Manfrotto 393 Long Lens Monopod bracket Review

Manfrotto 393 Long Lens Monopod bracket Review - This sturdy tripod head tested by Will Cheung is ideal for nature and action photographers using long telephoto lenses. And it is a great price too.

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Manfrotto Manfrotto 393 Long Lens Monopod bracket in Tripods, Monopods and Other Supports

Manfrotto 393 Long Lens Monopod bracket
The Manfrotto 393 Long Lens Monopod bracket sells for £159 so offers great value to wildlife and action photographers.

Manfrotto have taken the Ronseal approach to naming this product, but you could argue that they have not got it quite right. This support might be designed for monopod use, but it is perfectly at home on a tripod so perhaps Manfrotto are missing out on an important part of the long lens market. It is also worth saying that this unit is also perfect for the high-powered spotting scopes that birdwatchers use.

We all know that providing solid support to long lenses is really important if you want sharp pictures. A tripod or monopod is fine most of the time, but when it come to fast-moving subjects – birds, planes, racing cars etc – being able to accurately track or 'pan' with the subject is very important. That is why gimbal heads such as those from BWG, Kirk, Wimberley and Custom Brackets are popular among photographers working on those areas. This type of head not only allows smooth panning of fast-moving subjects but once properly set up, you can release the camera and lens and the combination should stay nicely in the ready position without the lens pitching forwards.

The downside of gimbal heads is their cost, typically £400 and more. By comparison, this head sells for £160 - shop around, though, you will find it for around £120. Click here for details on the Manfrotto website.

Manfrotto 393 Long Lens Monopod bracket: Features
There is lot a great deal to talk about when it comes to features. It is simply a solid, weighty piece of kit and does a great job of supporting the camera and lens. It fits onto the tripod with a standard 3/8in screw – and with most Manfrotto tripods the head can be permanently fixed into place by tightening the grub screws on the tripod. The camera bracket rotates around its base and this works on friction and can be adjusted. Both support arms are rubber-coated for comfort and better purchase.

The lens 357PLV sliding plate is substantial, designed for Manfrotto's video pro fluid heads. Extra plates cost £28.95 (shop around and they cost £23) and are available here.

The plate has two tightening screws which is essential for long, heavy lenses and once located on the holding plate, a spring-loaded locking release stops the plate with camera attached accidentally sliding off. It is an essential safety measure.

Click on the thumbnails for high resolution images
Manfrotto 393 Long Lens Monopod bracket Manfrotto 393 Long Lens Monopod bracket in use with long lens
The 393 is solidly built but not that convenient to carry around. This support is perfect for long lens and spotting scope use.

Manfrotto 393 Long Lens Monopod bracket: Handling

The camera platform itself has the option of three different heights and can be firmly locked into position or left gently swinging. Ideally, the camera and lens combination should be adjusted so that its centre of gravity means it just sits there nicely balanced. In practical situations, this means there is no strain on you as you are waiting for your subject to come into view, and when it comes you can quickly move the lens into position and shoot, tracking with the subject if necessary.

The head is heavier than something like a carbon-fibre 055 tripod so it is top-heavy and means  it is not comfortable to carry around. Sadly, carrying lots of kit is part and parcel of a nature photographer's life.

Manfrotto 393 Long Lens Monopod bracket: Performance
To be honest, I have used several gimbal heads in the past and this Manfrotto is as functional as any of them. I tried it with a spotting scope as well as my Nikon D700 fitted with power grip and a 200-400mm zoom lens attached. Stability is excellent and its movement is smooth enough to allow following flying birds easy enough. True, it is not as refined as more expensive rivals but it works and that is the important thing.

Click on the thumbnails for high resolution images
Manfrotto 393 Long Lens Monopod support Manfrotto 393 Long Lens Monopod support
The quick release plate is large and solid - and spares cost £23 if you shop around. This support makes panning with a long lens really easy - and comfortable.

Manfrotto 393 Long Lens Monopod bracket: Verdict
Dedicated nature photographers will be able to justify indulging their passion and spending considerably more on a refined gimbal head. Occasional nature photographers, like me, and those on a budget would probably find it difficult to justify such serious outlay and will look at this Manfrotto unit as the bargain that it is.

Manfrotto 393 Long Lens Monopod bracket: Pros
Attractive price

Manfrotto 393 Long Lens Monopod bracket: Cons
Uncomfortable to carry


Manfrotto 393 Long Lens Monopod bracket: Specification
Price £159
Quick release Yes
Quick release plate Manfrotto 357PLV Sliding plate, extras available at £29
Head fitting 3/8in screw thread
Weight 1600g

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I use this head for a Sigma 300-800 lens and it is a great bit of kit, considering the price against a gimball head. Alec

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Looks a bargain at that price, but at 1.6kg it's heavier than my tripod!!!
too heavy, too large, too ungainly, maybe OK for a static photographer however I will pass.
I have one and it is great.
Yes it is heavy but not as heavy as 400/500 for a westerly
Good value for money
i only have one arm and i use the 393 all the time with my 600mm f.4 canon and it is fantastic /// only one concern tho i lost the tightening lever and the rubber ring so make shure you tighten erery thing up when carrying it

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