Fstoppers Reviews the Manfrotto 055XPRO3 Tripod and BHQ2XPRO Ball Head Kit

Fstoppers Reviews the Manfrotto 055XPRO3 Tripod and BHQ2XPRO Ball Head Kit

Manfrotto has renewed its product lineup recently, and the new tripod models come with new features and improved designs. I have been using Manfrotto products for years due to their affordable prices, but unfortunately, every time I ended up with severe problems. Now, the long-known tripod series 055 also has a new version. For the last time, I decided to give this brand one more chance, and I've been testing this tripod with the new XPRO (BHQ2) ball head for the last couple of weeks.

Why Manfrotto

As you know, Manfrotto is the first brand that comes to mind when looking for a tripod. Most of their products are affordable contrary to some high-end brands like Gitzo, but lately, brands like Vanguard, Benro, MeFOTO, and many others started to produce innovative products with affordable prices as well. In my opinion, this was one of the reasons that forced Manfrotto re-design their lineup and also for me, it was the only reason to give one more chance after experiencing low-lasting quality issues with the Manfrotto products that I owned throughout the years.

The Tripod

The tripod that I bought is the new 055PROX series, sold with XPRO ball head as a kit. I usually try to avoid "kits" when buying photography gear, but this seemed like a good combination, especially for using in the studio. First of all, the tripod is heavy and it is not useful for traveling or everyday use, so, if you are a studio photographer or an advertising photographer who shoots in different locations, then you may consider this tripod as an affordable option. It is sturdy and its weight capacity is high enough, even for medium-format camera systems. For mirrorless camera systems, this one might be an overkill, but if you are just after a sturdy tripod, then 055 series might be a good option. However, as you know, nothing is perfect. Besides the new design with fancy red trimming, it looks like Manfrotto didn't add anything innovative to this tripod design. Here is why.

Build Quality

To be honest, I couldn't notice a difference in build quality with the previous models. It has the same aluminum with the same feel and the same weight. Plus, I experienced similar issues that I was familiar with my previous Manfrotto tripods. As you know, Manfrotto doesn't include carrying bags with most of its tripods, and they charge heaps of money for them. In the meantime, rather than paying lots of money for a bag, I carried the tripod in my car's trunk and used only indoors, but it resulted in lots of scratches and stripping. The coating of the aluminum feels nice, but in real life, it is not durable. So, I found no innovation in the material.

Use with a pair of welding gloves.

Leg Lock System

I personally prefer the rotating knobs when buying lightweight travel tripods for ease of use, but when it comes to a heavy-duty tripod, I'd definitely prefer the flip locks due to secure tightening. On this model, Manfrotto continued using the flip locks with a new design and name called the Quick Power Lock system, and unfortunately it is the worst design that I have ever used. Every time when unfolding, I jammed my thumb in the flip lock and it resulted with great pain and swearing. 

Folding

The folding knobs work with the same principal with the previous models. You have to push down the knobs and then adjust the angle of the tripod. But again, while the new design brings bigger knobs which seem easier to use, in reality, it is so hard to push. You have to struggle when unfolding the tripod and I have no idea why Manfrotto still uses this system.

These knobs require excessive force.

Other Details

  • The weight hook on the center column is missing again, and you might think that it is not necessary for a sturdy tripod like this, but considering windy outdoor conditions, at least an optional hook is a must for a tripod like this. 
  • The feet are not interchangeable with spike feet, which makes this tripod impractical for outdoor use and I think this is another downside of this tripod. 
  • The new Easy Link connector on the top part of the tripod is the only innovative feature that I saw. It allows users to attach additional accessories such as Manfrotto arms and holders to use with LED lamps or reflectors.

XPRO Ball Head

The MHXPRO-BHQ2 XPRO ball head, on the other hand, was better than I expected. The friction adjusting knob was quite handy and hold my heavy Canon EOS 5Ds and Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art lens well enough. The other adjustment knobs are also easy to operate and the overall head system is built like a tank. When all the knobs are locked, it is impossible to move it. Another good thing is Manfrotto finally fixed the pan knob issue on the previous ball head model. To be more precise, on the previous ball head model 498RC2 (which is discontinued now and replaced with this model) the pan knob was contacting the bubble level piece on the tripod and you had to pull the knob out for locking the pan knob without touching that part. However, on this model the bubble level piece is rotating free and you can adjust the pan faster.

