New Sticks For Less
When it comes to tripods, there aren’t a whole lot of options in between your “El Cheapo” box-store brand and your hand-crafted Pro set of sticks. Either you dish out the price of a nice lunch or the price of a new notebook computer. Here’s where Matthews come in. The Matthews M25 tripod aims to be a great first tripod without breaking the bank. It’s an entry-level tripod, one we trust with our prosumer camcorders and accessories.
Out of the Box
Matthews does a very decent job of shipping their products; the M25 comes inside its very own padded carrying bag. The tight-fitting bag is simple but useful, as it includes a shoulder strap and handles that are nicely balanced when carried. Padding is minimal, but fine for fending off scratches and potential snags.
The main attraction of the Matthews M25 tripod is the design. Its form factor, the “crutch” design, is like a more expensive product. The tripod legs are built of a sturdy aluminum, and the tripod head features a counter-balancing spring. Both features serve the prosumer videographer very well. Aluminum alloy legs create a stable base, where the camera operator’s unwanted movements are less likely to be transmitted to the video. Two parallel tubes form the top leg stage, two more tubes form the middle leg stage, and a single wider tube rounds out the bottom. The crutch aids in getting a greater usable height while remaining small when compacted. The feet are also well designed. Made of hard rubber, they do prevent slippage on smooth surfaces. But a few quick turns will thread the rubber knobs away and expose a sharp metal spike. This is again to prevent slippage, but these spikes should be used only in the dirt or uneven surfaces. Ballroom floors are a no-no.
Having a counter-balance tripod head aids in further stabilizing the shot, especially with a larger camcorder. For instance, when a downward tilting movement is made, the springs help to bring the camcorder back up to a level position. A surprising feature is the adjustable tripod plate. The M25 adds a lockable dial on the right side of the head, where fine adjustments can be made. When you turn the dial, the camcorder moves forward or backward (up to 3″ of travel) for great balance control. Nice touch, Matthews. In this price range, it’s next to impossible to include a true Fluid Head. That said, the movement of the included non-Fluid Head on the M25 feels pretty nice. We did experience a loose feeling in the pan-locking lever. This isn’t something that affects panning performance, but it is a little funky. When we talked with Matthews, they were quick to note that they could not re-create the movement with one of their M25s in stock. So, the chances are probably slim that you’ll experience it. Pan-locking levers aside, the 65mm bowl mount is another standout feature. The bowl smoothly allows for making off-angle shots or helps level the camcorder. It’s easily adjusted via the stout knob on the underside.
M25 in the Field
We found the M25 to be a good complement to our video gear. We took it from location to location with ease and mounted our Sony FX7 HDV camcorder without a second thought. Good balance and stability overall. The center spreaders are minimal, but they do their job and they don’t get in the way. We were able to use them even when a quick breakdown was called for. And although this tripod isn’t as heavy or burly as some others, it doesn’t feel too light or lacking. By having a set friction level for both the pan and tilt features, Matthews has regulated our user experience. This is a catch-22, for better and worse. A heavier drag setting (more friction) may cause unwanted twisting of the product that gets translated to the video. But many video producers are interested in using adjustable drag features. On the positive side, Matthews is able to keep cost to the consumer very low without sacrificing build quality. We’ll take fewer features of higher quality over more features of lesser quality, any day.
Toss out your old El Cheapo time-bomb before it’s too late!
Load Capacity: 15lbs (7kg)
Balance Plate: Sliding, 3 inches movement
Counter Balance System: Yes
Pan/ Tilt Drag: No
Pan/ Tilt Lock: Yes
Leveling Bubble: Yes
Leg Sections: 3
Minimum Height: 30″ (765mm)
Maximum Height: 5′ (1520mm)
Folded Length: 31″ (78.7mm)
Weight: 7lbs (3.2kg)
- Adjustable camera mounting plate
- No adjustable drag
Matthews has certainly created a very usable tool for the entry-level and intermediate video producer.
Andrew Burke is Videomaker’s Associate Editor.
Matthews Studio Equipment
2405 Empire Ave.
Burbank, CA 91504