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Review: Manfrotto 546B Pro Video Tripod

What do you look for in a tripod? Knoxville, Tennessee producers Paul Schmutzler and Jacob Dean explore this and other questions in this video review of the Manfotto 546B tripod along with various fluid heads and different camera rigs.

In this video review, conducted with my fellow producer Jacob Dean from DF Productions in Knoxville, Tennessee, I’ll look at the Manfrotto 546B tripod along with three fluid heads, the 500, the 502, and the 504. In the video, Jake and I discuss what you look for in a tripod, and demonstrate the applicability of the heads to different types of productions and different cameras and rigs. We also look at plate systems and the abilities of the tripods and heads to facilitate smooth and flexible pans and tilts, compare the Manfrotto tripods to Cartoni sticks, and discuss the physical composition and the sturdiness of the tripods.

Ultimately, the questions we explore come down to this: “There are several other options out there. The question is does your head support the weight that you need and can it move smoothly with the action you have to follow?”

A full transcript of our tripod discussion follows.

Paul: Hi. I'm Paul Schmutzler and I'm here today with Jake from DF Productions in Knoxville, Tennessee. We're reviewing a couple of Manfrotto products today. The 546B, we've got two of those. One is Jake's personal model and then we've got one on loan from Manfrotto. In addition to that, Manfrotto loaned us a 504 fluid head here, fluid head, but also this very small 500 model and in between Jake has a 502.

Jake: This is a 502, yes.

Paul: I actually have an older-style 502 head as well, but you can't see that because it's being used on one of the cameras here today. We've got three different options here and what we wanted to talk about is what do you look for in a tripod, why do you have a tripod. OK. It's the most basic support for cameras that you use. You can support a camera with just about anything. You can handhold it. You can put it on your shoulder. You can put it on your t-shirt. You can put it pretty much anywhere.

Jake: On a pillow.

Paul: On the other hand, everyone uses a tripod for something. What do you look for in a tripod? Well, it all depends on your rig. Jake, want you tell us about the different ones we've got here and just why we chose to put each one on the individual setups that we have.

Jake: Most of the difference really comes down to the heads right now. I would be comfortable putting any of these cameras on any of the legs, even some of the lighter legs back there, depending on the shot. If you have a really light, just basically three pole system, it might not handle some faster pans or higher drag system, but it's perfectly fine for an establishing shot.

Paul: Yeah. Anything's fine for an establishing shot. It could be mounted to a tree for all we care.

Jake: Yeah. I've put some crazy rigs together, anything from just attaching one of these heads to a C stand to bungee cables in a tree. Any of these tripods would work for any of these cameras, but the real distinction's the heads right now. They're really mostly just done by weight, pretty much. Honestly, obviously, this head is suitable for any of these cameras, except for the price point that you really don't need this head to fit either of the cameras. Honestly, they're scaled pretty much perfectly right now.

Paul: We've played around with these and it's got two lock knobs for the pan and the tilt that are separate. The one thing you noticed right away is it's a fixed tension. You can't adjust it. It's on or off. The one thing you liked about this was similar to the other tripod, a Cartoni, in that it's able to snap in here.

Jake: I really like that plate system. It makes for really quick snap and go. It's reliable. It's fast, which a lot of times in the field, especially if you're dealing with a camera. Now, to be fair, this isn't a large tripod head, so it's not that big of a deal. For instance, if you're dealing with a 40 pound camera, I love that snap system. I'd love to see it adopted in some of the later, some of the larger models, but it's really cool that it's here.

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