Manfrotto BeFree – Travel Tripod Review

The BeFree aims to be lightweight, and lightweight it is. At only 2.4 lbs–and that’s including the head–it qualifies as ultralight.

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Filed Under: Reviews, Travel Tripods
Topics: Manfrotto

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The Manfrotto Befree Compact Travel Tripod is tiny and light. The carbon fiber version retails for about $350. The aluminum version is 0.6 pounds heavier, at 3 pounds, and sells for $200.

Like most of the current crop of compact travel tripods, it folds back on itself. The plate adapter is specially designed with deep notches so that the legs will fold straight. But that only works if the quick release plate is not attached—not really an issue, since normally the quick release plate would be on the camera anyway.

Legs

The legs are thin. Spindly even, especially the bottom section.

Angling the legs out uses a locking system I haven’t seen before. There’s a kind of rotating latch with three possible positions: folded, normal angle, and splayed wide. Basically, whatever position it is in blocks it from moving any further. It’s surprisingly simple, and it’s certainly novel, but I’m not sure I’m sold on it. I found that the catch sometimes missed, which can be a problem at times when you’re focusing on other things like what’s in front of you.

When extending the legs, the locks use a traditional Manfrotto lever style. They’re bulkier than most of the rotating twist locks on the Gitzos or the MeFOTO Globetrotter. On other Manfrotto tripods I’ve used with the lever locks, they can sometimes loosen over time, although it is possible to tighten the screw to adjust the tension. The levers can also snap off, in which case you can order a replacement lever. I also dislike how the levers tend to catch on things like camera straps.

The feet are fixed–you can’t remove them and replace them with spikes or some other kind of foot.

There’s no weight hook under the central column, a feature that can be used to add heft and stability to an otherwise light tripod in a breeze.

The lever locks.
The lever locks.

Manfrotto BeFree - Travel Tripod Review

The silver dials are 3-position locks for the angles of the legs.
The silver dials are 3-position locks for the angles of the legs.
The feet are fixed--you can't unscrew them and replace with something else.
The feet are fixed–you can’t unscrew them and replace with something else.

Manfrotto BeFree - Travel Tripod Review

Manfrotto BeFree - Travel Tripod Review

Manfrotto BeFree - Travel Tripod Review

Head

The ballhead that comes with the Manfrotto BeFree is very lightweight, and I found it a bit underwhelming. Overall, the head feels and looks a bit cheap and plasticky.

There’s a single plastic knob to lock and loosen that controls both the lateral rotation and loosening the ball. I found that getting a really secure lock for, say, using a heavy camera or making sure that it doesn’t creep during a timelapse shoot wasn’t easy. In fact, I found it almost impossible to get it to lock as tight as I’d like and am used to with other ballheads. It works well for mirrorless cameras, but it is less suited to heavier DSLRs, especially when you’re using them in portrait orientation with the ballhead angled to the side.

Manfrotto has several different quick release systems. The one that comes with the BeFree is the RC2 system with a 200PL plate.

Manfrotto BeFree - Travel Tripod Review

From left to right, a Markins Q-Ball Q3 Traveler, MeFOTO Q2, and the ballhead for the Manfrotto BeFree.
From left to right, a Markins Q-Ball Q3 Traveler, MeFOTO Q2, and the ballhead for the Manfrotto BeFree.

Manfrotto BeFree - Travel Tripod Review

Case

It comes with a case that fits snugly. It doesn’t have much padding and isn’t sturdy enough for me to consider checking it as luggage in a pinch. The zipper is also a bit flimsy and unlikely to stand up to regular use. Overall, the case is more of a storage case than a daily use case.

Manfrotto BeFree - Travel Tripod Review

Options

The carbon fiber version comes in black with white and red racing stripes. The aluminum version comes with various trim colors (black, blue, green, grey, and red).

Key Specs

  • Model: Manfrotto MKBFRC4-BH
  • Made of: Carbon Fiber
  • Load Capacity: 8.8 lbs (4 kg)
  • Max Height: 56.7 inches (144 cm)
  • Folded Length: 15.75 inches (40 cm)
  • Weight (with tripod head): 2.4 lb (1.1 kg)
  • Includes: carry case

Wrap Up

The Manfrotto BeFree succeeds in being very lightweight and is impressively compact. For a light-weight mirrorless system like a Fujifilm X-T1 or a Panasonic Lumix GH-4 it works well. But I found it too lightweight to be useful for DSLRs. It’s smaller and lighter than some others in its price range like the MeFOTO Globetrotter, but while the BeFree wins on weight and size, the Globetrotter wins on just about everything else. You can find my review of the Globetrotter here.

Where to Find Them

B&H Photo | Amazon

7 thoughts on “Manfrotto BeFree – Travel Tripod Review”

  1. In your opinion. Will the Befree tripod be study enough to carry a 2kg spotting scope?
    Maybee with a normal Manfrotte 128RC head on instead

    Reply
  2. Hi, would you be able to do a review on Manfrotto 290 Light Tripod Vs the Manfrotto Befree, as they are both quite comparable in features and I am confused between which is more preferable than the other.

    Reply
    • Happy to, but unfortunately I won’t be able to get to it for a while–heading out for an extended trip. Have added it to the top of my to-do queue.

      Reply
  3. Hi thanks for all your tripod reviews, I have a question are they in order of which ones you think are best meaning the Gitzo tripods then mefoto globetrotter and so forth? I bought the mefoto and just read your review of the siriu and am having second thoughts!!

    I have a hasselblad h4x, phase one back and use a 35-90 zoom which is pretty big. All in all it weighs about 9 lbs. I do long exposure photography so I want the sturdiest, but also lightest travel tripod out there!!!

    Reply
    • No, they’re not in an order of preference. I have some of my favorites picked out [here](https://havecamerawilltravel.com/best-travel-tripod-reviews/), but you’re using a pretty big and heavy rig and I suspect you’ll find most of these small travel tripods aren’t great for long exposures with that setup. The weight rating itself isn’t the issue so much as the effects of the leverage that 9lbs on top of the tripod is going to have on the thin legs all of these tripods necessarily have, especially in any kind of breeze. They’re all much more stable when their legs aren’t extended–so just shooting at their low stance–but that limits your flexibility. And if you’re often shooting low to the ground, there are actually stronger, more stable options in the table-top tripods or platforms like the Platypods, but you really area limited with those in shooting low.

      Reply
  4. For my 50D + Sigma 150-600 this tripod is useless unfortunately. It swings for a while after last camera operation. With my EOS M this tripod is more than OK but this tripod is not for heavy DSLR.
    In the end it is a compromise because it’s a travel tripod.

    Reply

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