Manfrotto 635 FST Single Leg Fast Review

The ultimate video tripod legs

Manfrotto 635 FST Single Leg Fast review
Review
Website: Manfrotto

Price when reviewed

£695

$725

Our Verdict

There's no getting away from it, I like a good tripod, and while some of the supports I test come and go, there are others that I'm rarely seen without. Yet, however good those tripods are, nothing comes close to the excellence of the Manfrotto 635 FST Single-Leg Fast. As video tripods go, it's simplicity, speed and features make it perfectly suited to today's mirrorless and DLSR filmmakers.

For

  • Decent size and weight
  • Fast to setup
  • Relatively well priced

Against

  • Spreader optional extra
What is the Manfrotto 635 FST Single Leg Fast

While stills camera supports have evolved and become more compact, lighter and agile, on the whole, video tripods have remained much the same for years.

You’ll get the odd variant, carbon legs, and slight design cross overs from stills photography, but nothing that unique, or new.

Manfrotto 635 FST Single Leg Fast review

However, with the arrival of the Manfrotto 635 FST Single-Leg Fast, we finally have something that truly matches the innovation that we saw with the companies launch of the Nitro heads a few years ago.

The idea behind the legs is to provide an ultra-quick and stable base for your video camera/camcorder while making sure that it’s as light and portable as possible.

How this has been achieved is with a large single twist-lock leg, one twist and the other two sections release. That single twist and lock action makes this video tripod ultra-fast to set-up and use.

When it came to redesigning heads for video, Manfrotto’s Nitro heads worked spectacularly well, so expectations for the new 635 FST Single-Leg Fast are high. But, are these legs really a decent match for the Nitro, or has Manfrotto innovated where innovation just wasn’t needed?

Specification

  • Height : 155cm
  • Weight : 3.5kg
  • Payload : 20kg
  • Ball Flat: 75mm
  • 60mm Adapter compatible: yes
  • Minimum height: 28.5cm
Features

Video tripod legs, like those used for stills photography, come in all shapes, materials and sizes. The new Manfrotto 635 FST Single-Leg Fast is a full-height carbon video tripod, ideal for shooting on location where you need to be light and agile.

OK, so at 3.5kg the tripod is only relatively lightweight compared to what studio stills photographers might be used to, but in terms of video that’s pretty good.

Manfrotto 635 FST Single Leg Fast review

The reason why weight is good is that a firm base for video is essential, even more so than when shooting stills, as any knocks or vibrations will ruin your footage.

The max payload for the tripod is 20kg, this by any account is a lot, but again when it comes to video, the bigger broadcast cameras and lenses will far exceed this weight limit. This weight limit makes it ideal for all DLSR and Mirrorless users as well as the majority of camcorder operators.

The maximum height is 155 cm, this brings the camera up to about the right height for someone around the 6-foot mark.

The carbon leg tubes range from 29.1 to 20.4mm, with three sections. The mechanism that locks and unlocks the legs is why this tripod has the fast label.

The tripod essentially has a large centre leg section that doubles as a twist lock. Once twisted, the two other leg sections extend from the top and bottom.

Once the leg sections drop and extend to the right height, you can twist to relock; it’s all easy.

As ever with this style of tripod, there are leg angles of 10º, 50º and 70º with large angle release levers at the top of each leg.

Dropping the tripod down and you get a minimum height of 28.5cm.

As with all recent Manfrotto tripods, there’s a large accessories port on the side with the usual indents for Manfrotto’s friction locks.

The tripod is provided without a spreader or head. A compatible spreader is available for around £90, and any 75mm ball will fit. Manfrotto also has a 50mm to 75mm adapter which can be used.

Build and Handling

Manfrotto tripods are known for their build quality, and the company offer impressive warranties on their products. The Manfrotto 635 FST Single-Leg Fast feels solid and robust from the outset.

Outwardly the legs look simple, with the main twist-lock section hiding the two other leg sections. The twist-lock section has a tough rubber covering while the upper and lower leg sections are carbon.

Manfrotto 635 FST Single Leg Fast review

The legs feature the now-familiar Manfrotto rubber pad feed which is common on video tripods, these provide a decent grip in almost any situation.

From the rubber used through to the carbon and metalwork, everything is immaculately designed and finished. This tripod is a thing of beauty.

In use, the high build quality is instantly apparent with the legs dropping smoothly from the outset. Even after a few weeks work in all manner of conditions that smoothness of the legs mechanics remained the same.

It’s fair to say that the Manfrotto 635 FST Single-Leg Fast has become well used in the six weeks I’ve had the tripod on the test. It’s been to workshops, offices, stuck in streams, beaches and muddy fields and there hasn’t been a hitch or problem.

The carbon still looks good, maybe a small scratch or two from being packed into the back of the car after a long day, but ultimately it’s as good today as it was all those weeks ago.

Performance

A tripod can look great straight out of the box, but get it in the field and aesthetics aside you need it to perform. The Manfrotto 635 FST Single-Leg Fast is all about performance.

Let’s not forget that this is a tripod; it’s just a support for your camera. But, if you’ve ever been on a shoot with a large, cumbersome tripod, you’ll know the annoyance and pain when that tripod refuses to play ball.

Manfrotto 635 FST Single Leg Fast review

The leg sections stick, the spreader seems to catch on every rock, stone, strap that’s available and the legs just won’t stay exactly where they should be.

With the Manfrotto, 635 FST Single-Leg Fast everything works. Out on a shoot, you can drop the tripod head in a few seconds. There’s no need to wiggle, circle or tap the legs into the right place. As I say, it’s just easy.

As a straight pair of legs, the 635 FST is effective for, in the field shooting, the big twist locks double as grips and makes it easy to move, even fully loaded.

Verdict

There are so many things to like about the Manfrotto 635 FST Single-Leg Fast. The weight, the size, the build quality and design all come together to make the best tripod I have ever used.

It’s exceptional, and there’s very little that I can say to fault the performance.

Manfrotto 635 FST Single Leg Fast review

Those small things that I could say like it doesn’t have a spreader are available as optional extras.

As video tripods go this is a winner, it’s by far the best and most versatile video tripod I’ve used, but there is the question of who is it for?

At £659 for the legs, then extra for the head and the spreader it’s out of the enthusiast’s price range, and with a 20kg limit and without a spreader permanently fixed in place, I think many higher-end professionals would be wary.

But, this tripod seems to be quickly finding appeal. I’ve shown this to videographers, and videographers who don’t like change and the simplicity and ease of use had won them over.

I found it has less appeal with the camcorder crew, they like the built-in spreader and more traditional style of video tripod, well why not, but even they were impressed.

Who I think will make the most of this tripod are those DSLR and Mirrorless video shooters. Those who like to be agile, able to move around the set floor.

It would be bad to leave a review without finding fault, so here it goes, there’s only one size at the moment. I want a lighter weight version, same height, for when I’m out filming off the beaten track, but that’s it.

The Manfrotto 635 FST Single-Leg Fast is an incredible innovation and the best support match for today’s generation of DLSR and Mirrorless videographers.

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