When you start working with a piece of equipment time and time again, you build up a relationship with it; understanding its ins and outs, the fastest or best way to set it up. For me, I have this affinity with Manfrotto products. Since starting out in video during university, I had invested in a sturdy Manfrotto 055Pro-B tripod and a fluid video head. 3 years on and to this day it proves to be a great piece of kit to have around; I use it for my custom built camera jib now so it lives in my boot with that!
Through various university and freelance projects I used my trusty MF 055Pro-B legs, strapped tightly to a Lowepro backpack.. Not the most comfortable or lightweight solutions. The aluminium legs begun to take their toll when more equipment was required too, and as a videographer I had a bag full of lenses, audio kit and a monopod too. I occasionally used a Glidetrack slider too, which worked very well on the legs, and did not have to be spread really far apart or use any weights.
Check out a couple of my video's featuring Manfrotto gear -
Manfrotto Backpack50 - http://vimeo.com/84398932
Manfrotto ML240 LED - http://vimeo.com/41688532
But, how do you choose the right Manfrotto tripod and video head for what you do?
Key points to consider - Budget is always something to keep in mind, it can get expensive!
- What cameras, lenses and accessories you will be using with it.
- Where/shooting situations; are you going to be traveling so need a lightweight option, or more corporate indoor, weddings, adventure.
- Are you working with video or photo, or both!
Budget - everyone should have a decent set of tripod legs and head that can be their go-to choice no matter what the client, production or location. This could be a heavy duty two-leg tripod with video fluid head for news/docu/TV footage acquisition - go for Manfrotto twin leg kit! But for photography you may consider a lighter option that can be grabbed and carried quickly - go for Manfrotto BeFree! Remember that a tripod/head kit should last you a lifetime so keep your budget in mind, and look for products and kits around £100-£150 for your first investment (no, I'm not suggesting you save up to spend £150, your budget is what ever you can work within so have a rough max figure that you would aim to spend - dependent of the following..).
Cameras, lenses and accessories - If you are a keen amateur, you may be working with small DSLR bodies and lenses; like the Canon 600D with an 18-135mm for example. This setup not weighing much tends to lean you towards a light, single leg tripod with a two way or ball head mount - 180X Pro B with 804RC2 head. However, for more professional setups; Canon 5D mark III and a 70-200 telephoto lens your looking at +3Kg of weight, so a more stable solution needs to be found - Lightweight Fluid System.
Shooting situation - If you are out and about all the time, a tripod with locking legs and extendable center column is a great feature to have; its great for getting very low angle shots while keeping the tripod steady, not to mention the ball leveling mount feature which levels the head without adjusting the legs. If you are the opposite, and work in studios and generally terrain free environment, a standard set of legs will be appropriate. Remember you can mount the tripod onto dolly wheels for easy motion and movement in a studio or indoors.
Video or photo? Generally video requires the use of moving or 'tracking' shots, where the camera focuses and follows a subject through a scene. Remember talking about ball and fluid heads? This is where they become important! A fluid video head uses liquid to smooth the panning and tilting movement when adjusting the head, creating smooth camera movements. This is not entirely possible using two-way or ball heads due to the lack of fluid in the head and a pan handle. It can be done, but be prepared to video a number of times to achieve steady movement! If you look further into video and movement, many equipment manufacturers have also created stabilizers that counter balance the camera's weight, creating flying and smooth flowing movement!
For photo, as you are taking still images, the focus on being able to move the camera while the shutter is open diminishes, and the need to find and focus on a subject quickly, from many angles becomes key. This is where a ball head or two way head works best, allowing quick movement between camera angles.
If you mix between both, producing work like timelapse, hyperlapses, long exposures and night time shooting, you should consider the weight of the tripod and camera gear together; will you need to weigh down the tripod to keep it steady, will the camera be subject to movement when using a lighter tripod and head? These factors will affect your image or video if not considered!
A great example; myself and Ashleigh were filming a wedding at Horsley Towers for John Harris Wedding Films and we got the message to setup and run a timelapse for the evening. It was windy out, not great conditions for a TL, and with only a Canon 60D and 15mm fish eye lens the setup was not at all weighty. After about 15 minutes I went to check on the TL camera and it was nowhere to be seen.. The tripod and camera got blown over (not damaged) in the wind. No more timelapse that day!
Hope that helps in your choice of Manfrotto kit to use! It's always good to examine the details of your needs and what the product can do, to find the best solution. Remember if you start out with a single-leg, ball head setup and are looking to move into video in the future, you may need to invest again. Its not always possible, but try to future-proof your investment in case you have a change of heart in what you do.
The reason why choosing the Manfrotto 055ProB tripod and 701HDV worked so well for me is that I could use it on everything I worked on; from being my A camera support to supporting a camera jib and slider - an all round solution to my needs.
Back to the story.. After 3 years, it was time to move on. I had been researching equipment I would invest in, and sticking with the DSLR camera type my requirements for tripod legs and video head did not stray too far away from my original purchase. However, after experiencing carrying around all of the video equipment, and an extra bag for grip, it was about time I got a carbon fiber tripod to ease the weight issue. As I am a one man band videographer, I carry all the gear. So with a full camera bag, tripod, monopod, even a slider maybe, my options need to be lightweight but just as functional.
Manfrotto have gone above and beyond on the engineering of the 755CX3 and MVH500AH. Carbon fiber legs provide an ultra portable solution, able to hold loads up to 8Kg which is perfect for my Canon 5DmkIII, cine lenses, field monitor etc.
The new plate mount on the video head is incredible too, and saves so much faffing around with the previously notorious screw to lock the plate in place. Now, the plate simply slides in from above, and a spring pings the clamp into place. A great innovation especially for use with camera rigs so you don't have to bend down, find the screw to start unlocking the plate and camera to the rig. So, for fast shooting situations, the new head is a must!
The sad thing about all of this is that after searching through my old photos and videos I don't have any; specifically featuring the Manfrotto gear! What I can say though, is for every single videoshoot I've worked on, my Manfrotto gear has been there, supporting me no matter of the situation. So I went out a shot some stills that I've included in the blog, and did indeed find pictures of the gear in action!
If you want to see more of my work featuring Manfrotto equipment, check out my vimeo page - https://vimeo.com/apvideography
They say you should only by a set of legs once, make the right choice, make it Manfrotto! Like this post? Share it!