January 3, 2014

Nest NT-6294CT Carbon Fiber Traveler Tripod Review

Nest NT-6294CT Carbon Fiber Traveler Tripod overview
I was first acquainted with Nest products about a year or maybe a little more ago, while searching for a good value Systematic type tripod .
I found then, a newly established company with very few products and a very simple name for the Chinese standards.

Most peculiar, was that they aimed at the high end market, having only three models of Systematic type tripods (made of Aluminium alloy and Carbon Fiber), a prototype Carbon Fiber Gimbal head, a DV fluid head and a large type ball head to accompany the tripods.
I say peculiar, because usually Chinese manufacturers start from low budget consumer tripods and then enter the pro market.
Following up Nest's course, it was quite later that they complemented their lines with more accessories for the systematic tripods, like geared center columns and video bowls, more DV heads, the "Athena" Camera Bags and Back Packs and finally the "Professional Tripod" line featuring a dozen different tripod models both of Aluminium and Carbon Fiber.

Who is "Nest"?
According to the Nest's website "About" section :
Hong Kong Nest Technology CO., LTD is an international company registered in Hong Kong. The company is specializing in gimbal head, bird watching / DV heads, professional camera tripods, bags and accessories. There are more than 10 experienced engineers working in the R&D Department in order to design and develop practical photo / DV support equipment for professional photographers.
The company’s factory -ZHONGSHAN NEST PHOTOGRAPHIC EQUIPMENT CO.,LTD- covers 18,000 square meters (193,750 sq feet) of area and 12,000 square meters (129,167 sq feet) of building space and is located in Zhongshan city in the Guangdong province. There are more than 100 employees in the company.
Nest team is dedicated to achieve a high-level brand name recognition in the world photographic and broadcast fields.
Their motto: "Nest, Professional Focus" reflects their pursuit.

Their product mix, product appearance, product characteristics and the establishment of a new brand name, in a new factory, denotes to me that a group of surely experienced people have invested heavily in bringing the "made in China" label into a new era, wiping out the past impressions.
Of course what remains, is to see how much they have succeeded by evaluating one of their products and let it speak on their behalf.

Thanks to Desmond Photographic Distributors, USA, who have recently started out with Nest tripods, a Nest NT-6294C Pro traveler tripod has arrived for evaluation.

The Tripod Specification

Nest NT-6294CT model label
Manufacturer Specification:
Model:NT-6294CT
Leg Sections:4
Material:Carbon Fiber 8X
Max Height (Center Column Raised):1575 mm / 62.0"
Max Height (Center Column Down):1285 mm / 50.6"
Min Operating Height:185 mm / 7.3"
Leg Folding Mechanism:180°
Folded Length:450 mm / 17.7"
Monopod Max Height:1638 mm / 64.5"
Maximum Leg ∅:29 mm
Weight:1470 gr / 3.25 lb
Max Load:20 Kg / 44 lb

The above specifications refer to the NT-6294C tripod without a ball head. therefore all measurements in the specification table may differ from data displayed on other websites which in their majority include a ball head.

Features:
Nest NT-6294CT 8X carbon fiber layers
  • Forged Aluminium/Magnesium alloy spider.
  • 8 X Layers Carbon Fiber legs.
  • One leg can be converted to a Monopod.
  • Two position leg locks.
  • Reversible legs fold up 180°.
  • The center column can be inverted for unusual low angle shots.
  • Retractable Sandbag hook.
  • Includes case, padded strap, tools and instruction manual.
According to Nest the 8 layers of 100% carbon fiber material are arranged in a Quasi-Isotropic configuration. Independent laboratory testing results indicated that while other brands of carbon fiber tubes have a breaking point of 84.4 kg, the Nest travel series carbon fiber has an amazing breaking point of 134.1 kg. (Sorry, but I'm not going to verify that on the test tripod :-) )

The Package Contents and Accessories

Nest NT-6294CT box
Nest NT-6294CT comes in a matte brown-black, heavy-carton box with the Nest logo and alternated on every other side by Professional Tripod and a red patch emphasizing on the 5 year warranty of Nest tripods. The box is generic for all models and only a large sticker on one of the box flaps indicates the enclosed model.

Nest NT-6294CT box label
A large blue-grey label at the top fold of the box shows the tripod's main characteristics and model number. The model number seems a little misleading,  showing NT-6294CK where "K" stands for the kit when bundled with the Nest NT-636H ball head.

However, Nest ball heads although claimed by few vendors as Arca compatible due to resemblance, actually their lever release clamp is a hybrid, something between a Gitzo style quick release clamp with an Arca style QR plate, but neither Gitzo nor Arca plates are interchangeable.

Therefore, Desmond Photographic Distributors decided to avoid this proprietary clamp pitfall and distribute the tripods either alone or bundled with one of their other true Arca-Swiss® dovetail compatible ball heads, like the Sunwayfoto FB-36 as we shall see later on.


