Manfrotto Tripods for Photography

Quick guide to Manfrotto tripods for photography

Manfrotto has many tripod models, each one tries to cover a series of user needs: load capacity, size, weight, budget. The problem is that there are so many models and so many combinations that it is very difficult to get a global idea.

Manfrotto 290 Xtra Aluminum 3-Section Tripod Kit with 3-Way Head (MK290XTA3-3WUS) , Black

Let’s make a summary with the main series / models of Manfrotto for photography (for video it has its own series)

We will start with the smallest and lightest tripods, and end with the most robust and heavy ones.

Manfrotto Pixi Tripods

These are small table tripods: the normal Pixi reaches less than 15cm in height and the Pixi Evo about 20cm. They are very very practical for all kinds of situations : indoors, outdoors, to travel light. It is one of those elements that cannot be missing from your backpack.

Manfrotto Compact Tripods

This is the lightest version of a conventional tripod. It is designed for travel, to carry the smallest and lightest equipment possible. They are 5-section tripods, and when collected they occupy about 40cm. They can be a good match for compact cameras or small EVIL cameras (with light lenses).

Manfrotto Befree Tripods

These models are more robust than the Compact and would be in a slightly superior range in terms of materials and construction. They are a very good option for travel and as a generic tripod for practically any situation. The legs have 4 sections and occupy about 40cm in transport mode. Compared to Compact, they are more stable and support a much higher load.

Manfrotto 290 Tripods

It is a series that covers practically all the segments with different models: from the 290 Light for travel to the 290 Xtra and 290 Dual as intermediate tripods, more robust and with greater height. They are tripods designed for an amateur user who does not need a higher-end tripod.

Manfrotto 190 Tripods

The 190 series is a range more intended for professional use. Basically they are like the 055 but a little lighter: the load capacity is lower, the maximum height is lower, they are not as stable as the 055, but they are smaller and lighter. They are a good compromise between stability and portability . If you are not going to use very heavy equipment (eg large telephoto lenses) surely a tripod from this series is a good option.

Manfrotto 055 Tripods

This is one of Manfrotto’s best known series. They are very robust and very stable tripods . They are designed for users who need that stability: photography with large telephoto lenses, long exposure photography in adverse situations. There are more robust tripods on the market, but the 055 maintains a very good value for money within these professional ranges that offer that extra of stability.

Acronyms / nomenclature for Manfrotto tripods

Within each series there can be many variants.

In the lower ranges, more oriented to an amateur user, the tripods are usually distributed as kits, which include the legs and the head. In these ranges, each model, each variant, usually has its own commercial name.

In the medium and professional ranges, although you can also find kits, it is more common to find only the tripod (the legs) separately. In these ranges, different acronyms are also often used to identify each variant:

  • X ( TA ) – Indicates that the tripod is made of aluminum
  • CX ( TC ) – Indicates that the tripod is carbon fiber
  • Pro – Usually refers to models that include the decentrable column: the column can be placed horizontal with respect to the main axis.
  • Digit (3, 4) – Indicates the number of sections of that variant. More sections: more collected is in transport mode but less stability.
  • MT – Indicates that it is the tripod (legs only)
  • MK – Indicates that it is a kit (legs + head / ball joint). The model name includes the suffix that corresponds to the head model.
  • QPL – Leg locking by flange system
  • M-Lock – Leg locking by screw system

For example, the Manfrotto 190X Pro 4 (model MT190XPRO4):

  • Only includes the legs (MT)
  • It is a 190 series tripod
  • Aluminum (X)
  • With decentralized column (PRO)
  • With 4 section legs

Manfrotto Pixi Table Tripods

Although at first glance they seem more like a toy than a ‘serious’ tripod, tabletop tripods and in particular Manfrotto Pixi are very useful and in many cases they are used more than conventional tripods.

First of all, they are very small tripods, which you can carry everywhere in your backpack or in a small bag.

They can get you out of more than one complicated situation, you simply need a support surface and you already have a stable shooting position with the camera.

They have quite a load capacity for their size, they can handle SLR cameras as long as the weight of the equipment is more or less balanced (center of mass) on the tripod socket.

Logically they are not designed to work for example with large telephoto lenses or super heavy equipment.

They can be used as a camera handle, for example for taking selfie mode.

