Tripods are always a strange kettle of fish. They make your pictures better, well certainly if you've got time to use them to set up a good shot, yet are normally heavy, bulky - and, well, cumbersome.
The BeFree from Manfrotto aims to be none of the above, but instead offer a small compact device that will fit in your bag, and try to deliver something with plenty of options.
Keen photographers that we are here at Pocket-lint, we decided to give the BeFree a go to see if it could meet our demanding requirements of being portable and sturdy.
Why do you need a tripod?
There are plenty of reasons, the main reason is that it allows you to keep the camera steady when shooting. That's helpful in low-light situations like the start and end of the day, as well as if you are looking for long exposure settings or silky effects in water.
The Manfrotto BeFree measures 40cm long when closed and weighs 1.4Kg.
That's still heavy enough to notice the aluminium product in your bag, but means we were able easily to put it in a standard overhead carry-on bag on the plane. We were also able to tuck it into a standard sized rucksack and courier if we need to head to an event with it but didn't want the extra hassle of carrying it separately. Not that you can't. One of the tripod legs has a rubberised grip making this comfortable and easy.
Open and the BeFree gains some surprising height, extending to 144cm at the maximum extension and 34cm at the minimum settings. There are three angle lock setting - free form, upright and low - and the mechanism is strong enough to lock into place to secure the height you need.
Each leg has three extendable slots giving you plenty of options, although the tipod head supplied doesn't come with a spirt level so you can't use the tripod to level your shots.
When erect the tripod is very sturdy and will be good enough for most "consumer" and "prosumer" photographers this tripod is aimed at.
It works. That's the short of it, the tripod takes a camera and lens up to 4Kg, suitable for most of DLSRs and lenses unless you are getting crazy, and is compact and lightweight for travelling with. There are grumbles of course.
The tripod head is suitable for set-up shots but without a handle no good for video. As this has been designed with landscape photographers in mind, and we would also have liked to have seen a spirt-level built in to the tripod rather than having to rely on the one in our camera.
Overall we like the BeFree. It somehow manages to balance portability with usability and although we would prefer a better head for video work (you can replace the head you get with a video head) it should deliver what you need without making you lug around something huge and heavy. Better still, while not £50, at £175 it's not too crazy a price either.