Nest NT-6294CT unboxed
By opening the box you come next to a very good quality carrying case, which in turn includes the tripod wrapped in a nylon bag, a wide shoulder strap, as well as a smaller zip-closing nylon bag with cards and tools.
Nest NT-6294CT box contents
First impressions after removing the nylon bags are the unexpectedly good finish and feeling of quality of the light weight tripod.
Nest NT-6294CT warranty card, manual, tools
The small zip-lock bag contains a folded user manual printed on heavy paper; a warranty card with fill-in boxes for model, user and dealer data on the reverse side; two labels connected with an elastic string, a red one with a Quality Check stamp on the back and a black one with tripod model and main characteristics, aimed for in shop display and finally two Allen hex keys.
Nest NT-6294CT user manual
The User Manual is in English only, far better that other mere Chinese to English translations. It is quite comprehensible with schematic representations, highlighting the parts as well as the tripod functions. It also contains useful maintenance tips and points of attention for the operation (Click to enlarge).

Starting with the Carrying case
As the carrying case is the first thing that one comes in contact with, when opening the box I shall start from here. Since Nest produces a full line of camera bags and back-packs, it's no wonder why a well designed and well made padded-case is included with the tripod.
The duffel type case sports both carrying handles and a shoulder strap, while its dimensions are slightly larger than the folded tripod's, being 48 cm (18.90") long by 14 cm (5.51") wide, and 14 cm (5.51") tall. For the record the total weight of the case and strap is 375 gr (13.23 oz).

Nest NT-6294CT carrying case and strap
The black nylon fabric is of good quality and seems strong enough with good seams. The inner foam padding is quite stiff and 1 cm thick, thicker than many others I have encountered, ensuring the protection of the contents. The duffel type carrying handles are comprised by two wide fabric bands which run around the circumference of the case, joined with a padded strap on top, designed to carry far more weight than a carbon tripod.
The wide shoulder strap is also well made with a padded anti slip shoulder piece and two spring-closing pivot hooks.
Nest NT-6294CT carrying case and strap buckle details
The shoulder strap buckles and pivoting hooks are made of metal with carabiner type spring clasps. The case is equipped with two D-shaped metal buckles placed diagonally at either side of the zipper. In he closeup photo above we can see all details of the shoulder strap mounts, the carrying handles as well as the red tag with the Nest logo.
Nest NT-6294CT carrying case external pocket detail
The case features also an external zipped pocket which may prove handy for storing accessories like extra quick release plates, tools etc.
Nest NT-6294CT carrying case internal pocket detail
The double slider zipper is made of strong coiled plastic, running from the "base"of one side all the way around the "top" to the "base" of the other side. This gives a wide opening for inserting or removing the tripod effortlessly. A point of mention here is that the zipper is weather resistant, covered with fabric when closed, in order to protect it from dust or dirt penetrating between its teeth. A detail usually found on expensive bags and back-packs.
The internal lining is made of a softer nylon fabric as usual with all cases. A nice detail is a second zipped pocket in the interior which can hold more accessories.

Unfolding the Tripod
Have you ever smelt quality? :) No matter how absurd it may sound, this is the feeling I had when I removed its nylon bag and got in contact with the tripod for the first time. Beside the pleasant to the eye clean lines, even the smell of the new materials was balanced.

Nest NT-6294CT folded back 180°
Nothing looked or felt cheap on this tripod. No fancy labels and frills all around. The finishing of metal parts is superb, the feeling of the rubber parts is semi hard quality rubber.
Nest NT-6294CT folded normally and back 180° standing
Unfolding the legs requires adequate force, equally balanced at all stages from the 180° back folded position to the normal upright position, which means that their retaining screws were properly tightened and calibrated at the factory and also that tolerances are tight.
Nest NT-6294CT unfolded standing
All exposed aluminium parts are hard coat anodized with a satin silver-grey color except for the locking rings that are anodized with a more shiny sky-blue color. There are only two discrete silver labels one with Nest logo and model number (pictured beside the manufacturer specs above) and one just above the leg lock ring.
What's missing from the picture are any closed foam grips usual to many other tripod makes except for Gitzo's though, which is something I will come back later on.

Next thing as usual, was to measure and verify the tripod specs.
Measured Specification(w/o ball head)
Leg Sections :4
Leg Sections Diameters*:29.15, 25.97, 22.85, 19.75 mm
(1.14, 1.02, 0.90, 0.78 " )
Leg Angles (degrees):20.30°,  72.50°
Center Column Diameter:29.15 mm / 01.14 "
Max Height Center Column Raised:1585 mm / 65.74 "
Max Height Center Column Down:1305 mm / 55.51 "
Mid Height Center Column Down (3 leg sections extended at 20°): 1000 mm / 39.37 "
Mid Height Center Column Down (2 leg sections extended at 20°): 720 mm / 28.35 "
Min Height Center Column Down (Legs at 20°):475 mm / 18.70 "
Min Height Long Center Column (Legs at 72.5°):365 mm / 14.37 "
Min Height Ground Level Column (Legs at 72.5°):185 mm / 07.28 "
Transport Length legs Folded back 180°:450 mm / 17.72 "
Transport Length legs Folded normally:510 mm / 20.08 "
Weight:1.477 gr / 03.26 lb
Max Load capacity** :20.00 kg / 44.09 lb

* The leg tube diameters have an exemplary tolerance of +/- 0.03 mm between the same leg sections.
** I retain the max load capacity of 20 kg as a measure of precaution. The number of 20 kg is actually the max load capacity of the Nest NT-636H ball head that usually accompanies the tripod as a kit. In my opinion the tripod structure can hold a lot, but I cannot predict how the tripod will balance and behave with heavy loads on top. As I have mentioned in other articles, there is a great difference between hanging a heavy ballast under a tripod and loading a heavy weight on top.


