More of us are shooting video than ever before, and realising this Manfrotto has released the 190X Video. This tripod takes features and design from both stills and video supports.
The result is a relatively lightweight and ultimately robust video support that performs exceptionally well. However, the large 500 fluid head shows there are still a few hang-ups from the old days of large video rigs.
The 190 legs are a photographers staple, likewise, the 500 Video fluid head is to videographers. Bringing the two together is the clever levelling column which replaces the usual centre column.
In use, the tripod performs well, the 500 head provides smooth fluid movement when needed, and the legs give the support, but it’s the column that brings the kit together and steals the show.
The centre column provides essential levelling and the bubble levels in the head ensure that although outwardly simple this video kit will find broad appeal.
While the 500 head is a solid performer, used with SLRs – and especially mirrorless – it does seem overkill.
However, it all works well and for the price there really is little else to touch it for functionality and quality.
Video Tripod / Manfrotto.co.uk / £359 / $349 at time of review
Today’s cameras have blurred the lines between video and stills cameras, and this has meant that accessories that each discipline use have needed to adapt.
Constant lighting is one of the most significant areas of cross over, but equally, we’ve seen new features such as Easy Link appear as a standard on stills tripods. Easy Link is designed to assist the latest generation of photographers and videographers by enabling the easy attachment of accessories.
Now the Manfrotto 190X Video blends features from video and stills supports. 190 legs are a staple of the stills photography world, they’re nothing fancy, but they’re reliable and do the job, as is the 500 head to video.
These are functional pieces of kit without frills, they simply do the job, and they’ve been brought together by the levelling column. This trio of components comes together in a non-exciting but exceptionally well worked out and functional video tripod.
That essentially sums up the 190X Video; you won’t get excited about it in the way you would about the Nitro or the latest carbon legs, the 190X video is a workhorse, you’ll buy it because you need it and it’s the best solution for the price.
Video kit tends to have a slightly heftier weight than stills, and that’s certainly the case for the 190X Video that comes in at 3.2kg, this compares with 2.5kg for the still equivalent.
The quick lever release 3 section legs are aluminium and have a safety payload weight of 5kg, more than enough for most DSLR/Mirrorless video setups. Each leg has an angle selector of 25°,46°,66° or 88°.
Heightwise there’s a maximum of 173.3cm, 149.3 cm with the centre column down, and a minimum of 50.3cm. This relatively tall minimum height is due to the levelling column.
At the top is a 500 fluid video head and this has a counterbalance weight of 2.4kg. This head supplies a tilt of -70° / +90°
To help ensure you get the centre column level, there’s a bubble level incorporated into the top of the column.
As with all 190 legs the crown has an Easy Link accessories port which is handy.
The head also features a full 360º pan and features the long 500PLONG base plate that’s common with Manfrottos video head ranges.
Build and Handling
There’s a reason almost every photographer I know either has or has had a set of Manfrotto 190 legs at some point in their careers, they’re solid and can be relied on.
It’s been a while since I’ve used a set of 190 aluminium, but in the test, I was reintroduced to why they’re so good. There are no frills, the 3 section legs are locked and released with Manfrottos levered leg locks, and these are largely robust and secure and release and lock the legs as you’d expect.
On the base of each leg is a push fit rubber foot, nothing fancy but they do the job, and when they wear out, you can just pop in some more.
The leg angle adjusters are large and easy to use, pull back, move the leg angle and its set.
On the side of the crown is the essential Easy Link Port where friction arms can be attached, and accessories such as a Ninja V or Tascam DR-40 or another accessory can be added.
Then there’s the column height knob, it’s simple but effective, but that simplicity doesn’t mean that they’ve cut back on the product design. No threads are showing it’s all beautifully finished and designed to last for years.
On top of the crown are three hex bolts that can be tightened, if after years of use the crown loosens or a bearing inside needs replacing.
To ensure that carrying the tripod is as comfortable as possible, there’s a rubber grip on two of the three legs.
