Tripods come in all shapes and sizes and the Vanguard Veo 3+ 263AB is very much middle of the road. It’s larger than than a travel tripod, but a good deal lighter to carry around than a big, old-fashioned studio tripod.
If you don’t mind carrying your tripod in a separate bag, the Veo 3+ 263AB is easy to carry around, though perhaps a fraction long to strap to a backpack.
We tested the Vanguard 263AB, which is the aluminium version with a ball head. You can also get a carbon fiber version (263AC) and the same choice of materials with a three-way head (263AP and 263CP).
Tripod Style: Traditional Full Sized
Folded Length: 76cm
Maximum Height: 172.5cm (center column extended), 147cm (center column down)
Maximum Load Capacity: 15kg
Leg Sections: 3
Leg Lock: Easy Clean Twist Lock
Leg Angles: Three - 23°, 50° & 80°
Feet Type: Rubber/Spiked
Tripod Head: VEO BH-160Head TypeBall Head Arca Swiss Compatible
Accessories included: Tripod Bag, VEO MA-1 Multi-Mount Attachment, Hanging Hook
The VEO 3+ 263AB is a traditional size tripod with a far from traditional design. It has a clever angled center column mount which lets you rotate the column through a series of angled detents through to a full 90 degrees.
Also included is a good quality padded tripod back and an interesting MA1 Adaptor attachment for sliding on to the center column and mounting additional equipment when the column is horizontal. This could be a second camera, microphone, light, external monitor or whatever you like.
The VEO 3+ 263AB has three-section legs which makes it longer when folded but a good deal quicker to set up than four- or five-section tripods. One of these legs can be detached and used as a monopod. The legs have rubber feet fitted as standard, but these can be swapped out for spikes, which are included. This is pretty good value when you take into account the padded bag and mounting attachment also included in the price.
Our sample came with the Vanguard VEO BH-160 ball head, which is a neat and robust ball head with a separate pan axis (though no friction control) and an Arca Swiss compatible quick release plate.
Build and handling
For an aluminium tripod, the VEO 3+ 263AB feels quite light. It’s true that at 2.45kg it is close to twice the weight of a small carbon fiber travel tripod, but there are plenty of camera and lens combos that weigh as much as this so, in absolute terms it doesn’t seem that much. The only thing counting against it for travel is its long folded length of 76cm.
The leg angle catches look a little ornate but they work fine, and the ‘stiffness’ in the leg angle movement is perfect. The leg section twist locks are fast to use and lock securely and they can be dismantled easily for cleaning.
The center column action is smooth and locks quickly and securely, and if you pull the column out to its maximum height you can then release a side catch to change the column angle. This catch is a meaty lever with a locking button and requires some force – so you might bend back the odd thumbnail until you get used to it.
The column needs to be angled past 45 degrees to be able to move it freely up and down, but it’s smooth and locks securely, just as it does in vertical use.
Given that the legs are quite long, it’s a shame the center column isn’t a little longer than it is – though if it was any longer, it could probably topple the tripod when used horizontally at full extension, so this looks like a deliberate design decision.
There is an additional locking knob on the tripod ’spider’ and when the column is angled its use becomes apparent – you can loosen this and rotate the column mount on a horizontal axis. Even this movement is super-smooth, and simply adds to the feeling of engineering quality.
The BH-160 ball head is one we’ve seen before. It’s neat, strong and smooth, and while it doesn’t have a friction control (not everyone finds these useful – us included) it does have a separate pan axis. Best of all, it shows little or no ‘locking droop’ even with a fairy heavy camera-lens combo fitted. (This is when the camera drops slightly when you let go of it after tightening the ball clamp.)
You can certainly get cheaper tripods than this one, but they won’t have this level of sturdiness, versatility and smoothness. You can pay a lot more, too, but if you spend any time at all with the Vanguard VEO 3+ 263AB, you might wonder why you would.
Frankly, it does everything brilliantly. It’s fast to set up, smooth to operate, feels really solid and firm and has that excellent angle center column design. Vanguard seems to have discovered a knack for making really nice-feeling, quality tripods at compelling price points.