Manfrotto claim the Neotec is the fastest tripod in the world. Peter Bargh looks to see if this really is the leopard of the three legged world.
- Closed length 64.0 cm
- Minimum height 10.0 cm
- Maximum height 156.0 cm
- Maximum height (with center column down) 131.0 cm
- Weight 2.40 kg
- Load capacity 8.00 kg
- Colour black
- Material aluminium
- Leg sections Three
- Bubble spirit level One
- Leg angles 25°, 43°, 73°, 90°
- Center column rapid
- Section center column Two
- Column tube diameter 25mm
- Camera thread 3/8'' screw
When I first read the spec of the 458B I was suitably impressed. But could all these impressive features really live up to expectations. After six months in all weather in all situations I now have some answers.
Build and handling
Having used a rock solid and durable Manfrotto 055b for several years, the first thing that I needed was a model that would offer similar stability, but it had to be much lighter. I love the 055, but carrying it around can be painful, especially as landscape photography, in locations far from a car, is one of my prefered subjects.
Fantastic, not only is the 458B lighter it's also provided with a really comfortably rubber handled carrying strap that attaches to the base of the centre column and the neck. The strap also has an integral leg belt that ensures the legs don't open while carrying. It can also be removed if you feel it gets in the way, although in practice I didn't find it obtrusive.
The legs are made from special high-strength aluminium alloy tubing. They're round and split into three sections and here's the unique feature that makes the tripod the fastest. To extend all you do is pull the legs and they slide out. Yes, super fast - I was shooting a waterfall and working from a very uneven platform. I could quickly adjust the legs so one was on a boulder, another submersed in water and the third on a slope. All three legs were adjusted in seconds and a sturdy base with rock solid, locked legs was created. If you want to lower a leg just press the leg release while pushing down and the leg goes back in, to extend further just pull.
The downside to this system is that I tend to carry the tripod by the legs - its habit from carry the 055 without a case for years. And the problem is that if you tip the tripod so the head is lower than your hand, the legs extend and you have to push them back in again. This also became annoying when moving the tripod around for low angle shooting. I tend to pick the tripod up by a leg and pull it into a new position. The leg moves the tripod stays where it is! This is frustrating. I'd like to see a leg lock in version 2.
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|The carrying strap is extremely comfortable ||The legs are water proof and allow you to submerse them in water. Sadly there are no ground spikes but the rubber grips are fine on most surfaces. |
Talking of low angle...and bringing the tripod back to a positive feature, each of the legs can be set to a different spread angle, right up to 90° for incredible versatility. The centre column splits by unscrewing the two sections leaving a very short column so you can get really close to the ground. It can also be turned upside down to get you to ground level. I used this for fungi and flora photography to great effect. It's almost as versatile as the Benbo! The only disadvantage and another potential design flaw is that the removed extension post takes the carry strap with it.
The 458B includes a bubble spirit level on the neck to help make sure your horizons are level.
The camera platform has the industry standard 3/8" screw to accept a wide range of tripod heads. I used the 322RC2 which gives amazing flexibility.
What has always impressed me about the 055 is the untarnished look after so many years of use, the 458NB sadly doesn't live up to this. It got badly scratched on the second day of use and now looks quite tatty. While this doesn't affect performance cosmetically it's quite disappointing. The paint/coating used isn't durable enough to cope with the rugged outdoors.
I've enjoyed using the Neotec over the last six months and will no doubt get much more pleasure. It allows fantastic versatility to get to the subject from any angle. I've been able to shoot flora and fungi from ground level and wade into water to get better viewpoints of water. It copes amazingly with uneven terrain. Apart from the legs slipping out when not reuqired and the easy scratched surface I'd heartily recommend this model as a serious support for your kit.
| ||Low shutter speeds are preferred when shooting moving water to get a feeling of flow. |
| ||The low light of this woodland scene meant a slow shutter speed was required and again it would have been difficult without a tripod. The 458 extends to allow me to shoot from a comfortable level withot having to stoop. |
In summary, the positive points of the Manfrotto 458B NEOTEC PRO Photo Tripod are:
Superb low level shooting
Quick leg adjustments
The negative points are:
Legs don't have locks
Strap has to be taken off when centre column is split
Check out the latest price of the Manfrotto 458B NEOTEC PRO Photo Tripod here