Leveling Centre Column
The Centre column is a little different to the standard 190 stills tripod.
It’s a little more complicated, although at first looks identical. Follow the column down to its base, and you’ll see a red collar and grip underneath.
Turn the grip clockwise, and the red levelling base below the head releases, like a ball head, and enables you to level the head quickly. This is far easier than fine-tuning the leg lengths to get the level you want.
With video levelling, the legs are far more critical than with stills. When shooting stills you only have to consider one frame at a time, whereas with a video you need to consider 24/25/30 frames per second, and there’s a far higher likely hodd that during the shot you’re going to pan.
Making sure that the legs are level will ensure that when you pan the shot remains level and doesn’t start to tilt.
The levelling centre column enables you to set the level of the tripod as usual and then fine tune with the column, it makes things so much easier, especially if you have to shift positions.
500 Video Fluid Head
The 500 Fluid head is relatively simple in design and is a perfect solution for the majority of videographers using DSLR and Mirrorless cameras.
Firstly it’s versatile, so if you’re using a slider or jib, the flat base makes it easy to transfer from the 190 legs to either of the other supports.
At first, the position of the two bubble levels seem a little hidden, but then once you start using the tripod, you realise that they’re in just the right place. Release the centre column, and you’ll find yourself at the height of the level.
At the back of the head is the Pan lock knob, releasing this enables a smooth 360º pan.
On the left of the head is the tilt lock, this has a simple lock and release function.
When it comes to the control handle, there are two options for the position; Left or right and the bar unscrews and rebolts in as you want.
At the front left on the side is a 3/8-inch thread where friction arm or other accessories can be attached.
The base plate is a 500PLONG, and you get a 1/4-inch or 3/8-inch screw in the box. This plate is held in place with a simple, quick release screw lock. I’ve seen this a few times and love the design.
Overall the design is spot on and out in the field the tripod performs as you’d expect. It does the job without fuss.
The reason that some kit is rarely talked about is that it just does the job without fanfare or frills. That’s exactly what the bog standard 190 legs do; they just work as there’s little if anything that can go wrong with them.
Here as a set of legs for this video kit, they perform as legs should. The lever locks do mean that it takes a little longer to set the tripod up than twist locks, but once you’ve got the tripod setup, you can quickly fine-tune the level with the column.
The feet are just rubber, but in most situations, they do the job, some slightly larger grip feet would have been an excellent option, but not essential. Again once set up the weight and rigidity of the aluminium means that the tripod stands firm.
The centre column, like any pure video tripod, enables you to quickly and easily find the level. In use, with the two bubble levels to assist enables you to quickly and accurately level the tripod.
The head is again simple in design, but the counterbalance with a Sony A7 Mark III and 28-135mm fitted along with Wireless mic and Atomos Ninja V enabled smooth and easy free movement.
Performance wise there is little to fault with the 190X Video; it does exactly what you want it to do. But there is a feeling that the design, or rather the cobbling together of existing kit, has been done to fill a gap in the market.
The legs are known for their reliability, they’re not exciting, but if you need a set of good all round legs, then you really can’t go wrong with a set of 190s.
Then there’s the head; again you can go wrong with the 500, I have one as a cheaper alternative to my other more expensive video heads.
The centre column then pulls the world of stills and video together to provide you with the best video tripod at present on the market at this price.
So why is it a cobbling together of parts, well, the main parts already exist, albeit one in the video and the other in stills?
The legs and column I think are ideal, but it’s the size of the head that I have a slight issue with.
Does the base plate for a DLSR or Mirrorless really need to be this big? Not really, as this head was designed for camcorders. What I’d like to see is the same function and excellence of design applied to a slightly smaller head, and then for £359 / $349, it would be ideal.
Saying that and with the size of the head in consideration, I would still go for this over any stills tripod kit when shooting video. The legs hold the support firm and the head is smooth and essential for shooting good video.
This is by far the best video tripod at this price; there isn’t anything else to challenge it. If you’re looking for your first video tripod, then this is it.