Leg sections tubing & Twist leg locks
Since we have four leg sections, we have three twist lock rings, which all three of them can be easily grabbed with one hand and turned counter clockwise simultaneously, in order to unlock the leg sections. The usual nowadays leg anti-rotation system is present. It takes exactly 1/4 of a turn to release the leg locks, in par with the manufacturer statement and as a patent is involved here, I'll elaborate on it further down.
I felt very fine precision in the leg sections extension and retraction. Everything slides in and out perfectly without any effort or harsh sounds, but with an audible whoosh of the air trapped in the tubes.

Nest NT-6294CT leg sections diameters
The external layers of the 8X Carbon fiber weaving follows a usual twisted cross stripes pattern of two grey shades. The diameter of the four sections is ~ 29, 26, 23 and 20 mm respectively, showing a 3 mm difference between each leg section. With a top leg section diameter of 29 mm versus the 28 mm of other manufacturers, each lower section diameter is in turn increased by 1 mm and although 1 mm may seem insignificant it results in better stability and load bearing.
Nest NT-6294CT twist leg lock and label
I'll stay a little on the second small label on one of the tripod legs showing the direction in which to lock the legs, and elaborate more on the twist locks. The twist locks are one of the most important parts of this tripod as the words NEST PATENTED, inscribed on the large rubber anti-slip rings, denote.
However, here we speak about a totally different concept, than a screw on/off cap as the the mechanism found on most tripod makes with twist leg locks.
The somewhat oversized twist lock rings hide an innovative mechanism inside, which pushes or pulls a plastic cylinder between the two adjacent leg sections, locking them very firmly. They rotate at the same spot with a limited travel of 90° and cannot be unscrewed.
Nest NT-6294CT twist leg lock open
In order to release a leg section, you only need to rotate the twist lock counter-clockwise until it stops. This motion pulls out a plastic cylinder by 2 mm, unlocking the section.
Nest NT-6294CT twist leg lock locked
By rotating the twist lock in the opposite direction (i.e. clockwise) until it stops again, the plastic cylinder is pushed inside locking the section. 

Nest's innovative concept is among -if not- the best implementation of a twist lock system I have tried up to now, with very affirmative locking/unlocking in only 1/4 of a turn.
This is actually tightly closed system with good weather sealing and according to Nest, it does not require maintenance from the user.

Update Jan 15, 2014
The Patented Twist Lock Mechanism
After receiving clearance from Nest headquarters regarding the publication of their patented twist leg lock mechanism, I prepared a short presentation of this very innovative and sophisticated concept.
As mentioned previously, Nest's twist leg locks operate under a very different concept that the one we are used to. Somehow it's not so easy to separate the leg sections, unless you know the trick. The mechanism is very well concealed and thus very well weather sealed.

Nest NT-6294CT twist leg lock rubber grip removal sequence
For the mechanism to be revealed the rubber grip has to be removed first. I used a plastic tool to lift the rubber grip edge above the aluminium ring rim, in order to avoid scratching the aluminium or cutting the rubber (top photo above). Then pushed the rubber grip slowly and evenly from all sides (bottom left photo) until it cleared the aluminium ring surface (bottom right photo).
Nest NT-6294CT twist leg lock dis-assembly sequence
Although there is no sign whatsoever around the perimeter of the aluminium ring, which seems absolutely solid, the upper rim can be unscrewed. The contact between the two parts is so good due to very tight tolerances that you have to be tipped off to know. I used a rubber glove on the thin rim in order to avoid damaging the aluminium (top left photo). As the main (lower) twist lock ring cannot rotate more than 90° only the upper rim can be turned to get unscrewed (top right photo).
Finally, by pulling away the two parts a sturdy brass-alloy cylinder is revealed, which is permanently connected to the thicker leg section. The clear cylinder although made from a very durable friction resistant alloy, is covered with a thin film of thick silicone grease. No threads no moving parts here.
Nest NT-6294CT leg sections dis-assembly sequence
Now we are able to pull the two leg sections apart. One fine detail here is that if you look closer there exist two opposing grooves on the inner surface of the brass-alloy cylinder, the function of which we shall see later.
By pulling the lower section out reveals the usual Teflon inserts around the lower leg section top. The gaps between them on either side coincide with the two ridges that run along the inner tube of the thicker leg section, responsible for the anti-rotation of the leg sections. The Teflon inserts are very well finished where even the corners are trimmed off, showing attention to detail and justifying the very smooth operation of the legs (bottom left photo).
The Teflon inserts have round bosses that fit into relevant holes on the CF tube, keeping them in place (bottom right photo).  So far so good, but how these twist locks operate?
Nest NT-6294CT twist leg lock mechanism details
The secret lies within the larger part of the aluminium twist leg lock ring. There we find a black plastic cylinder with a wedged shaped top perimeter, which when inserted between the two leg section tubes is immobilizing the thinner section by constriction.
However, there are two opposing anti-twist bosses on the black cylinder which coincide with the anti-twist grooves on the brass-alloy cylinder. These bosses guaranty that the plastic cylinder moves only back and forth. Below each boss exists a rectangular hole. If we look into the leg lock ring, we shall see two relevant bosses on a second clear-aluminium ring where the black plastic cylinder is attached. 
Nest NT-6294CT twist leg lock ring interior details
Actually this clear-aluminium ring does all the job. It resides on reverse (counter-clockwise) threads in the interior of the large ring. Therefore, when we turn the large external ring clockwise in order to lock a leg section, then the internal ring moves up forcing the black cylinder between the leg sections. Equally, when we turn the large external ring counter-clockwise the internal ring moves back releasing the legs. All internal parts are well lubricated by a thin film of thick silicone grease resulting in a very smooth operation.
In my opinion this is an ingeniously conceived and implemented mechanism!

