Hama Omega Carbon II £250
21st Sep 2011 | 17:25
A complete tripod kit, the Hama comes with ball and socket head, and a reasonable price tag
Overview and features
You can usually expect to pay upwards of £300 for a decent quality carbon fibre tripod and head. This makes the full-sized Hama Omega Carbon II look something of a bargain, because it's widely available for around £180 and comes complete with ball and socket head, plus a good quality padded carrying case.
One of the main attractions of carbon fibre camera tripods, compared with their aluminium cousins, is that they save weight, while still offering good stability. Let's see if the Hama delivers on its potential.
The Hama Omega Carbon II tripod and head kit has a combined maximum load rating of 4kg. That's easily sufficient for a bulky DSLR and long telephoto zoom lens but, even so, the load limit is only half that of some competing (and slightly cheaper) aluminium tripod and head combinations, such as the Benro A297EX and BH2-M ball head, or the Giottos MTL9361B and MH1311652 ball head.
The folded height for carrying the tripod around is 69cm, and the maximum height in use is 174cm, with the centre column fully extended. That's not particularly impressive considering that the Hama Omega Carbon II has four-section legs, whereas most tripods of this size have only three sections.
As well as having an extra set of clip locks that you need to operate to extend the tripod to its maximum height, it also means that the bottom leg sections are quite thin and spindly. From top to bottom, the diameters of the sections measure 28mm, 24mm, 20mm and 16mm.
As with most modern tripods, you can adjust the legs to any of three different angles from the centre column. This enables shooting down to a height of 48cm, and you can also unscrew the safety ring from the bottom of the centre column, so you can invert it and shoot from lower levels with the camera upside-down. However, unlike some competing tripods, the Hama Omega Carbon II lacks a pivot facility for the centre column.
Other features include both a compass and bubble level on the tripod shoulder, and a weight hook at the bottom of the centre column. The ball and socket head provided in the kit has a full complement of locking screw, adjustable friction damper and separate panning control. The last of these has a handy scale calibrated in 9-degree increments.
Build, performance and verdict
The Hama Omega Carbon II's build quality feels reasonably good but not of the professional standard offered by some aluminium tripods at this price. The clip locks feel a little plasticky, and the hinges that enable the legs to swing out were a little loose for our liking. However, you can adjust the tension in both the clip locks and the hinges using allen keys.
Three grub screws in the tripod platform enable firm fixing of the tripod head, which itself is solidly constructed and feels very durable.
One curious omission is that there's no D-ring on the screw for securing the quick-release plate to the camera base. It just has a hex head with a slot running through its centre. A coin is therefore the ideal tool for fixing the quick-release plate to a camera. You just have to hope you don't run out of small change while you're out shooting.
In our tests, performance was a bit of a mixed bag. The tripod is fairly stable if you only extend the upper three sections of each leg. However, extend the tripod to its full height using all four leg sections and it becomes very prone to flexing. On the plus side, spiral etching on the surfaces of the carbon fibre leg sections makes for smooth sliding when extending or contracting them.
The quick-release plate isn't as quick as most, as it has a screw-in locking clamp instead of the more usual clip-lock, as well as a separate safety catch. There's also no bubble level or spirit levels on the camera platform to aid levelling. The bubble level on the tripod shoulder only helps to level the tripod legs, not the camera itself.
Another flaw is that the physical connection between the quick-release plate and the camera is via two fairly thin rubber strips. The connection proved noticeably wobbly in our tests, especially when using heavier DSLR and camera lens combinations.
Weight saving is a key advantage of carbon fibre tripods but, at 2.7kg, the Hama Omega Carbon II is pretty much the same weight as most competing aluminium tripods fitted with similar ball and socket heads.
The Hama Omega Carbon II is very easy to use, and the calibrated panning dial on the head is useful for taking a sequence of shots, for subsequent stitching into a panoramic image.
No weight saving over similarly sized aluminium tripods and it lacks stability towards its maximum operating height.
The weight, coupled with a relative lack in stability when extending all four leg sections, mean that the Hama Omega Carbon II isn't a particularly good buy at the price.