The Manfrotto BeFree Live is a compact video tripod that features a fluid head and a leveling base. What sets this apart from the competition is that it weighs 3.9 lbs and it’s ability to fold up to 15.7 inches! This makes it a great option for backpacking trips and traveling lightweight.
Buy it from Amazon.
Manfrotto BeFree Live Specs:
- Weight – 3.9 lbs (1.9 kg), including head
- Folded length – 15.7” (40 cm)
- Max height – 59.5” (152 cm)
- Weight capacity: 8.8 lbs (4 kg)
Note: I received this tripod free of charge from Manfrotto, but gave my honest opinion on it.
I consider build quality the most important part of a tripod. You want to be able to trust that your tripod is sturdy and well-built enough to leave your camera equipment on. Based on my experiences, the BeFree Live is more than enough to hold my equipment safely in a variety of situations. It’s constructed of aluminium and high quality plastics.
The tripod is very well designed and intuitive. Almost everything on the tripod is adjustable. The leg angle tension, the leg locking tension, and the leg angle adjustment knob tension are all adjustable with the included hex key. The bottom of the center column has a ⅜” thread to mount a variety of accessories such as a magic arm. The kit includes a hook for the center column for hanging a weight to stabilize the tripod in windy conditions. It feels as if a lot of thought was put into the design of the tripod.
The leg angle adjustment mechanism is one of the easiest I’ve used. It has three adjustments: One for reversing the legs for storage, one for the normal leg angle, and one for a wide leg angle. It works like a switch, you simply have to move it left or right to the three adjustments depending on what angle you want the legs to be. The tension of this knob is adjustable too.
The legs are made up of 4 sections. They use flip locks as opposed to twist-locks. The leg sections have a good amount of heft to them while still being lightweight. The last leg section’s tube is a bit small. I would avoid using the last leg sections in windy conditions to avoid vibration.
Although the tripod’s design is mostly recycled from the previous BeFree tripods, it is a proven design. The BeFree Live head and leveling base is a completely new design. It is compact yet lightweight. It operates very smoothly as expected from a brand that makes great video heads. Although it is smooth, it doesn’t have any friction adjustment, just locking adjustments for the pan and tilt axes. This makes it hard to operate with heavier setups. With my Sony A6000 and kit lens, the head’s friction was good, but with my Sony A7S and Rokinon 24mm lens, the friction was lacking. Even though the tripod can handle 8.8 lbs (4 kg), it is made for lightweight setups.
The quick-release plate has about 1.75” (4.5 cm) of sliding room in addition to 1.5” (3.8 cm) of sliding room on the fluid head’s clamp. The plate mounts onto the camera one direction as indicated by the arrow on the bottom. It slides in from the back of the head and locks into place with a tightening screw. It also has a safety lock so the camera will be secured even if you forget to tighten the screw. The center of gravity is easily achieved by moving the plate until the head doesn’t move on it’s own when your hand is off the pan bar. The pan bar’s angle is adjustable angle to suit your tastes.
The leveling base is located below the fluid head. It works like a ball head, but has a more limited range. The leveling base makes it easy to level the tripod, even on an uneven surface. To adjust the angle, the locking collar unscrews and you can level the camera by referencing the bubble level located on the base of the fluid head. I found that tightening the collar moves the leveling base ever so slightly, offsetting the level. This is a major annoyance as you have to offset the bubble level so that it moves into the right place as you tighten the collar. This may be a design flaw, or my tripod could have a defect as it is a pre-production model.
In theory, this seems like the perfect video tripod for travel. In use, it falls short a bit. The fluid head friction isn’t adjustable and the leveling base doesn’t work as well as it should. These aren’t deal breakers and may even be fixed with the production model. I’m amazed that the tripod has a functional fluid head and leveling base in a tripod this small! It is a very capable tool in the right hands. I was able to capture some smooth pan and tilt shots.
My experience with the tripod has been mostly positive. The weight and size makes it easy to take with me on hikes. It is fast and easy to setup given the intuitive leg angle knobs and flip-lock legs. It is well built and feels like it will stand the test of time. The fluid head is surprisingly smooth given how small it is. The negatives are the lack of friction on the ball head, the leveling base offsetting, and the lack of sturdiness when fully extended.
I give the Manfrotto BeFree Live a rating of 7/10. I recommend this tripod for people who want a lightweight compact video tripod for traveling. This is great for bloggers, youtubers, photographers, and videographers. If you’re a pro, you’re going to want to stick with your full size tripod. If you’re a beginner or enthusiast looking for a decent video tripod, this is a great option.