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Manfrotto 504 HD Head with 546B Two-stage Aluminum Tripod System Reviewed

Manfrotto 504 HD Head with 546B Two-stage Aluminum Tripod System Reviewed

The 504HD is a stable investment. The right foundation for any camera op, the Manfrotto 504HD head will never go out of date, especially with solid legs such as the 546B.

A tripod is a fundamental tool for any camera operator, in video and photo production alike. At first consideration, it seems like a pricey investment for something that might appear to have no bearing on the quality of the video. Be careful, however, to avoid such amateur thoughts. No matter how skilled a videographer you may be, some situations simply require the stability of a tripod.

When considering an item such as a tripod; size, height, type of leg extension, ease of set up, versatility, fluidity in the head, mounting options and budget are all important things to consider. Manfrotto has been a well trusted name in the tripod industry for years and firmly addresses all these issues with the release of the brand new 504HD Head bundled with the 546B tripod system. Professionally built, attractive and stylish this tripod-head-carrying bag combination might be one of the best releases in this field.

Smooth, Smooth, Smooth

The 504HD head is a solid well-built beauty that handles cameras of all weights and sizes with ease. Supporting cameras up to nearly 20 pounds, the 504HD head with the new Manfrotto bridging technology provides extremely smooth, accurate panning and tilting with varying drag and counter-balance settings. Adjustments to the pan and tilt tension can be made by the Fluid Drag System's (FDS) variable friction system. The FDS has separate controls for each axis and can be set with a twist of a clearly marked numerical dial for easy reference and effortless use. This ultra effective FDS utilizes a combination of ball bearings and fluid bearings to produce top-notch pans and tilts. Disc brakes are implemented to lock either horizontal or vertical movement. The 504HD can be leveled using its 70mm half ball mounting style that allows for additional adjustment fine-tuning at the head level. It is even equipped with back-lit bulb level.

Take a Look at Them Legs

Being extremely stable and solid makes the Manfrotto 564B series a viable option for indoor and outdoor videographers and photographers. Though it isn't Manfrotto's quickest or easiest tripod to set up, it does the job well. Offering a wide range of leg designs, Manfrotto pairs the 546B sticks, reaching a height of over 67 inches in its two-stage twin leg design, with the 504HD head. Utilizing this twin leg design (each leg being made up of two columns) rather than single leg (each leg being made up of one column) gives extra stability while holding a higher capacity load. The two-stage feature allows for greater diversity in setup. Want the camera high? Extend both stages to reach five and a half feet. Want the camera low? Compact both stages to sit at just under 19 inches. Each stage is easily adjustable by a lever style lock. The tension of the lever locks are adjustable using an Allen wrench which will allow you to keep the tripod in working condition over the years. Fully compacted, this tripod tucks away neatly in the optional carrying case.

Leg adjustments are key. The 546B has either a mid-level spreader or ground level spreader. A quick press of a release pin and the mid-level spreader nearly falls off. The ground level spread takes a bit more strength to remove, yet is quick enough. The mid-level spreader makes shooting on uneven ground possible. Shooting outdoors, especially in rocky terrain, requires adjustable legs in an non level or uniform fashion. However, this mid-level splitter has no center column like a few other Manfrotto tripods. The lack of this center column can make it tricky to position the legs, as they have no reference point to the center of the tripod, creating an awkward process as each leg counteracts the other. The lack of a center column also makes it a bit difficult to fold up the tripod as the mid-level spreader becomes multidirectional and a bit in the way.

Added Bonuses

The 504HD is crafty. The larger-than-normal quick release plate automatically locks in place when attached due to its auto lock safety pin. You don't have to worry about dropping your camera with this tripod, you do, however, still need to tighten the knob to keep the plate from shifting. The plate also comes with three different common size screws to match any camera you wish to mount.

This tripod is built to function consistently regardless of temperature or weather, the FDS and adjustment dials handle change in temperature without decline in drag accuracy. The 504HD possesses two grooved holes, standard 3/8th-inch threads, called easy link connectors, to attach video accessories. The 564B has removable rubber footing revealing spikes for outdoors.

Bridging Technology

So what is this wonderfully new patented technology Manfrotto elusively refers to as "bridging technology"? It is the name Manfrotto uses to coin the design of the 504HD head; bridging the gap between video and photo, small and large, inexpensive and expensive.

The Down Side

Though the tripod glided extremely smooth, it did, however, have a mild grinding sensation on the title axis. Though it is unnoticeable in the camera, it leaves an unsettling feeling for a camera operator. In addition, the rear lock bolt is excessively short causing it to fall out if over twisted.

In today's world-wind technology, cameras and camera formats are quickly changing. From miniDV, DVD cams and now hard drive cameras, some of us are even changing out our traditional video cameras to shooting video with HDSLR cameras. Yet something that will never change is the need for a steady, consistent, smooth shot. Last year's best selling camera may not even be on the market next year. This year's best video editing application may be outdated by the end of the year. But you can bet the price of your next big camera that the need for a good tripod will never go out of style and this Manfrotto will outlast the life of that new cam and maybe the next after that.

Tech Specs

Load Capacity: 19.84lbs
Maximum Height: 65.94 in
Minimum Height: 17.34 in
Weight: 13.89 lbs
Leg Design: 2-Stage, Twin leg
Mount Type: Half Ball (504HD: 70mm. 564B 100-75mm)

Strengths

  • Solid build
  • Versatile
  • Loaded with features

Weaknesses

  • Short bolt that easily falls off
  • Bulky

SUMMARY

The 504HD is a stable investment. The right foundation for any camera op, the Manfrotto 504HD head will never go out of date, especially with solid legs such as the 546B.

Manfrotto Distribution Inc.
565 E. Crescent Ave.
Ramsey, NJ 07446
www.manfrotto.com
$730

Luke Scherba is a video producer and production studio owner.

Tags:  March 2011
Luke
Scherba
Tue, 03/01/2011 - 12:00am