The Manfrotto BeFree Carbon Fiber Compact Travel Tripod is a new tripod that delivers on its portability. It is both compact and lightweight.
It offers 4 leg sections that allow it to collapse down to only 15.75″ and slides perfectly in the Manfrotto Advanced Travel Backpack‘s tripod pouch even when the tripod is put away it the included carry case. The carbon fiber build makes the BeFree tripod an ultra-light 2.4 pounds.
It extends to a maximum height of 56.7″ with the center column.
The ball head is designed specifically for the BeFree tripod and includes notches that allow the legs to be folded up and around it. The BeFree tripod also folds upside-down in order to allow such a compact fit. That is, the legs are unlocked and then folded up above the tripod head while the center column is extended to its maximum height.
Normally, you would see the tripod’s head sticking out of the top of a collapsed tripod. In this case, however, what you see is the bottom of the center column. It’s a great design that really nails the portability equation.
While light and fully functional with the included ball head, really the only thing you give up is load capacity. This is not a heavy duty tripod with its max load capacity of 8.8 pounds. Birders need not apply.
Of course, if portability is your concern when packing a tripod, then you are likely not toting around a heavy camera package either.
The ball head features a single grip handle to adjust and lock the head. Other bulkier heads offer more independent adjustments; however, the included head is smooth to operate and locks your camera tightly in place.
The quick release plate looks like the standard Manfrotto RC2 plate; however, its not the same heavy metal material and it doesn’t fit quite the same in other RC2 quick-release heads. Although, on the BeFree Tripod’s head it works just fine.
In addition to the standard, upright position and the compact, fold-away position, the tripod legs can also be independently adjusted to a wider angle for flexibility in shooting positions.
The BeFree tripod will handle respectable loads and delivers solid performance for its size. If you travel frequently, or you are just looking for a way to lighten your load a little more, you will be hard pressed to find a better solution this tripod. The carbon fiber build pushes the price tag for $349; however, it is still a value at that price considering what you are getting. Check it out here at B&H Photo.
If you are looking for something a little less expensive, Manfrotto also makes an aluminum version, which adds just over half of a pound to the tripod’s weight.
The tripod is also available as a kit with Manfrotto’s Advanced Travel Backpack, which you can find here at B&H Photo.
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The aluminum version supports the same weight, is the same size (broken down and upright) and shaves off $150 in price, while only being 1/2-pound heavier?
I know in my head the carbon fiber makes almost no sense unless I’m looking at hiking/backpacking for a week.
Eric Reagan says
While it’s just a little over half of a pound difference, that’s more than a 20% bump in weight.
When you’re packing light, a half-pound here and there adds up. But, yes, you’re going to pay for the carbon fiber advantage.
Steve Farrington says
I have found the head adjustment not the greatest with a pro camera and also no way of turning the camera to portrait position. Apart from that, light weight to carry around and that is the reason I have chosen the carbon fibre model. Save me carrying around my other and much heavier Manfrotto
Joe Mihok says
I own this tripod and love it. I don’t need a special tripod strap on my bag, it just slides inside my bag because it’s so small. I also much prefer the tab lock for legs as it makes setup literally 3 times faster than the newer twist deigns I keep seeing. I also tried a few other tripods like Promaster which were half the price, but made of aluminum and slightly longer when folded down. The Aluminum did not seem as rigid and had quite a bit of flex. This Befree actually feels very solid and has almost no flex.
One person was talking about the Carbon fibre being twice as expensive for only 0.5 lbs of weight savings. Keep in mind that weight isn’t always everything when it comes to the advantages of carbon. Carbon handles vibration very well and it’s noticeable, especially on a tripod like this that is built smaller than most. The Carbon upgrade it totally worth it IMHO and it’s still priced cheaper than 90% of the Carbon tripod kits out there.
This is THE best tripod I have owned. The best tripod is the one that’s always with you. And this one stays permanently in my bag and I hardly even know it’s there. That, combined with it’s decent height, and very rugged feel, make it a no brainer for landscape photographers like myself who need something lightweight for 20+ mile hikes while still retaining that rigidity needed for tack sharp photos.
The only thing I wish this had was a hook to hang my bag from if I need the extra stability. However, I have a simple braided 8″ strap that I wrap around the base and hang my bag off that, and it works just the same as a hook and probably lighter.
All in all, a very great tripod so far. I’ll have to see how it holds up over the years but so far everything feels like quality (there is some plastic but it too has a quality feel to it).