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The 561B is actually classed as a video monopod, but Manfrotto say that it can be used as a photography monopod too due to the large quick release plate to help steady larger lenses.
- closed length: 76cm
- minimum height: 76cm
- maximum height: 200cm
- weight: 2kg
- load capacity: 4kg
- material: aluminium
- leg cross section: round
- leg sections: 4
- quick release: yes
- bubble spirit level: 1
- independent tilt lock: yes
- counterbalance: yes
Manfrotto 561B Build quality
As the flagship of the monopods, the 561B is built to an excellent specification. The aluminium build is lightweight and strong and the quick release plate is made of sturdy metal to take both full size camcorders and professional SLR's with a large lens. The monopod is complimented with three feet at the bottom which are stable enough to keep the monopod upright when not in use and the feet are attached with a ball & socket for easy manouverability however, the longer exposures that could be attained with a normal monopod are not possible as the ball & socket make the monopod wobble more than usual.
The leg release levers are to the usual standard made out of a tough plastic and are stiff enough to keep the legs where you want them, but not too stiff that you get bruised fingers. The typical twist lock grips are absent as this is primarily a video monopod, but the monopod can pan on the fluid ball & socket and there is a second release catch for the head to pan independently. The pan handle has a release to position it at different angles but doesn't affect the performance of the monopod.
The bubble is located under the head which isn't easy to see and the quick release plate is not the easiest thing to use. In fact detaching an SLR from the quick release plate is the most horrible thing to do on the monopod. The release catch is a lever that unscrews and with camcorders which are generally long, the catch is easily undone, but with an SLR which is wide, the catch is sat under the body. That means it is difficult to get to and not only that, it catches on the body making it nigh on impossible to undo without battering the underside of your camera. Manfrotto have anticipated this by making the catch spring loaded, so it can be pulled away from the monopod and moved around so it doesn't catch on the camera body but the grip of any modern SLR still gets in the way. Frankly, this is useless as it is difficult to operate and has to be worked like a ratchet but then the thread catches on the lever as it is pulled out and so loosens even more as it is twisted around. It is by no means quick so professional photographers will be let down by this feature as the quick release plate is the most important part of the monopod. In fact, the only way I could get this to work properly was to twist the body sideways, tighten up the plate and then twist the body back to facing front but this loosened the body from the plate and felt unsecure. The plate has a rubber plug at the end so the screw for the tripod bush can be removed and replaced. The screw has only a grip for manual tightening and a screwdriver head. Amusingly, the word "lens" with an arrow has been carved into the plate just incase you forget which way it faces even though the plate can only go on in one direction.
Manfrotto 561B Performance
The 561B can stand up on it's own whilst no camera is attached to it and I am struggling to understand why this feature is relevant. I can see the benefit from a video aspect though and the ball & socket at the base means more flexibility leaning the camera over to oblique angles. The Monopod is light, strong and comfortable to hold when not in use.
Manfrotto 561B Verdict
As a strong monopod, the Manfrotto 561B is hard to be beaten. Don't forget that this is primarily aimed at videographers, but it can be used by photographers or if you like to film as well as photo it will come in useful.
I cannot get past the quick release plate. Undoing the plate when no camera is on is easy, as is pulling out the lever to use it like a ratchet. Performing the same action when an SLR is attached is another matter as you have to approach the lever from below.
Whilst this is an excellent monopod with a great build quality and good features that could come in useful for some photographers that like to video as well, I just don't think this would be a favourite in normal circumstances.
Manfrotto 561B Plus points
Long plate for telephoto lenses
Can stand on its own
Manfrotto 561B Minus points
Longer exposures are impossible
Don't get me started on the QRP
The spirit level bubble is in an awkward place
The Manfrotto 561B monopod costs around £195.69 and is available from Warehouse Express here: