What is a good tripod for a spotting scope?
A stable tripod is essential when using a spotting scope. Fortunately, a good tripod doesn't always have to be heavy. Thanks to the invention of carbon fiber, lightweight yet sturdy tripods are now available that are perfect for a spotting scope. Leofoto tripods are examples of such robust carbon fiber tripods. To test their suitability for a spotting scope, I take a Leofoto tripod with me on my outings.
Written by Rob van Keulen
Rob has a passion for nature and enjoys hiking in forests, fields, and parks. He takes photos of landscapes, plants, and birds, and has been an avid birdwatcher his whole life, finding joy even in observing the more common species.
Choosing the right tripod for your spotting scope
When choosing a tripod for a spotting scope, it's important that you can comfortably stand upright while looking through the scope. A scope with a 45-degree angled eyepiece is preferable, as it allows for minimal extension of the tripod legs. This is useful when space is limited and ensures maximum stability of the setup.
"These tripods are equipped with a video head with a lever."
Initially, I considered using a Leofoto tripod with a sturdy ball head for the test, which is usually used for photography. In doing so, I immediately missed a lever for smoother adjustment of the head. After some enquiries, I was recommended the Leofoto Manba video tripods. The tripods in this series are equipped with a video head with a lever for easier rotation of the spotting scope. So, in short: a tripod head with a lever is highly recommended.
For the test, I took the Leofoto LV-284C with BV-5 video head. What a wonderful tripod to work with: it is quick and easy to set up thanks to the large clamps, has a centre column with built-in levelling, and the video head moves smoothly and fluidly. The 10-layer carbon makes the tripod light and easy to carry.
Leofoto Manba LV-284C carbon tripod with BV-5 head
The Leofoto Manba LV-284C carbon tripod with BV-5 video head is a lightweight and sturdy tripod capable of carrying up to 4 kilograms. During the test, I had four different Bushnell spotting scopes with me, and the tripod was able to support each scope effectively. With a maximum height of 158 cm, it allows for comfortable standing observation through the spotting scope.
Additionally, this tripod is made of 10-layer carbon, making it only slightly heavier than the heaviest scope I had, the Bushnell Forge 20-60x80. When folded, it is compact with a length of 56 cm. For taller individuals, it is advisable to opt for the Manba LV-323C tripod, as it offers a greater maximum working height of 1.75m.
Special video tripod
What makes this video tripod so special is the leveling centre column with anti-twist groove and a platform with built-in ball. Even on uneven terrain, you can level the spotting scope using the leveling lever, even if the legs are unevenly extended. The BV-5 video head is fluid-cushioned and has a long control arm, allowing you to move the spotting scope quickly and smoothly and also lock it quickly.
Adjusting Tripod Height
The Leofoto FlipLock system makes it easy to adjust the legs of the tripod. The clamps are cushioned, and with a simple motion, you can release them. This allows you to quickly and easily extend all the legs and lock them back in place with a few clicks. The only minor drawback of this type of video tripod is that the head cannot be tilted 90° upwards but only up to 75°. For bird watching, this is not a problem, but if you also intend to use the tripod for portrait photography, this can be a limitation.
Quick Release Plate with Raised Edge
Attaching a spotting scope to a tripod head can be cumbersome. Using a quick release plate makes it easier, but with a standard plate, there is a possibility of the spotting scope rotating during use. Until now, I didn't have a good solution for this. Recently, I discovered the Falcam F38 camera quick release base, which features an Arca Swiss compatible quick release plate with an anti-slip function. You slide the telescope with the F38 plate onto the F38 base and with a single press of a button, you can detach it. Unfortunately, the telescope still moves back and forth during use, which is not ideal.
"This minimises twisting of the telescope on the quick-release plate."
However, the Falcam F38 Anti Deflection Quick Release Plate has two raised elements on the quick release plate that fit perfectly behind the back of a camera body and behind the tripod foot of Bushnell spotting scopes, approximately 85% of it. This minimizes the rotation of the telescope on the quick release plate. If there is any play, this minimal play will never increase.
As an alternative, Leofoto offers quick release plates of the NP-50/NP60 type, where you can raise an edge with a wrench. The NP-50 and NP-60 can then be placed and securely fastened in the tripod head. These are great solutions to keep your scope in place.
For the test, I used the LV-284C, but in the end, I opted for the middle model of the Manba Series: the Leofoto Manba LV-323C with the BV-10 head. The specifications of these tripods are very similar, but the LV-284C was slightly too low for me in practice. The platform where the leveling ball is situated in the LV-323C is slightly higher, which means the center column doesn't need to be extended as much.
However, the LV-323C has only three leg sections, resulting in a larger packed size compared to the LV-284C with four sections. I can easily mount my spotting scope on it and comfortably observe through the scope while standing due to its maximum height of 175 cm.
"With this tripod, I can comfortably look through the scope while standing."
The choice between the Manba kits depends on your height and the weight of the models. For example, the LV-284C tripod is 400 grams lighter than the LV-323C, but the BV-10 head has a higher load capacity than the BV-5 video head. This is something to consider. It is safe to say that the Manba tripods are highly suitable for placing your spotting scope on and are a pleasure to use.
LV-284C + BV-5
LV-323C + BV-10
|Model||Max. height||Min. height||Packing size||Carrying capacity||Weight|
|LV-284C + BV-5||158 cm||17,5 cm||56 cm||4 kg||2 kg|
|LV-323C + BV-10||175 cm||20 cm||67 cm||6 kg||2,4 kg|