Bogen/Manfrotto Tripod 501HDV Kit Review

Renaissance Shooting (in Hi-Def)

The 501HDV tripod head is an elegant and useful update to the well-known Bogen/Manfrotto tripod 501 series. Paired with the 351MVB2 legs, it’s ready to support your larger HDV camcorders with relative ease. But don’t let the name fool you; this model performs with DV camcorders also!

First Look

Opening up the package from Bogen reveals a mess-free, all-in-one tripod product. Everything is housed inside a padded tripod bag. The 501HDV tripod head and legs are assembled for us, something that takes out the small amount of elbow grease required if we had ordered them separately. Like most Bogen products, this tripod kit includes a few useful tools and an owner’s manual inside. The bag is a real bag too, not just something to ship the product in. It features a heavy-duty zipper and an estimated full half-inch of foam padding. This bag isn’t very baggy, and so it won’t easily hold our extra accessories.

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Curvy Craftsmanship

One of the main values of a Bogen/ Manfrotto product is the craftsmanship. The new advanced design of the 501HDV pairs its high quality design with good manufacturing quality. Bogen kept all the great features of the 501 alive and well in the new 501HDV head and added some new ones. Along with a solid aluminum construction, the 501HDV kit includes special brass thread inserts where the pan/tilt arm connects. These and other subtle upgrades should keep this design in working order even longer than the last. And at nearly twice the weight of the original 501 head, it should. This fluid head is no imposter, either. Once you work with a fluid head, it’s hard to go back to the ol’ Ca-Chunk-a-Chunk feeling of the “fluid-like” products. The 501HDV adds updates to the Teflon friction adjustments for both the pan and tilt functions. These now work better to make fine adjustments to the amount of resistance or “drag” you want when making smooth movements. Craftsmanship is complemented by the smooth contours of this updated design.

Usability

Overall, this kit works very well. We found it sturdy enough to handle all types of camcorders, especially the larger HDV breed. We found Bogen’s new balance system to be especially helpful here. Although the 501HDV boasts a 13-pound weight limit, we feel that it performs best with a four- to seven-pound camcorder. We tested our kit with many camcorders, including a fully-loaded Sony FX1 and Canon XL2.
The 351MVB2 legs pair up with the 501HDV quite well. The legs feature a crutch design and a 75mm “half bowl” joint that connects to the head. The crutch is made of two tubes for the upper section and one larger tube for the lower section. This is an optimal setup for heavier HDV camcorders, because it adds stability. Each leg features a quick release that is easily reached by the camera operator, allowing the user to adjust the angle on the fly. The “half bowl” allows for quick leveling and again is made for a larger and heavier camcorder. Even if you don’t use a large camcorder, the 501HDV kit should accommodate all of your attached accessories, such as wireless mic receivers, battery packs, shotgun mics and lights.

We really liked how high up we can shoot with this model. The crutch design seems to be more stable than the vertical column found on some of Bogen’s other models. And the spreaders do their job no matter the setup. They allow for really nice high angles, along with low-angle shooting, where other designs don’t. A drawback is that the spreaders sometimes get in the way when you fold up the legs to move locations. If you need to, you can remove them completely, though we didn’t feel the need during our tests. Once the 501HDV is folded for transport, the head protects the Pan Friction knob completely. We tested the Bogen/Manfrotto tripod 501HDV kit inside our studio and out in the dirt. Even with our heavier camcorder setup, we never felt afraid to get creative with our angles or height.

TECH SPECS

Load Capacity: 13.2 lbs.

Balance Plate: Sliding

Counter Balance System: Yes

Pan/Tilt Drag: Fluid pan drag,
fluid tilt drag

Leveling Bubble: Yes

Mount: Female, 3/8″
female thread

Height: 4.53″

Weight: 3.52 lbs.

Tripod Legs: Manfrotto 351MVB2
aluminum legs

Load Capacity: 13.3 lbs.

Leveling Bubble: No

Leg Sections: 2 stages, 3 sections

Minimum Height: 19.8″

Maximum Height: 62″

Mount Male,: 3/8″

Folded Length: 24.0″

Weight: 12.5 lbs.

Strengths

  • Variable drag for pan and tilt
  • New balance system
  • Overall craftsmanship

Weaknesses

  • Overall weight
  • Spreaders can be cumbersome

SUMMARY

The 501HDV Bogen/Manfrotto tripod kit is a highly usable tool for getting a stable shot.

Andrew Burke is Videomaker’s community engineer.

The Videomaker Editors are dedicated to bringing you the information you need to produce and share better video.