Manfrotto 294 Carbon Fiber Tripod
$319 (with Compact Ball Head - as tested) www.manfrotto.com
Carbon fiber is recognizable by its distinctive 'woven' appearance and useful because of its impressive strength-to-weight ratio. This makes it a great choice for structures and products that need to be light and portable, but capable of supporting a lot of weight. For this reason, carbon fiber is all the rage in the high-performance world of motorcycles, cars, boats and also photography.
Traditionally, one of the main downsides of carbon fiber from a consumer's point of view is its price premium, but Manfrotto is looking to change that with the introduction of the 290 Series tripod lineup, a more affordable alternative to the company's 055 pro line. Although the 290's price tag may seem intimidating when compared to its aluminum competitors (including the considerably cheaper aluminum version of the 294 itself), it's a far cry from the top-of-the-line carbon fiber tripods that can easily crest the $1000 mark.
Manfrotto 294 CF - Key Specifications
- Maximum load capacity (with Compact Ball Head): 5kg (11 pounds)
- Closed length (no head): 61cm (2 feet)
- Maximum extended height (no head): 1.7m (5.5 feet)
- Maximum extended height (no head - center column down): 1.4m (4.6 feet)
- Weight (no head): 1.6kg (3.5 pounds)
Some may balk at the price gap between the carbon fiber and aluminum 290 series models, but let's compare them. The 294 CF system is over half a pound lighter than its aluminum fraternal twin. Though that may not seem like a significant weight reduction, carbon fiber has a few other advantages. For one, the material is far warmer to the touch, making it much more inviting to handle during the frigid winter months than aluminum. Aluminum is also more susceptible to corrosion due to the elements than carbon fiber. Carbon fiber is also superior to aluminum when it comes to vibration dampening, which can be important in particularly extreme, windy conditions.
Manfrotto offers a few variations in the 290 lineup, including a choice of three or four section legs and with the option to bundle a ball mount or pan tilt head. I was sent the Manfrotto 294 CF model, which features three-segment legs and came supplied with the Compact QR (Quick Release) Ball Head. This model retails for around $320.
Not including head, the 294 CF has a folded length of 2 feet (61cm) and can extend to a maximum length of 5.5 feet (1.7 m) with the center column fully extended.
The tripod can reach 4.6 feet (1.4 m) without the center column extended.
The whole shebang - tripod and Compact Ball Head - weighs 4.4 lbs. For an intermediate to pro level tripod, the Manfrotto 294 CF is fairly easy to lug around. At just over four pounds, the tripod was not an obtrusive addition to the outside of my photo backpack. The 294 tripod is fairly rigid and can withstand up to 11 lbs. of gear.
I tested the 294 CF with my Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 24-105mm lens and Speedlite 580 EX II flash attached, which is roughly a 5 lb. (2.2kg) load - way off the maximum rated load of 11 pounds. I used this setup in multiple shooting environments, including commercial real estate, food photography, portraits and landscapes. Even with the Mark III cocked completely at a right angle facing downward toward a plate of gourmet food, I didn't have a problem with stability.
The legs of the tripod are locked with quick-release flip locks, which spring up instantly for fast adjustment. I was able to reduce setup time, thanks to the flip locks. The legs could also be set at two angles: 23 and 51 degrees by simply flicking the three flip locks near the base of the center column. The ball head I was sent with the tripod has a quick release plate system that allowed me to snap the camera right in place in a split second. The tiny release lever is a bit fiddly, but far from the worse I've used.
I'm not a huge fan of the Compact Ball Head itself though, mainly because ball heads don't allow independent control over pan/tilt. You have a single locking nut, and when loosened, the head moves freely in all dimensions. When the nut is tightened, it doesn't. As a result, precise alignment is very difficult - not aided by the lack of a leveling bubble in this budget model. The good news is that the head is interchangeable, allowing the 294 to be upgraded to a more advanced 3/8" mount head with levels and independent tilt and pan control. And of course, if you already have a better head, you can just buy the tripod on its own.
If there's one single thing that Manfrotto is known for, it's quality tripods, and the 290-series Carbon Fiber lineup is firmly in that tradition. Manfrotto has found a way to pack light weight, advanced functionality and ease of use into a highly attractive package, at a price-point that while higher than equivalent aluminum models, isn't prohibitively high for the average photo enthusiast. If this describes you, the 294 CF is definitely worthy of consideration.
What we like: Feathery weight, ease of use via flip locks and quick release mechanisms, versatile legs with two different angles and a maximum height of nearly six feet, interchangeable head, beautiful carbon weave pattern that glimmers in the sun
What we don't like: Not a lot - the price may be a little high for some, and the optional Compact Ball Head is on the basic side
Mike Perlman is a freelance photographer and writer, based in Bar Harbor, Maine. After a spell reviewing camcorders at Camcorderinfo.com, Mike moved to infoSync World as the Senior Photography Editor, before taking up a role at TechnoBuffalo.com as the head of the Photography department. These days, Mike runs his own photography business and contributes to dpreview between shoots.
|It's good to be at home by Nightcrawler12|
from Best photo of the week...
|Tiny tree by Kaappo|
NiSi Filters has announced a new variable ND filter that offers 1.5 stops and 5 stop of density variation and, at least according to the company, doesn't suffer from the dreaded X-effect at its most extreme settings.
