|The fully extended Leofoto LM-364C with a compact (non-Leofoto) gimbal, full-frame camera, and 500mm prime lens.|
Leofoto is a brand of Laitu Photographic, a manufacturer that has been making tripods, heads and accessories since 2014, both under their own name and for other brands. The early products from the Leofoto brand were clearly ‘inspired’ by the designs and appearances of successful products from other companies. However, they have recently developed some of their own innovative gear, as well as a broad catalog of photographic accessories; from plates and clamps to straps and camera cages. The quality of this new gear is intended to compete at the same level as some of the best in the market, as well, and that is what we’re here to evaluate.
Specs and what’s included
- Maximum height of 145 cm (57.1″)
- Minimum height of 9 cm (3.5″)
- Folds to 53 cm (20.8″) with 14 cm (5.5″) diameter
- Weighs 1.92 kg (4.23 lbs) with flat platform
- 30kg (66 lbs) load limit
- Three leg angles (23° / 56° / 87°)
- Four leg sections (36mm top leg diameter 32.5 / 28 / 25mm)
- 70mm platform side-clamped with release button
- Large weight hook under platform
- Bubble level included on apex
- Removable 42mm mushroom feet on standard 3/8″ thread
- Includes padded bag, tools, instructions, 26mm spikes, 75mm video bowl
The Leofoto LM ‘Summit’ series are all modular apex, systematic tripods, like the older and larger ‘Mountain’ series, and come in 32, 36, and 40mm top tube sizes. Within the Summit series, there are three, four, and five-section leg options, as well as regular and long versions. Recently, Leofoto even added an entirely olive green version of the LM-364CL.
The top platform on the LM-364C can be replaced with the generously included 75mm bowl insert to accept large video heads or appropriately-sized leveling half-balls. Leofoto also offers carbon-fiber quick columns, geared columns, and horizontal columns to fit this 70mm central opening. Whether these accessories are readily available in your part of the world can still be uncertain, though Leofoto is gaining distributors in many regions.
|To get really low, and still be level, the Leofoto LB-75S leveler fits into the LM-series apex.|
Compared to others
|This tripod was tested and compared with its modular apex peers. Left to right; ProMediaGear TR344, Really Right Stuff TVC-34, Sirui SR-3204, FLM CP34-L4 II, Leofoto LM-364C, Gitzo GT3543LS.|
The Leofoto LM-364C was tested and compared alongside tripods in the same class of ‘Series 3′ (33-36mm top leg tube diameter) “Systematic’ (modular apex with removable platform) type, in terms of size and utility, including products from Sirui, Really Right Stuff, ProMediaGear, Gitzo and FLM.
All of these tripods were used in four seasons of sand, snow, mud, rain, and salt water; set up in the bog-like Atlantic salt marshes and the wind-swept Appalachian mountains. They have been loaded with gimbal heads, ball heads, geared and pano-heads, and up to 4kg (8.8lb) lenses attached to cameras ranging from APS-C to medium-format, shooting anything from long-exposure landscapes to extreme telephoto birds-in-flight. The only test they did not go through was being rough-handled at the airport, thanks to pandemic travel restrictions.
Below is a relative height comparison between the Leofoto LM-364C and a 6 foot (1.83m) photographer.
|The Leofoto Summit LM-364C standing tall on thick legs with a leveling aid inserted into the 70mm opening of the modular apex.|
The 36mm top tubes of the LM-364C are the second largest in this group, and the aluminum parts are impressively finished for the price, with a well machined apex and nice rubber grips on the leg locks. The wide range of Leofoto accessories available for these ‘systematic’ tripods increases their utility and appeal, and the fit and finish of these extras is equally good. In terms of materials and construction, the initial impression of Leofoto gear is quite good.
However, the proof is in the details. When fully extended but not yet locked, the leg tubes wiggle a bit more than expected, as if they aren’t a very tight fit inside each other, or the loosened locks allow too much play. Once the locks are tightened, of course, this flex disappears and the legs are rigid. This is still different from the feel of every other tripod in this group, and points to a less-precise mating of the tubes and locks.
The flat platform that comes initially installed is a thick and well-finished aluminum plug with deep sides, a large weight hook underneath, firm plastic disk on top, and a set screw to prevent a head from unscrewing off of it. This platform can be easily swapped out due to the clamping spider and repositionable locking lever, similar to the Gitzo method. However, unlike Gitzo, Leofoto put a pull-out safety button prominently on one side, so it’s possible that a loose platform could come out with an accidental knock of that button. That said, any responsible user should insure the platform is tightened down before moving or using any of these tripods.