Following the reverse order, the twist lock mechanism may be put back together. However, unless you are very keen with mechanisms, I would not recommend that as an end user you disassemble the twist locks. For one, there are parts that need alignment in order to fit back and second the thin film of lubrication/sealing grease may be damaged. In any case, the dis-assembly and re-assembly should be done in a dust free environment.

Center Column Stem & Legs Hub (Spider)

Nest NT-6294CT apex / center column & legs spider
The tripod spider, comprised by the center column stem and the legs hub, follows the latest trend of forged and then CNC finished Aluminium alloy and looks quite massive compared to some competitive products. The length of the stem including the twist lock ring reaches 6.5 cm (2.56"). The leg hinges arms are quite wide ensuring better resistance to torsional forces both laterally and vertically. Same goes for the leg joints that are also CNC machined but quite thicker than others.
Considering the total weight of the tripod, I can assume that Nest engineers made a small compromise in favor of sturdiness and torsional inflexibility.
Nest NT-6294CT center column twist lock
The large sky-blue colored center column lock ring is also covered by a thick black rubber ring with the words NEST PATENTED inscribed on it. This is a more common screw on cap to the center column stem, but although there is no stopper as with the leg twist lock rings, it also takes just 1/4 of a turn to release/lock the center column.
Nest NT-6294CT center column twist lock removal sequence
After removing the center column (top left) it is easy to unscrew (turning counter-clockwise) the lock ring completely (top right) in order to reveal and remove a single plastic cylinder from inside the stem tube, which is responsible for the center column immobilization.
Nest NT-6294CT center column constriction cyliner
The plastic constriction cylinder is slotted at both ends, with a cut along it's one side and an anti-twist tooth at the bottom marked by a blue circle in the photo above.
The patented innovation of the center column locking system is that the long plastic constriction cylinder deforms both on top and bottom when the lock ring is tightened, constricting the center column in two places (instead of one usually) immobilizing it completely without any lateral slack.
Another benefit of this design is that the center column is isolated from the metal parts of the leg hub stem, therefore it moves up and down smoothly within the plastic constriction cylinder, which also acts as a vibration damper.
Nest NT-6294CT center column stem interior
The interior of the center column stem tube is perfectly finished. Unlike other tripod makes the inner diameter is even along the tube. We can see here a shallow 5 mm wide anti-twist groove which fits to the plastic cylinder's tooth as described above, as well as a lip around the bottom. Both are intended to keep the plastic cylinder from twisting and falling. However, there is no anti-twist mechanism for the center column itself, other than the strong locking at two points. When locked, the center column is completely immobilized and does not twist at all, but when loosened to be raised/lowered it does twist, therefore re-framing may be required in some cases.

Leg Angle Lock Latches & Angles
Nest NT-6294CT is equipped with a prototype leg angle lock mechanism featuring a spring loaded sliding latch made of chromed steel, which falls into place with a couple of audible "clacks" as each leg is unfolded from the 180° position, first into the low level and then in the upright position.

Nest NT-6294CT leg angle lock opening sequence
In the top left photo above the spring loaded latch is shown in its rest position (to the left) when the tripod stands in the upright position. In order to release the latch, you need to push the leg slightly downwards and then slide the latch to the right using a small recess on its top surface as a grip (top right photo). Holding the latch you can then pull the leg upwards and either release it at the low angle position or fold it back completely 180° for transport.
However, I have a reservation regarding the shiny surface of the latches, as it may become slippery and difficult to hold with wet hands or some types of gloves.
Nest NT-6294CT leg angle locks view w/ reversed legs 180°
Folding back the tripod legs by 180° is more revealing of the prototype leg angle control mechanism. The spring loaded latch moves within two grooves on the perimeter of the hinge arm, while the spring remains invisible. The support of the leg in the predetermined angles relies upon a peg-like extension of the leg joint (indicated by the yellow arrow in the photo above) and either a small groove on the latch for the low angle of 72.5° (indicated by the green arrow in the photo above) or the latch body itself for the upright position of ~20°.
Somehow, the contact surfaces seemed very small to me at first, considering the load capacity of the tripod specified by the manufacturer. However, after exercising a lot of pressure on the tripod, especially in the low angle / ground level position where the contact is minimal, the mechanism proved very sturdy and one of the less prone to flex I have encountered.

