The Manfrotto 055XPROB aluminum tripod legs, weighing in at 5.29lbs, are a great set of legs for their sub-$150.00 price tag. Let’s see how they work in the field.
I have been using the 055XPROB aluminum tripod legs by Manfrotto for the last two months. I was looking for a set of legs that would offer rigid support without breaking the bank and keep the wife off my back. After a little research and several decisions later I decided the 055XPROB was the right set of legs for me. The Manfrotto blends Italian-build quality with value. I also debated between the 055CXPRO3, the carbon fiber version of the same tripod. Although carbon fiber is a very tempting material, I just could not see paying over twice the price for the same model. If I were going for carbon fiber I would have gone with a set of Really Right Stuff or Gitzo legs.
The initial unboxing was nothing special; I was a little disappointed that Manfrotto was not generous enough to throw in a carrying sack. The legs themselves are made of sturdy black aluminum. The leg clamps seem to lock securely in place, but are unfortunately made partially of plastic.
Everything else seems to be made of metal aside from the rubber tips at the bottom of each leg. The piece where the three legs join at the top and the locks that control leg angle are made of a coated metal that does not seem to be the same aluminum of which the legs are composed. I assume the coating is for reducing heat or chill to the touch. The legs maintain their form even with all 3 sections extended so the clamps do their job.
The mount on top is very rigid and displays the Manfrotto logo along with a small bubble level for making sure the legs are straight.
The extendable center column is held down by a plastic wing-nut. However, when fully extended the center column lacks a locking mechanism for vertical use.
The Manfrotto 055XPROB improves upon the Manfrotto 055 by adding the capability to tilt the extended center column from side to side, or so they say. While this may be a good feature for macro photography at odd angles, I would not trust this to hold an expensive lens.
The maximum height is marketed as 70.28in, though I think these legs could easily accommodate a 6 foot individual. I am 5’10” and find the tripod a great height, but on totally flat ground I sometimes find myself standing, just a tad bit, on my toes.
Keep in mind that the aluminum construction easily transfers heat or cold, so you’ll need gloves in the wintertime and a careful hand in the summer. The 055CXPRO3, carbon fiber model, mitigates both of these ailments at a little over double the price.
A bubble level at the top of the tripod base helps insure your horizons will be straight during an ocean sunset, or anything else you can come up with.
The locking leg clasps are easy to open, adjust the legs, and then lock back down for a secure hold.
Silver push-button locks allow each leg to be adjusted to three different angles depending on your shooting needs. The official Manfrotto site quotes 4 angles, “…23°. 45°. 65°. 88°…” but I only seem to be able to lock 3 plus a flat 180°. The locks cannot be depressed while the legs have outward pressure, so no worries of accidently depressing one and having a leg slide out from under your expensive equipment. You must push the leg slightly closed before the lock will disengage.
Two of the three legs have thin foam padding for carrying on the shoulder, but you shouldn’t expect the foam to do anything but shield your hand from the cold in winter conditions. It will not save your shoulder any pressure.
The Manfrotto 055XPROB legs say they are rated for up to 15.43lbs but we will see how it holds up under the rigors of real world use. I have used the 055XPROB legs with a gimbal head along with my Canon 100-400L lens (weighing 3.1lbs) for a few months and have been very happy with its stability with all 3 leg sections fully extended. I don’t really trust any lens on these legs with the center column extended. Also note that there is no center hook on the underside of the platform to hang a camera bag or weight from to increase stability. This is a feature most high-end (expensive) tripod legs have, although I fail to see how it could cost more than a dollar or two to add to even the cheapest of legs. I really wish Manfrotto had included spike feet for the legs, I feel that this would have greatly increased its stability on soft terrain. Foot spikes would probably cost under a dollar each; not including them is just greedy.
After trying a variety of tests with me trying to run into, pump, catch my foot on, and trip over here are my results:
With the 100-400L the legs are able to withstand light bumps and jars without tipping. If you were to catch your foot on a leg walking around it, I am relatively confident that it would remain standing. The legs allow a bit more bending than I would wish, but they do maintain their strength even when flexed.
This weekend I got to try the legs out with the new Canon 600mm f4 IS II USM which weighs a surprisingly light 8.64lbs. The legs handled well on flat terrain and gave no sign of weakness. The rig does seem a little top-heavy. I would not trust the 055XPROB legs to hold up in wind nor if there was any chance of the tripod getting bumped or jostled around. If you have a large expensive super-telephoto lens I would suggest a stouter tripod made of carbon fiber.
The 055XPROB is terrible at reducing vibrations. A small tap on the legs set the viewfinder to vibrating for over 5 seconds. Some carbon fiber tripods can dissipate vibrations in fewer than 2. I would definitely suggest a remote shutter release if you shoot landscapes or portraits.
- Price: at under $150.00 you will not find a better pair of legs.
- 3-section legs allow for more rigid stability.
- Bubble level.
- Locking clamps for each leg section. I prefer these to twist-lock legs.
- Good stability for the price.
- Accommodates anyone up to 6 feet tall.
- The 5.29lb weight adds to support and gives lower center of gravity but…
- Plastic components instead of all aluminum.
- Lack of center hook for a lower counterweight.
- Poor vibration dampening.
- Lack of spikes for foot bottoms.
- Center column is unstable on anything but an indoor studio with flat surface.
- The 5.29lb weight also means a couple pounds more to tote around with you.
Overall I am satisfied with the Manfrotto O55XPROB legs. They have held up well in outdoor use and are not too heavy that I can’t carry them with me on a hike. I do wish for lighter weight but I didn’t want to fork over the money for carbon fiber. These legs have helped the sharpness of many shots and taken the load off my shoulders. Though with the purchase of the new Canon 600mm Mk II, I wish I’d have sprung for the Really Right Stuff TVC-33 Versa Series 3 Tripod so that I would not have to upgrade in the future. For the photographer on a budget, or if you do not shoot with large telephoto lenses, I think the Manfrotto 055XPROB legs will serve you well and last many years. This review comes from a wildlife shooter’s prospective; I think it would do even better in portrait studios, as most are an indoor controlled environment.
Check out the official stats on the Manfrotto 055XPROB.
Or other Manfrotto products www.manfrotto.com .