Given the rising popularity of Sony Alpha cameras, it would be stupid not to cater specifically towards that crowd, right?
The Manfrotto Befree Advanced tripod for Sony comes with special Alpha orange accents and a mounting plate designed to work with a7 (second and third generation) and a9 series cameras. Manfrotto claims this plate with a custom fit lip will prevent any play while attached to the camera and increase the stability. Other than these minor differences, it bears almost full resemblance of the standard Befree Advanced.
The Befree travel tripods are made from aluminum and weigh in at 3.6 pounds. They are capable of holding up to 17.6 pounds according to Manfrotto. They are four-section tripods with three options for leg angles: 22, 54, and 89 degrees. The minimum closed length for transport is 15.75 inches, which happens to be the same minimum height possible while in use (legs at 89 degrees and center column extended). The maximum height with the center column down is 50 inches and a working height of 59.5 inches with the center column extended.
What I Liked
- At 3.6 pounds, I found it to be a negligible amount of weight to add to my backpack. When the legs are inverted into itself and in “travel mode,” it’s a nice, compact setup for traveling with.
- It has a carrying grip on one of the legs. Hey, even the premium Gitzo tripods cheap out when it comes to those so this is an actual pro in my book.
What I Didn’t Like
- After mounting a camera to the Befree, the first thing I noticed was how extremely top heavy it was with a full-frame Sony setup. At the standard 22 degree leg angle, it felt like it could topple with just a small bump. Paired with the dependency on extending the center column in order to get the camera up to a working height, it just felt unsafe.
- The camera plate can easily get stuck in the head, requiring your two hands and a falling camera to get out. It happened to me three times in a few hours. I don’t have previous experience with the Manfrotto style quick release system, but consulting Google tells me it’s a common problem. Don’t tell Sony, but one of the times I dropped a borrowed Sony a7R III and 24-70mm GM lens directly on a rock from a couple feet up while struggling with all my might to unseize the camera from the head. I never want to use Manfrotto’s quick release system again.
- Minor complaint, but the D-ring on the camera plate is crazy stiff and it was painful to pry up in order to use. Although I am happy they chose to use a D-ring in the first place; I can’t stand when a tool is required for mounting plates.
- The Befree tripods, both Alpha-ready model or standard variety, cost $189.99. For what it is, I feel like $100 makes a lot more sense. It’s certainly too pricey right now. I’m also not very convinced that small lip on camera plate is going to noticeably improve your images, so it makes more sense to just buy the more compatible standard version for the same amount of money. But orange?
- The Alpha orange camera plate scrapes paint pretty easily. Where it contacts the quick release the anodization is scrapped off immediately after first use. I can imagine it won’t be long before the entire thing is a rough mix of silver and orange.
I don’t often find myself using low-end tripods, but the opportunity came about and I took it. To be honest I haven’t got the experience to be able to adequately compare this tripod to something else in the $150-$200 price range, but I’m positive there has to be something better out there than the Manfrotto Befree tripod for Sony Alpha cameras. I really hope so at least.