Long Center Column

Nest NT-6294CT lowest position w/ long center column
Total Center Column assembled length (height) is 35.5 cm (13.97") and total effective height added to the tripod height when fully extended is 28.0 cm (11.02").
Lowest attainable position with the long center column is 36.5 cm (14.37"). That is without ball head and with the legs spread at the 72.5 degrees position.
Nest NT-6294CT top mounting plate removal sequence
The top mounting plate resembles Gitzo's power disk, since we find here the two security screw concept, but otherwise quite different. It is 7 mm thick (tall) with gear-like grooves in the perimeter. In order to remove the top plate from the center column we need to use the smaller of two Allen hex keys included, inserting it into the innermost headless screw and unlock turning counter-clockwise. Then the top plate is free to be unscrewed turning it counter-clockwise by hand.
Nest NT-6294CT top mounting stud
Once the top mounting plate is removed, the 3/8"-16 mounting stud is fully revealed. The stud is very firmly secured by a 10mm nut onto the aluminium insert on the center column top. It would require a tube spanner (spark plug wrench) or similar tool to remove it, which is not included. This may signify that the stud is not reversible with an 1/4"-20 tip on the other end. I marked to put this detail in the "Cons" section but on second though I realized that I have never used the 1/4"-20 stud option on any of my tripods, so I leave it to the discretion of the reader.
Another fine detail though, is the rubber O-ring which resides just below the top mounting plate and is intended to dampen the impact and sound in case the center column is left to fall down accidentally.
Nest NT-6294CT top mounting plate details
The 50 mm (1.97") diameter top mounting plate is CNC machined out of a solid piece of aluminium, weighs 30 gr (1.05 oz) and has a hard rubber disk embedded on the top. There is a 3/8"-16 threaded center hole that enables to screw/unscrew on and off the top stud without the need of an extra nut.
The bottom side is recessed around the perimeter in order to fit on the center column locking ring for ground level shooting as we shall see later. A small detail that shows the designers' cunningness is the recess around the top of the inner cylinder which is meant to hold the rubber O-ring in place when the plate is screwed onto the center column.
The outermost headless screw lies within that recess and is accessible from the bottom. The purpose of this screw is to secure a ball head on top of the mounting plate, depriving it from twisting and loosen accidentally.
Nest NT-6294CT long center column components
All center column components laid on the table. The CF tube, the top mounting plate, the rubber O-ring and the hook assembly. The center column tube is smooth all around and lacks an anti-twist groove, is 33,8 cm (13.30") long and weighs 111 gr (3.92 oz) where by adding the weight of the top plate and the hook assembly we reach a total of 194 gr (6.84 oz) for the whole center column assembly.
Personally, I'm used to tripods without an anti-twist mechanism like the Benro Versatile Transformer, so I don't consider it a drawback, however I have to mention it for the record. 
Nest NT-6294CT center column spring hook and ground level stud
In the top left photo we can see the hook assembly in place at the bottom of the center column. Its diameter is a little wider than the center column diameter acting as a stopper not allowing the center column to come off when it is fully raised or dropped when reversed.
In the top right photo it is obvious that the hook assembly screws into the center column bottom via a 16mm (5/8") thread which offers a larger contact surface and greater load bearing capacity.
Although, it somewhat increases the overall  tripod weight, weighing 53 gr (1.86 oz) by itself, the lack of any plastics is one of the pluses of the hook assembly. Its all metal construction, made of aluminium and chromed stainless-steal makes it very trustworthy. Further, the hook tip -when retracted- rests withing the base disk, protecting from accidental injuries or catching on anything like straps. Another nice touch is the rubber O-ring residing into the perimeter of the disk, acting as a soft bumper for the CF tripod legs when folded in an upright position.
Following an "ala Gitzo" recipe, the hook is also equipped with a metal rod with a 3/8'-16 stud, which combined with the top mounting plate, reverts the tripod for ground level shooting. (More on this in the next section).
Nest NT-6294CT center column spring hook w/ detached ground level stud
If you don't intend to use the tripod for ground level shooting often, then the chromed ground level stud may be detached from the center column spring hook easily, saving you some 36 gr (1.27 oz). You just need to pull back the hook and unscrew the stud, storing it for future use.
Nest NT-6294CT center column spring hook as stopper
The role of the hook assembly as a stopper not allowing the center column to come off when it is fully raised can be best observed when the legs are folded back 180° for transport.
Nest NT-6294CT center column spring hook w/ balast
The center column spring hook is pictured above in action at its extended position, with a sling back-pack hooked as a ballast via a carabiner.
Having in mind the very low self weigh against the high load-bearing capacity of this tripod, then this hook is a crucial part. Any heavy camera/lens combination or gear mounted on top of this tripod should be balanced with a low hanging weight, as your camera bag for example, otherwise a rip of air could trip the tripod down with all the sad results which I don't want even to think about.



Ground Level Shooting
Unlike other tripod manufacturers who include a second short center column or have one available as a spare part, Nest designers decided to follow/replicate the Gitzo® concept for low angle, ground level shooting.

