In the center of the tripods adjustable center column is a 3/8″ thread bolt that accepts most major brands of ball or pan head mounts. If you remove the hook from the bottom of the center column you will also find another 3/8″ mount there. This can be a quick way of hanging your camera from the bottom of the tripod for that close up macro, if you don’t want to pull the center column and reverse it. There is also a bubble level incorporated into the Top of the legs. I would pretty much ignore that. It is not accurate in the slightest, and I am not the first to make this statement. Just pick your self up a level to mount on the hot shoe, or carry a small level and level the ball head.
The ball head (204 series) is amazingly good quality for the price range of tripod we are in. Early reviewers complained about the 200 series heads, and apparently Dolica listened and required and upgrade to the next generation . I compared this head to many that cost more by themselves than this whole setup does, and to be honest, for the average amateur, this head will do more than you will ever need. With a nice large thumb screw to lock down the head, it lives up to its 17 lb load capacity rating. I had an Sony Alpha 550 with a Quantary 70-300mm stuck on the front and the ball head didn’t even flinch. The large knob on the side locks the ball in place with very little effort. I had absolutely no problem locking that combo down. The ball head and quick release resemble a Giottos style ball head, but at about a third the price. The finish on the knobs is great. They are anodized, but the surface feels rubbery, so that you can grip is very well, even with wet fingers.
Quick Release Plate
The Aluminum quick release plate is solid aluminum and well machined to slide into the top of the ball head receiver. You have to press the little safety release button on the side inwards to either install or remove the latch plate. Then tighten the Knurled thumb screw on the side to lock it in place. It has a standard 1/4″ thumbscrew to mount the plate to the camera, with two textured oval pads to prevent rotation once it is installed. The thumbscrew is just like every other camera mount screw out there. A pain to undo once you have it installed, but it does work well. The head also has a notch cut down the side of it to allow you to rotate the camera for portrait mode.
I read many reviews that didn’t like the mount on this ball head, they prefer the little thumb latch release style, but I love it. Yes it is a two step process every time you use it. But realistically your not taking it on and off all that often. And if you have ever almost dropped your camera off the top of a tripod with a thumb catch, because you caught your sleeve on that thumb catch. Then you will appreciate the solidity of this mounting plate. Once your camera is mounted, it is there for good.
The tripod only came with one plate, but additional plates can be bought through adorama camera. DOGX650 replacement plate It is similar to this one on Amazon. Dolica GX600 Replacement Quick Release Plate for GX600B200 Tripod.
One feature this ball head has that the 100 series does not is a fluid panning base, with a degree wheel screen printed around the base of it. The smaller thumb screw at the base of the ball head locks this in place. There is not a handle to hold on to to rotate the head, but it rotates pretty easy using your camera body.. Mine was pretty stiff when I first got it. This part of the head is very nice, smooth and solid. I believe it may outshine some of the competitors heads in that it is actually fluid, not ‘fluid-like’ as many sell them as. An optional lever that could screw into the head might be nice as well. I may have to modify this one to add it.
One important thing to consider when purchasing any tripod is versatility. How many different ways can it be used to prevent us having to buy more camera gear to get a shot. In this respect the Dolica GX650 outshines almost every other tripod I looked at. Your limits on how this thing can be setup are literally only limited by your imagination. You can place the legs in so many variations that there is no way I can show them all here. But here are a few.
I real didn’t know how versatile a tripod could be until I start playing with this one. I think as long as you can imagine it, you can put it in that position. From low down macros shots to on the stairs shots, it does a pretty good job of allowing you setup just about anywhere.
I believe while I was researching the most repetitive thing I heard when talking about more affordable tripods was their lack of stability. The Dolica excels in just about every instance when it comes to being a solid platform for mobile shooting. When you extend all four sections of the legs and leave the center column down it is very solid, with very little rebound when you touch the camera. If you hang your bag or a sand weight from the provided hook on the bottom of the center column, it becomes downright rock solid. Provided you make sure to set your legs correctly. Pulling your legs out away from the middle after you have set it down to remove any slop between them.
When shooting macros, movement is not even a consideration. It stays where you put it and it does not move. With any tripod though, you want to pay attention to your weight distribution. If the tripod is tipsy to one side, redistribute the weight, adjust the legs or whatever needs to be done. You’ll thank me later if you do, and smack yourself in the forehead if you don’t. Picking your camera up off the ground is not a pleasant experience.
Overall, this has turned out to be a much better tripod for the money that I was expecting. For literally only $20 more than a cheap Wal-mart tripod, you can get a professional grade, quality, aluminum alloy tripod with a decent quality ball head, that will meet just about every scenario an amateur photographer is going to throw at it.
I would highly recommend you get one of these. Even if you have one of the $200 models in the closet I was talking about earlier. This would make a nice less expensive travel version the if it came up missing or damaged in transit. the pain would not be near as much.
If your still using that flimsy plastic Wally world tripod after your read this then we need to have a talk. Go to the closet now, grasp a hold that flimsy piece of junk. Take it out to the driveway and place it firmly behind the rear tire of your car. Get in the car, and back over that thing until it is no longer recognizable. Then come back in the house and order this tripod right here. You can’t afford not to.