When I bought my first camera I had clear ideas: only a fool can think to carry around a heavy, bulky tripod to take pictures which made freehand, they are done equally well.
Ideas were so clear, that if now I look on my right, I can count almost a dozen of tripods. Maybe I’m just crazy, but if you are reading this article you too might simply have come to my own inescapable conclusion: between the equipment of a good landscape photographer cannot miss a great tripod.
Until a few years ago the market offered only a few quality products and all, in one way or another, we have always been seduced by the historical brands and we made our purchases a little bit by word of mouth and a little bit for prejudice.
Fortunately, times have changed and several companies have entered this market segment with products that are the envy of the historical brands, which are still lying on the laurels of the past.
Not everything that glitters is gold and many were the disappointments, but there are cases of excellence and one of these is undoubtedly that of the new “Rock Solid” series produced by Rollei.
NOTE: This review is based (as well as of absolutely personal opinions) on field trial mercilessly for about three months of products not yet placed on the market, so some construction details may have been changed (for the better I assume).
The Rock Solid series is designed for professional photographers and advanced amateurs and is composed of three tripods: Alpha, Beta and Gamma.
Although similar to each other and with the technical and constructional characteristics in common, each of these three tripods has peculiarities that make it unique. Let’s look together:
It is the smallest of the family but does not lack anything. Look at the characteristics:
- Weight: 1.35 Kg
- Maximum extension: 151 cm
- Maximum load: 16 kg
- Closed Length: 47.5 cm
As I write, one of the tripods I most loved: Gamma is more compact, it weighs less, has a higher maximum load and yes … it’s bloody more graceful.
As if not enough, the center column can be removed, making the tripod even lighter. Excellent also the possibility of removing the leg and turn it into a monopod: two products in one!
The range of features makes it undoubtedly one of the tripods for travel photographers and naturalists who seek a perfect balance between dimensions, weight and maximum extension.
The first time I took it in my hands I was really tense, it was clear that if on the field had behaved well, we probably would have become inseparable friends. Why? Look at the characteristics:
- Weight: 1.71 Kg
- Maximum extension: 165 cm
- Maximum load: 22 kg
- Closed Length: 51 cm
In short, Beta, compared to the other tripods of the same segment is lighter, more compact, it loads more than twice the weight and has a nominal diameter of the individual segments, higher by about 4 mm (thus ensuring greater stability).
The Beta features make it perfect for landscape photographers looking for extreme strength, to a reasonable weight and dimensions.
For those interested, Beta also allows you to remove a leg to turn it into a monopod, and gives you the option to remove the center column helping to further reduce weight and achieve a low shot working positions!
It is the older brother of the series. Already with a look, we realize that it is different from the Beta and Gamma not only in size but also for some constructive characteristics, first of all, the absence of the central column and the resultant different attachment plate for the head.
But let’s see the characteristics:
- Weight: 2,2 Kg
- Maximum extension: 156 cm
- Maximum load: 24 kg
- Closed Length: 57 cm
What really catches immediately the eye is the payload: over 24 Kg! This makes it perfect for nature photographers, as it supports massive telephoto lenses.
The absence of the center column allows you to lower the minimum working height of just 11 cm: perfect for ambushes by lying!
The coupling plate is wider allowing to have an extended legs circle on the ground with a greater diameter (significantly contributing to the stability of the telephoto lens-tripod system).
Although so different, there are characteristics that are common to all three products:
- All tripods are made up of four segments ensuring a really good ratio between maximum extension and dimensions for the transportation;
- Each segment is made up of eight layers of carbon with a cross-matrix. This means that while remaining lightweight, they are also incredibly rigid unlike many tripods four segments that I’ve tried. We are not talking about fishing rods: have flexible legs means risking your own equipment, as well as being more susceptible to camera shake from vibration;
- All the segments are made of carbon fiber, while all the connecting elements are made of magnesium, which with its very low density and high specific strength make it lightweight;
- Closure of the segments is quick-release lock type: just a little spin on the block and the leg falls as desired; another reverse rotation will block the position. I love it!
- The change of the angle of the legs is through “pull-release”: this means that by pulling the specific plate, the leg is free. As for most of the professional tripods, are three the positions of use, which vary from about 50° to 180°;
- At the base of the tripod where the legs are grafted, there is a hook to which you can hang your backpack (or a weight): this is a feature often overlooked, but when you place the tripod on a cliff with a strong wind, think again!
- The attachment plates of the head are equipped with connection ⅜ inch and ¼ inch, making them, in fact, compatible with 100% of the heads on the market on the planet Earth;
- The rubber feet on the tripod can be removed and in their place can be grafted a metal tip .. perfect for firmly attach the tripod on surfaces such as lawns, where the rubber foot is ineffective;
- All three tripods are sold with transport bag and maintenance kit that includes keys for disassembly, replacement hub for central column (Beta and Gamma), and replacement plates (Alpha).
In the design of the Rock Solid series, Rollei also implements my beloved maintenance features already seen and appreciated in the small “Stativ Compact Traveler No.1 Carbon”. Specifically, unlike the majority of the tripods that I had Alpha, Beta and Gamma are completely and easily removable and assemblable!
Just by removing a leg of Beta I have seen a very important feature: in addition to the Teflon bush to permit the guide and sliding between a leg and the other, there’s a special bush that will prevent the entrainment of sand or other solid particles in the upper leg, thus avoiding scratches and seizures leg! For how and where I use the tripods, for me only this “dust proof” feature would justify the purchase!
On the field
As I said at the outset, I was lucky enough to try them out in the field continuously for about three months from the date of publication of this article. All tripods have been used with my usual landscape photographer equipment and trying heads of different types and suppliers (ball, gimball and geared, Rollei and Manfrotto). Here is a summary list and not exhaustive of all that I tried to test, even with undoubtedly unscientific methods:
- Overall Stability
- Behavior at low temperatures
- Resistance to the sand
- Resistance to water and corrosion
- Behavior in rough surfaces
- Vibration damping
The overall impression for all Rock Solid is that of absolute reliability and stability.
There is no area in which they are unable to adapt, and there is no composition too complicated to have to give up. The 48h past inside my freezer show how also in the case of low temperature, all sliding surfaces are free, and also rolling it in many occasions in the sand before closing it again, the anti-seizure gaskets work perfectly.
Regarding the vibration damping issue, very dear to me, I made a recording of impulse vibration (shot with my finger on one of the tripod legs): with all the tripods the absorption time is less than two seconds.
In the images below you can compare the vibration absorption in a Rollei Rock Solid Beta (Right side) and in a Manfrotto 055CXPRO3 (Left side): the Rollei Rock Solid Beta performed much better.
If you know me or if you’re used to reading my reviews, you know perfectly well that I never incline to a product of which I am not convinced. The Rock Solid series has really exceeded all my expectations, both in terms of build quality and reliability in the field.
Alpha, Beta and Gamma are three formidable instruments, designed for the needs of professional photographers who do not seek compromise. What is my choice among the three? Hard to say, because they saw the specific peculiarities, each one is better suited to certain situations, even if as a landscape convinced, I believe that I and Beta, we will spend a lot of time together!