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.
Recently we visited the 2018 CP+ show in Yokohama, Japan and as usual, we booked interviews with senior executives from several major manufacturers, including Sigma.
At this year's CP+ show in Yokohama, we sat down with senior executives from several major manufacturers, including Canon. Topics of conversation included Canon's ambitions for high-end mirrorless cameras, and the importance of responding to the demands of the smartphone generation.
We were recently able to follow local frame builder Max Kullaway as he created one of his AirLandSea bikes. Here are our picks of the photos we got, as the project progressed from bare tubes all the way to rideable bicycle.
On paper, the Sony a7 III is a tempting option for photographers who've been considering a switch to full-frame mirrorless. But how does its image quality stack up? We compare it to the Mark II and a few of its other peers.
Erez Marom shares the details behind this beautiful aurora photograph, captured on Haukland Beach in the Lofoten Islands, Arctic Norway, on a moonless evening.
Google Lens uses artificial intelligence and 'computer vision' to identify and provide information about businesses, landmarks and other objects using your phone's camera. And now it's available for iPhone users, too.
The company posted a record quarterly revenue of $2.08 billion for the first quarter of the 2018 fiscal year. That represents incredibly healthy year-over-year growth of 24 percent.
In the job posting, the Times' describes this role as "one of the most important and high-profile jobs in visual journalism." If you're looking for a high profile job in photojournalism, you could do a lot worse than being Photo Director at The Gray Lady.
According to a recent report out of South Korea, Samsung is increasing production of its ISOCELL image sensors in a bid towards market leadership for image sensors. To reach this goal, Samsung will have to dethrone current market leader Sony... no small task.
In this video, large format photographer Ben Horne shows off the incredible resolving power of 8x10 slide film by pixel peeping a massive 709.6-megapixel drum scan of one of his landscape shots. And you thought 100MP medium format was big...
Photographer Wendy Teal tells the heart-breaking story of a wedding she shot at a hospital on just 24-hours notice. The mother of the bride had been given one week to live, and Wendy responded to the couple's desperate social media plea for someone to capture their special day.
This tiny little plug-and-play VR/AR camera for Android phones uses a pair of greater-than-180° FOV fisheye lenses to offer both 360° video/photo capture and 360° livestreaming at 1440p resolution.
Syrp has announced the Magic Carpet Pro: a slider that offers filmmakers an 'infinitely extendable' range thanks to built-in track levers that let you connect lengths of track without the use of tools.
At CP+ we sat down with executives from several major manufacturers. Among them was Kenji Tanaka, of Sony, who talked to us about the a7 III as well as its plans to attract more pro shooters – without ignoring APS-C and entry-level customers.
How do you shoot macro photography on an 18x24cm large format wet plate camera? You 'connect' two large format cameras together! That's how wet plate photographer Markus Hofstaetter did it, and you can read about the whole process in this article.
The Fujifilm X-H1 is a top-of-the-range 24MP mirrorless camera with in-body stabilization and the company's most advanced array of video capabilities. We've tested the X-T2's big brother extensively to see how it performs.
Motorsports photojournalist Jamey Price recently flew to Canada with Lamborghini for the car company's Winter Accademia 2018, where clients get to drive the latest Lamborghini supercars on snow and ice. Yes... it is exactly as awesome as it sounds.
For the Pixel 2 smartphone's Motion Photos feature, Google built on its existing Motion Stills technology by adding advanced stabilization that combines software and hardware capabilities to optimize trimming and stabilization.
This "high-capacity advanced spider tripod" system can handle a maximum load of 65kg / 143lbs thanks to its reinforced design and 8-layered carbon fiber legs.
Photographer William Briscoe captured the beautiful two-for-one timelapse just outside Fairbanks, Alaska on January 31st, braving -31°F (-35°C) temperatures to get the shot.
"After his camera was stolen from his room in the orphanage, he switched to an iPhone for his photography, reasoning that the image quality of a big, heavy camera was less important than the freedom of a cell phone. 'Quality? Screw it, I’d sketch things with a pencil if I could draw,' he wrote in a blog post."
Chinese manufacturer Vivo has announced some AI-powered Super HDR tech to compete with Google's HDR+ system. Both systems combine multiple images to create a final shot with more dynamic range and less noise, but Super HDR claims to do so more intelligently.
The YouTube channel JerryRigEverything recently tore down (or rather, tore apart...) the new Samsung Galaxy S9, giving us the closest look at yet at the new smartphone's camera hardware.
The Leica l Model A, dating from between 1926 and 1927, comes with a card signed by Earhart herself. Unfortunately, this is the only 'proof' that the camera really did belong to her.
The Rokinon AF 35mm F2.8 FE is a budget-friendly option for users of Sony's a7-series that are looking to get into the 35mm focal length.
The 'semantic image segmentation model' categorizes every pixel in an image and assigns it a label, such as “road”, “sky”, “person” or “dog.” And now, Google has released its latest version as open source, making it available to any developers whose apps could benefit from the tech.
Huawai is teasing the upcoming P20 smartphone's low-light and zoom capabilities in a couple of tongue-in-cheek teaser videos on YouTube.
Fuji's latest firmware update for the GFX 50S adds two new features: a focus stacking mode, and a 35mm format mode that takes 30.5MP photos using the center portion of the camera's medium format sensor.
The crash has raised serious questions about 'startling safety gaps' in the doors-off photo tour industry. After a brief safety video, passengers are strapped in with heavy-duty harnesses and given only a knife to cut themselves loose in case of emergency.
For the first time in five years, Adobe is raising the price of some Creative Cloud subscription packages. The good news for photographers: The $10/month CC Photography plan that includes Photoshop CC, Lightroom CC, and Lightroom Classic CC will stay the same.