Manfrotto Befree GT Carbon
Michael Topham tests a premium travel tripod
Manfrotto has recently refreshed its travel-friendly range of Befree tripods with three advanced models – the Befree Advanced Carbon, Befree Live Carbon and the Befree GT. The latter is the larger version of the Befree Advanced Carbon and, unlike the Befree Live that’s best suited to video use with its large video plate and fluid pan head, we’re looking at a set of sticks aimed at serious enthusiasts and working pros who demand that their tripod is both portable and lightweight. Measuring 43cm long when folded, the Befree GT Carbon extends to a maximum height of 162cm and supports a maximum load of up to 10kg. The silver leg angle selectors allow you to set each leg to three independent leg angle positions or invert the legs fully around the centre column to keep it as compact as possible. Like Manfrotto’s professional 190 and 055 tripods you get what’s called an Easy Link to attach an external monitor or other accessory equipment, plus there’s the option to reverse the centre column if you feel the need to lock your camera off and shoot millimetres from the ground. The tripod comes supplied with Manfrotto’s 496 aluminium centre ball head, which merges practicality with high performance and features three controls that make it suited to almost any environment. A main ergonomic knob manages the sphere lock, an integrated friction control knob adjusts the ball tension so that your camera and lens remains well balanced, while an independent panoramic knob lets you move the camera horizontally. What you don’t get on either the tripod or the head is a bubble level. This isn’t the end of the world if your camera has an electronic level function, but with older cameras you may want to attach a hotshoe spirit level. The beauty of the ball head is that it accepts both Manfrotto RC2 and Arca-Swiss style plates, and the tripod’s twist locks are rubberised, making it easy to get a good grip, even when your hands are wet. Against the stopwatch it took 27 seconds to erect the tripod to its full working height, and even with great force applied to the top of the tripod, the carbon legs showed no indication of flexing under pressure.