Please note: I have recently been contacted by Wayne at Manfrotto to discuss the tripod head of the post below.
As far as Tripods go, there is the Vitec Group.
The Vitec group owns lots of companies, among them the big names in Tripods.
O’Connor, Sachtler, and Manfrotto (Bogen).
I’d love to have an O’Connor 1030 tripod. Beautiful. Can’t afford it. Next down is Sachtler, below that Manfrotto.
Now last year I purchased a Manfrotto 504Hd head and sticks. Brand new, just released. For the price (under a grand) it is pretty nice. I was really happy with it.
Then I got it home. Out of the box, and the head made a grinding sound when panning. It was smooth, but there was a grinding sound. No, No, No, this will not do. Can’t have a noisy tripod, the sound guy will complain, and besides, that is no good. A Problem in the making. I exchanged the head and all is good. BUT there is my travel and exchange time. There is no reason that I got a brand new tripod head that grinds. Also they both came from the factory in the box with the pan and tilt locked down (should be loose for transit.)
So, I’ve traded out the head (and a friend of mine had the same experience), and overall I like it. It works well, and I’m pretty happy, but – well.
If you miss the mark, you miss the mark. But to come so close to being a great head, and have it fall short by just some minor and seemingly simple fixes and adjustments. That really sours the experience. I have tried to contact Manfrotto about this many times, e-mailing the company, e-mailing the representative that was suggested to me to contact, and all for not. So time to vent my displeasure at this issue.
Sure, you can say, gee for the price what do you want. For the price, I want something that works really well, without silly design flaws. There are many things that I like about this head, but the minor flaws that I find so excruciatingly annoying.
1. The Pan lock – This little screw constantly unscrews, especially during transit. It’s not like they don’t understand the problem, after all the tilt lock has a stop to keep it from unscrewing, and BOTH the pan and tilt lock are spring loaded screws, even the quick release plate lock lever is spring loaded – that is you can adjust the position of the lever in relation to the screw (which is a nice touch.) So Why no stop on the pan lock????????? Come on, you’ve already included the proper screw, why not put on the little stop that prevents the damn thing from falling out (introducing dust and grit into the otherwise smooth movement)? – If you are wondering, why not just lock the lever down during transit so it doesn’t unscrew, it is better to transport the tripod head unlocked and loose, so that if is jarred in transit, the head will be less likely to be damaged.
2. The head plate – This is cast to have some areas that are void of metal. Just empty spaces. I get it, it saves weight. No reason to add weight and cost. Fine. However sadly, it is possible to to balance the camera on the tripod in such a position that the quick release plate is not supported. So when I tighten down the quick release/balance plate on the head, the camera sits off level to the tripod. COME ON, how silly. Great you’ve saved me a few ounces of weight, but now I may not be able to balance the camera on the head for optimal operation. Uggghhhh,
3. The lighted bubble level – love it. Sadly the whole component is cheap plastic and has popped out, and the retaining tab broke.
4. The tie down threaded bolt, It is sooooooo long, way longer than it needs to be. Which is annoying, if I want to take the head off and put it on a different set of legs, or a high hat. A shorter threaded rod would allow me to use the head with a shorter high hat, and having the rod be so long, well there is no reason for the rod to be so long. The extra length doesn’t add anything to stability, or tie down strength. It just makes it take an annoyingly long time to switch the head: from one set of legs to another, or a dolly, or a high hat. As we all know, time is money.
5. Most annoyingly – The oil in the head is too light, way too light. I put a camera on the head and I find myself cranking the fluid tension up to the max. I prefer to have the fluid tension in the middle for normal operation. I’ve tried contacting Manfrotto, to see if heavier oil was an option, but they have never responded to me.
If this head was just bad, or not heavy duty enough, or so cheap it was a throw away, it wouldn’t be so maddening, but it is so close, and the attention to detail is just, just missing, and oh so vexing.
Thanks for reading, and please feel free to leave comments.