This is a guest review of the Slik 700DX by landscape and nightscape photographer Matt Saville.
One of the most important tools for landscape and nightscape photography (among many other genres) is a sturdy tripod. Unfortunately, tripods also seem to be one of those unglamorous accessories that nobody wants to spend much money on, compared to exciting gear such as lenses and bodies.
Ironically, most of the time it’s the tripod which has the greatest impact on the sharpness of your images – not the lens or the sensor!
Strangely enough, despite the fact that most photographers don’t seem to care enough to invest in a high-end tripod, everybody loves to give advice whenever someone asks for recommendations in an online group, etc.
Every single time the question “what is a good tripod?” gets asked, literally every single tripod brand on the market will get a recommendation.
Personally, I have been testing tripods (and, I’ll be honest, often breaking them) for about 15 years now. I have probably tested and/or broken at least one or two of every budget (and mid-priced) brand of tripod that is commonly recommended.
What is my favorite tripod of them all? Well, I have more than one favorite, and we’ll get to that next, but the Slik Pro AMT 700DX is definitely one of my all-time favorite tripods.
It’s been around for a very long time, and you can pick up for a bargain price of under $100 (legs only) – see the latest price here.
Tripod Review Criteria/Categories
As a self-proclaimed “destroyer of tripods”, I’ve come up with personal criteria for tripod reviews that I believe gives potential buyers a fantastic insight into not just whichever one tripod I’m reviewing at the time, but also helps shoppers know what to look for in any tripod, period.
These review categories are:
- Leg locks & other joints
- Overall stiffness and “indestructibility”
- Size – height & weight & portability
- Overall value for money.
Of course if a ballhead is also commonly included with a set of tripod legs, that comes into play as well.
I believe that all serious landscape and nightscape photographers should come to terms with the notion that one single tripod may not be able to do everything they need it to.
A two tripod solution is best, especially for anyone who does both roadside etc. shooting, and wilderness/mountain adventures. One ultralight travel tripod, which weighs just 2-3 lbs, and one “boat anchor” tripod that is heavy, tall, and relatively indestructible.
Of course if you’re more singular in what you shoot, and how you shoot it, just one of these tripods might do the trick, but these days it seems that many “traditional” landscape photographers are also branching into “adventure” landscape photography too.
With that in mind, let’s dive into this review of the Slik 700DX.
SPOILER ALERT: it’s heavy, it’s tall, it’s relatively indestructible, …and yet incredibly affordable.
Slik 700DX Tripod Review | Leg Locks & Joints
This is the first thing I look at with any tripod I review, and it gets its own category in my reviews because it’s usually the very first thing that fails on a poor quality tripod. Heck, it’s the first thing that fails on even the best tripods, too!
Most photographers seem to be very divided on this issue of leg lock design. Simply put, some people love twist locks and can’t stand lever locks, while others are the exact opposite.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both, and to be honest, I have seen both types of leg locks fail, sometimes causing severe gear damage.
Neither style of leg lock is perfect – the important thing is simply whether or not they’re well-designed and strong.
The Slik 700DX leg locks may be made of plastic, but don’t let that fool you. They’re made of the good stuff, not the cheap plastic you find in lightweight generic junk.
The only way you’ll ever break one of these leg locks is probably if you’re absolutely diabolical in your abuse of the tripod, while the leg lock lever is open. (In other words, don’t throw it onto rocks or concrete with the leg locks open, and you’ll be OK.)
However, all tripod leg joints require routine maintenance to truly stand the test of time. If you shoot in salt water or other dirty conditions often, the leg joints of any tripod can become jammed shut, or be at risk of breaking if not properly cleaned.
So, wash off the 700DX from time to time, then dry it off properly, and you’ll get many years of use out of it.
Slik 700DX Tripod Review | Stiffness
The Slik ‘AMT’ (Aluminum, Magnesium, Titanium) alloy makes for a very stiff combination, with very low vibrations.
To help quantify how stiff a tripod is, I’ve developed a method that is relatively universal, and easy to understand. I call it The 200 Test: mount a lens that can go to 200mm, then focus on a distant subject and use live view to zoom in to 200%. Then, just flick the tripod leg, or bump the camera gently, while watching the live view image…
You’ll see the vibration very clearly visible in live view, and by repeating the test a few times you’ll be able to get a very good idea of how many seconds it takes for the tripod to settle. This test can also be used to determine how much wind will begin to compromise image sharpness, too.
