The Manfrotto Befree Compact tripod is an affordable tripod catering for people not looking to break the bank with yet another photography accessory or for those looking for something light on their next trip. Coming in at$201.19, the Manfrotto is lightweight (2.4kg/5.3), easy to carry and can support a reasonable camera load.
The Manfrotto Befree tripod was my first entry into the compact tripod range so I was keen to write a review with the positives and negatives for anyone else looking to add something more portable to their gear.
What makes a good travel tripod?
I’m the first to admit it – I treat my tripods terribly and I’m constantly reminding myself (and ignoring my own advice) that I need to take better care of my tripods rather than let them erode away from salt water. Over the last 10~ years I’ve worked through 3 tripods which have succumbed to death by salt water (not too bad I thought?) which has given me a reasonable understanding of what makes a good tripod (and how to waste money…)
So what makes a good travel tripod? I’ve touched on this in detail in a post where I compared some of the best travel tripods on the market before I purchased the Manfrotto Befree tripod but some of the key call outs from this post:
Portability – A good travel tripod should be portable in both its size and weight. Generally you want something that’s no bigger than 20-24 inches when folded or more than 2.5kg in weight. The reason being is that you want something you can quickly store away in your carry baggage or strap to your bag. With normal tripods, some of these can be quite bulky which makes strapping to your bag quite difficult and awkward
Extend to a reasonable height – While not a deal breaker for me as I prefer to shoot from lower angles, your tripod should be able to extend to a reasonable height (good for when you’re stuck behind a viewing platform where there is a high fence blocking the view). Generally being able to extend to at least 50 inches without needing to extend the centre column is a good height. I prefer not to extend the centre column when I can avoid it as it’s not as stable in windy conditions.
- Ability to hold a reasonable load – You want something that can handle itself for different conditions whether that be supporting your camera with a lightweight wide angle lens all the way to a versatile zoom lens like the Canon 70-200. As an example, if you were to hold the Canon 5D Mark III and Canon 70-200 2.8 IS, this works out to be around 2.4kg. Most compact travel tripods are able to handle this load but just something worth noting and considering when looking at travel tripods as this is one area where they can really vary.
With these items in mind, how does the Manfrotto tripod fare? To be honest, actually really well considering the price.
Manfrotto Befree Compact Travel Tripod
- Weighing in at 2.4kg or 5.3 pounds you barely know this is in your bag.
- Coming in at$201.19, Manfrotto branded tripods don’t come much cheaper than the Befree range. This is great value for the money.
- Holds a reasonable weight of 4kg making it more than up for the job of holding a heavy setup like the Canon 5D Mark III and Canon 70-200 which comes in at 2.4kg
- Included travel case is useful for when travelling and on the move. Being able to store the tripod in a bag and put over your shoulder is handy as this thing is tiny. For comparison sake, have a look at the size difference compared to my shoe.
- Centre column can be inverted for macro photography or to get low for unique angles
- Stability issues when the centre column is fully extended
- Time consuming to pack away into travel bag
- Ballhead is limited for panoramic photography. As a travel tripod you will be no doubt wanting to capture the occasional panoramic of a scene. Generally a 3 way tripod head (like this Manfrotto 3 way head) works better for panoramic photos where you’re able to fine tune the movements of the photo.
- No hook on the centre column to add weight to balance it in strong winds. With past tripods I would clip my camera bag to the tripod to add some additional support. Unfortunately this isn’t possible with the Manfrotto Befree but if you get creative I’m sure there’s DIY ways of adding a hook to make it more stable.
- Light and compact design. The special design of this tripod with head ensures your camera stays firmly locked in position.
- Supports up to 8.8lbs
- Designed to fit into carry-on luggage and backpacks
The Manfrotto Befree compact is a great tripod for the money. With some of the cons listed above, these are only natural trade offs that come with choosing to purchase a compact sized tripod. For some, having a tripod that is lightweight and portable will be enough to outweigh being constrained when it comes to panorama photography.
After using the tripod a few times in different conditions from a windy afternoon at Cape Schanck (a seascape location) to walking around Melbourne on dusk taking long exposures, I’ve found the tripod to be a good all rounder and I’m glad I made the purchase. I’ve noticed when the tripod is fully extended with the centre column out, this can make the tripod feel slightly unstable and not something I’d be keen to leave the camera on unattended on in windy conditions.
If being able to have the tripod extended to its maximum in windy conditions is important to you then perhaps a more sturdier and heavier tripod is more for you. But with that said though, I can’t think of how often I ever shoot with the tripod fully extended and I’m sure this is similar for most people.
So all in all, this is a great tripod and worth the purchase price for anyone looking for a lightweight tripod to take away on their next trip.
By purchasing the Manfrotto Befree through Amazon not only provides you with Amazon’s competitive pricing but also supports my blog at the same time (costing you nothing :)). A big thank you if you do decide to purchase through my affiliate link.
If you have any questions about the tripod feel free to drop a message as I’d be more than happy to help.
Thanks for reading,