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Reviews, Tech Talk

Manfrotto 190XProB + 496RC2 Head: Review


Talking Tripods

A good tripod is an essential part of a photographer’s gear. Not only for night photography, a tripod is very necessary when shooting anything that requires extreme steadiness, and anything that requires you to keep your camera unmoved for extended periods of time. Night photography, long exposures in daylight, exposure bracketing, portraits in a studio (or outdoors too), landscapes, macro photography…yeah I can keep on going…but you get the idea: a tripod should be an essential part of your gear

A cheap tripod is better than no tripod, sure…but a good tripod is definitely something I recommend over a cheap one. Cheap ones are heavy, flimsy…not sturdy at all…and I wouldn’t want to trust my new $1000 (+++) camera on a $20 tripod, would you? No. If you’re offered a free tripod when you buy your new camera, ask them if they could give you a small discount instead…and use that saving (plus quite a bit more, I guess) to buy a better tripod. It’s worth it

Ok, when buying a tripod, remember that the professional ones come in two parts: the legs and the head. You need to buy both before you can use it. A good, solid one would cost you around $200-250 for legs + head. Not bad at all

The general saying when buying a tripod is that you need to choose two out of these three: price, load capacity, weight – meaning you can never really have it all (unless you got the money for it!)

  • Load capacity = the weight of the camera that the tripod can safely hold i.e. its sturdiness
  • Weight = the weight of the tripod itself
  • Price = price!

So…if its light and cheap, it probably wouldn’t be that sturdy…if it’s sturdy and cheap, it wouldn’t be that light…and if its sturdy and light, it’ll cost you quite a bit. That’s how it goes

Manfrotto 190XProB + 496RC2

Ok, enough about tripods in general – let’s get to the main point of this post, which is the review of my tripod of choice, the 190XProB

I’d say this tripod is sturdy and fairly cheap…so it’s fairly heavy, but not too. The light/sturdy/pricey ones are usually made of carbon fiber, whereas the 190XProB is made out of aluminium, therefore it’s strong but weighs a bit more than its more expensive carbon fiber counterparts. For around $200 including the head, I think it’s a pretty good deal. You can get the legs here and the head here, on Amazon, for around that price. The wonderful B&H Photo has both too – buy the legs here and the head here! Alright, here are the specs from the Manfrotto site for the 190XProB that I think you’d find useful to know:

Manfrotto 190XProB Specifications

  • Closed length: 57cm – this is the length you’d be carrying once its folded up
  • Leg sections: 3 sections – the leg extends in 3 sections and has two locks per leg
  • Load capacity: 5kg – if your camera weighs less than 5kg (it should) you’re fine
  • Max height: 146cm – when fully extended, with additional centre column extended
  • Max height with centre column down: 122cm – with centre column not extended
  • Minimum height: 8.5cm – it can be lowered to this low height for macro work etc
  • Weight: 1.8kg – not bad at all

The key specs here are the 5kg load capacity and the 1.8kg weight. In comparison, the more expensive carbon fiber tripods with a load capacity of 5kg will weigh about 1.3kg. However, carbon fiber tripods that weigh around 1.8kg have a load capacity of around 8kg! That’s the real difference. If your gear should weigh less than 5kg, well…the 0.5kg difference between carbon fiber and aluminum isn’t really that much…so I suggest you go with the aluminum one and save around $100 or so. On the other hand, if you’re going to need greater load capacity, you should be aware that an aluminum tripod that can hold a load of 8kg will be significantly heavier than than the 1.8kg carbon fiber one – and as there’s no use getting a tripod if you’re going to leave it home just because it’s too heavy, think about this factor when choosing your tripod. If your biggest camera body plus your heaviest lens will weigh less than 5kg, go for one like the 190XProB. If it’s more, think about a carbon fiber one instead

Manfrotto 496RC2 Ball Head

Ok, then there’s the  head – here are the specs from Manfrotto for the 496 ball head:

  • Lateral tilt: -90° / +90° head tilt (it can tilt side to side, for portrait orientation)
  • Material: aluminium (the legs are aluminium too)
  • Working height: 9cm (adds an extra 9cm to the height of the legs)
  • Plate type: fixed, with 1/4-20” screw
  • Load capacity: 6kg (it can hold a bit more than the legs can!)
  • Weight: 0.32kg (it adds this much to the weight of the legs, for a total of just over 2kg)

Oh, and note that the “RC2” in the model number refers to the RC2 quick release plate that you will need to use with this tripod head. Most stores will include the quick release plate with the head, but make sure of this i.e. if the store just states 496 Compact Ball Head as the product for sale, it does not include the plate, and you will need to buy the RC2 (or RC4) plate separately. Make sure you look into that

If you’re not sure what this quick release plate is…well, it is a little metal square that screws into the tripod screw on your camera (see the photos). This little square then attaches to your tripod head, and can be released… quickly…when you need to. This safes you the time and effort of having to screw your tripod in and out of your camera each time you want to remove it. You don’t want to do that. Trust me


Build Quality

Ok, I love the build of Manfrotto’s stuff. The 190XProb B is built out of superb quality aluminium,  and has got a great finish – and just feels like a really solid product when you hold it. Like someone mentioned once, the finish looks like something you’d see on a Ducati bike. Everything works smoothly and feels solid. The legs change length very easily, the quick action locks are very well designed to easily lock the thing at the height you want…and yeah, it’s just a top quality product. The feel of something is very important for me – and this thing feels like it’s really built to last…and to take a beating too

The head is also excellent. The ball-head action is very smooth, locks easily…and feels really sturdy. It’s got the one main lock that locks the head…and also has a great little ‘friction’ control (I think that’s what they call it) which allows you to tighten the movements of the head before it is locked. Not sure if you get what I’m talking about, but it really makes it easy for fine adjustments

