LensVid Exclusive: Manfrotto 028B Studio Tripod Review
Today we are going to take a look at the first studio tripod in our tripod and head review series here on LensVid. The 028B isn’t a new tripod, it has been around for a number of years now, it is aluminium based compared to mostly Carbon fiber tripods that we have tested to date, but as we will see later on, in this case this might not necessarily be a downside.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the features of the 028B:
- Size – As you might expect from a studio tripod it is big. Closed down the 028B measures about 84 cm or 33 inches. The tripod has 3 sections which are connected with a spreader (very similar to what you have on some video tripods). When the tripod is open without opening any of the legs sections it is just under 80cm or about 30 inches. Opening just one leg section will bring you to 126 cm or just under 50 inches. Opening the final leg section will bring the tripod to a height of 177 cm or just under 70 inches. If you fully extract the center column you get to a height of 2.2 meters or about 86 inches. The leg base when fully open is 135 cm or close to 50 inches so make sure you have enough room.
- Weight – The 028B is heavy. At 4.2kg or 9.2lb (without a head) it is the heaviest tripod that we tested by far. It does have a 12kg/26lbs load mind you. A similar tripod made from Carbon fiber will probably weight between 30% to 1/2, but again – this is not necessarily a downside for a studio tripod.
- Center column – the secret weapon of the 028B is the geared center column. In the past there were many more of these on the market but making a good one isn’t simple apparently and today most tripods sold are the lightweight portable travel type and a geared center column requires a complex heavy mechanism so they almost became extinct on modern tripods. Luckily Manfrotto decided to keep this mechanism alive on some of its studio tripods (it also exist on the 058B tripod and as a separate clamp based table-mount geared column called the Manfrotto 131TC).The 43cm or 17 inches column on the 028B can be controlled very precisely with a crank that can be opened or closed by pressing a metal ring. The whole mechanism feels very robust and this is the first tripod that we have ever used where we have exact control over the height of the camera and we also feel very secure in the stability of the camera with the center column open (something that many people do not recommend doing with less robust tripods – you can see how we easily placed close to 10kg on top of it and lifted it up without any problems).
Extremely robust geared center column
- Built quality – The general build quality of the 028B is good. Nothing is loose and most of the tripod is made out of metal. It isn’t of the same quality as say a Gitzo tripod (and we will be testing several of those in the near future), but to us most of the parts feel pretty well made. We would probably make some of the knobs and locks just a bit better in terms of feel and the spreader a bit more robust, but for the price we think that there is very little to complain here.
- Locks – The leg locking mechanism for the 028B is very unique. There are actually two different mechanisms here. The first stage can be opened using a knob on each leg – this is quite fast and the legs just slip open in most cases. Opening the final leg section is done using twist locks and is not super convenient (or fast) but unless you really need to work from up high this isn’t necessary. We will mention here that the Manfrotto 058B tripod which is very similar to this one and also includes the geared center column has a different leg locking mechanism which is even faster and more advanced and based on a leaver which when pressed simply open all of the first leg sections in a split second (it is more expensive though).
Fast to deploy – the first section leg locking mechanism
- Spikes – Interestingly for a studio tripod, the 028B has built in spikes. They are not very long and not super easy or comfortable to use but if you need them for the field – they are there.
- Hook – As far as we can tell (and we might have missed something here as the center column ends with a 3/8″ male screw at the lower part) the 028B has no place to attach a weight to a hook. However because of the spreader you can augment the already quite heavy weight of the tripod with some extra sand bags if you like.
- Stability – There are a number of factors that affect the stability of a tripod – the material it is made of (carbon fiber is said to transfer less vibration than aluminum), the design of the leg tips, and of course how thick are the legs and how many are there. In this case we have three leg sections with a unique design where the first section has six instead of only three legs – each about 19mm thick. The next section which is the main one is 25mm and the final one is about 20mm. We discovered that when the first or second sections are opened the tripod is quite stable. With the third section open it is somewhat less stable and using it outside when there is a strong wing might bring some vibrations. As we noted before – we feel quite comfortable with using our camera with the geared center column open so there is even less need to open that last leg section unless you need to shoot from a really high angle.
- Accessory port – Unlike some of the newer Manfroto tripods, the 028B does not have an accessory port. So why are we bringing this up in this review? well, the tripod does have a 3/8″ threaded hole for a strap (we shall discuss it in a second) but we actually discovered that if you happen to have the Manfrotto 244 micro arm (especially the really cool anti rotation version) you can very easily turn this threaded hole into an accessory port and use it to hold a monitor/light/recorder or basically anything else with a 3/8″ or 1/4″ 20 connectors (as long as you have the right adapter) – really cool DIY hack that we are not sure if even the guys over at Manfrotto considered!
- Strap – the 028B comes with a large heavy duty strap. It has a 3/8″ connector on one side and a carbineer on the other side – not the most ingenious solution but if you need to carry it somewhere it might be better than hand holding it.
So let’s some things up. The Manfrotto 028B is a fantastic bang for the buck studio tripod. At just under $350 it is generally well build, extremely robust, tall and easy to open (at least the first leg section) and has the superb geared center column mechanism that could have cost almost as much as the whole tripod all by itself.
There are a few drawbacks like with any product. The 028B is heavy and cumbersome – which isn’t ideal if you are doing a lot of productions out of the studio (although indoors we actually see the weight as an advantage). The stability, especially fully opened in windy conditions isn’t perfect – this has to do with the thickness of the 3’rd leg sections and the fact that this is an aluminium and not carbon fiber tripod and there are a few parts that could be a little bit better made (especially the locks and knobs).
Perfect all around studio tripod – Manfrotto 028B
All in all though, if you are a studio photographer and you want a good heavy duty studio tripod that can go up high and give you very precise control of the height of your camera like almost no other tripod can – the Manfrotto 028B is going to be a great choice. For us it has become our go to tripod for our overhead camera food shots and videos for our vegan food channel Veggies together with the Photek TRI-X-2500 Tripod Extender arm that we reviewed here last year.
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