They can be used as an auxiliary tripod for lighting, as a mic stand or a recorder.

Manfrotto has two variants of the Pixi, the normal and the Pixi Evo .

The Manfrotto Pixi Evo has legs with 2 sections . It can be adjusted to two heights.

Features of the Pixi (left) and Pixi Evo (right) tripods

Max. Tripod Height: 13.5cm | 20cm
Min. Height: 13.5cm | 10.5cm
Transport mode: 18.5cm | 23cm Leg
sections: 1 | 2
Leg angles: 1 fixed angle | 2 angles (50º, 75º)
Net Weight: 0.19kg | 0.25kg
Load capacity: 1kg | 2.5kg
Type of head: ball with release button | threaded ball

The Pixi Evo has a ball head with a locking thread, allowing you to tighten until a good lock is achieved. The normal Pixi model has an unlock button: we press the button, place the camera at the angle that interests us and release the button to lock.

The Pixi Evo is more flexible and versatile, but it is also somewhat bulkier in transport mode (compared to the regular Pixi). Both are tripods that we can carry in a bag or small backpack with the rest of the equipment.

Manfrotto Compact Tripods

They are travel tripods, for small and mobile cameras. Its main advantage is portability .

They are designed to make things easier when traveling (carrying the tripod in your backpack, on a plane) or when going on long routes with the tripod on your back (each extra gram multiplies by a thousand after a few hours marching).

There are three models: Light, Action, Advanced

And for each model there are different kits depending on the type of head they include.

They are all 5 section tripods. Remember that the more sections the less stability, but the smaller the tripod is in transport mode.

Manfrotto Compact Tripods Features (Light | Action | Advanced)

Max. Tripod Height (column extended): 131cm | 155cm | 165cm
Max. Height without extended center column: 103cm | 133cm | 140cm
Min. Height (collected for transport): 39cm | 45.3cm | 44cm
Net Weight: 0.9kg | 1.2kg | 1.4kg
Load capacity: 1.5kg | 1.5kg | 3kg
Type of head: ball | ball (pistol) | 3-way / ball

To the size of the collected tripod, the size of the head should be added.

Keep in mind that the load capacity indicated by the manufacturer is a recommended maximum. In practice it is always advisable to use the tripod with a certain margin.

Therefore the Light and Action versions would only be recommended for small and light cameras: compact or mirrorless cameras with light lenses.

The Advanced version has a bit more headroom and could be used with small SLRs and a slightly larger camera + lens combination.

Manfrotto Compact vs Befree

They are more robust and stable.

Yes, they are a bit larger and weigh a little more, but they would be closer to the performance of a professional range tripod.

Manfrotto Befree Tripods

They are tripods that would fall into the category of travel tripods, but they would be in a range above the Compact: more robust, more stable, better construction.

They are 4-section tripods . A good compromise between portability and stability.

Within the Befree series there are different versions or variants.

The basic version is Advanced, that is, a Manfrotto Befree is by default Advanced (if it does not carry any indication of the model or variant).

Characteristics of a Manfrotto Befree Advanced:

Max. Tripod Height (column extended): 150cm
Max. Height without extended center column: 127cm
Min. Height (picked up for transport): 41cm including ball head Leg
sections: 4
Leg angles: 3 angles: 22 °, 54 °, 89 °
Net Weight: 1.5kg (Aluminum) | 1.25kg (Carbon)
Load capacity: 8kg
Type of ball joint: ball (MH494-BH)

A higher version is the Befree GT (more height, more load supported, more stability).

The Befree 2N1 is a tripod that can be converted to a monopod .

And the Befree Live is a fluid head tripod for video.

Manfrotto 290 Tripods

The Manfrotto 290 are ‘standard’ (non-travel specific) tripods intended for the amateur photo or video user.

They would be in an intermediate range.

They are more robust than a model designed for travel and a little more stable (it will be noticeable more or less depending on the different versions of the Befree and the 290 we compare, as well as the specific situation and the equipment we are using).

