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Manfrotto BeFree Carbon Fiber Tripod + XPro Fluid Head

The basics – The tripod is weighs in at 2.4lbs (1.1kg), has a maximum extended height of 4.6ft, and can hold up to 8.8lbs worth of camera gear. In its travel form, it folds up nicely and has a total length of about 12 inches. It takes approximately 15-25 seconds to set up and extend the legs fully (at a normal pace).

Its main target audience is travel photographers, enthusiasts, professionals and amateurs. The Xpro head weighs in at 1.6lbs (0.76kg) and comes equipped with both pan and tilt locks, leveler and handle bar.

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First Impressions

As a motion time-lapse photographer I’m use to using heavy duty Manfrotto tripods that are made from aluminum and can hold upwards of 20-30 pounds of gear (mainly large tracks/rails and motorized components). Because of this my first reaction to the BeFree Carbon Fiber tripod left me in amazement and in a bit of disbelief. I thought there had been a mistake in shipping because what I first saw was a tiny (and I mean tiny) carbon fiber tripod that I thought in no way was going to be able to support the types of systems and cameras I use. I would soon find out however, that I was wrong. After unfolding the tripod from its resting state I snapped the legs into place and positioned a Canon 5DMK3 with14mm Canon Cinema lens (around 7lbs total) on the ball head. I thought for sure that this tiny little tripod wouldn’t be able to hold the camera and that it would inevitability topple over. It didn’t though and I breathed a sigh of relief. The head was holding and holding well. It was time to start our time-lapse adventure!

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The Design – BeFree Carbon Fiber Tripod 

The BeFree carbon fiber tripod looks sleek, modern and ready to work. The red and white splash graphics make this tripod feel like and look like the Corvette of light-weight tripods. One of the main design elements that sticks out to me is the leg adjustment system. You can easily change the position of the legs with just a single touch of your finger. This can be an a particularly valuable feature when you’re out in the field and need to increase the width/angle of the legs to maintain stability. The first click allows you to fold the legs up, making it the tripod more compact for travel. The second click allows you to open up the legs to around 45 degrees (a standard tripod angle) and the third allows you to freely open and close the legs to fit the needs of your situation. The tripod uses a standard Manfrotto quick-release tripod plate that is made out of plastic (still sturdy) and has a center post that allows you to raise the tripod to a maximum height of 4.6ft. The legs are a bit wobbly without weight on them but once you situate your camera on them they becomes incredibly solid for their size.

The Design – XPro Fluid Head

This head is a videographer’s dream. It combines the best of both worlds for photography and video by (finally) utilizing the Manfrotto photo quick-release plate in a fluid head setting. This feature alone will make back-pack journalists wet their lips in delight as it can be placed on a multitude of other Manfrotto products such as the 682B Pro Self Standing mono pod, BeFree Carbon Fiber Series, or even something more sturdy like the 055XProB tripod. The head is silky-smooth and can realistically handle any standard DSLR or traditional video camera package as long as it doesn’t exceed 8.8lbs (4kg). I pushed the head to around 12lbs of weight and it still performed excellently. It did become a bit more difficult to pan/tilt but it still generated a very smooth shot. The head is incredibly easy to set up, lock down, and break apart for travel.

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In the Field

I wanted test these tripods and heads out in a real world situation so I picked up my Manfrotto Professional 50 bag filled with my favorite gear and headed out west to the Eastern Sierra’s in California. I landed after 18 hours of flying and layovers and was pleasantly surprised to find that the weather was perfect for capturing the Milky-way and silhouetted mountain sunset shots. These types of shooting situations would require a great deal of stabilization since I would be shooting longer exposures (5”-20” seconds) which would really push the tripod to the extremes for stability. On top of just shooting stationary time-lapses I wanted to try a few 2-axis shots that would require more weight than the tripod is rated to handle.

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I ended up at Convict Lake the first night where I captured the Milky-way using a stationary 14mm Cinema lens and a 24mm cinema lens on a 2-axis motion time-lapse controller, both supported by the BeFree Carbon tripod. The motion controlled timelapse frightened me the most, as I placed the tripod in the water with more than 14lb’s on the head of the tripod. Needless to say I was on pins and needles the entire night. Thankfully nothing slipped or fell over during the 4 hours of runtime and I breathed a sigh of relief. I was so surprised, happy, and stoked to see the BeFree Carbon Fiber tripod holding more weight then it’s rated for and not toppling over.

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After the lake I met up with a few folks and we headed up to Yosemite to capture the mountains, valleys, and lakes as the fall weather moved in. We were met with blue skies, warm breezes, and sunshine… for the first hour. Then it quickly changed into hail, snow, and fog and continued in the fashion for 5 more hours. The BeFree Carbon Fiber tripod handled the weather like a champ though! I ended up capturing multiple timelapse sequences and a plethora of standalone images.

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It didn’t matter what I threw at this tripod. Bad weather, heavy loads, it handled them all. That’s why traveling with this tripod is a dream. Seriously. It’s ridiculously sturdy for its size and really helps minimize the total weight. I usually carry around 60+ pounds of gear when I go into the field so to be able to shed 5-10 pounds (depending on how many tripods I need) is fantastic. The height adjustment on the tripod allowed me to get super low to add foreground objects or relativity high to obtain those impressive reflections from lakes.

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When shooting with an ultra-wide angle lens like the 14mm Cinema Prime or a 70-200mm the BeFree Carbon Fiber tripod handled the job with ease. After 5 days of filming the tripod remained sturdy and never flinched (even with mild wind). Quite impressive for something so small.

The Pro’s 

The size and form factor of this tripod make it one of the best travel tripods I’ve used. You can take it anywhere, maintain a decent weight limit and still retain a great deal of stability. At one point during my trip I maxed out the ball head with around 14lbs, 6 more pounds then it’s rated for. The tripod held up like a champ and I was able to capture an incredible pan/tilt astro time-lapse. Quite impressive.

Versatile. This tripod can be used for both still photography and also video. Coupled with the Manfrotto XPro fluid video head this tripod can be used for anything that your mind comes up with. Build quality. The BeFree Carbon Fiber tripod feels like a well built, high-quality piece of camera gear. Nothing on this tripod feels cheap or out of place. It all has a purpose and performs the function it’s meant to.

Combining both the BeFree Carbon Fiber tripod and XPro Fluid head will leave you with a deadly-awesome set-up. Your friends will be envious. It allows you to have a fluid motion head while only weighing around 3.5 pounds total and retaining 100% of the quality of motion. If you’re in the field shooting video this pairing will surely save you time, money and head-aches from having to lug heavier and more bulky systems around.

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The Cons 

There aren’t many cons to this tripod or head other than you’ll want more than just one! We did have a few issues with the quick-release plate but I believe it was due to the weight/load conditions.

Overview 

If you’re a travel photographer or videographer (or even just an enthusiast) this tripod and head is for you. They are both sturdy, durable, light-weight and incredibly versatile with their setups. This is my first time using a carbon fiber tripod (of this size) coupled with a fluid motion head and I was completely blown away by their performance. The next time I go on assignment you better believe I’ll be using these tripods and heads!

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TimeLapse video sample

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