There are times in our photography journeys where we have to bite the bullet and buy top-quality accessories. This is almost a given with our camera and lenses, but not always the case with accessories.
Cheap versions of things like stands, brackets, and in this case tripod heads, tend to wear out quickly and when they fall over at critical times, we wish we’d bought the quality version in the first place. This is where items like the Manfrotto X-Pro 3-Way Head come into play.
These things aren’t the cheapest units on the market, but for good reason. They’re built to take the rigors of everyday use, should last a lifetime and work seamlessly when needed. In this regard, price is never a factor…..well, to a point. Therefore, let’s have a closer look at the Manfrotto, see what it has to offer and is it a cut above the rest.
The Manfrotto X-Pro or MHXPRO-3WG, is a 3-way tripod head, aimed at being the most affordable and lightest of the Manfrotto range. Quoted as being capable of bearing 4kg of load, it should be ideal for a heavyweight DSLR and zoom lens.
This unit benefits from being a geared head, which has traditionally has been for more precise work or higher-end units. Having minute adjustment in a tripod head means much more control and precision for everyday use.
As for the general specs, the Manfrotto X-Pro 3-Way Head is made from aluminum and has a base mount with a 3/8″-16 thread. The camera mounting screw is a 1/4″-20 Male, with a 200PL-14 quick release plate for easy attachment of a camera.
The three-way mechanism can give a lateral tilt of 90 degrees to +30 degrees and a vertical tilt of -30 degrees to +90 degrees. With physical dimensions of 13cm and a total weight of 998g, this unit feels solidly built and has a definite air of quality.
Most people familiar with a three-way head will be familiar with the workings here, just with more precise gearing being used. This means that each of the knurled knobs can be turned to make fine adjustments, with clutches being used to lock things in place and released when needed.
This aspect initially makes the head feel more heavy and chunkier than a regular three-way head. Basically, meaning that you will need a nice sturdy tripod for this thing to mount on. On small, lightweight tripods, this unit will still work, but feels top-heavy at times. A good thing Manfrotto has a good range of study tripods in their range if you do need to upgrade.
The gearing itself has three axes of rotation, which can turn around a smooth 360 degree axis. Each knob on the head provides a 9.5 degree of rotation when fully turned, with heavier units in the range having finer adjustments. Turning each knob felt very smooth with the addition of the knurling helping to get a solid grip. There wasn’t any play in the workings of each knob and being quality made, they shouldn’t lose friction over time.
The clutch system simply lets you disengage each knob for making quick adjustments, then locks back in place. A slight turn of the gear knob is needed to make sure the clutch is locked in correctly, but this seems a standard working for a geared mechanism.
One nice addition to this head is the inclusion of three bubble levels. You can never have enough bubble levels, so the addition of three here means that it’s very useful for both portrait and landscape shooting. The included plate is the more common 200PL-14 unit, which means there should be plenty of accessories on the market, but there will obviously be those who prefer something along the lines of an Arca Swiss to fit their needs.
The Manfrotto X-Pro 3-Way Head in Use
We strapped the Manfrotto X-Pro 3-Way Head to a Manfrotto 055CXPRO3 tripod, along with a Canon 5D Mark IV and a substantial 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom via the tripod foot and everything balanced very nicely. The weight of the head has good central stability and gives that extra bit of control over a lighter weight version.
The included plate, once fitted to a camera, is a quick and easy fit and sits firmly in place with the locking mechanism. There’s a handy diagram of degrees on the side of the head, which is there if you need it. The head also looks initially complicated with all its turning knobs, but once you get into the flow of its workings, it’s very straightforward to use.
The fine adjustment allowed by the geared mechanisms is a definite improvement over a traditional three-way head. This could be a great advantage if you’re shooting panoramas, to fine tune movements. Using the clutch mechanism is simple, once you get used to it. It’s a very quick learning curve to get used to the pressure needed to engage the thing in use.
In total, rocksolid operation, without any play in any of the mechanisms. A very worthwhile bit of kit for a standard DSLR camera and medium-heavy zoom lenses.
How Does It Compare?
If you’re going down the route of a high quality geared tripod head, then the rest of the Manfrotto range could be a consideration. The difference with each step up comes down to slightly more load-bearing and finer adjustments. The Manfrotto 410 3 Way is the next head in the lineup and can handle a 5kg load, with finer adjustment levels and a larger degree of tilt. It’s also a bit heavier in weight at 1220g.
The decision here will ultimately come down to the degree of precision adjustment needed and how much load-bearing you need. If you are in the realm of DLSR gear, then the X-Pro is a good choice. But, if you’re planning on using heavyweight video gear, then the next models in the range can be a good solution.
|Manfrotto X-Pro 3-Way Head||Manfrotto 410 3 Way Head|
The Manfrotto X-Pro 3-Way Head was a pleasure to use and a great boon to have precise adjustments over three axes. A quick disengage of the clutch and movement of one of the knobs, provides precise movement and is easy to lock into a stationary position.
This head may not be the solution for regular video guys who need quick sweeps of movement and the lack of an Arca dovetail may be detrimental to some. However, as a transition into geared tripod heads, the X-Pro is a solid workhorse. Very much recommended.