About two months ago to this day, I reported on a couple new tools I had acquired for more stable shooting, a manfrotto tripod and geared head. I was ecstatic with the combination, everything felt generally tight and secure. I believed I had a solid tripod setup, one which would last many, many years. After all, the geared head took the weight of my 300mm f/2.8 like a champ, and the tripod raised up to an extremely tall height even without the center column extending. The multi-degree legs allowed for great macro positioning on subjects literally on the ground, and the aluminum legs locked into place tightly.
But then, the problems started.
Upon immediate inspection of the tripod, I had noticed the seating of the rubber “leg warmers” was a little bit off. I didn’t really mind this at first, as they were still solidly in place. But after only a couple weeks of shooting in normal conditions, they were literally starting to peel off—about two more inches had come loose, and the whole piece was beginning to slide around. Adding to that, the top gear in the geared head went out: to turn it took extreme torquing of the gear, more-so than should be required. Okay, so I just got unlucky, surely. I contacted Manfrotto via their online e-mail contact form, and didn’t receive a response after 3 business days. Figuring their end was tied-up, I returned both the tripod and head to get replacements before my short return period expired.
The new legs came in first, and I noticed again that the seating of the rubber leg warmers were off. This time, it was even worse, as it was beginning to peel as soon as I took it out of the box. At this point I considered myself extremely unlucky, and returned the second set of legs for another try. After sending them in, the new geared head arrived. Taking it out of the box, brand-new, the top gear was malfunctioning as before. At this point I was becoming impatiently frustrated and attempted to contact Manfrotto a second time. 3 business days later (and well after any possible response time for the first e-mail), I still didn’t get a response. I resolved to trying out a third geared head just when the third (yes, third) set of tripod legs came in.
Guess what? The seating of the rubber was even worse than that of the first two. By this point I pretty much lost all my patience.
I returned the third set of legs and the second geared head for a refund (thank you Amazon for your amazing return policy), and have vowed to never buy Manfrotto again. For a company to have quality control issues on simple features such as a rubber insulation piece, or the gearing of a head, I have some major reservations as to what else could go wrong in future use of the product (I don’t care if it has a 10-year warranty). Manfrotto used to be Bogen, for crying out loud. They were one of the big names in the professional camera accessory industry.
I guess my only options now if I want a great tripod and head are to go for broke for a Miller tripod and head someday, because even the Gitzo company is owned by Vitec now (which also owns Manfrotto). For now, I’ll resort to using an old-faithful walmart tripod. I just have to watch my live-view to make sure shake has settled down on my telephotos. 🙂
And for the record, Manfrotto has not responded to any of my emails yet. That I sent a month ago. Take this as a warning if you value customer service in the products your spend your hard-earned cash on. I do, and I’ll remember this when plopping down large amounts of money for tools I expect to perform. $350+ tax is no small chunk of change, after all.
In other news, I hope to start working on taking a look at the 70-210 f/4 Series-E from Nikon soon. I’ve had it for a while now, but haven’t had the drive to take it out and shoot yet. It’s time will come! 😀
I read your interesting comments in dpreview from time to time.
I would be more than a little angry if I received some of that Manfrotto treatment. It beggars belief that there are company types who think such poor form will not be quickly learned by the much wider community. Bad news travels faster and more widely these days.
Not answering emails smacks of bog-ignorance; polyester suits and lager lunches most likely.
Maybe Giottos is worth a look; I have a middle-range tripod which has so far proved durable.
Cheers for now,
Hello there Dohmnuill. What gets me the most is apparently Manfrotto used to also be top-notch themselves. Kurt Munger’s review of this tripod+head combo is what prompted me to give it a go. That review was a couple years ago, but I figured nothing had changed. The prices had steadily been going down, which was a sign I should have noted.
He mentioned in an e-mail that his combo is still going strong and functioning perfectly, that it is his main tripod set-up. He’s as confused as I am as to why I had such “bad luck”. Possibly with the decrease in prices, the mentioned quality-control issues were overlooked. I don’t know.
But yes, I’m open to suggestions, and I’ll be giving all the companies a look when the time comes again to need to get a mid to high-end tripod+head. I don’t want to have to cycle through getting the cheap ones, them breaking, and upgrading to a little better model. If anything, I want a tripod and head that will literally last me a lifetime.
We’ll see what the future holds. 🙂