Leofoto LN-404C Tripod - feat. LH-55 Ball Head - Three Legged Beast!!
Whether you shoot telephoto lenses, such as a 600mm, 800mm, or you just need something rock steady for landscape photography, tripods play a key role with getting you sharper images. Once your camera is sat upon a tripod, a whole new world of long exposure creativity can be unleashed! Tripods are not for every occasion and you don’t need to use them all the time, I certainly don’t. But when it comes to landscape photography, I have found that it is highly important to something really steady to support your camera.
These four images are just a sample of my favorites where I used this LN-404C + LH-55 ball head.
Over the past few years, landscape photography has managed to push wildlife photography from the number one spot of my favourite genres to shoot. I still LOVE going out looking for wildlife, but I am just so in love with capturing the details of the environment around me! My journey so far has taught me many crucial lessons, one being that a good, sturdy tripod is absolutely necessary to keep my images blur free, especially when shooting long exposures.
I remember I started off with a really cheap and pretty crap, Hama. This thing did not last long at all and the supplied head had so many limitations, it was just awful, but as I was just starting out I couldn’t splash the cash for something more exotic. It did, however, open my eyes and made me realise I did actually need to purchase something more substantial. My next investment was the lovely Manfrotto 055 x-proB. A cracking tripod which set me back roughly £140 at the time. After nearly a good 5 years of solid use and abuse, it was suddenly no longer a tripod, more of a bi-pod….it had broke a leg. I soon had it replaced after a tonne of online research and went with a brand I (at the time) had never heard of – Sirui. My reasons for this, was the the N-3004X, was the tallest of the tripods in the £250 budget, which also included the K30x ball head. It was a great tripod and I’m not knocking it in anyway, however, it didn’t do too well after about 3 years. The rubber grips to release the legs became loose, meaning tightening the legs was a real pain in arse! I loved this tripod, even with its quirks….but eventually, it was time to let go and find something a bit better. And so, last year, after more research, came across Leofoto – once again, a brand I had never heard of! Their range of tripods, on paper, seemed to be incredibly well specced, as did their ball heads. I had read they were exhibiting over at Photokina 2018 so this was the perfect opportunity to take a first hand look at their range. I was working for Venus Optics Laowa whilst at Photokina, but when I had a break, I popped over to see the Leofoto stand. I had seen online this huge monster of a tripod, the LN-404C and was disappointed to find it wasn’t on show, but they had others like the LN-324C, which gave a good idea on how they felt to operate etc. I left the stand rather pleased with what I had seen, not many tripods can offer what they do for the price. So with that out of the way, lets get onto the review!
These specs are pretty awesome!
The legs are chunky and thick! They are a 10 layer design made from 100% carbon fibre, the twist locks are made of thick, chunky rubber with plenty of grip when you twist them. The top platform and angle stops are CNC machined aluminium feel very well crafted. Nothing feels cheap. One of the legs has a brown rubber coating (leg warmer) which personally I think looks very sexy, but I’ve heard some people say the colour isn’t to their taste. Aesthetically, I think it looks really good, the pattern of the carbon is very funky and the chunky legs/rubber just makes it look beastly.
This is the only tripod I have come across that features a solid tube locking system. Other twist lock tripods have 1 or 2 pieces of plastic located inside the tube, which is part of the locking system. This is fine and works well, but when you come to clean the legs, you need to make sure you don’t lose these small plastic parts. What Leofoto have done, is created a way where its all in one, no small plastic parts to worry about, just unlock and pull the leg section out. This is a real time saver and far more convenient when in the cleaning process! Well done! All in all, it looks and feels solid, oozing with quality.
The platform has a handy bubble level and can also hold a large 100mm bowl.
The angle stoppers are simple and effective. Pull it out, lift the leg to your desired angle, push the stopper back in and away you go. Simple.
The bowl is held in place by tightening the locking key, shown here on the right hand side of the tripod platform. The red button is to release the bowl once it has been loosened.
