tripod is perfectly STABLE.)


    The use of the Sigma AF 85mm f/1.4 HSM is for illustration purposes only
    Last edited by Blur Shadow; 18th February 2013 at 09:58 PM.
    KF Photography
    Thanks for viewing!

  8. #8

    Default Re: Slik Pro 400DX Tripod - User Review

    7. Conclusion
    I know the recency effect will occur about now, and you may conclude that this tripod is horrible. However, this tripod served me well for 6 years, having gone to various exotic locations around the globe, where many memorable pictures were taken. Remember, the shortcomings only show up maybe about 5% of the time or less, and it can be easily solved by changing the tripod head entirely to one that you desire.

    All in, the Slik Pro 400DX is a very competent tripod, being sufficiently strong and sturdy to handle my various equipment setups while reaching a very good height of about 1.65m (Center column slightly extended) for my work. At 2.5kg, I cannot complain about the weight once you factored in the cost.

    The tripod, however, is let down by the 3-way pan head, in my opinion. It was great starting out, but once you begin to attempt to perform wilder stunts, the pan head turns out to be the weakest link. Indeed, both the shortcomings are attributed to the 3-way pan head, and switching to other options (such as a large ball-head) may circumvent the issues raised.

    As a summary:

    Pros
    • Price – I got it fairly cheaply (less than $160) I hope it is still as cheap!
    • Build Quality – Pretty good for an aluminum tripod, and it can take quite some weight
    • Deployment – I can do it pretty fast. With practice, you probably can too
    • Nifty Tricks – It can go really low. But then again, I find it useful. You may not.


    Cons
    • Let down by the 3-way pan-head
    • Lacking in other innovations – No smarter way of folding the legs, center column cannot be mounted at other angles
    • Weight – It does not bother me, but I am aware that at 2.5kg, it would not have many friends


    So here you go. I am aware of many good makes that have taken the limelight of late, and they are remarkably good. Nonetheless, if you are looking around for a new tripod, this Slik model is worth considering. After all, it served me well for 6 years, so I expect it to be a competent tripod for most photographers too!

    Last edited by Blur Shadow; 18th February 2013 at 10:02 PM.
    KF Photography
    Thanks for viewing!

  9. #9

    Default Re: Slik Pro 400DX Tripod - User Review

    fantastic in-depth review, great effort!!

  10. #10

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by pauliggy
    fantastic in-depth review, great effort!!
    Thank you for your kind compliment!
    KF Photography
    Thanks for viewing!

  11. #11
    Moderator ed9119's Avatar
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    Default Re: Slik Pro 400DX Tripod - User Review

    promoted to Front Page of forum
    shaddap and just shoot .... up close
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  12. #12

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by ed9119
    promoted to Front Page of forum
    Wow! Thank you for the honor!
    KF Photography
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  13. #13

    Default Re: Slik Pro 400DX Tripod - User Review

    Thank you for a detailed review, very helpful!

    Maybe you can help me: in descpription for this tripod it's written that it's possible to move the Center Column in both vertical and horizontal directions (here for example http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...DX_Tripod.html), but I don't understand how can I move it horisontally. What should I do after releasing the Center Column Locking Collar?

    Thank you in advance!

  14. #14

    Default Re: Slik Pro 400DX Tripod - User Review

    Quote Originally Posted by forformat View Post
    Thank you for a detailed review, very helpful!

    Maybe you can help me: in descpription for this tripod it's written that it's possible to move the Center Column in both vertical and horizontal directions (here for example http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...DX_Tripod.html), but I don't understand how can I move it horisontally. What should I do after releasing the Center Column Locking Collar?

    Thank you in advance!
    Hi! Thank you for your compliment. My apologies for not spotting this earlier.

    I believe you are referring to this line:

    "Releasing the Center Column Locking Collar frees movement of the Center Column, in both vertical and horizontal directions, which means you can work faster."

    I do not think it means that the center column can move in both vertical and horizontal directions. Rather, I think it means the locking mechanism can be released in both vertical and horizontal directions.

    You can see from the image that there are 2 knobs:
    - One above the "Slik" logo that twists horizontally
    - Another knob on the left side of the picture that twists vertically

    You need to loosen both knobs before the center column can move. I hope this helps!

    Last edited by Blur Shadow; 28th August 2013 at 09:57 PM.
    KF Photography
    Thanks for viewing!

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Slik Pro 400DX Tripod - User Review

    Great review!!!

    I'm just about to buy a new tripod. I've been trying to decide wether or not to go for this one and have been reading specs and your in-depth review. The Velbon 400DX is granted to support a max. load of 9.9lb, but I'm wondering if that is refered only to the head. Seems like the legs could take much more. Any thoughts on that? I've read somewhere that the 340DX's legs can hold up to 8kg, so I guessed that being the 400DX a superior model, it could hold at least the same.

    Thanks!

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