Friction arms are odd devices, seemingly simple, mystifying to those who’ve never seen them before but incredibly useful.
They’re designed to link one piece of equipment to another, usually a tripod to an accessory.
The 244 is the smallest in the range and arrives with two 1/4-inch threads, but there is a 3/8-inch in the box as well which can be easily swapped over.
Once in place, the 3/8-inch thread enables it to be used with Manfrotto’s Easy Link system, although it doesn’t have the anti-rotation lugs of the larger models.
I mainly used the friction arm attached to the SJCAM Gimbal 2 with the two 1/4-inch ends. It provided a handy connector between the grip and a Lumimuse or phone holder, depending, with plenty of flexibility over its position.
With the 3/8-inch in place, the same friction arm can then link into a Manfrotto BeFree Advanced enabling the addition of an audio recorder or monitor.
Friction arms are incredibly useful, but at £70 it is expensive. But, here you’re paying for absolute quality and a design that can be relied on to hold your expensive accessories safe.
Hand a non-photographer a friction arm and they’ll look at you blankly, release the lever and the likely hood is that they’ll be no clearer as to what you’ve handed them.
Even now having used iterations of friction arms for years I’m still amazed at the mechanism inside.
The use of these arms is simple, they connect one thing to another, usually a support such as a tripod to an accessory. This makes them a common sight around most pro studios.
In recent years Manfrotto has downsized the once large scale of the friction arm mechanism and have released the Easy LInk system, based on the 3/8-inch thread. The 244 is compatible with the system once one of the 1/4-inch ends has been swapped for the 3/8-inch.
But primarily the 244 is about being compact, it’s the connector, with two 1/4-inch threads, that links your camera a cage and a monitor, audio recorder or light together.
In the case of this test, it was the connector between an action camera gimbal stabiliser and a light, ready for a bit of vlogging.
The 244 is the smallest of the friction arm range and is an incredible handy accessory. It will easily slip into a pocket of your kit bag ready and waiting for when you need it.
The compact 244 friction arm may be small but it’s surprisingly weighty at 192g. That weight can be put down to the robust all-metal construction.
As a friction arm, it’s designed to hold the weight of accessories and it can do this with anything that weighs up to 3kg. This is impressive if you consider that a Sony Alpha 7 III with 24-70mm f/4 fitted weighs in at just over 1kg.
Lengthwise the arm will extend to a maximum of 15cm, which doesn’t seem like a great deal, but then this is designed to hold accessories rather than boom pole them any distance.
Finally, the 244 comes equipt with two 1/4-inch threads at either end, but if you want to swap one out for a 3/8-inch then there’s one if the box.
Unlike the larger friction arms, the 244 doesn’t feature the Easy Link anti-rotation lugs although it does fit with the 3/8-inch installed. Instead, the two 1/4-inch threads enable it to be used with cages or in the case of this test next, the small SJCAM SJ8 Pro mounted on to the SJCAM Gimbal 2.
Build quality and handleing
By design the friction arm looks simple, you release the lever on the side and the arm goes floppy. Then tighten the lever and the arm becomes rigid.
What makes the arm so impressive is the hidden complexity of the mechanism inside.
On unlocking by rotating the lever, the two 1/4-inch thread ends are released and have plenty of flexibility over their position. Like a tripods ball head, they even have a 90º drop in each.
Then the casing that holds the ends also rotates 360º and of course, you have the main joint that again enables to the arms to flip 360º.
It’s incredibly clever but at the same time solid and seemingly simple.
Attaching the arm to the side of the SJCAM Gimbal 2 is easy enough, just screw it in. Without the lock of the larger Easy Link arms, you need to make sure it’s good and tight to avoid any loosening.
Then once in place, the Lumimuse, in this case, can be screwed in. Once done release the lever, position the light as needed, and retighten the lever. It’s all very easy.
The job of the friction arm is simple, enable you to attach and easily position an accessory. In this function, it does incredibly well.
The large lever, in comparison with the rest of the device, seems large but makes releasing and locking the mechanism easily. The fact that the release is progressive means that much of the fiddliness that you would expect just isn’t there.
The only thing you need to watch out for is the arm loosening if you put the weight of the accessory torquing the bolt. This is obvious once you start to use the arm.
The use of friction arms is varied.
Used on a cage with a Sony A7 III the 244 enables a monitor to easily be attached by the side of the camera and gives you complete flexibility over the positioning.
The price may put you off at £70, but in reality, this is one of those devices that really is well worth the money.
If you’ve come across friction arms in the past then you’ll know how essential they are and will probably own one if not two, but did you know that Manfrotto made the compact 244? Well, you do now so you can add it to your collection.
For everyone else, the 244 is out there ready to be discovered. If you need a way to attach accessories there are other cheaper solutions out there, but none that I have come across are as easy to use and solid as the 244.