Quick Release System

Manfrotto's unique quick release system is used on this model as well, and the base plate is large enough to support the camera weight evenly. There is also another bubble level on the head, which is a plus, and locking mechanism is firm enough. Unlike the tripod, it is easier to operate the ball head and it doesn't require a massive force and extra caution. The only downside of the ball head was the loose base section of the plate bedding, which required a tightening with an Allen key. It is not a big deal, but it is an issue that caused an axis shift by tilting the camera down throughout the catalog shoot, which I noticed later on.

What I Liked

  • Affordable price
  • The new XPRO Ball Head
  • 90-degree adjustable center column
  • Easy Link connector

What I Didn't Like

  • The new tripod design 
  • Lack of user-friendly flip locks
  • Lack of spike feet
  • Lack of carrying bag
  • Hard to operate body design 
  • Lack of weight hook

Conclusion

The Manfrotto 055XPRO3 with BHQ2 XPRO Ball Head kit is just another tripod on the market with an affordable price. However, the tripod itself requires another update and it should be more user-friendly for an efficient use. The new XPRO ball head is a superb piece of gear and if you are thinking of upgrading your tripod head, you should consider XPRO for both indoor and outdoor use. If you're a Manfrotto user, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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20 Comments

Jonathan Reid's picture

Different strokes for different folks I guess. I can't stand the screw system to extend tripod legs. It takes an age to assemble. For this reason alone I went back to Manfrotto. I subject mine to pretty much daily photo and video use, with constant travel and it holds up well in comparison to the other brands I've tried.

"The weight hook on the center column is missing again"

Take a look at the 3rd photo from the top. On the left edge you'll see a square hole where the red center column tilting ring is. That's there to provide a way to weigh down the tripod. You can also use it to attach a strap for carrying. I keep a carabiner on mine in case I need to hang my bag for extra weight.

Anonymous's picture

I have the older 055CXProB and use that square hole in exactly the same way you state but would much prefer a centered point of attachment. The offset placement is awkward to attach to. I also use the carabiner to attach it to another carabiner on my belt for carrying.

Dan Howell's picture

Yeah, that's not where I would want a counter-weight. Appreciating that it is not in the top of the line tripod category, I would still go for a simpler Feisol carbon Classic tripod and head for around the same cost. My most used tripod is a slightly more costly Tournament from Feisol. I like their more streamlined approach and I was never into snap-locks at all.

Anonymous's picture

I have a travel tripod with the twisty locks and just can't get used to them. Maybe if I used them all the time it would be more natural.

Burak Erzincanli's picture

Yeah, I'm with Patrick and Dan about that, I don't want to use the strap hole for adding extra weight with an additional tool that Manfrotto doesn't include in its kit.

Laca Port's picture

From my own experience, the strap hook is excellent for hanging weight as it stabilizes the main tripod's skeleton instead of pulling down the center column, which would make fine positioning and adjustments harder, clumsier and perhaps even risky.

Anonymous's picture

I thought the center column would be useful, not to increase height but at the 90-degree setting for macro and low-to-the-ground shots. But having the camera's weight off-axis like that (Nikon D810 and heavy lenses) isn't wonderful. I replaced it with the short center column (major hassle to track one down) and am much happier now. Point being, it wouldn't bother me to pull down on the center column.
I have to admit though, as soon as I get a few other things out of the way, it's being replaced by a RRS tripod and relegated to backup.

Laca Port's picture

Excellent point - when using the column @ 90 deg, sometimes two separate weights are needed... one for stabilizing the entire thing (which cannot be the central column...) and the other for balancing the cam+lens weight, i.e. there is no contradiction and both the strap loop and yet another weight-hook are useful and needed...

I have a 055CXPRO3, and honestly, I don't experience that many issues. It's not the best tripod, and I'd like to have a hook, but re. the leg lock and folding, I've never experienced the issues you mention. Spike feet are no issue in my opinion, but that's just for my use. Of course the carbon version doesn't have the same finish so I can't comment on that.

I'de rather have a version without the center column, though: at first the swivel column seems like a good idea to get low, but in fact you either lose stability or get low enough (= wide enough) to be stable but then you lack so much motion range on the ballhead that it is unusable. So the center column is useless in my opinion.

But all in all, it's still a reasonable tripod if you can't afford Gitzo or RRS.

I've had the 498RC2, though, it was utter crap. I hope this one is better at not moving when you lock it, as the 498RC2 was moving overtime, so you need to compose taking into account that when you'd lock, the camera would shift slightly down. Enough to bother you. Does this one exhibit the same behaviour?