Nest NT-6294CT ground level shooting preparation sequence
The Nest NT-6294CT conversion for low angle shooting requires the removal of the center column. First we need to unscrew the spring hook assembly, then unlock the center column and remove it from the top. Second, we need to unscrew the top mounting plate off the center column (top left photo above).
Although it is not mentioned in the short manual, I found it more effective to unscrew completely the center column twist lock, remove the plastic constricting cylinder from inside the center column stem (top right photo); then screw back on the twist lock all the way. All we need to keep from the center column parts, are the top mounting plate and the center column hook assembly.
Nest NT-6294CT center column hook combined w/ top plate
Which are designed to interlock with the twist lock and between each other.
Nest NT-6294CT ground level shooting assembly closeup
The center column hook assembly needs to be inserted into the stem from below and then the top mounting plate be screwed and tightened onto the protruding stud. The recess under the top mounting plate described earlier, enables it to sit tight onto the center column twist lock without any play, as it matches exactly the internal and external diameters of the twist lock.
Nest NT-6294CT at ground level shooting position
In the low angle / ground level position the tripod goes down at 18.5 cm (7.28") without ball head. Two points of notice here. One, the rubber feet still maintain very good traction even at their tips, while their large size protects the twist locks from touching the ground, at least on flat surfaces. And two, unlike other tripods I have tested, there is almost no up-down flex of the tripod under heavy loads, which is indicative of very well designed and sturdy leg hub and leg hinges mechanisms.

Leg Rubber Feet

Nest NT-6294CT leg rubber feet details
The NT-6294CT legs end to large size bell shaped rubber feet, of very good quality semi-hard rubber with good traction on most surfaces due to multiple concentric grooves at the bottom as well as recesses on their perimeter. However, the rubber feet are not removable, leaving no option for steel spikes appropriate for slippery terrain. Although they are not glued on the legs it's very difficult to remove them. Once removed though, a couple of very nice quality features are revealed. One is that the rubber foot is quite thick able to withstand a lot of hardships and two that the leg tip is reinforced with a metal ring, grooved around its perimeter. Further, the rubber foot has a cylindrical projection internally that sits inside the bottom hole of the metal ring.
Nest NT-6294CT leg rubber foot top view
Furthermore, as we can see in the picture above the rubber foot also embraces the metal ring top perimeter. All these very well designed features, make it impossible for the rubber foot to fall-off or twist while it seals the leg end, preventing dust, mud or even water from entering the leg tube.

Monopod Function

Nest NT-6294CT monopod leg label
One of the leg top joints is longer than the rest and marked with a laser engraved, left pointing arrow and the word MONOPOD, meaning of course that the specific leg may be unscrewed turning counter-clockwise, in order to be used as a monopod.
Nest NT-6294CT center column & monopod leg removal sequence
As the center column is an integral part of the monopod, it has to be removed from the tripod. Then the monopod leg has to be unscrewed from the leg hub. The monopod leg sports a 16 mm (5/8") stud on top which fits into the same size thread on the leg joint.
Nest NT-6294CT center column & monopod leg assembly sequence
But also the same size thread at the bottom of the center column. Therefore, by screwing the center column on top of the monopod leg, you get a quite tall monopod reaching 1638 mm (64.5") in height when fully extended.
Nest NT-6294CT center column hook in removed monopod thread
If you have previously removed the ground level shooting rod from the center column hook, then you can use the hole in the leg joint as a repository for the spring hook.

This technique of attaching the center column on top of the detachable leg in order to form a taller monopod, is lately adopted by many manufacturers. However, in my opinion it has its advantages and disadvantages.
It's very helpful when you carry your tripod with you and you reach a tight space where only a monopod could stand, but on the other hand is not so convenient when you want to carry only a monopod with you. Since in the latter case you'll need to carry it either in two parts to keep it short enough to fit in your bag or assembled which becomes quite long to fit anywhere and rather use it as a walking stick.

Nest NT-6294CT monopod foam grip choices
Further, this technique raises another debate about the existence of a foam grip and where it should be located. As I have mentioned in the beginning, the Nest NT-6294CT under evaluation did not have any foam grips installed.
If it had, they would have been attached on the top leg section like the latest Benro® and Sirui® traveler tripods which share the same center column + detachable leg monopod system. Then, when the detachable leg becomes part of a monopod, the foam grip will be located far below the point it is convenient to hold a monopod.
Therefore, I prefer there aren't any and that the center column does not have a groove which makes it more convenient as a monopod handle. As best alternative though, I would prefer a removable foam grip which I would be able to interchange between the leg when in tripod mode and the center column when in monopod mode.

Attaching a Ball Head
Since the NT-6294CT was coming without a ball head, I decided to combine it with a ball head of equal characteristics, specifically the Sunwayfoto FB-36DDH lightweight ball head featuring a panning QR clamp (reviewed) in order to maintain a very transportable solution.

