Manfrotto 190XPROB Tripod Review

Accessory Reviews Featured Tripods Uncategorized

By Laurence Chen, July 21, 2007

Manfrotto 190XPROB TripodManfrotto 190XPROB Tripod

Manfrotto is one of the established names in tripods. Their commitment to quality and functionality marches on and the 190XPROB model is yet another example of their ongoing efforts to redefine what it means to use a tripod. The aluminum Manfrotto 190XPROB has a center column that, with a push of a button, releases from the vertical plane and pivots in the unique leg/head assembly to a horizontal position.

Manfrotto 190XPROB Tripod Clamp Detail

Manfrotto 190XPROB Tripod

This feature makes shooting down much easier, especially when the tripod is used next to a table. If you’ve ever tried to do copy work with a traditional tripod and ball head, you know this can be tricky.

Tripod users tend to have a strong preference for one of the two leg-locking mechanisms. The 190XPROB, like all Manfrotto tripods, uses flip locks. I happen to like flip locks and these feature large tabs that are very easy to open and close which makes adjusting them fast and simple. My older Manfrotto tripod uses twist-knob clamps and I must say these newer tabs work far better.

Manfrotto 190XPROB Tripod FliplockManfrotto 190XPROB Tripod Flip Locks

The 190XPROB is 48 in/122 cm tall with legs fully extended, and your choice of head will also add a bit (my Manfrotto 3-way 804RC2 adds about five inches). It’s the shortest tripod I’d be comfortable with owning. The 190XPROB’s center column gives you another 9.5 in/24 cm for a maximum height of 57.5 in/146cm inches if you need it. For vertical use, I generally recommend you avoid extending the center column or extend it as little as possible since the extension can compromise structural stability, torsional (twisting) rigidity, and vibration dampening.

Recently I have photographed a lot of food. Since I’m not a studio guy I don’t have the specialized equipment to regularly shoot food or other small things on a table. But this is exactly the kind of work where the Manfrotto 190XPROB can make life a lot easier. Of course, the subject could be flowers or macro stuff or any other work that requires getting above the subject for an overhead view, in or out of a studio.

By extending the center column and locking it in horizontal, you can position your camera about 12 in/30.5 cm away from the center of the legs. Of course, you have to be careful about the stability of your setup since the weight of the camera is now off-axis and could cause the tripod to tip over. Nonetheless, this back and neck-saving feature gives you much more flexibility when working above your subject.

Manfrotto 190XPROB Tripod, Overhead View

Once you’re in position, use a remote release or the self-timer found on most modern cameras. Not only is the horizontal stability more delicate, but the 190XPROB’s center column tends to vibrate when it’s set to horizontal, particularly if your tripod head and camera are heavy. Unfortunately during my testing I did not have a remote. Thus I found that the gentlest touch was necessary to prevent the camera from vibrating. Fortunately the combination of the camera’s mirror lock up and two-second timer worked well. When shooting outdoors or doing macro work, I’d highly recommend using a remote as it would make life easier all around.

An added benefit to using a tripod when working with others is that they can see the shot and provide immediate feedback. During my food assignments I would step back from the camera while the editor or chef viewed the image displayed on the camera. We could then make small refinements to the composition or lighting together. This would have been much more difficult shooting without the tripod holding the camera position above the food.

In addition to going horizontal, the same center column release can fully invert for using your camera upside down, close to the ground. I wish I had brought this tripod along with me recently on a day hike. Since our trip occurred midday, I thought there were no serious landscape photo opportunities. As usual, something else presented itself: a swarm of orange butterflies in a field of purple flowers. I wasn’t keen on laying down on the dusty trail, but it’s a dirty job and someone’s gotta do it. The tripod could’ve done it instead.

If there is a drawback to the design of the 190XPROB, it’s that the horizontal extension is limited to 90 degrees from the axis of the legs. This is easily worked around by using the head or leg extensions to change the camera angle, but it’s not always very fast or precise. Slightly better ease-of-use and more angular variety may be found in the Gitzo Explorer series of tripods. Manfrotto also offers a horizontal accessory arm (3059B) that mounts atop your existing tripod legset but it also limits you to 90 degrees.

The Manfrotto 190XPROB delivers traditional tripod stability along with a uniquely designed neck and back-saving horizontal clamp for fast downward camerawork. If you’re looking for an affordable all-in-one tripod for broad photographic use, I recommend you include the 190XPROB on your list of candidates.

Full Disclosure: The tripod reviewed here was received as a gift from Manfrotto during a sponsored factory tour in May 2007. At the time I received the tripod, I owned (and still own) another Manfrotto tripod along with a half dozen Manfrotto light stands and several other miscellaneous supports, clamps, etc.

By Laurence Chen |

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