You`ve probably seen the terms OIS (optical image stabilization) or EIS (electronic/digital stabilization) mentioned in an advertisement for the latest and greatest flagship smartphone. It`s a big selling point, often vastly improving your portable photography; EIS is great for a bit of quick handheld video during the day whilst OIS is well suited towards low light photography, allowing the device to slow down the shutter speed and reduce the ISO level for cleaner images. However when ambient light levels are low, these small sensored devices still struggle to combat high ISO noise and blur. The same goes for many point and shoot cameras, or in my case, a mirror-less camera without any form of stabilization at all.
One of the best ways to alleviate these issues includes using some form of stabilizer, the most common and cost effective probably being a tripod. Portable tripods are becoming more common as a result of increasing dependence on smartphone photography. They can be a great tool to mitigate hand shake, allowing users to produce cleaner images in low light and smoother, more cinematic videos during the day. However tripods vary immensely in quality and price, as the rule of the thumb goes; sturdy, cheap, portable, choose two. Whilst more expensive models from brands such as Manfrotto offer almost flawless portable shooting experiences, I would argue that the Yunteng Mini tripod I`m reviewing today provides very similar performance for just a fraction of the price.
Don`t let the simple packaging fool you, the Yunteng tripod is a quality piece of equipment. It seems to satisfy the sturdy and cheap criteria in particular, offering enough rigidity to support a point and shoot or even mirror-less camera and carrying an RRP under $10 AUD. It`s still small, fitting in your pocket or hand with ease, but the all metal Manfrotto tripod is smaller yet. The Yunteng tripod on the flipside is completely plastic, however I didn`t find this to be an issue at all, as the legs are thickset with molded reinforcement. There`s no hollow plastic here, the legs and body are immensely solid.
This is complimented by extremely solid hinges that offer enough tension to maintain a stable position and are a lot thicker than most portable tripods. The level of tension can also be adjusted via the three phillips head screws on the bottom if you need to shoot on unstable ground. Each leg has a rubber foot that prevents the tripod from sliding during use or scratching delicate surfaces.
The tripod attaches to the included smartphone holder via a typical 1/4 inch thread, also allowing you to attach a camera. It`s a ball head stand, allowing for great flexibility when shooting at different angles. Whilst the Manfrotto tripod offers a smoother action, the Yunteng is surprisingly solid for less than a third of the price.
A great aspect of the Yunteng is the design of the ball and top plate. The arm that connects to the mounting plate is offset, the flat base of the arm allowing for easy centering. By comparison, the straight arm of the the Manfrotto tripod can only be centred by free-hand and even then, it`s not terribly accurate.
What isn`t as practical is the locking mechanism. It`s a spring loaded switch that adjusts the flexibility of the ball. It defaults to “locked” but can be pushed to the right to reduce the tension. This makes pans during video quite awkward and adjustment in general is less intuitive than a simple screw lock.
In addition, since the level of tension is managed purely by the strength of the spring, the maximum level of hold is limited and the tripod tends to wander when holding heavier cameras. For its intended usage with smartphones it works very well, but for mirror-less cameras equipped with larger lenses, it can be a little hit and miss.
Although the Yunteng tripod was originally designed for smartphones, in my opinion, it`s a little overkill for those uses. It`s actually better suited towards smaller cameras, confidently supporting my a6000 with either a stock or Sigma f2.8 lens, but it does struggle when I use lenses that require an adapter. It comes bundled with a spring loaded phone holder that expands from 5.5cm to a width of 8.5cm and when used with a smartphone, phablet or a point and shoot camera, the tripod is rock solid.
The Yunteng tripod is a great cost-effective method of shooting timelapses and long exposure shots through manual mode, It`s very portable, very solid and also very cheap. If you`re looking into a portable tripod for photography or static video, then the Yunteng is one of the best options out there. However if you want to shoot portable cinematic video, then similar options from Manfrotto may serve you better, albeit at a higher cost.