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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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
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.