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First Impressions: Manfrotto 055MF3 and 468MG Hydrostatic Tripod/Head

Discussion in 'Tripods, Ball Heads, and Gimbals' started by AFS, Jan 7, 2006.

  1. Hi all.
    Forgive me if I ramble, for this is both a narrative of sorts and a comment on my initial impressions of the new tripod and head I just got in. It is very late and I’m dog tired…but I have to get this in.
    Today has been a good and bad day alike. Got some nice shots today during school, and after school at our overwhelming victory at the Battle of the Raiders- AKA Boys Varsity Soccer vs. Ransom Everglades. Both of our teams are the "Raiders". Gulliver (that's the nikon...er...good team) are the ones wearing the pants though, so to speak.
    Of course my day was marred by an act of sheer stupidity and another of pure bad luck.
    Leaving the house, I somehow forgot my monopod (with all that gear I took...). As if that weren't bad enough, the 85mm f/2.8D PC Micro Nikkor that I purchased thursday at 3PM eastern/noon pacific and which was shipped yesterday via express mail arrived at the house at 9:30 AM today- but since nobody was home they have to redeliver :( 
    The good news is i'll be here when they do.
    But as I sat on the couch tonight, exhausted, short on sleep and shorter on attention span, passing time with a good videogame, I heard a familiar rumble. I knew what it had to be. Game was saving so I left it. I literally bolted to the door as if I were running from a tornado. By the time the UPS truck figured out which street to turn on I was outside and halfway to where they park.
    The driver stepped out with a nice large box for me. He said, chuckling, 'I guess you've been waiting for this one a while!'
    I just nodded and smiled. Signed for it and ran inside, oblivious to the fact that the box was rather large to be running with.
    I had a few screwdrivers on the table. Seizing one I carefully slit the safety tape. I was greeted by the usual orderly B&H packing job- one long box, one small box, and one smaller box.
    I started with the long one, a gray one labeled Manfrotto :) 
    Pulled out an 055MF3 Carbon Fiber tripod. I knew I had to see how it stacked up heightwise, as compared to my actual height I feared I would need to use the center column a lot.
    So I extended the legs to full extension and opened them up to the default stop. I immediately realized it was too tall. Smiling, I lowered the bottom sections a bit and spread the legs some more.
    I liked how it featured the bubble level for the legs, though I wish that I could ensure my camera would be. I guess its a hotshoe level for me.
    The leg locks are solid and don't slip like the ones at school on our worn, cheaper manfrottos. The legs themselves seem to hold themselves better- when I release the lock I pull them or push them, don't worry about them sliding out rapidly and forcefully.
    The center column isn't of major import for me right now. It seems sturdy enough when retracted, though I am looking to see if there is a flat base only or shorter column I could use as well.
    The column can be removed and remounted horizonally- a neat feature. Can also be reversed to hang down.
    The tripod feels well built but lightweight.My subjective initial impression had it feeling lighter (sans head) than the D200+MBD200/17-35 AFS combo.
    I like the nice little touch of the carrying handle attached along the column.
    The only thing I haven't figured out is the manual refers to the legs locking at a few different positions- mine only lock at one, when I release the lock it will go out pretty far but not lock except that one place. I don't know what i'm doing wrong but I know its not a tripod fault.
    I then took a moment to check the 85 PC lens hood. Then right back to the tripod business.
    I unpacked the Manfrotto 468MG Hydrostatic locking ballhead next. I bought the non-QR version and when purchasing figured I could buy a QR clamp from RRS (they support it) if I really liked it.

    Well, I was in for a shock.

    First off, it is pretty compact for a head that can support 33lbs easily. And it has a weight advantage. The impression I got was of an extremely well made head.

    Well, Ming Thein's recommendation of this head was well deserved. The controls are easy to use and straightforward, offering a large number of controls.

    Perhaps this head's greatest feat is the hydrostatic locking system. Using hydraulic pressure, the head locks into its position. A mere twist of the locking knob will secure it very tightly. There is also a graduated panning base with panning lock.

    The hysdrostatic system is nothing but ROCK SOLID. I've already used it at odd angles with heavy lenses and it does a thrillingly good job at this, opening up new frontiers.
    I'll post more including pics and more hands-on in use sentiments. But so far I have nothing but praise for this setup.
  2. Congrats and hope it works out well for you! :biggrin:

    I got my 486MGRC0 just after christmas and haven't use any of my many other head since. Btw, the RC0 version has two bubble levels built into the QR plate deck (one horizontal, one vertical)

  3. I was looking at the tripod yesterday on my way home at one of our local camera stores, and comparing it side-by-side with a couple of Gitzos. My first imptession was that I was quite impressed. I'm not sure why Bogen rates this at 15.5 lbs when the Gitzo 1227/1228 is rated 17.6, because putting my weight, i'm sure it was more than the rated weight :wink: , pushing down on both I was hard-pressed to get the legs to bend on either.

