Accessory Review: Manfrotto 294 Carbon Fiber Tripod
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.
Fujifilm has announced the XF 200mm F2 R LM OIS WR telephoto lens along with a matching 1.4x teleconverter. This weather-sealed lens - 'matte silver' in color with a bold green hood - has a total of 19 elements, a nine-blade aperture and five stops of shake reduction according to Fujifilm. The lens and teleconverter kit will be available in late October for $6000.
Fujifilm has updated its X-mount lens roadmap with three intriguing new models, which include 33mm F1.0 and 16mm F2.8 primes and a 16-80 F4 zoom.
Fujifilm's widest X-series zoom lens to-date, the XF 8-16mm F2.8 R LM WR, will hit the market in late November for $2000. The weather-sealed lens features ED, Super ED and aspherical elements along with a Nano GI coating.
We've seen different flavors of 360° cameras over the past couple of years, but the Vuze XR may be the first one that's designed to shoot both 360° spherical and 180° stereoscopic video in a single unit.
Huawei has launched the world's first photography contest with both AI and human judges. The contest began on July 12 and will run for 8 weeks. During this time, photographers can submit their images via a Facebook Messenger chatbot.
Fujifilm has announced the XF10, a premium compact camera with a fast 28mm equivalent F2.8 lens and 24MP APS-C sensor. This replacement for the X70 will ship in August for $500.
It won't come as a surprise to anyone that there are some unpleasant, predatory men within the photography industry. However, a long-form, extensively researched special report in the Columbia Journalism Review about sexual harassment is still a depressing, eye-opening read.
Is this the end? Nikon's UK and Japanese websites now list some of its KeyMission action cameras as discontinued.
Leica Camera AG is now an investor in Light, the makers of the innovative L16 camera. According to the company, the funding will allow Light to 'expand the reach of its imaging platform beyond consumer photography'
YouTuber ZY Productions has a video wherein he provides a succinct summary of how phase detection autofocus systems work, their benefits and their shortcomings.
The X-U is Leica's first ruggedized compact camera and is still the only waterproof camera on the market with a large APS-C sensor. That sensor sits behind a 35mm-equivalent, F1.7 lens, and we've taken it to the mountains and back to see just what it's capable of.
Gitzo and Sony have teamed up to launch a new tripod and L-bracket designed specifically for Sony α-series cameras.
There have now been seven variants of the Sony RX100 series, and at least six of them are still current models. Confused? Here's an updated look at their differences, and our recommendations among them now that we've tested the Mark VI.
The Kodak-branded 'Kashminer' Bitcoin mining scheme announced at CES has apparently collapsed, with Eastman Kodak distancing itself from the company behind it.
The software uses computational imaging techniques to boost detail and dynamic range in your images, and reduce noise levels.
As part of a promotional giveaway, Fujifilm Korea has released kimchi-flavored instant noodles wrapped in branding inspired by Fujifilm Provia 100 color reversal film.
The Leica Noctilux-M 75mm F1.25 ASPH is a fast, high-quality and decidedly heavyweight short telephoto prime lens, designed for use with Leica's digital M-series rangefinders. We've been grappling with it for a little while - take a look at our sample images.
70-200mm F4 zoom lenses may not get as much attention as their faster F2.8 siblings, but for many photographers these lenses hit the perfect sweet spot of price, performance, and weight. This week, we shoot the new Tamron 70-210mm F4 alongside the equivalent Canon and Nikon models to see how they stack up.
Blackmagic recently worked with Apple to develop Blackmagic eGPU, an external GPU that brings "desktop-class graphics performance" to the new MacBook Pro laptops with Thunderbolt 3 ports.
Lightroom alternative Luminar has received numerous updates across both its Mac and Windows versions, primarily improvements to existing features, as well as support for additional cameras from Fujifilm, Sony, Olympus, Panasonic, Canon, and Pentax.
Sony has quietly updated its RX100 V, bringing a couple of the goodies from the RX100 VI travel zoom. The updated RX100 VA gains a new processor and various firmware tweaks but misses out on the VI's other hardware improvements.
Apple has updated its MacBook Pro series of notebooks with 15in and 13in models that are claimed to be better for intense image and video editing. The company says the new models are the most advanced ever, and that they feature 8th generation Intel Core processors for faster performance.
According to sources familiar with the matter, Adobe will announce a full-fledged Photoshop version for the iPad at its annual conference in October.
The last day to place an order for Apple photo prints and related products is September 30th.
Manfrotto has launched its new Noreg camera bag series with the Backpack-30 and Messenger-30 models. Both bags are designed for premium mirrorless camera systems, each featuring internal camera units that can be removed and used independently of the larger bags.
Industrial designer Thomas Müller has created a concept device that attempts to democratize film development using an all-in-one device that sits on your countertop.
Mastin Labs has released its latest set of presets titled 'Kodak Everyday.' The pack includes film emulation presets for iconic Kodak films, including Ektar, Gold and Tri-X.
Canon has released firmware update 1.0.4 for the EOS 6D Mark II, adding important bug fixes for "rare instances" of issues with the touch panel and operation buttons.
In an email to DPReview, Nikon Inc. has confirmed ''The Nikon 1 series cameras, lenses and accessories are no longer in production'.