We all know about the big M from Italy - the Manfrotto company. They have been making professional lighting and camera support gear for decades and are the mainstay of studios from here to...well, to Milano, and beyond. My own Little Studio wouldn't exist if it were not for Manfrotto light stands, boom arms, autopoles, and the ubiquitous 035 Super Clamp
. ( If it needs to be held together with something tougher than gaffer tape and you don't have an arc welder handy, attach a Super Clamp. )
Well, Manfrotto are not the only big Italian M. There's Maserati and Moto Guzzi to start with, then Moschino, Momo, and Martini & Rossi as well. And now there is Muraro in the photographic accessory line.
I found this new collection of studio light stands on one of my weekly safaris into the interior of darkest Camera Electronics. Where the wild warehouse people roam and the lay-bys crouch hidden in the undergrowth. There seem to be several sizes, but for portability I took home the " Heavy Compact Small Stand ".
You might not think that there is much to say about studio light stands - they stand and they hold up lights. But it is how well they do these tasks that make all the difference - it is surprising how much of a battering even as simple a piece of equipment such as these will get over a period of time. Very few studios leave the stands in the same place all day for all the subjects they take. They are up, down, here, and there all day and if there is an outside job they are folded, bundled and thrown into the back of the studio van - generally from about three metres away. Only the sturdy survive.
Only the well-designed continue to work at all. I have two light stands - not Italian-made - in my studio as well as the good Manfrotto ones. The two rogues are minimally engineered and built with more faith than skill.. As a consequence they are nearly always loose, sloppy, and on the cusp of breaking down every time I take them out for a job. Sometimes the only things that hold the set in place are welding clamps and a pair of Vice-Grip pliers. Good sense would have dictated that I cut them apart for model building supplies long before this rather than risking it, but good sense would have had me betting on a lot of different horses.
Suffice it to say that the temptation of these new stands may make me bin the two rotten ones and put a couple of new Muraros in their place.
Note to accessory manufacturers from places other than Italy: We always used to laugh at Manfrotto for making what looked at the time to be impossibly clunky designs. The aluminium castings were sharp-cornered and bulky and the construction sometimes looked like it was trying to hold a railway bridge together. You can still see that in the old gear that is in the studio now...decades after it was bought.
But also note that it is all still being used. The parts still clamp and lock and interchange. I'm still getting value out of money I spent twenty years ago. The laugh is now on me - Manfrotto knew what they were doing all along.
Tomorrow there's gonna be a stick up!