    Down to your 2 questions, and realize I didn't have the manual not that I read them anyway as you noted in my MB-D200 thread :smile: . To shorten the center column, you unscrew the bottom. Now comes the tricky part. It feels like nothing is happening. That is because the very short top comes off when you unscrew the bottom. Sounds strange, but that is what it does. When the top comes off, just put that back in the tripod and tighten it down. You can now lay the tripod flat, nothing sticks out at all. On the legs, just push down on the sliders and pull the legs out slowly. I found 2, I remember, other detents where the legs would stop.

    Have fun with the new bits, and quit playing videogames, those darned things will rot your brain. For crying out loud, you have a Nikon don't you? What the heck do you need anything else for anyway????? :biggrin:
  4. Hey hey Bill, it was already pitch black outside and i'd just put my shutter through 2 hours of intensive action shooting :)  I needed to give my shutter finger a rest!
    As far as the column thing, I'll try that out but it seems awfully short a piece (I saw it when I moved the column to horizontal). The thng is on this tripod it's got a sort of dome cover thing that is part of but not all of the locking mech for the column. It has a vertical and horizontal slot (it seemed to lock very well even horizontally) and it may be too big.
    But I'll try it right now.

    The Hydrostatic head is a masterpiece of design and construction. Once it's locked, it's LOCKED. very easy to lock. I had no problems when using the tripod with the column horizontal out 2/3 of the way with the head tilted downwards and locked with my D200+MBD200+17-35 AFS at a weird angle. It didn't slip the tiniest bit with the 70-200/D200/MBD200 either, no matter how I pushed. Talk about well made!
    The adjustable unlocked tension is very simple and it is very consistent.
    My new 85mm f/2.8D PC Micro Nikkor arrived a few minutes ago, so now the two get to go outside for some shooting.
  6. yep, had a chance to test it like you said and sure enough, it's perfect.
    My wrists are starting to hurt from all the screwing and unscrewing though. I changed between normal, short, and horizontal at least 6 times in an hour or so of shooting today!
    Talk about versatile. I had some neat positions- I made sure to document them with my D70 and i'll put a few pics in here tomorrow :) 
  7. yep I have had the 055MF3 since December 2004.. Seems to work great for me at it weight only 4.5 pounds compared to my 3401B which is 9.5lbs.
    Actually you can leave the column in the tripod and unscrew the bottom of the center column.
    Problem is remember to check the tightness of the screw that keep the center column secure...
  8. fks


    Apr 30, 2005
    sf bay area
    i have two minor issues with the 055MF3. one is that you the handle isn't that functional if you remove the lower section of the center column. i rarely extend the column when i have it in the field, and it would be nice to have a lighter tripod. second issue is that the legs don't slide out that easily like they do with an aluminum tripod. sometimes i don't have all the elgs fully extended because of that.

  9. Here's what it's been doing. Lots of pics (600x400)

    My friend Mr. Tripod and I thought you'd like to see some of the fun we've been having since he arrived :) 

    Here he is a fair bit down with the center column in the horizontal position. Very solid even here. The head is almost as if it were a single block of molded steel. Not going anywhere once locked.

    Here is one of my low angle experiments. The 17-35 hood is barely above the floor.

    Now here it is with the D200 and 85 PC mounted for a low angle shot. It goes down even lower than that. (that was my mistake, I didn't realize just how far the other angles are!). This provided me with a rock solid base and some really steady shots.

    Here it is for another of my shots. A lot of contortion and at least two if not all 3 legs were not at an actual stop. It did nonetheless remain extremely stable and solid. I can't wait to try this with a weight bag for more stability (if I even need it). This yielded a very very very close up shot in the end. DOF was just enough to get 3 little spines on one of the leaves. The head unlocked tension adjustment is really good- I was able to tighten it enough that it would hold on its own but still be adjustable in fine tuning.

    Here's another of my setups. I did this to get as close to the door as posisble, shooting at the door handle. Got some interesting DOF experiments and amazing sharpness. Used full tilt and a lot of shift.

    Lastly my final setup involved reversing the column and bringing it down for a nearly ground level shot. The lens hood was literally touching the weeds and the camera body was just millimeters above the dirt. Nonetheless, a very steady setup. The ability to rotate the axes of the 85PC relative to the mount helped here.

    If you want to see the results of these setups, click Here
    or see my post on the 85PC- working on that one next.

    In conclusion, the 055MF3 with 468MG Hydrostatic ballhead is a real winner in performance and value. I can't wait to see what else it'll help me with. I'm going to be adding a focusing rail for macro and rodenstock focusing, and later an arca type quick release... it's been done before. I'm very pleased with my investment. The tripod performs admirably so far and is a great companion for the D200 and 85PC Micro, even in very slow exposures.
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