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Manfrotto MT294A3 Tripod Review

A review of the Manfrotto MT294A3 tripod with the 804RC2 three-way pan & tilt head.

| Manfrotto MT294A3 in Tripods, Monopods and Other Supports

The Manfrotto MT294A3 is part of the 290 tripod range, designed to give strong stability with minimal weight making it ideal for a wide range of subjects indoors or out. It's available as a stand-alone tripod base or in kit-form with various heads. Here we review the £105 kit with the 804RC2 three-way head.
Manfrotto MT294A3 Tripod Review: Manfrotto Mt294a3 Stored

Manfrotto MT294A3 Features

The Manfrotto MT294A3 has aluminium legs that are D shaped to give a more rigid structure when extended. This also ensures a slightly slimmer design. The closed length is not as small as many of the light weight models at this price point though, but the extra length allows the MT294A3 to extend greater than many of its competitors using just three sections. You can extend to way above eye level, making it great to shoot above the crowd, particularly when you have a camera with a tilting LCD screen.

Manfrotto MT294A3 Tripod Review: Manfrotto MT294A3 Pan Scale Manfrotto MT294A3 Tripod Review: Manfrotto MT294A3 Scales
The head has two scales to make it easier to shoot panoramic photos in horizontal or vertical format

The legs have plastic quick-release locks and two of them have sponge grips at the top. They can be angled with a lock for two positions - 23 or 51 degrees. Many other tripods in this price point have a wider splay for lower level photography, but you can still shoot low with this one by unclipping the center column base rubber cap and reversing the column in the center.

The center column is a triangular tube and has a height lock and also an anti-shock collar to prevent impact on the camera if you release the column without holding it.

Manfrotto MT294A3 Tripod Review: Manfrotto MT294A3 Column Cap Manfrotto MT294A3 Tripod Review: Manfrotto Mt294a3 Head
Left: the center column cap removed so the column can be reversed. Above: the column extended slightly to reveal its triangular shape and the anti-shock ring. You can also see that the top casting is metal and has three grub screws that can be tightened to lock the added tripod head securely in place.

Key Features

  • Interchangeable head
  • