Vanguard Alta Pro 264AB 100

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When we returned from our trip to Chile I discovered some sand had gotten into the joint on our old aluminum tripod. It was time to upgrade and I set out to find our next travel tripod. We needed a tripod that could go anywhere, but could also extend tall enough to keep me from stooping over to take a photo--I am 6'6", so this is a feat in and of itself. After a month or so of searching, creating a spreadsheet of tripod specifications, and testing a few out at our local camera store I chose the Vanguard Alta Pro 264AT tripod and SBH-100 Ball Head.


  • Extended height: 64-5/8" (center column extended)
  • Collapsed length: 24-5/8" (21-1/8" with ball head removed)
  • Number of sections: 4
  • Tripod material: aluminum
  • Weight: 4.63lbs
  • Load capacity: 15.4lbs

My Observations:

This little tripod has traveled the world with us in just over a year and I must say I am very pleased with how it has performed. In addition to it meeting the need for total extended height and complying with the carry-on guidelines, I purchased this tripod because of its cool factor. It won the 2009 TIPA award for a reason, it's center column can not only extend vertically but also to the side and upside down.

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The Alta Pro 264AT with the center column extended down

I thought, "Imagine all of the cool shots I can get with this tripod!" as I purchased Alta Pro kit. While I rarely use this feature, it has come in handy for some of our food photography and to get the camera down to the ground for a couple perspective landscape photos. The center column is easy to adjust by loosening the column height screw and flipping open the Instant Swivel Stop-n-Lock lever.

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Depressing the spring pin allows you to extend the center column to re-position at different angles
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Opening the Swivel Stop-n-Lock Lever
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Pivoting the center column
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The center column positioned in the down position

While the carbon fiber version (the Alta Pro 284CT) has twist adjusting legs the 264AT offers quick-flip cam locks. We can easily deploy all three leg extensions for quick tripod setup and leveling. There are limitations to having a four-section aluminum tripod; weight capacity is limited. Even though I am not trying to mount 400mm f/2.8 lenses on this tripod, we have utilized the center column's hook to hang additional weight to stabilize the tripod in windy conditions. While photographing the sunset in the Grand Canyon, I used our Mountainsmith Parallax as added weight. The pack had our laptop and two additional lenses with a combined weight of roughly 12 pounds. As I loaded the bag onto the hook, I noticed the lower leg sections beginning to bow slightly. To overcome this, I simply reduced the deployed length of the lower sections--problem solved.

The Alta Pro 264AT offers a built-in bubble level on the tripod base to ensure the center column is vertical when panning.  The level is easy to see and has been very handy.  Upon our return from spending 16 days in New Zealand, I discovered the liquid in the level was gone no longer functioned.  I called up the Vanguard Service hotline, expecting to be caught in an endless circle of automated messages and number keying, and immediately spoke with a real human being!  I explained what had happened, and without any further explanation, I was asked if I wanted to have the tripod shipped back or if I felt comfortable enough to replace the level.  I explained that I thought I could handle it and three days later I had a new level.  I easily popped the old one out, cleaned up the remaining glue and glued the new one.

The supplied SBH-100 ball head provides two bubble levels and a quick release head to easily transition between multiple cameras or camera-mount and lens-mount configurations. Out of everything in the Alta Pro 264AB 100 kit, this is the only piece I tend to get frustrated with. I like having the bubble levels on the ball head, but I find them hard to use. I started using the ball head with the thumb screw (upper right in photo) oriented to the grip side of the camera, sliding the camera toward me into the head. This was fine for making sure my horizon was level but left the second level nearly impossible to see because it was obstructed by the camera body. I have resorted to mounting the quick-disconnect plate onto the D90 at a 45-degree angle when I need to be level in both directions. This places the levels as they appear in the below photo. Albeit rather clumsy, I am able to ensure the camera is properly level using this method.  A better option would be a flash shoe bubble level and forget the ones on the ball head altogether.


In all, I am very pleased with this tripod and ball head kit. The Vanguard Alta Pro 264AB 100 has traveled with us and served us well on trips to the Four-Corners, New Zealand, The Grand Canyon, and numerous trips to Yellowstone National Park. It is compact enough to qualify as carry-on and sturdy enough to support our Nikon D90 and any of our travel lenses in most situations. The overall design is well thought out and having used the tripod for over a year now, I can see why it won the TIPA award in 2009. There are limitations to any travel tripod but the Alta Pro's feature-packed design more than makes up for the limited weight capacity or clumsy ball head levels. I would recommend the Alta Pro 264AB 100 tripod and ball head kit to anybody who is looking for a travel tripod ready to take on the challenges of international and domestic travel.


Overland Expo, Living Overland, ToyotaBeau Johnston is an engineer, writer, and photographer who is dedicated to proving you can find a balance between work and life. He is the Co-Founder and Publisher of Living Overland and a member of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press. When he isn't working, you can find him exploring National Parks, fly fishing, and camping with his wife (Krista) and their two dogs.


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