18 November 2016

FEATURE: Poles Apart - action pole standoff

Stick it to ya.

Sharp-eyed visitors may have noticed that we're starting to augment our YouTube channel with some stand-alone reviews - not just a few clips which support written reviews. To that end, we've been on the lookout for bits of kit to help us do that, and discovered a real need for an action pole - a selfie stick that is tougher and more adjustable. With two landing on the doormat on the same day, we just had to give them both a go. Prepare for the Action Pole standoff!

The two poles we were sent were the Manfrotto Off road Stunt Pole, and the PNY Action Pole. We've seen products from both brands before and always really liked their stuff, but the poles - despite accomplishing the same thing - are quite different. Here they are:

The thinner one is the Manfrotto, while the chunkier blue pole is from PNY. There are actually two models from Manfrotto; one with an action cam mount, and one with a ball-socket mount with a tripod screw (which is what we requested). However, most action cams will ship with a screw adaptor, so if you're swapping between a camera and an action cam, either should be fine. Meanwhile, the PNY pole comes with attachments for both included.

Oh, and both come with a wrist strap, while the PNY Action Pole also features a carabina clip.

In terms of maximum extension, the Manfrotto wins out, stretching out to 90cm, while the PNY extends to 68cm. However (and that's an important 'however'), the Manfrotto is either fully extended or not at all, with no options to lock the pole in between. The PNY twist locks to any extension, so there is a greater choice there.

Because look: the Manfrotto pole uses telescopic fibreglass sections with wedge together to lock - a bit like a toy lightsaber. This makes it light and thin, but there is no way to lock the pole at a shorter length. It does however screw closed, so it will stay compact and together while stored.

Meanwhile in the PNY camp, the pole is made from three sections of aluminium. This makes the whole assembly heavier, but means you can lock off the pole at any length - even just a few centimetres if you want.

As we said, we were sent the ball-mount version of the Manfrotto pole, and a really good mount it is too. That screw locks the joint very tightly, and we had no nervous feeling about attaching a full sized camera to it, then hoisting it above our heads. As well as locking off the ball, the screw will also close the rotation of the head, so a very handy and easily adjustable fully metal thing.

Meanwhile in plastic world... yes, the mounts on the PNY stick are plastic, but they are fortified with lots of metal. Also, there is a lot more going on here as we left the screw mount on top. Unscrew that highest bar, and you'll be left with the action cam three-prong. Below that you have the rotating section which is tightened by the lowest most screw. All that is very solid and secure, but we're always going to prefer metal in joints like these - especially if you put an expensive DSLR or GoPro on there.

And in terms of compactivity (yes, that is a new word), both are pretty good. The Manfrotto pole is longer, but also thinner, while the PNY pole folds up shorter, but is much wider. This all depends on what kind of space you have, and what you prefer to carry. Remember, the PNY pole comes with a carabina so you can hang it from your bag, but the Manfrotto pole can be easily slipped into a pocket.

And the winner? Well, this is tough one, because overall we preferred the PNY Action Pole, but only because of the adjustable length of the pole. However (and this is another big and resounding 'however') the RRP of the PNY stick is £39, compared to Manfrotto's price of (at time of press) £19.99. Yes, you can't pick your length, but you're paying half as much.

In the hand the PNY pole felt more secure (due to the slightly heavier build and thicker grip) but the Manfrotto head mount was fully metal, not plastic as with the PNY. Mmmm...

Okay, nailed it. For photographers and vloggers, go for Manfrotto. Your heavier, more expensive cameras will (possibly) be safer on the Off road Stunt Pole. Action cammers and people filming with smaller, lighter cameras in adventure situations, go for the PNY. There, kind of decided.

or indeed www.pny.eu

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