If you follow me on twitter, or you have been reading any of my blog posts over the last few months you might be aware that my girlfriend and I are off to America for three months travelling, Initially I was going to take my day to day carbon fibre Manfrotto tripod as it is light enough and has that handy bag however after seeing a few photographers schlepping around with foldable tripods in China last year I decided on looking for a decent travel tripod. It is fair to say that there are a lot on the market and often, out of price range if that is you have quit your job and every penny starts to count…….. and thats where the Manfrotto BeFree fits in nicely.
£149 (or there abouts) gets you this super small, neatly collapsible aluminium tripod thats sits perfectly on any bag. When I first saw it in the shop I was massively hesitant that it would hold a Canon 5dmk2 with a 70-200 lens and filters on it, let alone anything! The ball head doesn't look the strongest and the legs aren't obviously as stable as a "normal" tripod, however a quick tweet or two to Manfrotto and a look at their dedicated BeFree website convinced me otherwise and I placed an order.
Over the last few weeks prior to my travelling I have purposely chosen to take the Befree out with me where ever I go to get used to it and I can honestly say it is, for its money an outstanding piece of equipment. I have loaded it with a 70-200 with Lee Filter cradle and two filters while on a windy(ish) beach and it has stood up well, I have also been in pitch darkness trying to set it up with no light to photograph the stars and its coped admirably. The only two things I would say are: the "locks" at the top of the leg take a little getting used to and the ball head release is a little different to my usual, but these are minor quibbles and are soon overcome with a little practice and the ball head can be replaced with another although this then would limit how it folds down.
I would heartedly recommend this to anyone looking for a reasonably priced and compact tripod to travel with that has the Manfrotto guarantee of not falling a part within seconds of taking it out of the box. I love it.
Been a few months now of travelling with the tripod, putting it through serious tests in America, it's been used for Interior shots, standing in Big Sur waves, on Death Valley sand dunes and on salt lake beds, it has been chucked in luggage, on the back seat of cars, on the floors of cars, thrown onto the ground, balanced on rocks over cliff edges and its yet to fail in any capacity...... money I do not want back!