You can hook things onto the tripod, such as a strap. This is what I have done now, as it makes it easier transporting it around.
This thing is very tall, I am 5ft 11’’ and can walk right under it when it is fully extended. The maximum height is a whopping 180cm. After doing my research on several other brands’ (fotopro, sirui) tripods in this price range, the Leofoto was the tallest, with the majority of others topping out at roughly 150cm. Maximum height is important for me, because in some scenarios I am faced with very uneven ground, where one leg would be fully extended over a rockface for example.
Another key aspect for me, is…how low can you go! In this case, the Leofoto goes down low, real low, to 11.5 cm! One thing which has always frustrated me with all my previous tripods, are the centre columns. I never liked them, they were too fiddly when out in the field racing against the clock whilst shooting that perfect golden light and they make the tripod less stable, especially when fully extended. There are no problems here on the Leofoto as it has no centre column. Win win!
A good solid tripod is an essential part of landscape photography, especially if like me, you like to shoot long exposures! I’ve been there before with cheap flimsy ones, they suck, then you start to feel like there’s just no point trying, but trust me if you invest in a decent tripod the results will seriously be worth it. You’ll have no worries about this being too flimsy, I can guarantee that. Although made from mostly carbon fibre, the LN-404C is by no means lightweight! Weighing in at 3.4kg, it’s pretty heavy. I wouldn’t call it unbearable, but sometimes, depending on the scenario, it certainly could be. I’ve taken it with me whilst trekking up and down some of the Jurassic coast and it was tough. But then again, you don’t really want something that’s too light for the job.
The ball head - LH-55
This is the biggest ball head i’ve ever used, it’s pretty huge! It weighs nearly 1kg alone, has a ball diameter of 55mm and holds up to 25kg! It is ALL metal, aluminium to be exact. The knobs are smooth to use and all tighten very easily. It is a pretty low profile design, with dual notches, rather than the more traditional single notch. This allows more freedom with your compositions and has been incredibly useful out in the field. I don’t think I could go back to using a single notch design ball head!
The LH-55 comes with an arca-swiss style top plate. However, whilst browsing their website, I came across one of these panoramic top plates pictured above. So, I requested mine to be sent with it attached. It is very good, but I feel like it is a tad unnecessary….i should have just kept the original plate to be honest.
As you can see here, the head has two notches. Very useful when out in the field.
These two small knobs turn very smoothly. The top is for determining the amount of dampening/friction you require from the ball head. Mine is set to the minimum as I like to be able to move it about quickly. Depending on the lens in use, I will add more friction to it though. The bottom knob controls the panning feature.
This huge knob, is the main dial which you tighten the ball head. It’s big, very smooth and very grippy due to the design.
Final thoughts + rating
When it comes to using it out in the field, it’s brilliant, it really is. There probably are a few other tripods which better it in terms of weight and sturdiness, but they come at a huge price. This setup will cost roughly £600, whereas a top of the range Gitzo for example, would cost around £1000 for legs only! It is amazing to see such high quality for the amount they are asking, which is a lot, but not compared to the big boys. One thing I found very reassuring was the 10 year warranty offered along with both these items. Some of the lower priced ones have a 5 year warranty I think, which is still very good indeed.
It’s super sturdy
Built like a tank
Very easy to clean and maintain
Easy to assemble with no fuss
10 year warranty!
Heavy. Will not fit into my tripod compartment in any of my camera bags, including my huge Mindshift gear bag.
If you’re in the market for a high-end tripod and head, you should seriously consider the LN-404C + LH-55. The quality of both these products is amazing, mind blowing infact. Just be aware that it is not lightweight, it is big and heavy, but it is robust and is super steady! If you can handle the size and weight, then this definitely needs to be part of your kit. If something a little smaller would suit your needs, then check out the rest of their lineup as they’ll have a tripod to suit you.
I rate this product combo at 4.5 out of 5 stars. AMAZING.