National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen and the Sea Legacy team were filming through tears, as they documented some of the final hour of a starving polar bear's life. The resulting video is haunting.
This year, plenty of amazing cameras, lenses, accessories and other products came through our doors. As 2017 winds down, we're highlighting some of our standout products of the year. Check out the winners of the 2017 DPReview Awards!
Maybe you want better photos in low light. Maybe you're tired of digital zoom. Whatever the reason, if you're looking for a capable, beginner-friendly camera to grow and learn with, we've got you covered.
The Olympus 17mm F1.2 promises to open up new possibilities for Micro Four Thirds shooters seeking razor-thin depth-of-field and smooth, 'feathered' bokeh. Take a peek at our extensive sample gallery.
Are you a speed freak? Hungry to photograph anything that goes 'zoom'? Or perhaps you just want to get Sports Illustrated-level shots of your child's soccer game. Keep reading to find out which cameras we think are best for sports and action shooting.
Still yearning for an Aperture replacement? Here's a quick overview of RAW Power, a Raw image editor for iOS that pairs with the Mac application introduced in 2016. Take a look at some of its capabilities.
Video features have become an important factor to many photographers when choosing a new camera. Read on to find out which cameras we think are best for the videophile.
Tech lover Albert Lee was one of the first to pre-order the intriguing 16-camera module Light L16. Two months in, here's what he has to say about using this not-so-little computational camera.
The public art installation featured blurred portraits, ostensibly captured by the artist under that same underpass... except they weren't. They were actually portraits of comedians, pulled from the 2015 Edinburgh Fringe Festival program.
Edelkrone has upgraded its SliderOne with a SliderOne Pro and introduced a new generation of Wing and Wing Pro models, all while simultaneously improving the app that controls its entirely lineup.
People have waiting a long time for the Canon 85mm F1.4L IS lens, but how does it compare to Canon's 85mm F1.2L and Sigma's 85mm F1.4 Art? Phillip Pettit of Lensrentals took all three lenses for a spin to find out.
Affinity Photo for iPad, one of the first full-featured Raw editors designed specifically for tablet use, has been named Apple's Best iPad App of 2017. And what's more, it's currently 50% off!
VSCO Messages allows VSCO X subscribers and free users alike to share text, images, photo editing 'recipes', VSCO journal entries and more.
Flickr has revealed their top 25 photos of 2017, and there are some truly stunning shots in the mix.
Testing of the Canon G1 X Mark III is well underway, inside of the studio and out. We've just added it to our test scene comparison tool, where you can take a look at its performance side-by-side against peers like the Sony Cyber-shot RX100 V.
Whether it's a trip to the beach for some snorkeling or scrambling up a 10,000 ft volcano, the Olympus Tough TG-5 proved to be a great travel companion for Jeff. That's why it's his 2017 Gear of the Year.
Last year, the DJI Mavic Pro and the Phantom 4 Professional took top honors in our end of year buying guide. Read on to find out who it this year for beginners, consumers, prosumers, and professionals at a price tag less than $2,000.
Meyer Optik Goerlitz is resurrecting yet another classic lens. This time, the company has set its crowdfunding sights on the Primoplan 75mm F1.9, a lens originally manufactured in a run of just 2,000 back in the 1930s.
The folks at Kolari Vision—an infrared camera conversion company based in New Jersey—recently tore down a brand new Sony a7RIII, giving everybody a peek at the camera's much-improved weather sealing.
Resource Travel's Brandon Cunningham recently joined The Giving Lens for a 10-day adventure in India. A trip he won't soon forget, to a country that left him in "sensory and soul overload."
Meet the new Freefly Movi, a handheld gimbal stabilizer designed by cinema stabilization pros for use with the iPhone. Freefly is calling this little beast "the world's most portable, adaptable, and intuitive cinema robot."
Photography portfolio site PhotoShelter is adding their voice to the growing group of online companies that are speaking out in favor of net neutrality, and against the FCC's upcoming vote to kill it.
The Direct app would replace the current Inbox on the Instagram app, doing for Instagram what the Facebook Messenger app did for Facebook on mobile.
Qualcomm's latest high-end mobile chipset offers higher frame rates and a wider color gamut, among other important camera improvements you can expect to see in next year's flagship smartphones.
Photographer Josselin Cornou recently got trapped in a blizzard in the Snowy Mountains of Australia with his Fujifilm GFX 50S and new Tamron 15-30mm F2.8 lens. Find out how they held up to 110km/h winds and -15°C temperatures.
While film nostalgia reaches an all-time high, Seattle-based pro photographer Sofi Lee is turning back to 'digicams' made between 2008 and 2011.
The fixed prime lens camera market may be a bit niche, but it's here that you'll find some of the best cameras you can buy. Sensors ranging from APS-C to full-frame are designed to match their lenses, which cover ranges from 28-75mm equivalent, so image quality is top-notch.
With a capacity of 512GB, Samsung's new UFS chips take built-in storage on smartphones to desktop-PC levels. Will this eliminate the need for microSD slots?
Photographer Josh Rossi decided to go big for this year's Christmas card, so he recreated the Star Wars: The Last Jedi poster using himself, his wife, and their two kids.