Nest NT-6294CT tripod w/ Sunwayfoto DB-36DDH lightweight ball head closeup
The Sunwayfoto FB-36DDH ball head not only matches the characteristics of the NT-6294CT very well but also adds very little to the total weight, reaching now 1807 gr (3.98 lb).
The outcome of the combination has proved a very stable and functional traveler solution as we shall see in the following "Working with the tripod" section.
Nest NT-6294CT w/ Sunwayfoto DB-36DDH between 180° folded legs - full / front / side views
The Sunwayfoto FB-36DDH's small foot print fits perfectly between the folded back by 180° legs. Due to the ball head control knobs arrangement the tripod legs may fold fully and perfectly between them, while the small diameter (∅ 52 mm) of the DDH-02 panning QR clamp does not cause any interference with the legs either.
For the record, when folded, the maximum width of the tripod at the leg spider is 10 cm (3.94") while at the ball head end it reaches 11.5 cm (4.52").
Nest NT-6294CT w/ Sunwayfoto DB-36DDH at ground level position
As a ground level solution the NT-6294CT + FB-36DDH has a minimum height of 270 mm (10.63")

Working with the Tripod
The tripod has been in my hands for a few months now, so in spite of some studio work, I had the chance for a couple of outings for a proper testing in the field (literally).
Combined with the lightweight Sunwayfoto FB-36DDH ball head as described previously, it had proved a very good companion during a recent outdoor shooting.

Nest NT-6294CT w/ Sunwayfoto DB-36DDH - long center column - max leg angle
Nest NT-6294CT combined with Sunwayfoto FB-36DDH at low level with legs spread out and center column raised.
Nest NT-6294CT w/ Sunwayfoto DB-36DDH - long center column - 2 / 3 / 4 leg sections extended
Nest NT-6294CT combined with Sunwayfoto FB-36DDH in three different poses in the upright position. Top right with two leg sections extended reaching 80.5 cm (31.69") including the ball head. Bottom right with three leg sections extended reaching 108.5 cm (42.75") and main photo above with all four leg sections extended reaching 139 cm (54.72")

There, it was used supporting among others the Canon EF 70-200 mm f/2.8L IS USM and the Canon EF 100-400mm L IS USM. In regard of the latter, although theoretically I consider the tripod/head combination marginal for the lens. Nevertheless, as it was a clear day without wind, the results were excellent as you may see in my post On Assignment at the Olive Groves and further below.

Nest NT-6294CT w/ Sunwayfoto DB-36DDH and Canon EOS 7D / EF 70-200 2.8L - long center column down / raised
Pictured above is the NT-6294CT with FB-36DDH loaded with a Gripped Canon EOS 7D / EF 70-200 f/2.8L IS USM and balanced on the lens foot plate. Even with the center column extended the tripod behaves very nicely as all vibrations are absorbed immediately.

For the sake of measures, the small frame in the first photo below indicates the position of three aeolic energy (wind power) turbines on top of a far away mountain. Which then are depicted in the next photos shot with the fore mentioned lenses at longer focal lengths.
The tripod was set on inclined soft ground, on top of a hill within the olive groves. You may judge from the results for yourselves.

Olive groves with distant Aeolic energy turbines (marked)
Camera: Canon EOS 7D - Lens: Canon EF-S 17-85 IS USM - ISO: 100 - Exposure: 1/1000 sec Aperture: 4.0 / Focal Length: 20mm (35mm equivalent 32mm)
Aeolic energy turbines shot w/ focal length 200mm (320mm) lens
Camera: Canon EOS 7D - Lens: Canon EF 70-200 f/2.8L IS USM - ISO: 100 - Exposure: 1/400 sec - Aperture: 9.0 - Focal Length: 200mm (35mm equivalent 320mm)
Camera: Canon EOS 7D - Lens: Canon EF 100-400L IS USM - ISO: 100 - Exposure: 1/500 sec - Aperture: 9.0 - Focal Length: 320mm (35mm equivalent 512mm)

Packing the Tripod
The tripod can be carried either packed in the supplied carrying case, or directly strapped on your bag/ back-pack where you can save carrying around about 0,4kg (~0.9 Lb).

Nest NT-6294CT w/ Sunwayfoto DB-36DDH folded aside carrying bag
The case is slightly longer than the folded-back tripod length, therefore this is the only way it can be stored in there.
Nest NT-6294CT w/ Sunwayfoto DB-36DDH folded inside carrying bag
The tripod can be inserted or taken out very easily, while there is still some space in the case for some accessories if needed, as the case does not fit tight around the tripod.

Comparison with the Competition
The table below shows a comparison of Nest NT6294C Traveler Tripod with traveler tripods of similar characteristics i.e. leg diameter, sections, twist locking, coming from well known brands. One detail that should be mentioned is that except for Gitzo GT2542T which still has a cast center hub (spider) all other tripods have a forged / CNC finished center hub. All dimensions are listed without a ball head.

