Manufactured by: Gruppo Manfrotto S.r.l. (a subsidiary of Vitec Group PLC), Manfrotto USA (distributed by Bogen Imaging also owned by Vitec Group)
MSRP: US$170, UK£110
The Manfrotto 190XPROB is the latest take on the base model 190, a tripod that has been in the Manfrotto line for many years. This 2007/2008 incarnation seems to incorporate all of the excellent characteristics of its predecessors and adds a couple of important new features. The 190XPROB is a black anodized tubular aluminum tripod with a three-faceted adjustable center column. The tripod has three-section legs made of 16mm, 20mm and 25mm diameter high strength extruded aluminum with a round cross section. Each section is retained or locked by Manfotto's patented flip-lock pressure leg locks. At 1.8kg (a little under 3.9 lbs) the tripod is a lightweight. Load capacity is 5kg (11 pounds, plus a head) making it broadly useful for a wide range of SLR and DSLR body and lens combinations.
In my recent review of the Manfrotto 468MGRC0 Hydrostatic Ball Head I mentioned that I had replaced my old tripod with something more in keeping with the high standards I try to achieve and maintain. I think it's most important to follow a strategy when selecting a tripod and head: a) visit the makers' web sites to figure out what they recommend for your camera gear, b) match size, footprint and general weight of each item to create the lowest possible balance point — there are few things worse than a head that is too heavy for the tripod, c) how much weight you want to carry and what sort of tripod fits your travel, location and shooting needs, d) decide which models among the ones remaining on the list will suit your needs, and e) visit local stores in order to check out the models you've short-listed. After much consideration I decided on the new aluminium 190XPROB. For my needs, this model's center column design was very important. Swing the faceted centre column into a horizontal position by extending it fully and pressing a release button.
The center column feature when combined with the fully adjustable and stable leg geometry means you have a tripod which provides excellent adaptability to most environments. After all due delibration and research I finally purchased the 190XPROB in a store in Cambridge, England during a photographic road trip in October 2007. Having got to grips with the tripod in very short order, I very quickly realized I'd made the right decision. I ended up using the tripod in marshland, on the side of cliffs, in torrential downpours, on large boulders and in a couple of streams, all without any real issues.
The Manfrotto 190XPROB is beautifully designed and well constructed. The legs feature flip-lever pressure leg locks, which make opening, positioning and closing fast and easy. Lock pressure is adjustable using the supplied Allen/hex wrench. The user adjustable mechanism makes it a pleasure to use. The legs can also be adjusted to four different angles (25°, 46°, 66° and 88°), allowing for a very flexible geometry and an extremely stable platform from which to take your photos.
The Manfrotto 190XPROB stands about 48in/122cm tall in its fully extended mode, center colum down. Extending the center column adds another 9.5in/24cm. You can invert the center column allowing you to shoot upside down. The patented design of the center column allows the photographer to position the camera on the head horizontally or vertically and, when used with a good ball or 3-way head, offers a platform which is perfect for macro work, product or table-based photography, low angle shooting or any work which requires the camera to be positioned off center.
The adaptability of this tripod also makes it ideal for photographers who have to sit down for long periods and for those who are wheelchair bound. The only real gripes I have are that Manfrotto has chosen not to include a carrying strap and ground spikes.
(Ed. Note: In early March 2008 we loaded another 190XPROB with a Markins Q20 ball head and a very heavy Nikon D3/300mm f/4 rig for a semi-frozen marshland walkabout just outside of Toronto. We also brought along a couple of shock cords to make boot loops to add some downward pressure to the rig to help combat instabilities when set up on unstable ground and when shooting in gusting wind conditions. When taking into account the downward pressure of the stabilizing shock/bungee cords, we easily exceeded the overall load rating of the tripod by at least 3x but it worked perfectly. Manufacturers' load ratings are conservative — we've obtained similarly excellent 'overloading' performance from a variety of Benbo, Benro, Gitzo, Hakuba Carmagne and other Manfrotto models.)
Cons: No ground spikes or carrying strap included.
Pros: The Manfrotto 190XPROB is extremely stable. Versatile leg and column adjustments don't compromise stability. Good vibration damping when matched with the right head. The Manfrotto 190XPROB tripod is ideal for use with a wide range of heads from Acratech, Arca Swiss, Gitzo, Kirk, Manfrotto and Markins. Great leg locks that never slip even when overloaded. Other than a couple of minor issues (see Cons above) I have to say the 190XPROB is worth every penny. All I want now is to get a carbon fibre version (for extended trekking) and I'll be very happy camper indeed. A great choice for amateur, semi-pro and professional photographers. Highly recommended.