As my photography is progressing and I am wanting to try more techniques, I decided it was about time I tried something that actually had build quality. Having considered my needs I concluded that a travel tripod would be a better option for me...I don't work in a studio, the majority of the time I go out and about to photograph and have to carry my gear. Now, I don't know about you but when I think tripods I tend to think Manfrotto. So after a quick look at their site I decided on the Manfrotto BeFree Compact Travel Tripod...and headed to Amazon to purchase it...sorry Manfrotto, it was just so much cheaper there!
The design is as you would expect...three legs and a centre column where you attach your camera. When collapsed, the BeFree is designed to be as small as possible for easier storage. The legs fold back on themselves, resting snugly on the centre column. This design feature knocks inches off the folded configuration, reducing the length from around 145cm (57 inch) when fully erect to around 40cm (15.7 inch) when folded away...in the words of my wife, minus the childish giggling...it's a grower not a shower...this makes storage and transportation very easy.
Each leg of the BeFree has an angle selector giving the ability to choose from three positions; closed, standard and wide. With the wide angle selected the tripod can be used as low as 40cm (15.7 inch), making for some interesting angles in your landscapes or portraits, and helps you get closer with your macro shots. The varying leg positions, combined with the height adjustable sections on each leg also make life easier should you find yourself on uneven terrain. Each leg also has a rubber foot providing grip and stability on most surfaces.
The BeFree comes equipped with a specially designed ball head. This head is smaller than Manfrotto's standard ball heads for the purpose of taking up less room when stored. On one side of the head is a grove, this grove allows you to aim your camera straight up, or down...if you are into astrophotography this feature would be particularly handy...hmm, me thinks I may try astrophotography sometime! Atop the ball head is a quick release plate mount. In the past I have not had the best luck with quick release plates, they were always kinda loose, granted they were on cheap tripods...seriously cheap...a Domino's/Pizza Hut/Papa Johns pizza cost more! The quick release plate on the BeFree however fits securely, so much so I'd actually trust it holding my camera in the straight up position...well, as much as a worrier like me can trust it.
The build quality of the BeFree is excellent. It feels weighty, but not so heavy as to make carrying it a problem. It also feels solid, like it could take a fair bit of stick...my foot can attest to how solid it feels, been that I dropped it on it the other day. Due to the high quality of the BeFree, it does tend to run a little higher priced than some other available travel tripods...I suggest trying Amazon, when I got mine it was at least £50 cheaper than Manfrotto's online store. The way I see it regarding the price, it's better to get a slightly pricier tripod that is built well, and sturdy enough to withstand wind rather than me having to replace my camera when it's blown off a cliff.
Overall it's a great tripod to take out and about with you. It's sturdy enough to stand up to most conditions and terrains, holding your camera nice and steady, but light enough to make carrying it almost effortless. The price to quality and life span ratio is great, I can easily see the BeFree lasting me quite some time. The only downside, if like me at 6'1" you're a little taller than the 'norm' the maximum height comes up a little short for your eye line...this is however to be expected from a travel tripod. I can't say enough good things about the BeFree, and if you're on the lookout for a travel tripod, or just an easily transportable tripod in general, I highly recommend it.