The spring-loaded, ratcheting leg angle locks are easy to pull from the front or push from the back, and ratchet back in pretty well. However, when it gets really cold, the grease on the angle locks firms up and they don’t really snap back in like they do in the warmer months, or in the studio. Adjusting the angle of each leg is still easy and quick, but required a nudge sometimes.
Use in the field
Packed up, the LM-364C is about average in weight, but stays nicely tucked into its padded, ‘horn-type’ bag for longer trips. While the overall packed size is on the larger end of the group, its leg tubes are also the second widest, so there is a lot of tripod being carried around. One minor annoyance is that, like the Gitzo, there is no hard stop under the apex when folding the legs inward, so without a center column, they can be pushed to extreme angles. This made repacking the legs a bit more cumbersome compared to some others.
In use with heavy loads of long lenses and gimbals, medium-format cameras and geared heads, or even complicated panoramic heads, the hefty Leofoto never felt insubstantial or not up to the task. The stabilizing effect of those wider-than-average leg tubes was apparent, and the LM-364C only exhibited a few minor hiccups of sliding leg locks or slow angle locks while supporting whatever was the gear of the day. Considering how large the heads and lenses on top usually were, it was rarely noticed that the Leofoto is the shortest, fully deployed, set of legs in the group (by 1cm).
One thing to note, the apex of the LM-364C only has a single 3/8” threaded hole for accessory attachment, similar to the Gitzo ‘Easy-Link,’ rather than the typical 1/4” seen on most accessories and other tripods (while the ProMediaGear has both sizes). This just means that a reducer bushing will be needed to attach that ‘magic arm’ or clamp to hold a phone, battery pack or other small device. Naturally, Leofoto offers 3/8” threaded accessories specifically designed to use the anti-twist holes next to this attachment point.
Vibrations can make even the sharpest lens turn out mushy, blurred photos, and can ruin long exposures. In the typical use cases for this class of tripod, reducing the effects of vibration is extremely important, since longer focal lengths and higher resolutions magnify the effects of any movement, and environmental vibrations like wind and water will have an increasing effect on larger legs and gear. Camera vibration can be mechanically minimized with mirror lockup, electronic shutters, and a remote shutter release, while adding weight to the bottom of the tripod (with the weight hook or a tripod stone bag) can help stabilize the whole setup. However, not all sources of vibration can be eliminated, so we tested whether the tripod will dampen them or transmit and reflect them to the camera.
The tripod legs were fully extended, and our vibration analyzer for heavy-duty tripods (an iPad on a 3.2 kg (7 lb) cantilevered weight) was mounted directly to the flat platform’s 3/8″ threaded bolt with a long lens plate. An industrial solenoid valve with a plastic hammer was used as a source of vibration (a knock to the bottom of one leg). The resulting graph of all three accelerometers shows both the resistance of the tripod to the initial shock, as well as the rate of decay for residual vibration within the tripod.
|Leofoto LM-364C vibration resistance test results – click for larger graph
*Note that this graph is relative only to this class of tripods. The weight and test equipment was adjusted to provide a conclusive result for this size of tripod.
In the vibration testing, the Leofoto LM-364C showed the full advantage of its 36mm top tubes and solid construction, providing a good amount of resistance to the initial shock, and then a very quick dampening of any residual vibrations. This puts the ‘Summit series’ Leofoto in the upper half of this competitive group for direct vibration resistance, only edged out by the Gitzo and RRS. There is nothing to complain about here.
With Leofoto gear in general, you get a lot for the price paid, but in some cases, that ‘value’ is coming from the innovations and designs of others. When it comes to their tripods, they are generic enough that it’s the performance that matters, and the LM-364C holds up quite well. This ‘Summit’ tripod provides a nice balance between size, weight and modularity, while remaining solidly in the middle of this demanding pack of competitors when it comes to performance.
The low price for this size and type of tripod is the real attraction, and after a thorough review and long testing period, there were only a few minor issues with the fit of all the parts. If you spend a lot of time using your tripod, this is a still a good choice and will be a satisfying companion in many instances. The wide range of options in the ‘Summit’ and related ‘Ranger’ series, with similar legs and materials, mean there is probably a good personal fit in the Leofoto tripod line for most needs.
One ongoing concern is after-sale support and availability of spare parts for a tripod of this type, which is intended to be maintained and used for a very long time to come. Admittedly, this can also be a concern for some other brands in this comparison if you are outside of North America.
What we like
- Very affordable price for stout 36mm legs
- Very good vibration resistance
- Uses standard apex and foot sizes
- Comes with video bowl, bag and spikes
- Lots of related tripod choices and accessories
What we don’t like
- Leg tubes and locks don’t fit precisely
- No rubber seals inside leg locks
- Hard to get replacement parts