Flexible, sturdy and reasonably lightweight, this tripod makes a dependable travel companion
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Every travel photographer needs a good tripod. The heavier, the better is what most photographers will tell you is required from a tripod, but for travel, it’s much more nuanced. You want it strong, but also very light. The easy answer is carbon fibre and a smaller design, but that means a high cost and a tripod that’s more difficult to use. Here’s a tripod that manages to combine the best of both worlds without a sky-high price.
Manfrotto Befree Advanced travel tripod: design
Part of Italian manufacturer Manfrotto’s Befree Advanced range of tripods (and there are many), TravGear’s review sample sports lever legs (rather than twist-legs – another option) and a ball head. Crucially, it’s made from aluminum, which is much cheaper than carbon fiber. Our sample’s four-section legs and column stretched to 151cm. That’s plenty high enough. For packing it in your suitcase, the legs go backward on themselves, up over the ball head, to make a 40cm package. As a bonus, there’s an ‘easy link’ for connecting lights, and an improved ball-head mechanism (the previous one was a little fiddly).
Manfrotto Befree Advanced travel tripod: performance
The best way to test a tripod is to take it out on a landscape photography trip, so that’s what we did. The four-section legs unfurl very easily; a quick flick of each lever and each leg falls down to its natural position for locking. The leg joints are also flexible, with a small button on each leg allowing panning through 180° in various pre-defined positions. However, you first have to bend each leg inwards before exploring where you want to fix each leg. It takes a little getting used to.
The central column is really strong, and fixed in place by a twist motion, which is an improvement on previous models. So too is the pan knob, which is works more smoothly than before, while a refined design on the ball-head makes it much easier to fix and release a camera. However, we do wish this tripod – and all tripods – will just take any camera without the need for an adaptor to be screwed-on before hand. Yes, we see the advantages, but they are so easy to lose! Ditto the silicon cover on the central column, which worked its way off during our test, never to be seen again.
Despite all that, in our test we were able to perform all kinds of shots, from straight landscape shots and night sky photography (with some shots lasting as long as two hours), to close-ups and macro photography where the tripod was easily contorted into all kinds of crazy positions. It never let us down, and proved reasonably easy to carry around. In fact, the only issue we had was when we placed the legs into a sand dune, which left the locking mechanisms slightly crispy.
Manfrotto Befree Advanced travel tripod: summary
Yes, at 1590g it’s significantly heavier than the insanely-priced carbon fiber travel tripods around, but this tripod is far more affordable. If you’ve got wheels, or don’t mind carrying it while out hiking, this reliable, flexible, and dependable Manfrotto is worth the effort.
Price as reviewed: £174.95 / $219