Thought I might do this little review mainly aimed to help people new to photography with possibly a limited budget. You may not go with my selection, but the process of thought should help you decide P.S. I don't work or have any affiliations with Manfrotto, I'm just a happy customer who would like to share his views to help others.
I've been looking for a new tripod for a while to upgrade from my cheap POS
Budget was my biggest concern as I have limited funds at the moment. I eventually settled on the Manfrotto 294A3 with the 496RC Ball Head (quick release).
I figured at least $200 to get something I would be happy to use and that would perform decently with my gear. I use a sony A200 and my heaviest lens is a 70-210 zoom but this is still a pretty light combo.
Budget ment definetly aluminimum as the material and I wanted a ball head for ease of use.
I'm 180cm tall and wanted a tripod that allowed me to have the camera at eye height, without touching the centre column to maximise stability. Minimum height wasn't so critical as I'm not shooting macro, and the lowest I've been shooting is usually from a sitting position which this tripod will happily do. The centre column can be flipped if I do need to go low low, just have to use the camera upsidedown lol.
I went with a 3 leg section tripod, again purely for stability. This one folds up small enough to pack easily in the car, and lug around at locations with ease. The 294 has bigger leg sections, again, it's all about stability for me. It's not too heavy, but certainly not light either, but I'm not hiking with this unit.
I wanted a quick release for sure as going from on tripod to off tripod is really simple and this unit has a saftey release so you won't accidently remove the camera and have an ouch situation. It has a friction control on the head which is fantastic for changing from being able to move quickly and freely, to moving slowly and precisely.
The leg release latches are fantastic. They have a very strong feel, both locking and unlocking, a tool is also supplied allowing you to adjust the tension if things loosen up.
With the legs extended and the head upright, it's 150cm high, absolutely perfect with the camera attached. Taking some test images at home compared to my old tripod, there is a noticable difference in camera shake, especially at the 200mm range.
This particular tripod may not be for everyone, and from reviews and info on the net the 190 series gets a bigger rap, but don't discount the 290 series as they are taller, heavier, and just as, if not more stable in my opinion. With heavy gear I'd be looking at a ligher level, this is rated to 5kg which is ample for me.
Shopped around online and snagged the unit for $175 shipped to my door from a camera store in Sydney. Can't beat that
Oh...and Manfrotto have a deal going at the moment. I registered online and now have 10 year warranty!! (bonus 8 years if you register).
Specs that were important to me :
Maximum height with centre column down : 150cm
Minimum height : 49.7mm
Load capacity : 5kg
Closed length : 70cm