Back in mid-2020, we got a pair of new video tripods and video heads from Manfrotto. This review will cover the two legs, and in an upcoming video, we are going to dive deep into the heads and how they perform. The two legs that we received are the Manfrotto 635 & 645 Fast, and they represent a new generation of tripods that are designed to be simpler and quicker to operate, and this is exactly what we shall be testing in this review.
The Manfrotto 635 & 645 Fast Video Tripods
A little background
We have tested many tripods here on LensVid, but this is the first video-centric tripod review that we are publishing on the site. For years, we found ourselves using tripod legs designed primarily for stills, both for photo and video work, and for the shoots that we have been doing they performed fairly well.
However, as we started using larger setups and rigs in the studio, it became clear that a more professional and more stable set of legs is important, and this is one of the things that we shall cover in this review. We will also try and compare both the 635 and 645 to our trusty Manfrotto 028B studio tripod, which is one of the company’s most successful stills tripods that we reviewed a few years back, and look at some advantages and disadvantages of these new video tripods compared to the classic.
Before we share our experience of using the 635 & 645 Fast tripods, here is a quick rundown of the main features of both these new tripods.
635 FAST Tripod features and specs
The 635 FAST is the more unique of the two tripods. It has a single-tube design with 3 Carbon fiber leg sections (two of which are pretty thick but the last one is surprisingly thin), and it uses a patent-pending twist-lock mechanism.
The Manfrotto 635 Fast lock mechanism
Manfrotto didn’t include a bubble level on this tripod (maybe since most video heads will cover it anyway), but there are two useful Easy Link connections for arms and accessories (see our Manfrotto 244 arms review for more info on that), as well as a weight hanger — although you will need to bring your own hook or a wire to hang a bag/sandbag or some other type of weight.
The tripod has rubber feet for working on even ground, as well as dual spikes when you remove the rubber pads. The 635 doesn’t come with a spreader, but you can purchase the same Manfrotto 2 in 1 Tripod Spreader that comes with the 645 for the lower or mid part of the legs.
The legs have a maximum payload of 20kg/44lbs, and they weigh in at just over 3.5kg. The tripod supports 75mm half-bowl (and it is also compatible with an optional 60mm half-bowl adapter). For travel, it comes with a Velcro strap that you wrap around the legs to carry around. We are not big fans of this solution, but it still better than the legs opening up all the time. Our unit didn’t come with a carrying case, which is a bit strange, although Manfrotto does sell a kit with a head that comes with a dedicated carrying case.
The tripod has markings for 20/50/70-degree angles with locks for each leg which you either pull out or push in to set. You can see the different heights that each setting will give you (just remember — this is a tripod only without a head).
- Closed height – 73cm.
- Single leg section – 28cm (with 70-degree angle legs); 39cm (with 50-degree angle) and 69cm (20-degree angle).
- Two leg sections – 42cm (with 70-degree angle legs); 77cm (with 50-degree angle) and 110cm (20-degree angle).
- Three leg sections – 57cm (with 70-degree angle legs); 107cm (with 50-degree angle) and 155cm (20-degree angle).
The third leg section is pretty thin and using it in 50, not to mention 70-degree modes, is not very robust and has some play.
645 FAST Tripod features and specs
The 645 has a more traditional video tripod design, with more substantial double tube legs, similar to those of many other video tripods. It has vertical leg locking technology, which is much more practical to use than the twist locks of the 635, in our opinion, because the mechanism is significantly easier to close down. We got the Carbon fiber version, but there is also a less expensive aluminum variant (that is about 0.5kg heavier).
The legs have a maximum payload of 25kg/55lbs, and they weigh in at just over 3.8kg (with the included spreader for the Carbon fiber version). The tripod supports a 100mm half-bowl (and is also compatible with a 75mm half-bowl adapter that we got with our unit). For travel, it comes with plastic locking parts, which are way more practical than the Velcro strap of the 635 Fast tripod. It also didn’t come with a carrying case, has no bubble level and, unlike the 635, has no Easy Link connections, which is maybe the only real disadvantage it has, compared to the 635 Fast unit.
The 645 FAST lock mechanism
The 645 also has 20/50/70-degree angles with locks, but they are more convenient to use. Just as before, you can see the different heights that each setting will give you (again, just remember — this is tripod only, without a head).
- Closed height – 73cm.
- Single leg section – 27cm (with 70-degree angle legs); 49cm (with 50-degree angle) and 69cm (20-degree angle).
- Two leg sections – 42cm (with 70-degree angle legs); 77cm (with 50-degree angle) and 112cm (20-degree angle).
- Three leg sections – 53cm (with 70-degree angle legs); 101cm (with 50-degree angle) and 156cm (20-degree angle).
