Is it strange to see a review of a tripod on an action camera website? After all, you don’t mount a tripod on your helmet or use one when you’re diving (or do you?!). But action cameras can be used in all sorts of ways where it’s not the camera that’s moving but everybody and everything around it. They have many uses at work, home, your children’s school and many social occasions. In these cases a tripod can be your best friend for a nice, steady video that captures all the fun and action.
The Somita ST-3540 is a wonderful, inexpensive tripod for your action camera and is a really good starter tripod generally for point-and-shoot and other lightweight cameras and accessories up to 6.5lbs (3kg). It has all the adjustments and features of more expensive tripods but in a lighter, cheaper version.
The three-way pan and tilt head has independent locks for each adjustment. The quick-release mounting plate can also be tilted 90° to convert instantly to portrait orientation.
The three-section telescoping legs use simple flip locks to secure the sections. They have sturdy rubber feet with a ball-and-socket design to provide stable footing on all surfaces. There’s a bullseye level on top of the legs and a second level on the head.
It has a telescoping center post with crank and locknut and a weight hook below that. There’s also a convenient handle on the center tube.
So why is this gem so cheap? Because it’s . . . well, cheap. Other than the legs, center tube and handle for tilt the entire tripod is plastic. Don’t get me wrong: it’s all well made and the plastic doesn’t look or feel cheap. But plastic is plastic. For comparison here are photos of my father’s 80-plus-year-old tripod with it’s metal head.
Yes, it’s less versatile than the Somita’s but it’s super smooth to operate. By comparison the Somita can be a bit sticky if you’re trying to make small adjustments or pan or tilt slowly. That’s due to the friction of plastic on plastic. It’s worse with my action cameras but less bad with my point-and-shoot, maybe because of the slight additional weight.
However, the fact is that most of the time it’s not an issue. Generally when I’m using the Somita things are moving faster than the “sticky speed” of the tripod head or else it’s stationary. The knobs and handles themselves operate smoothly and the legs extend and retract smoothly as well.
After a year of use and a few clumsy mishaps where I kicked or tripped on the legs it still works beautifully. It even comes with a nice zippered carrying bag with strap. One niggle: the strap is too short too sling over your shoulder and it’s really not convenient as a handle.
Somita makes a full range of tripods and the 62-inch (157cm) ST3540 has a sister 68-inch (173cm) ST3560. I don’t like tripods shorter than 5ft (152cm) and I’m only 5′-8″ (173cm). If you’re taller you should consider the 3560 instead. Either way the Somita is a bargain. I bought mine a year ago on Amazon for $25 – very good for a tripod of that size. However, as of the date of this review the 62-inch ST3540 is selling on Amazon for an incredible $12.95 – a truly outstanding price. Even the 68-inch ST3560 is only $15.95.
At the normal $25 price I would recommend the Somita ST3540 to any action cam enthusiast or budding photographer. At $13 to $16 I recommend you go online and order either size now from Amazon before the prices go up again. This is a delightful holiday gift that should fit into most people’s budget. While you’re at it order one for yourself!
Happy Holidays from all of us at Pevly! 🙂
UPDATE: 9 March 2017
I mentioned in the review that the Somita tripod can be a bit “sticky” when panning or tilting due to the friction of plastic on plastic. The simplest solution to cure this is lubrication, but you must be careful to use only a compatible lubricant.
Petroleum oil can cause deterioration of plastic so I don’t recommend any such product. It’s best to use mineral oil or silicone lubricant. Both are compatible with almost any type of plastic. If you want some technical information but in mostly layman’s terms the newsletter Machine Design has an article about lubricating plastic gears that is nonetheless applicable in our case as well.
I bought some silicone lubricant and tried it on my Somita tripod and it made a big difference. Now the tripod doesn’t stick at all when panning or tilting. The tripod head moves completely smoothly even when adjusting in small increments or following slow-moving action.
You’ll need to look closely at the head to see where to apply the lubricant for the panning and tilting adjustments because they’re on different axes but once you find them they’re readily apparent. I applied a drop of oil at each location where there was an interface between a moving and a non-moving surface and that’s all it took. Silicone spray lubricant is available too. Be careful not to stain your clothes or floor and wipe off any excess.
So try a bit of mineral oil or silicone lubricant if you find your Somita tripod is sticky. I think you’ll be pleased with the results.