I have been using this tripod head for a while now, here are my views and observations.
Being a full time landscape photographer, I was constantly in search for the best tripod head. Why the best? Simple, when you do photography as a full time job, believe me, you do want/need the best or at least the one that suits you best.
Having used a wide variety of ball heads and other 3 way heads, even the Manfrotto joystick head that has now been replaced by the 324RC2, I must admit that I was never really happy with them.
At some point I came to notice another photographer using the Manfrotto 3 way 410 junior geared head and I liked its features, so I decided to give it a try. I must say that I had tried some 3 way heads in the past but always found the handles too hard to operate, and besides, I was always pocking my eyes with them, no use.
My first impressions
Like some other Manfrotto products, this head is sturdy and solid. The joints were built with heavy weight in mind and will not slip, no matter what gear you have on it at the time. I have tried it with medium and large format gear on it. The quick release plate is and feels extremely safe. It is great to know that your gear is safe on the tripod while you are walking about waiting for the light to change.
Usually you get 3 knobs on 3 way heads, this one has 6. The 3 disc shape buttons (see arrow on picture) are for fast movement, allowing you to get to a rough position within a second. The 3 broad ones are the fine adjustment knobs, this is where I find this head superior and above all the rest. These buttons work very well and offer very smooth adjustments, allowing you to get to the best composition with high precision. The upward limit of the tilt of around 30 degrees might be a bit limiting to some, but again, you can always change the plate on the camera from front to back and use it the wrong way round.
Turning the knobs is a firm action and in time this action gets even firmer, this might be a problem to people with small hands and especially petite women, but I believe that a bit of WD40 might sort the problem out; however, you need to check it out with Manfrotto before you take this action.
When it comes to weight, there is nothing Junior about this head. It is solid built and heavy. At around 1.2 kilos it might seem a bit unbalanced when used with carbon fibre tripods, even with no camera on but will not be of any problem, you get used to it. Manfrotto says that this head can take up to 5 kilos of weight and I strongly believe it can. One thing to consider is that this head is not recommended for long hikes due to its weight.
At the very top of the head and right next to the head plate, there is a single bubble spirit level. It is enough if you want to check if your camera is level with the horizon but not enough if your camera is tilted downwards.
I noticed that when used with the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 lens with the plate on the lens collar, the distance between the collar and tripod head is very short. This made me think that with some other lenses (like a macro lens), the collar might be right against the tripod head and render one of the knobs useless. I take this as a flaw in the design.
Overall, I find this head to be well built, solid and extremely well suited for landscape photography, where fine and precise movements are required. If you are not a “Slow Down" attitude person like myself, then you need to look for something else as this head will slow you down.
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