Anyway, I moved to a RRS BH55, and I don't regret my choice one bit, best ballhead ever.

Burak Erzincanli's picture

the ball head is good and definitely better than the old 498rc2, I haven't experienced any moving after locking; but as you said, the old version was crap.

Burak Erzincanli's picture

I think there is also a 4-section version of the same tripod, but again with the same quality and features, even the height option won't make it any better

Anonymous's picture

I don't know if it's been mentioned but you can replace the standard feet with retractable spike feet, which I did. A little expensive for what they are but in for an inch...

Thomas Starlit's picture

I have this exact kit and fail to understand the many negative remarks. The review does not mention that the column can be place in a 90 degree angle for easy shooting in any direction including straight down. A loose screw is mentioned, but seriously? Also, lack of spikes is mentioned, but you _can_ get spikes for it, so the information is just wrong. How the reviewer had issues operating the large clips for leg adjustment is beyond me. I mean, it is ok to prefer twist locks, but saying the clips are hard to operate is just meaningless. Likewise, I fail to understand why it would be a benefit to hang weight directly on the column itself; it would seriously hamper any height adjustment of it. The tripod's stability - mainly due to it's weight - is mentioned in several other reviews online, but completely omitted here. All in all, we are left with the impression of a tripod that can barely stand on its own which is totally contradicting the many other reviews on the Innernet. But hey, I could be wrong.

Burak Erzincanli's picture

Hi Thomas,
thanks for your comment; I didn't mention the 90-degree feature cause there is no hook on the center column which causes my camera to fall down on one side; even for very low angles, it is still unstable. And yeah folding knobs are a big problem for this kind of gear, cause it just hurts my hands when trying to unfold. Spikes are always an option, but not included right? Like the carry bag. Tripod is sturdy, but when it is fully extended, the legs stretch on the bottom end, especially when it's used on a smooth surface. Actually, there are more problems with this tripod than it is written on the post :)

Thomas Starlit's picture

I wonder where and how you use your tripods, and with what camera/lens? With fully extended legs, and the 90 degree column fully extended to the side, my tripod will hold both my D810 and 70-200mm lens without even being close to tipping. I don't think this tripod is intended for travelling at all which I think in part excuses the lack of a bag. Most included bags are cheap and flimsy either way, so I would much rather have no bag included and go with my own system. How do the clamps hurt your hands? It is very easy, just grap the _whole_ clamp from above with your hand, and flip open the large side. I am sure you can find tripods that are sturdier at 3-4 times the price, but claiming it is not sturdy is not in line with reality

Jon G's picture

I own this tripod and ball head, and I think your assessment is right on the money. Overall I still like the tripod and think it's a good value compared to some alternatives. I disagree with your claim that it's not portable enough for travel, but then I own the lighter carbon fiber version so perhaps that's not a fair comparison. I also wanted to point out one major problem with the design: the little metal teeth on the underside of the tripod leg adjustment assembly that control the angle of the legs. These teeth can undergo an enormous amount of stress as you adjust the legs because of the physics of leverage. In my case, I received a tripod with a bad cast - bubbles in the aluminum, a flaw from manufacturing - and within a few days of normal use the teeth on the bottom of one of the legs sheared off completely so that the affected leg would no longer lock upright. This was covered under warranty as a manufacturing defect, but I had to send it to Manfrotto at my own expense ($60 via UPS), to a 3rd party repair company they use in Arizona. To my dismay, the tripod has taken over 25 days to get repaired because they didn't have any of the appropriate spare parts in the US (so bizarre!). I should finally get it back this week - fingers crossed. In the meantime, I had no choice but to buy another tripod to do my work. This time I opted for a Gitzo (also owned by Manfrotto Group!) that didn't have a similar design flaw with metal teeth to control the leg angle (the GT2531EX).

Burak Erzincanli's picture

that was my main point actually; I owned several Manfrottos and all of them had problems in some way, I guess this will be the last Manfrotto piece in my gear

My issue with all Manfrotto heads is the quick release system.
The plate is flat and thus will rotate when the camera is tilted vertically. In addition the mechanism is bulky and coarse when compared to the Arca Swiss style release.

One can get a variety of Arca-Swiss baseplates that allow tremendous flexibility and anti-twist while still maintaining access to the battery.
Not so with Manfrotto.

red cat's picture

Vanguard ALTA PRO 263AB TRIPOD w/HEAD may be a better choice :)