Manfrotto 745B/701RC Tripod Kit Review
$468

Bogen Imaging Inc.

565 E. Crescent Ave.

Ramsey, NJ 07446

www.bogenimaging.us

3 For the Money Shot

The Manfrotto name has been present since the birth of video production. And if you've been shooting video for a while, you're already familiar with their its quality products. The Manfrotto 745B/701RC tripod kit is no exception; its Italian craftsmanship and style have made its bigger and more expensive siblings a hit. While seasoned pros may balk at the trimmed down design, we'll bet that the overall functionality and portability is enough for the demanding amateur.

Many Manfrotto products are available individually, meaning that you choose a head to attach to the legs. But since the 745B/701RC is a kit, the head and legs come pre-assembled and ready for use, so you can start making smoother shots before your neighbor gets the morning paper. Not only does the jet-black kit arrive assembled (the 745B and 701RC are also available separately), Manfrotto also includes a handy carrying bag. While the airy bag offers minimal protection, we liked having some extra space inside to toss a set of studio headphones or some XLR cable.

This Manfrotto kit includes the 701RC true fluid head and 745B legs. A true fluid head allows smooth tilts and pans, because the mechanism glides along on a thin fluid strip. Some cheap tripod manufacturers advertise having a "fluid- like head" or a "fluid movement head." Watch out! These are not true fluid heads. They are just greased bushings, and over time can produce rather choppy results.

Even though the 701RC is a true fluid head we gave it a firm handshake to see if it would budge when locked down, but to no avail. Two independent locking screws allow for a secure fixture when you need it. One locks the tilt and another locks down the horizontal movement. However, these screws are not endorsed by Manfrotto for creating custom drag (an option available on higher end models). As expected, we encountered some less-than-great results when using these screws to create "heavier" drag. For the best results they should only be switched "on" or "off." We tested the 701RC with the screws loosened at the "off" position, and all movement felt buttery smooth.

The 701RC also boasts a durable ball-and-socket design that's ideal for light and medium weight camcorders. While other designs require you to adjust individual legs to level out, this one just takes a single twist. Just hold onto the padded pan/tilt arm, while you twist a centered column. One big catch to this design is your ability to create Dutch or "canted" angle shots beyond about 20-degrees. If you regularly make these popular shots, a "hinge" design may be a better choice.

Industrial bubble levels come standard on any good tripod, and Manfrotto has incased two of them into the aluminum head. Also included is a spring loaded, self-centering feature. This is common on more expensive heads, and creates a counter balance to your tilting shots.

The 701RC uses a two-piece design; the small metal plate acts together with a sliding holder on the tripod head. Once the plate is threaded into a camcorder and is secured in its holder, you are free to slide the unit forward or backward for a perfect balance. Markings on one side show your camera's placement in fine increments. This feature is handy, considering that most camcorder manufacturers place their threads in different locations. Of note are the hard stops at each end of the holder's range. This means that if you are hurried and forget to lock the slider in place, your little bundle of joy won't take the big dive.

We couldn't help but notice the bright column and socket. They have a metallic red finish, which is hard-anodized. Along with being a nice accent to the product, the finish provides a very durable and fade-free color. We think it's a bonus for anyone who shoots out of doors.

The 745B tripod legs offer a lot of flexibility. In this sense, it's both a positive and negative attribute. They ratchet outward almost to a horizontal spread which allows a minimum height at the head base plate of only twelve inches. Tripod legs that use rigid "spreaders" cannot generally offer this option. If low angles aren't in your shot list (though they should be); the 745B can also accommodate your camcorder to 58 inches off the dirt. However, such full extensions without spreaders can make for a wobbly day. To aid unintentional movement at this height, try adding weight to your setup. Hanging a small sandbag from the center column is the best solution.

Our main concern is with the clamps and levers along the legs, which are made of plastic. We all know what happens to the plastic parts on our luggage during travel. But with the whole unit weighing in at only a little more than seven pounds, we are betting the Manfrotto 745B/ 701RC2 will be the right support for your domestic needs. For an "on-the-go" videographer who needs a stable shot, this kit is poised to be your next lightweight kit.

TECH SPECS

Load Capacity: 9 lbs. (leg capacity 15.4 lbs)

Balance Plate: sliding

Counter Balance System: Fixed spring

Leveling Bubble: yes

Leg Sections: 3

Minimum Height: 12 inches

Maximum Height: 58 inches

Head Mount: female, 3/8-inch

Legs Mount: male, 3/8-inch

Folded Length: 28.5 inches

Total Weight: 7.14 lbs.

STRENGTHS

  • Good overall value
  • Durable anodized finish
  • Very lightweight

    WEAKNESSES

  • No adjustable drag for pan and tilt
  • Legs are springy when fully extended

    SUMMARY

    This compact kit from Manfrotto keeps your shots smooth for a reasonable price.

    Andrew Burke is Videomaker‘s Editorial Assistant and has worked in all areas of video production on three continents.</p.

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