Andy Westlake tests an updated version of this popular travel tripod

Manfrotto Befree Color at a glance:

  • Maximum height: 144cm
  • Folded length: 41cm
  • Maximum load: 4kg
  • Weight: 1.4kg
  • Price £175
  • www.manfrotto.co.uk

Manfrotto has a well-earned reputation for making reliable tripods at sensible prices, and this doubtless explains the popularity of its Befree travel tripod in the face of stiff competition from the likes of MeFoto and Sirui. Now it has launched a new version, the Befree Color, that comes with a few updates. The basic template of four-section aluminium legs that reverse-fold around the head is unchanged but there’s now a small hook on the end of the centre column, larger rubber feet and refreshed colour options.

Large metal lever locks control leg extension, while unusual rotary levers atop the legs are used to change their angle. The centre column is reversible for low-level shooting, should you need to go lower than the usual 34cm minimum height. A single lever on the removable head locks both the ball movement and the panning base but like the centre column height lock isn’t captive, so could potentially fall out and get lost, rendering the tripod useless.

Manfrotto Befree Color – key features

Quick release

Combines a level lock with a safety interlock, and employs Manfrotto’s popular and widely copied RC2 plat

Rubber leg grip

A textured grip on one leg makes the tripod more comfortable to carry, especially in cold weather

Non-slip feet

Triangular rubber feet are designed to give more stable support on soft ground

Weight hook

This can be used to hang your camera bag for extra stability but is far too small to hold most straps securely

Carry bag

The lightly padded bag is well made but has a rather short strap

Manfrotto Befree Color

Colour options

As the name suggests, this model adds a splash of colour to the leg angle locks and the lever-lock housings. Alongside the green of our review sample, blue and red versions are available, plus a black model with silver angle locks. The good news is that these are all rather more restrained than the somewhat neon hues of the previous generation.

Manfrotto Befree Color – our verdict

While the Befree is highly popular, I’m afraid the latest version leaves me underwhelmed. The quirky design feels wilfully awkward; it’s slow to set up since the leg-lock levers are stiff and slower to use than twist locks, and you have to flip the angle levers every time you want to unpack and pack it. The absence of a short column, spirit levels to aid camera alignment and an independently locking panning base on the head also fall short of what we’ve come to expect. It’s sturdy but we wouldn’t expect otherwise at this price. It’s not terrible but there are better tripods available.

SCORE: 3.5 out of 5