I think all versions of the current Manfrotto 290 are 3 section and with the tab locking mechanism (QPL)

There are three different models: Manfrotto 290 Light, Manfrotto 290 Xtra and Manfrotto 290 Dual

Version 290 Xtra Features:

Max. Tripod Height (column extended): 170cm (with ball head – 160cm without head)
Max. Height without extended center column: 146cm (with ball head – 137cm without head)
Min. Height (picked up for transport): 65.5cm (with head) Leg
sections: 3
Leg angles: 4 angles: 25 °, 46 °, 66 °, 88 °
Net Weight: 2.2kg (Aluminum) | 1.97kg (Carbon)
Load capacity: 5kg

In these ranges the weight, height and size in the mode of transport depend a lot on the kneecap that we have chosen.

The Light version is more intended as a lightweight travel tripod.

The Dual version includes a decentralized column system that allows it to be placed at 90º from the main axis of the tripod.

Manfrotto 290 vs Manfrotto Befree

The Manfrotto 290 are tripods that provide more stability.

For their part, the Befree have better portability characteristics: they weigh less and take up less space in their transport position.

If we compare with the Manfrotto Befree GT, I would surely choose the GT even if it loses a bit of stability, but I think it would have a more versatile tripod (traveling, hiking)

If you plan to do photography that needs that extra stability: long exposure, photography with telephoto lenses, astrophotography … Then perhaps the higher-end versions: the Manfrotto 190 series or the 055 would be my main choice.

The Manfrotto 290 can be a good option, from my point of view, for photography or video in the studio, or as a compromise between stability, size and price, if the budget does not allow us to access the Manfrotto 190.

Manfrotto 190 Tripods

The Manfrotto 190 series is considered a semi-professional range, although the truth is that they are models used by many professional photographers.

What would be the criteria of choice regarding the Manfrotto 055 (professional range) ?:

  • For cameras and very heavy equipment (large telephoto lenses): the Manfrotto 055 series
  • For photography in difficult windy situations, water currents, more extreme conditions in general: the Manfrotto 055 series
  • For most situations with medium-sized equipment and normal environmental conditions: the Manfrotto 190 series covers perfectly and we save a little weight.

Manfrotto 055s are taller and generally a bit more stable.

On the other hand, the Manfrotto 190s are lighter and take up considerably less collected in the mode of transport.

All Manfrotto 190s include easy link, the thread on the side that allows you to attach accessories, for example flash or audio equipment, etc.

To give you an idea, these would be the characteristics of the 3-section 190 PRO (decentrable column) models in their aluminum (X) and carbon fiber (CX) versions.

On the left the aluminum version, on the right the carbon version:

Max. Tripod Height (column extended): 160cm | 160 cm
Max. Height without extended center column: 135cm | 135 cm
Min. Height (picked up for transport): 59 cm (legs only) | 61 cm (legs only)
Leg sections: 3
Leg angles: 4 angles: 25 °, 46 °, 66 °, 88 °
Net Weight: 2 kg | 1.6 kg
Load capacity: 7kg

There are different variants and possible combinations within the Manfrotto 190 series:

  • 3 or 4 sections
  • With normal or decentral column (horizontal position)
  • Aluminum or carbon fiber
  • With flange or thread locking system (190 GO version)

Manfrotto 055 Tripods

These are Manfrotto’s ‘professional’ range of tripods for photography.

They are very stable.

If you plan to use relatively heavy equipment: large telephoto lenses, or are going to work in more or less adverse conditions, the Manfrotto 055 can be said to be a safe bet .

Keep in mind that the 055 are heavy tripods and above all bulky (they take up a lot in transport mode) if we compare with other models.

For reference, here are the features of the 3-section 055 models.

On the left the aluminum model (055XPRO3) and on the right the carbon model (055CXPRO3):

Max. Tripod Height (column extended): 170cm | 170 cm
Max. Height without extended center column: 140cm | 140 cm
Min. Height (picked up for transport): 61 cm (feet only) | 63 cm (legs only)
Leg sections: 3
Leg angles: 4 angles: 25 °, 46 °, 66 °, 88 °
Net Weight: 2.5 kg | 2 kg
Load capacity: 9kg

All variants of the Manfrotto 055 include easy link, the thread on the side that allows you to attach accessories, for example flash or audio equipment, etc.

There are different combinations or variants:

  • 3 or 4 sections
  • Aluminum or carbon fiber

All Manfrotto 055s are PRO, that is, they have the possibility of removing the central column and placing it in a horizontal position.