Overall, I have absolutely no complaints on the build quality of this tripod. I’m not really a fussy type of guy but if there was any issue with the build (or anything else) I’d mention it in an instant. In this case, there’s just nothing to fuss over. It’s just really that good

Using the Tripod

The tripod folds up into a pretty compact 57cm package, which you can sling it over your shoulder if you get the Manfrotto bag or attachable strap, neither of which are included, and it really feels quite light. I’ve never found it a problem to carry around unless I was really traveling light or was having another couple of bags to carry around – and I can’t remember a time I wished it was lighter

Once I’ve got to the location, setting it up is…well, as easy as any other pro-grade tripod is, I guess. Like I mentioned already, the thing works really smoothly…you just need to slide the legs out, set it up level…snap the camera onto the head (the quick release plate should be in place before you leave!) and you’re good to go. I’ve never had the tripod give, or cause any damage to my camera…it has been extremely reliable…which is why I’m recommending it with this review today

Setting it up to the lowest point of 8.5cm, for macro work or whatever, is very easy too…additional locks on the top of the legs allow you to extend each leg outwards, and gets your camera into a steady, low position for any purpose that you might have closer to the ground. Very easy again

The center column can be extended to reach greater height, and it can also be extended and bent to a horizontal position, allowing you to set your camera in a portrait orientation (which can be done directly by the ball-head too) or move your camera away from the center of the tripod. I’ve had to use this many times, and it works beautifully. All this can be done without removing the column or any other part of the tripod, meaning it’s all one single piece, basically, and this really makes things easy. A superbly designed tripod. If you didn’t get exactly what I’m talking about, look at the pictures of the different positions of this tripod towards the end of this review

As a tall guy (like myself, 182cm), you might wonder if it’s comfortable to use a tripod that’s only 146cm when completely extended. Well, remember that the head adds another 9cm, and your camera would add around another 10-15cm as well…which adds up to around 170cm total. No, I’ve never had any issue with the height. Often, composition doesn’t allow you to extend it fully, anyway, so you’re basically bent up over the tripod half the time; I’ve never had reason to wish the legs were longer

If the tripod just looked great, and looked good on paper, and was built solidly, and didn’t perform as well as it does in practice, I would never recommend it. But using this Manfrotto is an absolute pleasure. This is the part where I really urge you to buy it instead of another! 5/5, really

Manfrotto 190XProB + 496RC2 Ball Head: Product Images

Conclusion

I think you get the idea that I love this tripod. It’s not expensive, it does a great job, it feels great…it’s been very reliable…and yeah, I find nothing wrong with this at all, and until I specifically require something that this tripod can’t offer – maybe a higher load capacity – I will be using this for a long time to come

Other brands such as Gitzo are great as well, but more pricey…so if you don’t mind spending more and you really want a lighter/stronger one, you could have a look at some other Manfrotto stuff here (the carbon fiber stuff) and some of the Gitzo stuff as well. Other brands like Sirui and Benro are pretty good too, but I haven’t used them, and I can’t really recommend them right now…but seriously…get this one


Once again, I remind you not to stick to the free tripod that you might get when you purchase a new DSLR. Like a friend of mine said, shops are running a business, and maximizing profits…they’re not about to give you a tripod that’s really worth anything…and you don’t want to place your shiny new DSLR on those flimsy legs, trust me. Ok, I’m done

Questions? Comments? Leave one in the comment box or contact me. And as usual, if you’re planning on buying this tripod, getting one by using the affiliate t links found in this post will greatly help me out and allow me to keep adding posts like this one…so thanks in advance if you do! And I’ll see you next time

Did you know that I’m currently working on this site full-time? Please consider making a small donation if you can – thank you!

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By Heshan Jayakody
All content in this post are my own
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Discussion

12 Responses to “Manfrotto 190XProB + 496RC2 Head: Review”

  1. very indepth review. As you’ve read my blog, I have the same tripod with a slightly different head though. I only have it a couple of months, but I came to love it very quickly. Good post!! :-)

    Posted by thephotographerinside.com | May 28, 2012, 21:25
  2. I have just bought the 190 XPROB More version (with a little bit more height and a shoulder strap included) and was fidling with the tripod+head configurator of Manfrotto looking for the best combinatin of a ball head and to my surprise, even putting a professinal DSLR they recommend the smaller ball head, the 494RC2, stating that the wheight the tripod handles is more important than the one the head can handle. Knowing that manufactureres don´t want to spoil their image but must have profit, I really was surprised, and bought the 494RC2 ball head. As soon as I receive the tripod I will come back with my comments, as I can essay the 496 too to see if Manfrotto´s stating is a reallity.

    Best regards

    Francisco

    Posted by Francisco Granadeiro | August 17, 2012, 07:11
  3. Good review :) I am deciding on new tripod and i heard many good things about manfrotto brand, so i decided to look into it. this is one of the few manfrotto ones that i can afford, so i am thinking of getting it. I am sure you recommend it, yes? best value in today market?

    Posted by Schultz | February 10, 2013, 15:28
    • Thank you :) Yes, I definitely think this tripod is great value. to get a better tripod, you will have to spend a lot more money, i feel. If there’s something specific you want, like a super lightweight tripod that can hold a lot of weight, or an extremely sturdy one that is not too heavy, you might want to check out some other (pricier) models, but for general purposes, this is perfect

      Posted by pixelogist | February 10, 2013, 18:17
  4. Wonderfully constructed review! I am thinking of getting my first good quality tripod, and you’ve convinced me to go for Manfrotto, and probably this very same model, with the same head too

    Posted by Harrison | March 5, 2013, 21:07

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