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Road-tripping for astronomy

I feel priveleged to have fantastic opporutnities come up from time to time in the astronomy/astrophotography space due to my involve in the community within WA. Many are due to volunteering but I don’t take them for granted. In September I enjoyed an absolutely awesome 4 night road trip with Perth Observatory to volunteer at a public viewing night for the Gascoyne Junciton community. I would like to give a huge thank you to Matthew Woods of the Perth Observatory for this efforts in making this road trip happen.

It is through my involve volunteering at Perth Observatory that I have come to run astrophotography workshops at the observatory and now offsite for them also. On this road trip we finished up with an astrophotography workshop at Kalbarri National Park.

I have put a small collection of photographs here to show the fantastic regions we visited. You may have seen these and some more on my social media accounts during and after the trip.

Late afternoon light graces the hilltops surrounding the Murchison Gorge in the Kalbarri National Park. Such serenity.
A snap taken during the astrophotography workshop at Kalbarri National Park on Sunday 20th September 2020.
The radio dish at the Carnarvon Space and Technology museum. We were priveleged to have the site to ourselves at night for the purposes of astrophotography, and have the lights controlled as we needed for that purpose.
The required selfie on the following morning after the night of astrophotography when I had the chance to see the dish in daylight for the first time. The museum is extensive and very interesting, and a must see when you are in the area.
One of the telescopes set up at Gascoyne Junction for the community viewing night there with Perth Observatory.

More astrophotography from the trip to come as I have time to process the shots.

Leofoto Tripod Review – Ranger LS-284CVL

For the last few months I have had the pleasure of using a Leofoto Ranger LS-284CVL carbon fibre tripod and thought it about time I posted some information about this fantastic piece of astrophotography equipment.

Those who have participated in my workshops know that most of my tripod gear is Manfrotto, rounded out with a Velbon compact carbon fibre tripod that fits in carry-on luggage. The Manfrotto gear has served me well, the Velbon carbon fibre less so, but overall I have got by without a problem. I have used Manfrotto heads across the board to standardise quick release plates. Early in 2020 I was offered this Leofoto tripod to test out, and have finally after all these years fallen for the benefits of a good carbon fibre tripod. I’ll elaborate more in this review.

Leofoto Ranger LS-284CVL Carbon Fibre tripod
Leofoto Ranger LS-284CVL Carbon Fibre tripod with LH-30 ball head

Technical Specifications of the tripod:

  • Max Height: 1550mm
  • Height (column down): 1253mm
  • Folded Length: 497mm
  • Leg Section: 4
  • Max Load: 6kg
  • Weight: 1.38kg
  • Column Tilt Range: 180
  • Column Panning: 360

Carbon Fibre

It turns out not all carbon fibre is the same. Not all give you the full benefits of carbon fibre. There are different carbon fibre products of different quality. This has become 100% clear to me having owned a Velbon carbon fibre tripod (GEO E540) for many years that has been a bit “meh” – not very satisfactory, and now, this Leofoto – so solid, study, refined, and yet so light. The quality difference is like night and day between the two tripods. Part of it is the finish of the attachments (hooks, locks, points of movement) but there is definitely something more sturdy about the Leofoto carbon fibre. I am told the carbon fibre for Leofoto is manufactured in Japan and assembled in China, if that fact makes a different I cannot say other than this carbon fibre tripod is of excellent quality.

Comparing my aluminium Manfrotto 190xprob with the weight of the Leofoto, the difference is in easily carrying the Leofoto with Vixen Polarie head and ballhead attached for long distances without tiring as compared to the heavier 190xprob aluminium tripod or straining to carry all my gear. Both can be carried but the Leofoto carbon fibre is a more pleasant experience.

Smooth, precise

Where my trusty workhorse Manfrotto 190xprob has slop or some play in the fittings, the Leofoto does not. Case in point is the rotating centre mast. The rotation is smooth and precise, not lose or “floppy” when loosened. When rotating there is minimal (barely any) flexure and when tightened very minimal movement lateral movement in the centre mast as tension is applied. This makes it significantly easier to use the centre mast rotation for aligning a tracking head with the celestial pole then tightening it in place as there is not movement that puts it off alignment when tightening.

Adjusting the tripod via the knobs and clamps has a more precise and definitive feel with less travel required in turning knobs to loosen and tighten them.

Turning the centre mast by losening the aluminium knob on the left the rotating the assmbly. Buttery smooth with minimal play.

Twist style Leg Clamps

I have traditionally stuck to the Manfrotto clamp-style leg clamps since having a bad experience with a tripod that had twist style leg clamps. I was concerned about the Leofoto having twist style leg clamps initially. While I do still like the clamp style of Manfrotto it was immediately obvious that the Leofoto is different to the twist-style tripod leg clamps I have used in the past. Leofoto have re-engineered twist-style leg clamps to be effective and quick to use. Leofoto have made the thread on the twist coarser I would guess, the result is very quick to tighten and loosen. They maintain a firm controlled feel in all adjustments. The legs can be fully separated and disassembled for cleaning, making it easy to remove grit. I have not needed to clean mine in the months I have had it.

