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1 Manfrotto 190 Series Carbon Fiber Tripod Review
|The Manfrotto 190 Series Carbon Fiber tripod with 055 MAG Photo-Movie head.|
Manfrotto's popular 190 series tripod is back with a few new and revised features to consider. Lauded as a compact semi-professional model and constructed of cross-woven carbon fiber, the 190 ($409.88 body only) would certainly be an eye-catching addition to any camera kit. Manfrotto made several improvements to the new 190 model, including the quick-release levers, articulating horizontal column, and leg angle selectors. But I was most interested to see if the new 190's enhancements place it far enough beyond the old 190, which cost $259.95, to justify the $150 price hike.
Manfrotto shipped the new 190CXPRO3 with the MH055M8-Q5 055 MAG Photo-Movie Head, which has the Q5 Quick Release System ($369.88), so if you're a hybrid photographer/videographer, this is a welcome supplement to the review. I spent a lot of time with this tripod/head combination shooting photo and video, so sit back let me tell you what I found.
Like its predecessor, the new Manfrotto 190 is available in two different material variations: aluminum and carbon fiber. It also comes in three or four-section leg versions, and our model happened to be the three-section, carbon fiber design. Dimensions are similar to the old 190, but there are a few differences. The new 190 measures 24 inches (61cm) in its closed state, and weighs 3.53 pounds (1.6kg). This is over an inch longer in closed state and nearly a pound heavier than the old 190.
On the plus side, the new 190's maximum height is 63 inches (160cm), and 53.15 inches (135cm) with the center column down. The old 190 could only reach 57.48 and 48.03 inches, so there is gain in height at the sacrifice of compactness and portability.
Perhaps that extra bulk contributed to the new 190's ability to handle loads of up to 15.43 pounds (7kg), which is a sizable gain from the old 190's 11.02 pounds (5kg) load capacity. The new 190 offers four leg angles at 25, 46, 66, 88 degrees, leg tube diameters of 24.8, 20.4, 16mm, a full carbon fiber construction including the center column, and rotating leveling bubble, which are traits shared directly with the old 190.
The main differences between both models boil down to the fact that the new 190 can support heftier loads and achieve a taller maximum height, while gaining more than an inch in portable length and almost a pound more mass. Regardless, the new 190 is very transportable, which is what this model is geared towards.
Specs aside, the new 190 touts a few architectural features that place it ahead of the older model. First off, Manfrotto redesigned the leg locks with Quick Power Lock levers. While the name of the feature sounds advanced, all Manfrotto really did was elongate the locking levers and curve them further around the legs. The overall increased length offers more leverage to open all of the leg locks with one hand, as opposed to the old system, which had smaller locks that made it very difficult to open all at once, especially with one hand.
Although I didn't have an old 190 on hand to compare to, I used my Manfrotto 294 carbon fiber tripod, which has the same locking system as the old 190. Undoubtedly, the new 190's Quick Power Lock levers were easier to operate than the 294's, but it wasn't that much better. In fact, I was able to open the 294's locks at once with one hand - it just wasn't as ergonomically friendly. Of course, these were three-section models, so the Quick Power Locks would help users of four-leg models even more.
|The new 190's Quick Power Lock system.||The 190 is constructed of woven carbon fiber and magnesium.|
Another redesigned area on the new 190 is the 90-degree center column, which extends up and out of its casting to be angled horizontally for more versatility. The center column can also rotate in a full 360-degree circle for precise camera orientation. Operation of the 90-degree center column is just like the old 190. By pressing a release button on the bottom of the center column, the column can be lifted up through the center casting, laid horizontally, and then pushed back through the casting before being tightened.
The only difference with the new model is that Manfrotto hid the center column clamp in the middle of the tripod, allowing it to extend upward only when the column is pulled all the way up, whereas the old design had this collar permanently positioned above the frame. This enabled Manfrotto to add additional height to the tripod without sacrificing much of its compactness. The mechanism works wonderfully, and can be extended between horizontal or vertical positions in seconds. In order to offer precise alignment with a mounted camera, the Rotating Leveling Bubble is a plastic/rubberized collar that spins a full 360 degrees around the mount.
|One push of a button on the 190's carbon fiber center column enables horizontal positioning.||The 190 features oversized leg angle locks.|
Manfrotto also retooled with new leg-angle locks, making them twice as large as the old 190's, operating with a downward push rather than an upward push. From an internal engineering standpoint, the leg-angle locks work the same way, allowing the legs to extend all the way out to their maximum angles by holding down the release locks. To return the leg angles back to standard angle, manually push the legs all the way in; the springloaded locks will click four times.
The leg angle locks push downward now to allow the hand to be positioned closer to the center of the leg for more leverage, which is a welcome change. However, I thought the older design of the leg-angle locks were more comfortable. The way the new angle locks are cast, the only grip is a small lip at the bottom. The old locks had an ergonomic gradual curve to them, which was easier on the thumbs. I think Manfrotto should have carried that design over to the new 190.
|The Easy Link accepts accessories like LED lights and mounts.||The new center column mechanism now sits flush within the magnesium casting.|
The one exclusive feature on the new 190 is the Easy Link connector, which is designed to accept accessories like LED lights, Flex Arm clamps, and other support arms. At PhotoPlus Expo, we got a hands-on review of the new 190 with Flex Arm and LED light, and the setup resembled an extraterrestrial being. The Easy Link is a very convenient feature to have as long as you have the budget for compatible Manfrotto accessories. The link point has large, burly threads and is covered by a rugged rubberized cap.
The new Manfrotto 190 was similar to the 294 I tested last year in terms of height, weight, and leg width. However, one thing I noticed about the new 190 compared to the 294 and old 190 was its rock-solid feel. Manfrotto bulked up the magnesium castings on the new 190, which led to very rigid performance while shooting in the field. If height and space are not big factors, I recommend extending the leg angles to 46 degrees, which is second down from the steepest available angle. This added rigidity really helped, especially in wet grassy areas and gravel. The addition of all-terrain feet would have been nice insurance, but the new 190 performed more than adequately.
|A look at the center column in action.||The rotating leveling bubble is kept in plain sight regardless of the camera's orientation.|
The articulating center column is ideal for product and food photography, and it made the experience far easier to obtain the exact placement of the camera for the ideal shot. Furthermore, with a decent remote shutter trigger and a Wi-Fi card linked to an external monitor, food shoots were a breeze.
Macro photography can benefit greatly from the new 190's rotating center column and 88 degree maximum angle, which places it mere inches from the ground. However, at the maximum angle, there is a slight amount of bounce in the legs that is reduced for every section that is telescoped inward. So, when the new 190 is closest to the ground, it is best to keep all sections condensed for maximum rigidity. It would have been nice if Manfrotto incorporated some sort of center stabilizing pole that could extend for extremely low angles, but I did not have any problems with blur once the tripod was configured properly.
The Quick Power Locks were large and easy to grasp, especially using one hand, but they were merely an improvement from an ergonomic perspective, as it took me the same amount of time to setup my 294 as it did the new 190. One advantage I noticed, however, is that when the legs on the new 190 are folded inward and leg sections are compressed, I could take one hand at the bottom of the tripod and close all three locks at once due to their size. So that's a plus.
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