The mysterious 717 tripod

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I’m a recreational eBay-er. Some night’s I’d rather snoop around on eBay than watch TV. Some nights, TV is sufficiently dull that I can easily do both. One of those “direct-ish from China” ebay items is the variously named but typically numbered “717″ tripod.

The mysterious 717Do an eBay search for 717 tripod and you’ll soon see what I mean. Sometimes it’s a Weifeng, sometimes its a Fancier. Search for reviews on Google or YouTUBE and you’ll find it branded eImage or ePhoto. The official model designation seems to be a WF-717 (for Weifeng), EI-717 (for eImage) or something similar.

After that, it starts to get more more confusing. It’s available in various heights, up to 6ft, while maintaining the same model number. It seems that 717 describes the fluid pan head, which you can buy on its own with a flat base or a 75mm bowl. AH seems to designate the flat base, and H, possibly, the bowl.

Where the tripod sells as a complete package, most vendors list the separate components, but again the legs are not identified by height.

Search the web for a manufacturer and you’ll find “Weifeng” and “China Fancier” which appear to be different companies, but not quite. If you search you can find the 717 amongst a range of camera supports, but again there’s no mention of different heights or versions the 717.

Then there’s the Fancier FC-270, which claims to be the successor to the 717 and appears to be available only from the Australian importer of Fancier tripods, based in Mitcham. The legs of the 270 have much nicer quick-release latches, but they only come in one height. The 270 is the smallest and cheapest of a range of fluid heads, which increase in load capacity as they go up in price. But rather than have the variable drag and counterweight settings of its predecessor, the 270 is simplified, and limited to fixed drag. The models above it, in addition to being able to hold heavier cameras, get variable drag, illuminated bubble levels and basically all the fruit of the 717 and a little more. The big brothers to the 270 all come with the same legs, so the one reason I would want to upgrade (height), doesn’t factor in.

Despite the 270 being the “successor” to the 717 for some time now, the 717 stocks don’t seem to be drying up eBay, and the 270 doesn’t seem to be rolling out through other vendors. And the 717 still seems to be on the product list of the Weifeng/Fancier sites.

So, after all that, are any of them any good? The various unboxing videos and test clips seem to suggest that the fluid motion of the 717 is pretty reasonable. It’s not a Miller, but it stacks up agains the Manfrotto HDV models, which cost about the same for the head as the 717 does for the full 6ft kit. They seem to be a little weak in places, but on those terms, you get what you pay for.

The fact that the head comes with an optional flat base is interesting to me too. If I were to mount a flat-based 717 head to the top of an Aviator Travel Jib, and the camera plate to the base of the jib, I would be able to very quickly attach the jib to a 717 tripod, and the camera to the jib, or remove the jib and move the camera to the tripod. And the applications for that would be huge!

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