I have been using the Manfrotto BeFree tripod for a year now, it has been with me all the way across the world putting it through it’s paces from the mountains of the Himalayas, along the Vietnamese Mekong river and to the beautiful lakes of New Zealand.
I have taken it through all kinds of environments and situations so I believe I am qualified to give it a rigger honest review.
The main reason I first decided to buy it was because I was going to do the the Annapurna circuit in Nepal which involved 3 weeks of trekking, so I was looking for a lightweight compact solution that I could fit inside my backpack easily as I wasn’t going to carry around my 3 kg Manfrotto 055 around with me!
It has a unique design which allows the legs to be folded back on themselves to reduce the length of the folded up configuration, which is only 40 cm. Which is small enough to fit into carry on luggage, as well as relatively small backpacks.
The Manfrotto BeFree comes with a bag which the tripod fits in nicely, but I have never personally used it. The overall construction is good and it feels well built, there is a rubber grip on one of the three legs.
The folding mechanism does provide the nice short length, there are small leg position selectors on the top of each leg which allow you to select from folded, standard or low setting. These can be a little bit fiddly sometimes, and they are quite easy to knock into another position by mistake if you’re not aware.
Most of the time I used the standard angle setting, its fairly stable at this setting. However, if it is windy it can feel a little easy to knock over which is when I would use the lower angle.
The maximum height is a bit below my eye level at 4 foot 9” which is low compared to other tripods I have used, but that is the compromise for size and weight that I made.
The lowest setting the tripod can go is about 40cm, because the center column prevents the legs from going any lower. I found this to be a slight annoyance to me as a landscape shooter because I do go quite low down for some shots but adapted to it and the benefit of it being much easier to carry around than my large tripod out weighted that slight nit pick.
The legs themselves seem sturdy enough and the release clips work well, there are 3 clips on each leg which is fine but can feel a bit slow to begin with if you are used to 2 clip legs. The one point about the legs which I don’t like is the small rubber feet on the end, they do there job and provide good grip and stability on most surfaces. However they can come off quite easily, they are sort of just wedged into the bottom of each leg and over the past year they have began to show signs of wear and become easier to pop off by mistake.
I have had the feet come off on multiple occasions when a leg ends up under something, the little rubber foot just pops off when I went to lift the tripod. I actually lost one of the feet when I was in New Zealand shooting a waterfall, which was a bit disappointing. Luckily its pretty straight forward to order a replacement part from Manfrotto. The replacement foot I got was actually slightly chunkier than what I previously had so maybe they are aware of the design issue.
The Manfrotto BeFree has a ball head fitted with a Manfrotto 200PL Quick Release plate mount, which did well in my usage even though the quick release does sometimes feel slightly loose. It still holds the camera steady but there is something about mounting it onto the tripod that gives the feeling that it isn’t completely secure. I have only had it slide on me once when shooting portrait but I am still pleased with the performance of it.
The head is locked into place with small tighten screws on the sides, I found them to work very well and kept the ball position in place securely. There are adjustable heads on the screws so you can set the orientation of the grip which is handy to customize it to your liking.
On one side of the ball head there is a groove out of the side so that the camera can then be aimed directly upwards. I’ve found that useful for astrophotography as I can aim to the stars.
The tripod is quite expensive compared to similar sized tripods, however I have had good experience with Manfrotto tripods in the past and the build quality is very good so I was happy to pay a little more for a high quality product.
I’ve had this tripod by my side for the past year through all kinds of conditions and terrains and it has done well. It is nice and lightweight to carry around for the day and doesn’t bring as much attention when you’re using it in populated areas. All the functions still work after a year of thorough use, the only minor issue was with a foot that came off, which I was able to purchase a replacement part easily.
I would highly recommend it if you’re looking for a nice small tripod that’s easy to carry around while travelling, or even just for the day. Its has a good solid build quality and enables you to stay mobile and quick on your feet.