Manfrotto "Befree" CF Tripod Review & Comparison with the Manfrotto 055 CF Tripod
In this blog post, I will review the Manfrotto "Befree" CF (Carbon Fiber) tripod and compare it to the Manfrotto 055 Carbon Fiber (CF) tripod. This is not intended to be an exhaustive review, but more of a quick look and comparison for those trying to decide between these two excellent tripods. Photographs below.
In Search of the "Perfect" Tripod
Photographers are always searching for the "perfect" tripod. What makes a tripod "perfect" depends on how and where you are going to use it. Photographers and videographers want a steady tripod for crisp images and video. If you shoot exclusively in studio, weight is not an issue and you can use the biggest, heaviest, steadiest tripod you can find.
If you photograph a lot of landscapes, as I do, after a while the weight of a tripod becomes a consideration. I own the Manfrotto 055 CF tripod; it is rock solid and I love it. The 055 is great in studio, and super steady. I love the way the center column comes out and can be used horizontally for portraits or to get inches from the ground with landscapes. I've used the 055 CF all over the National Parks and on sandy beaches and it keeps my camera and long lenses very steady. For example, take a look at this long exposure image I photographed in the surf and you can see how the tripod held the lens steady and the pier details sharp. Still, the 055 does get heavy after a while if I am hiking long distances. I live at sea level and when I am hiking with my camera gear and back pack at elevation in Yosemite, the Rocky Mountains or Zion, I'd welcome a lighter pack. Enter the Manfrotto "Befree" tripod!
The Befree is considerably more compact than the 055 and lighter. Take a look at the photos below. The Befree folds up to about 1/2 the size of the 055. The maximum height of the Befree is 55.91 inches, with ballhead. The maximum height of the 055 is 66.9 inches without the ballhead. Please note there are several versions of the 055, one is CF, one is aluminum and Manfrotto updates its versions regularly. The 055 CF I have weighs. 74 ozs. and the Befree CF weighs 38 ozs. In spite of the reduced size and weight the Befree is rated to hold up to 8.82 lbs. The heaviest rig I photograph with is the Tamron 150-600 (4lbs) and the Canon 7D MK II (2lbs), leaving about two (2) pounds to spare.
Excellent Folding Design
The Befree ballhead folds neatly inside the legs which greatly reduces its length when folded up. The legs are made of lightweight carbon fiber. Another thing I really like about the Befree is that the included ballhead has the same quick release plate as the bullhead on my 055 and my Manfrotto monopod, which means I only need one type of plate on my camera and long lenses, which is great.
Why You Need A Strong, Easy to Use Tripod
Having a strong, easy to use tripod is essential for landscape photographers. Recently, I taught a photography workshop in a National Park. There were varying levels of expertise on the trip, some expert, some beginners. A good number of the beginning photographers had very inexpensive tripods which were difficult to operate, or did not hold their gear very well. Their tripod troubles made it more difficult to quickly set up and catch the images they wanted.
Which Tripod Will I Use?
At the end of the day, if I am in the studio I'm going to use the 055 CF tripod, you can't beat it for stability. The 055 also has the capability to add an easy link attachment to add an accessory, such as an LED light. If I am going on a long hike, or I really want a light pack, I'm definitely going to grab the Befree!
The Befree comes with a snazzy carrying case and eye catching graphics on the legs. This is a terrific tripod for those who want to lighten their load. At around $349 you'll get a light and strong tripod and ballhead. It is not the least expensive tripod out there, but if you have ever used a cheap tripod (or three), you know you get what you pay for. Many beginning photographers buy a cheap tripod, only to regret it and then buy one or two more until they finally accept the fact that they need a solid tripod. The Befree is a well-made, highly portable, and easy to use piece of gear that should last a long time.
The "Befree" tripod in the included travel bag compared to the Manfrotto 055 CF Tripod.
055 CF tripod folded up compared to the extended "befree" tripod.
The "Befree" tripod folds up into a very compact form factor. The ballhead tucks inside the legs easily. Shown here on the Manfrotto Professional backpack.
"Befree" holding the Tamron 150-600 and the Canon 7DMKII. Ordinarily, I don't love lifting the center column of any tripod to maximum height as it tends to be less stable, but this shows the reach and profile of the Befree. The top of each leg has a rotating knob which locks into place. The Befree was easy to set up an I LOVE that it includes a ballhead. I'm a big fan of ballheads, I like how quickly I can adjust them.
Kevin Gilligan is a landscape, portrait and sports photographer from L.A's South Bay. He loves to photograph the ocean, mountains, sports and martial arts among other passions. You can follow him on social media @photosbykag. Kevin is Manfrotto Ambassador and a Tamron Image Master.