Manfrotto Be Free MKBFRA 4-BH £130, $200
Small but strong, the BeFree offers a good compromise between rigidity and easy carrying
Featuring four sections per leg, the Manfrotto doesn’t fold down quite as small as the Giottos or Velbon tripods. However, at 40cm it’s among the most compact in the group when folded. Unusually it features clip locks but, as with a number of Manfrotto’s full-sized designs, all three locks on each leg can be opened and closed simultaneously and singlehanded when the legs are in their shortest configuration.
At 143cm the maximum height is a little more impressive than that of the Giottos, although it doesn’t go as low without inverting the centre column (35cm instead of 24cm). It’s also rather heavier than the Giottos and Velbon, at 1.53kg, but has a maximum load rating of 4kg rather than 3kg.
Rigidity is good for a lightweight tripod and head. The ball head lacks an adjustable friction damper or pan-only lock but is smooth in operation. It uses a 200PL quick-release plate, like most Manfrotto heads, which could be useful if you’re adding to your existing Manfrotto collection. To help the legs close tightly, the head’s mounting plate has cutaway sections, but you need to remove the quick release plate to take advantage of this, and stow it separately or leave it attached to your camera.