The 645 comes with a spreader that can be connected at the lowest part of the legs or as a mid-level spreader, just short of 1m high when fully open. The spreader can be adjusted to any width and has numbered markings and twist knobs for securing the desired angle.
Using the 635 & 645 Fast tripods
In the past several months, we have been using both tripods extensively in our studio with two Manfrotto heads (that we shall review here soon) for LensVid, as well as for commercial work.
Both have had no issues with our normal mirrorless setups. Even with some heavier rigs, we haven’t encountered any issues (typically, it’s the heads that show more difficulty with higher loads first, anyway).
We’ve used them a lot for talking-head style shoots including all of our recent LensVid videos, as well as some product and food videos, without any problems. Setup time for the 645 was indeed very fast. With the 635, we sometimes struggle a bit with the direction of the leg lock twist mechanism. You can get used to it, but we really prefer the simpler 645 mechanism.
The 645 FAST 100mm bowl with a 75mm adapter
Two other points that we wanted to mention briefly. First, we really enjoyed using the legs with the iFootage Seastars Q1 quick release system (see our review) for heads, sliders, jibs etc., and they have made our lives so much easier. Manfrotto should certainly take a close look at this concept. We also thought it is worth mentioning the way we have been storing those tripods when not in use in our new studio – right on the wall. We might do a separate video on our studio storage solutions later on.
Compared to the Manfrotto 028B studio (stills) tripod
We would like to make it clear that our use case might be different than that of most professional video photographers. Although we do shoot people and interviews quite often, we shoot a lot more commercial food and products, as well as lots of b-rolls for cameras, lenses, and accessories for LensVid. This means that we need to keep playing with the angle and height of our camera, working with tables at different heights and various shooting angles.
While video tripods like the 635 and 645 Fast are quick to deploy and fold to their pre-determined height, they have no mechanism that allows them to quickly and accurately change height like the crank on the 028B does. Although we would probably not put a fully-rigged Alexa on our 028B with the center column up, using it with mirrorless cameras (even with rails, batteries, monitor etc.), it is plenty strong and much faster and easier to change the height with precision. For this reason alone, we would recommend it for food/product video work any day over a dedicated video tripod (635/645 or any other for this matter).
One important disadvantage of the 028B is that it can’t go very low to the ground. Unlike both the 635 and 645 Fast tripods, which can be set at a very low height close to the ground (less than 30cm), the 028B has a set minimum height of 77cm, due to its crank mechanism with the center column. There is no way around this – if you need to go low, this isn’t the right tripod for you.
The second disadvantage of the 028B is that you can’t use a half-bowl head with it. We are mostly fine with that — there are plenty of good professional flat-base heads to go around (and, as mentioned, we shall be testing a couple very soon), however, it also means that there is no simple way to level the head. Even in our studio with its wooden floors, things are not 100% leveled (as we quickly discovered after we moved in) so we had to find a solution.
Luckily there is a pretty inexpensive one in the form of a leveling head that you can put between your tripod and head (or Seastars Q1 unit in our case) and you can use it to level your rig. This is not as simple or convenient as a half bowl, and we would not use it with a very heavy rig, but it is better than no leveling at all.
Decades after it was introduced, it would be fantastic to see Manfrotto come up with a 028B update with some of the recent innovations from the Fast line, including the vertical levers of the 645 and the Easy Link connections of the 635, as well as possibly a new crank system that is easily removable and allows the user to go lower and also use half-bowl heads for video.
With the 635 and 645 Fast tripods, Manfrotto tried to create quick and simple to deploy video legs that are easy to carry, light, and robust enough to take most practical loads – very much like the highly-acclaimed Sachtler Flowtech, but at a fraction of the cost.
Our experience with both tripods leads us to the following conclusion. The 645 Fast is a great set of legs that we can highly recommend. It is indeed light, strong, simple, and quick to deploy and fold, but also not difficult to carry around. It is plenty stable, and the only two things that we would add to it are height markings on the legs (for when you want to set the height of the tripod more precisely) and the useful Easy Link arm attachment mechanism, which you can find on the 635 Fast legs.
Talking about the 635 Fast, this is a very different type of “animal” and, at least in our experience, it feels a little less mature than the 645 — it might require more tweaking by Manfrotto’s capable engineers, especially when it comes to the locking mechanism.
As for pricing, the Manfrotto 635 Fast Carbon fiber currently sells for $750, and the Manfrotto 645 Fast Carbon Fiber version (which we tested) sells for $950, or $700 for the aluminum version. You can also buy a kit with the new 635 legs, Manfrotto 504X head, and a carrying case for $1110. Interestingly, B&H sells a 645 kit with the 504X head and a carrying case for just under $1000, which is a steal (mind you this kit is with the Aluminium leg version!).
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