Manufacturer:Nest®Gitzo®Benro®Sirui®Triopo®
Model:NT6294CGT2542TC2282TN2204XGT3228X8C
Material:CF 8XCF 6XCF 8XCF 8XCF 8X
Center Column:Rapid+LowRapid+LowRapid+ShortRapid/SplitRapid+Short
Center Column ∅:29.1 mm / 1.14"28 mm /
 1.10"
28.6 mm / 1.12"28 mm /
 1.10"
28 mm /
 1.10"
Leg Sections:44444
Leg Angles:22333
Leg Degrees:20°, 72.5°24°, 70°-, -, --, -, -22°, 48°, 70°
Maximum Leg ∅:29 mm /
 01.14"
28 mm /
 1.10"
28.6 mm /
 1.12"
28 mm /
 1.10"
28 mm /
 1.10"
Minimum Leg ∅:19.75 mm / 02.37"16 mm /
 0.62"
18.4 mm /
0.72"
19 mm /
 0.74"
19 mm /
 0.74"
Maximum Height:1585 mm / 62.40"1435 mm / 56.50"1535 mm / 60.43"1655 mm / 65.16"1505 mm / 59.25"
Normal* Height:1305 mm / 51.38"1190 mm / 46.85"1270 mm / 50.00"1390 mm / 54.72"1255 mm / 49.41"
Minimum Height:185 mm / 07.28"220 mm / 08.66"149 mm / 05.86"170 mm / 6.69"280 mm / 11.02"
Folded Length:450 mm / 17.72"430 mm / 16.93"470 mm / 18.50"460 mm / 18.10"445 mm / 17.52"
Weight:1477 gr  /
 3.25 lb
1330 gr /
 2.93 lb
1330 gr /
 2.93 lb
1500 gr /
 3.30 lb
1330 gr /
 2.93 lb
Maximum Load:20 kg /
 44.09 lb
12 kg /
 26.46 lb
18 kg /
 39.68 lb
15 kg /
 33.07 lb
15 kg /
 33.07 lb
Spiked Feet:NoNoYesYesYes
Carrying Case:YesNoYesYesYes
Monopod:YesNoYesYesYes
Monopod Height:1638 mm / 64.49"----1595 mm / 62.79"1600 mm / 62.99"1355 mm / 53.31"
Price:$ 237.00$ 880.00$ 380.00-450.00$ 345.00-435.00$ 239.00
*with Center Column down.

Maintenance
Although there is a "Routine Maintenance Instructions" checklist and "Points of Attention" usage guidelines in the one page User Manual, in short there are not many things the user should do besides keeping the tripod clean. According to Nest there is no need for lubrication.
As I have forementioned the set friction on the leg hings was perfect for my taste, right out of the box and I can add here that it remains the same after some months of use without a need for re-adjustment.

Nest NT-6294CT w/ Allen hex key on leg hing
Nevertheless, in case you ever need to make an adjustment the second larger (4 mm) Allen hex key supplied fits exactly the leg hing screws and is meant for this job. My advice though, is to use a second same size hex key (not supplied) on the opposite screw, exercising a counter force, for better results.
The Allen key(s) should be well pressed inside the hex socket on the screw cap in order to avoid damaging ether the screw or the key.

Pros
Outstanding quality independent of price level.
Very low price for the category/size.
Very solid and stable leg hub and center column.
Innovative (Patented) Center Column locking system
Innovative (Patented) Twist leg locking system with very affirmative and strong leg locking.
Exemplary good functionality right out of the box.
Very nice carrying bag included.
5 Year Warranty.

Cons*
Center column in lack of an anti-twist mechanism may require re-framing after raising or lowering.
No optional leg foam grips available.
No optional steel spikes available.
Shiny leg angle lock latches that might get slippery with wet hands.

Conclusion
I cannot nominate this with the perfect traveler tripod title as there is none that can fulfill all needs and preferences, but what I can say is that I'm impressed by the innovations, the attention to detail and the quality of this product.
Nest NT-6294CT pricewise is addressed to the photography enthusiast or a professional on a tight budget but in my opinion it outperforms many more expensive solutions. If the characteristics and dimensions suit your needs and you are after a very rigid tripod, slightly heavier than some other traveler tripods but still very transportable, then you should seriously consider pairing it with a good lightweight ball head resulting in a very fine solution.
Taking into account the innovation, the structural stability, the material quality with superb finishing along with the price; I can wholeheartedly recommend this tripod as a great deal with exceptional value for money!

* After some time I have managed to contact the right person with Nest Sales Department on these matters, specifically the tripod's product manager, who was very polite in discussing any questions and/or suggestions. So I was informed the following:
Regarding the center column anti-twist mechanism, that they have emphasized into the firm locking and anticipating against any lateral movement (aka wobbling) of the center column, leaving behind the anti-twist function when loose. Which is something their designers are currently studying.
Regarding the foam grips, that Nest tripods are available also with foam grips on two of the legs but on dealer/reseller request. (However, my remarks for a removable foam grip still stand).
In respect of optional steel spikes, that while there is no option for the current models they are planning to add retractable spikes to an upcoming larger model.
As for the leg angle lock latches texture, that they will consider the suggestion.

Disclaimer:
This review and test was run on a single product sample, using the specifically described methods.  Although the findings are very good and overcame the expectations for the product, it can not be used as a rule, unless more samples of the same product are tested. Furthermore, similar comparison tests should be run with comparative capabilities products so as to reach a solid conclusion.

I hope you found the review useful, thank you for viewing.
All Photos & Photosynths: © 2013 S.C.Vlachos

Price & Availability:
Current price of the Nest NT-6294C CF Tripod is US$ 237.00 (+Shipping where applicable) and is available from Amazon.com
Please use above link(s) to make a purchase and help support this site.

Referenced Articles:
Sunwayfoto FB-36DDH Lightweight Ball Head Review

Relevant Articles:
New Benro Aerometal Travel Angel II Series Tripods
Triopo GT-3228X8C Carbon Fiber Traveler Tripod Review
Triopo GX-1328 Carbon Fiber Classic Tripod Review

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