Unlike many of the “flimsy” generic tripods on the market, the Slik 700DX settles down pretty quickly and is impervious to most light breezes.
If you’re using 2-sec timer on a Canon, Sony etc. camera, or 3 sec exposure delay mode on a Nikon, you’ll be able to achieve tack-sharp photos every time.
Slik 700DX Tripod Review | Indestructibility
This next category is hard to quantify, but as someone who has been reviewing tripods for over 10 years, I’ve found myself referring to tripods in this admittedly ambiguous form of measure: How indestructible is it?
Thankfully, the Slik 700DX is a great example of an “indestructible” tripod. You can really abuse this tripod, and yet it will still work smoothly and stand the test of time.
You can leave it in a hot car for days, whereas most other tripods will start to have their grip rubber on the knobs and leg locks either “melt”, and start slipping, or dry out and crack.
You can use it in salt water every day, and as long as you rinse it off with regular water often, it’ll be fine.
It will even survive falling over in a really strong wind, although that’s highly un-recommended since your camera will probably not survive such an incident. ;-)
Slik 700DX Tripod Review | Height
One of the benefits of big & heavy tripods is that they are very tall. Your ultra-light travel tripod may not be stable any taller than about 60 inches, but a bigger, beefier tripod such as the Slik 700DX will go well above eye level even for a 6-ft tall person.
Personally, even at 6’2″, I’m always thankful for my camera’s articulated LCD screen whenever I find myself using the Slik 700DX with the legs and center column fully extended.
Slik 700DX Tripod Review | Weight
The Slik 700DX is surprisingly lightweight, considering its height, stiffness, and indestructibility rating.
To be quite honest, I almost wish this tripod were even heavier! Since I categorize it as a “big and heavy tripod” that I wouldn’t take hiking, the fact that it is “only” 5.5 lbs (2.5kg) instead of 6+ lbs is ironic; just don’t do what I did and leave your camera all alone running a time lapse in gale-force winds (see above photo), and you should be okay!
The bottom line is that this is not a tripod you take on a 10+ mile hike, and that’s okay.
Any serious landscape or nightscape photographer will have innumerable shooting opportunities which are just a short walk/hike from their vehicle/lodging, and in these types of conditions, it’s actually annoying to use an ultralight tripod that isn’t as rock-solid.
Slik 700DX Tripod Review | Portability
If you haven’t figured it out already, this tripod is supposed to be big, and a little heavy. It’s not going to be portable. The word “compact” is not in its vocabulary. But, in this case, that’s a good thing. So even though it will score very low ranking in this regard, I wouldn’t really consider it a negative.
Having said that, yes, there are tripods which are as tall, sturdy, and indestructible as the Slik 700DX, and yet are also a pound or more lighter, and much more compact. Unfortunately, all of those tripods are ridiculously expensive.
Personally, when I need a portable tripod, I reach for a truly portable tripod, a hiking/backpacking tripod.
Slik 700DX Tripod Review | Ballhead
Unfortunately, the ballhead that usually comes stock with the Slik 700DX legs is a little…weird. Don’t get me wrong, it is certainly sturdy and durable, however, I find that it’s a bit large and cumbersome overall, and the circular shaped plate is rather impractical.
Slik 700DX Tripod Review | Price & Value
The reason I mention both price and value in this review category is that there are far too many tripods which are very affordable. However, because these affordable tripods are almost always total junk, they’re just not a good value at all.
In other words, a product has very little value to me if it breaks in 1-2 years, no matter what it costs.
Very, very few tripods can stand the test of time for less than $200 total, (when you add in a ~$99 ballhead like this one) and the 700DX is therefore in a league of its own.
You might be asking, are there any alternatives to this tripod, which are just as tall, relatively indestructible, and yet much lighter than the Slik?
Well, as I mentioned in the Portability category, not many tripods can accomplish this task. However, the Feisol CT-3342 and Feisol CT-3441S are contenders, at just 2.5 lbs and yet reaching 60″ and 70″ tall, respectively.
Maybe I’ll review those tripods next for you readers! Leave a comment if you have any suggestions about this Slik tripod or any others that you think might be similar. Thanks for reading!
Matthew Saville is an astro-landscape and adventure landscape photographer based in California.