What is the Manfrotto BeFree Advanced GT?
The Manfrotto BeFree Advanced GT is a travel tripod aimed at professional photographers and advanced enthusiasts. It’s a premium version of the BeFree Advanced, launched last year, and comes in both carbon fibre and aluminium versions.
The Manfrotto BeFree Advanced GT price tag is around £370, while the street price of the aluminium version is about £220.
- 43cm minimum height
- 164cm maximum height
- 10kg payload
- Dual-system 200PL-PRO base plate
- Advanced 496 ball head
The Manfrotto BeFree Advanced GT builds on the design and capabilities of the Advanced, and at the top of this spec sheet is a load capacity of 10kg. which is 2 kilos more than the previous version.
The BeFree Advanced GT features 100% carbon fibre on all the legs and weighs just 1.55kg in the carbon version. An aluminium version weighs 1.85kg. Comparing the carbon versions, the BeFree GT is only 300g heavier than the Advanced.
The BeFree GT can also fold down to just 43cm while extending up to 164cm with the centre column raised.
When you buy the BeFree Advanced GT you also get Manfrotto’s Advanced 496 aluminium Centre ball head. And the legs use Manfrotto’s M-lock twist lock and leg angle selector, which offers three independent leg angles.
The BeFree GT also boasts Manfrotto’s new 200PL-PRO plate. This plate fits all of Manfrotto’s other normal 200PL plates, but it also fits into Arca Swiss heads so that you can swap between different systems.
THe BeFree Advanced GT also inherits the Easy Link port from the Advanced, meaning you can attach a micro friction arm and mount any accessory – such as a Tascam audio recorder – that has a 1/4-inch screw thread.
The Manfrotto BeFree Advanced GT has a real premium feel to it. The carbon fibre legs are refreshingly thick, but also lightweight. The metal joints are also solidly clamped in, and it all just feels very robust.
In short, the BeFree Advanced GT feels like a tripod that can take a tumble down some cathedral steps, and is light enough to carry on your back all day on a city break.
I’m a big fan of the BeFree Advanced’s M-lock twist locks, and with just a quarter turn you can quickly extend one of the three leg sections. The whole tripod can be extended to full height in just a matter of seconds, and it roots firmly into the ground.
The leg angle selectors are also quite robust, and a nice feature which you can operate one-handed. Setting up on uneven ground in the New Forest, I was able to get my camera level to do some filming.
From the base plate to the ball head on down to the M-locks, it’s obvious that a lot of attention to detail went into the design and build quality of the BeFree Advanced GT.
Shooting with a Nikon D850 and a 24-70mm f/2.8 ED VR, I’ve been looking for something light enough to carry yet able to support my kit. With the BeFree Advanced GT, Manfrotto has really nailed that fine balance between payload and weight.
The BeFree Advanced GT has lived in my boot for the past month. I’ve been using it since before it was launched, and in this time it’s become my go-to tripod. As I said above, it’s hard to find a tripod that can support the weight of a premium camera and lens yet is also not a burden to carry. The Advanced GT is that tripod.
It also folds very compactly. The legs lay flush against the centre column. To open, simply pull them out and down.
In the build section I talked about how quick the BeFree Advanced GT is to set up, and it’s equally quick to get your camera in position. The 200PL PRO plate snaps right into position on the base plate. This plate is compatible with Arca Swiss systems as well, meaning you can swap between different tripods.
Loosening the ball head and its friction control is quick and easy. I’ve used the BeFree Advanced GT mostly for shooting video thus far, and Manfrotto’s Advanced 496 aluminium ball head, which comes with the tripod, has been a real asset.
The Advanced 496 ball head locks from underneath keeping it more secure. So when filming I could lock the head in the rough angle I wanted, then loosen the friction control and capture smooth panning or tilt shots.
The GT’s Easy Link port is also very handy. We were able to mount a Tascam recorder via a friction arm to capture ambient audio during our filming. But equally, if you were shooting stills you could mount an iPad or Manfrotto’s Digital Director for making precise focus adjustments.
One small niggle I have is the centre column. It has a twist lock which is easy enough to open, but it’s a little cumbersome to raise or lower the column. I appreciate that the centre column doesn’t just sink when opened like other tripods, but I have to jiggle it sometimes to get it down in one motion.
Another is the bag hook. I like a bag hook that’s placed under the centre column, but there isn’t one on the GT. There is a hook on the side of the tripod’s crown, opposite the Easy Link port, but I’m not sure I’d hang heavy bags here.
The Manfrotto BeFree Advanced GT’s feet are also removable, though they are of the plug variety. On a premium tripod screw in feet are more common place, so plugs seem a little at odds to the rest of the design.
Overall, the BeFree Advanced GT is a very solid piece of kit that offers massive flexibility.
Centre column niggles aside, the BeFree Advanced GT is one of the finest – if not the finest – tripod in its class and builds on the success of its sibling, the Advanced.
If you have a pro-level DSLR or mirrorless camera, the GT can fully support it, while being light enough to clip to the side of your bag on a long day out. And that’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it?
And when you consider that Manfrotto is including its 200PL PRO plate – which is compatible with Arca Swiss systems – and its fabulous Advanced 496 aluminium centre ball head, that £370 price tag seems pretty reasonable.
Should I buy the Manfrotto BeFree Advanced GT
If portability is paramount for you, then yes. The BeFree Advanced GT will get you where you want to go with its lightweight design, and will support you when you arrive with its robust build. Whether you shoot stills or video, it’s a solid companion to your camera and lens.