Manfrotto 055XPROB Tripod Field Test
Guide price: £140 / Average street price: £125
Digital SLR Photography test: January 2008
Mid-range aluminium tripod
A tripod is one of the most important purchases a photographer will make, but with so many on the market, it is tricky to know which to buy. If the legs are too light, they won’t be sturdy enough; too heavy, and they can be impractical to carry long distances. It’s a delicate trade-off. Naturally, your choice will be dictated by the subjects you photograph, your personal requirements and budget, but if you’re looking for good overall support at an affordable price, I doubt that you will find a tripod that represents better value than the Manfrotto 055XPROB.
It is over 20 years since Manfrotto launched the original 055, a hugely popular model among amateur and professional snappers alike. The 055XPROB is the latest redesign and, while it retains the key features of its predecessors, it also boasts several key changes. Most interestingly, the horizontal centre column design is now quicker and easier to use than before. In previous versions, it was necessary to unscrew and remove the centre column before manually reinserting it in its horizontal position, which proved to be a fiddly, time-consuming process. In contrast, by simply extending the column of the 055XPROB, and depressing a small button at its base, it can be swung round into its horizontal position without removing the head or disassembling the column itself. As a result, switching between framing and positioning set-ups is easy and convenient. This feature will prove appealing to close-up enthusiasts like myself, who regularly want to shoot from low viewpoints. (However, if this is a feature you are unlikely to use, it might be better to opt for the 055CLB which is slightly more rigid.)
At the widest setting, the tripod is just 10cm in height (excluding head). This is remarkably low and whilst similar flexibility can be found in other models, such as the Benbo, the Manfrotto is quicker and easier to set up.
The legs can be set independently to one of four pre-defined leg angles (23°, 45°, 65° and 88°) for flexibility and versatility, although the leg release button can prove quite stiff. As you’d expect, the height of each leg can also be set independently, ideal for use on rough terrain or uneven surfaces. The stability of the legs is assured by a spring-loaded step mechanism. The ergonomics of the leg-angle release mechanism have been improved on the 055XPROB, and opening, positioning and closing the flip lever leg locks is fast and easy.
The spirit level and foam leg warmers are useful additions too. Priced at around £140 (without head), the 055XPROB should prove a great investment for years to come.
The 055XPROB boasts a solid head plate with an industry standard 3/8in screw. It is also designed with three angled grub screws, which stop the attached head from unscrewing accidentally. The head is bought separately, so allow for this in your budget. There is a wide variety of compatible tripod heads available from Manfrotto and other brands. I prefer a pan and tilt head, so for this field test, I used a Manfrotto 141RC. However, you might prefer a ball and socket, or geared head. The choice is yours, but always try before you buy.
This is an exceptionally easy tripod to set up and use, and its versatility is hugely appealing. Weighing 2.4kg, this is not a heavyweight tripod, so if you regularly use long, heavy prime telephoto lenses for shooting wildlife or action, it might be worth looking at a different model. However, for general photography, in particular outdoor work, this tripod will not disappoint. It is heavier – and therefore more stable – than the 190-series, but not so weighty that you wouldn’t want to carry it far. Yes, a lighter tripod made from carbon-fibre would be preferable – and worth the extra cash if you regularly walk long distances with your camera. However, if you can’t justify the added expense and need a sturdy, versatile set of legs at an affordable price, the 055XPROB represents excellent value.
Closed length: 65.5cm;
Minimum height: 10cm
Maximum height: 178.5cm
Maximum height with centre column down: 142cm
Leg sections: Three
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