The Single Most Important Tripod You Can Own

on December 07, 2016

There's a dramatic statement that will bring a cheer to the lips of the wholesalers - praise indeed for this Manfrotto Befree tripod. They are going to have to be careful when they say the name - it is the MVKBFR-LVE - but it is well worth the attention of the video shooter.

Most of the tripods that have been reviewed in this column are intended for still camera use - from big studio jobs to tiny travel models. They may feature three-way or ball heads but they rarely pan and tilt in a way that would help a video maker. This Manfrotto product is different.

Oh, it has many of the standard Manfrotto features - it folds back upon the centre column to save carrying space and it has four-tube extension legs with lever locks. The leg angles are dictated by swivel levers at the top that allow several angles of splay. There is a hook on the centre column to allow you to put a weight on it to further steady the assembly. So far, so normal.

The part that departs is at the top of the centre column. Manfrotto have included a levelling cup - it is the part you see in red in the illustration with a locking collar above it. Like the bigger-cousin leveling heads on larger Manfrotto gear, this allows the videographer to set up the legs on ground than may have a pronounced slope and then correct the position of the video head so that it is absolutely level.

This means that panning action will be level as well and the camera operator will not be fighting the camera as it comes to the end of a long shot. To assure the user that they have indeed corrected the list there is a spirit level on the panning plane.

Okay, you have the tripod set up and the head leveled. The next thing to do is to attach the camera and here Manfrotto have used their standard long video mount with provision for anti-twist pins. The plate slides in from the breech and is locked in with a thumb screw. You should not be able to inadvertently dump you video camera out the breech either - there is a positive lock that must be slid open to allow it to come out.

The control of the camera's movement is dependant upon a long control lever out the back - Manfrotto have realised that different people need different lever angles and have put a user-adjustable arc on the head.

The smoothness of the camera movement is of prime concern - this is damped with a fluid drag head in pan and tilt - you can increase resistance to slow things down.

But we are still left with the dramatic statement there in the header - "most important"...aficionados of other tripod brands might cavil at this. But consider - the most important influence on any video sequence is not the actors or the props - it is the steadiness with which the thing is perceived on the screen. Do what you like with 4K and frame rates and framdamboozle synchronization...if the picture jumps on the screen everyone knows you are a dud.

The most important tripod you can have is the one you carry with you all the time - and USE all the time - and with something as small and sturdy as this Manfrotto, there is no reason you cannot use it for every shot. Then everybody will be ready for their close-up, Mr. DeMille.


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