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.