In one swift twist you can grip all three twist clamps of each leg, one leg at a time, unlocking all leg segments in three quick motions. From there you can give the tripod a short sharp shake down to extend the legs before tightening each clamp.

While on the topic of legs, they are adjustable to different angles as well, all the way out to flat. So you can have the tripod very low, or over awkward obstacles like large granite outcrops and such where legs may need to support against uneven terrain.

The twist style leg clamps of the Leofoto are quick and easy to loosen and tighten, a refreshing change from other brand twist style leg clamps.

Fully Featured Ball-head

The Ranger LS-284CVL package features a LH-30 ball head. This head is fully featured, Arca Swiss compatible.

What do I mean by fully featured?

  • Separate rotation vs ball adjustment
  • Smooth, controlled motion
  • Degree graduations on both bottom and top plate rotation points
  • Lateral movement graduations on the quick release plate saddle
  • A top plate that has separate rotation capability
  • Bubble level in the top plate
  • No unnecessary tension adjustment knobs to get in the way
  • Refined and precise brushed aluminium adjustment knobs of appropriate sizes.

Below are some photographs to show the features of this very capable ball head.

Carry Bag & Accessories

The Leofoto Ranger LS-284CVL comes with a well made padded carry bag and a set of tools for maintaining the tripod. I particularly like that they have made the bag large enough to handle a wide range of tripod heads, there is sufficient space to have heads on top of the tripod when in the bag. The carry strap is adequate and comfortable, and front pocket handy for storing tools/extras.

What would I change?

To be honest the biggest thing I would change is to remove a feature. While the centre column rotation is required for my purposes, the ability to pull the centre column out and tilt it on a angle up to horizontal is not. Having that feature adds an extra knob and small bit of height to the head area that I don’t need.

I honestly have trouble thinking of other changes I would make to the tripod at this point.


The Leofoto Ranger LS-284CVL is for me a comfortable companion which provides a nice upgrade from the Manfrotto gear I have been using. I say comfortable because I easily became adapt at using it and it instantly melded in to my collection of astrophotography gear. With the Leofoto I consider walking further and carry more other gear thanks to its light weight. It’s precise and refined features make it a joy to use.

This tripod has changed my mind about carbon fibre tripods.

Where to from here? I have my eye on a awesome little powerhouse of a tripod for my every-day backpack and Fuji kit, but you’ll have to wait to hear more about that soon ….. !

Disclaimer: The tripod was provided to me by Leofoto Australia for free. That being said, I don’t advertise rubbish whether it is given to me or not. Truth be told, this is a tripod I would purchase regardless for my next astrophotography tripod.

Where to Buy

In Perth you can buy the Leofoto products at:

For other Leofoto stockists see the Leofoto Australia website:

Deep Sky images abound!

Eta Carina nebula in Ha (16x300s).

It is only recently (January) that I finally installed my first ever set of narrowband filters. They are installed on my William Optics Megrez 90mm with ZWO 1600MM camera. Recently I have taken some time to process a few shots from this, and Eta Carina is one of these.

Here is a relatively straight forward exposure but which looked particularly stunning I thought, when I saw the initial result. It is 16 exposures of 5 minutes each, all using a h-alpha filter.

Check out the hoops, knots, holes of the nebula. Fantastic I think. There’s a couple of crops to show you some more detail close up.

There is is not a lot of processing done on these images. The fantastic contrast comes from the wonderful dark skies of Astro Observatories Western Australia’s dark sky site.

Eta Carina nebula in Ha (16x300s).

Eta Carina nebula in Ha (16x300s).

Another deep sky photograph I have been working on recently is the below LRGB image of Messier 46 (whicn includes the planetary nebula NGC through the same equipment.

Another deep sky photograph I have been working on recently is the below LRGB image of Messier 46 (which includes the planetary nebula NGC through the same equipment.

Messier 46 with NGC 2437
Messier 46 with NGC 2437

COVID-19 Update at Astro Photography Australia

In the absence of in-person workshops due to COVID-19 restrictions I am now running online workshops. These are proving very successful.

I operate my one-on-one online workshops from my backyard observatory. This gives me access to the complete range of equipment you might need to learn about in your workshop. No longer do I have to decide what I bring with me, it’s simply all there! It also means neither you or I have to drive late at night. I have a high quality internet connection, high quality phone/camera and audio earpiece, which combined with studio lightning makes the experience seamless and enjoyable.

Once the COVID-19 restrictions are relaxed, we can meet in person again to put your newly learned skills to the test! 🙂

Online workshops are charged at the same rate as one-on-one workshops below – $100/hour.

So, if you would like a one-on-one online workshop please contact me. We’ll arrange a time, number of hours, payment by EFT, then have a great chat showing you everything you need to know about astrophotography.

Here is my workshop setup for one-on-one online workshops:

Roger Groom’s backyard observatory, used for online astrophotography workshops

Roger Groom’s backyard observatory, used for online astrophotography workshops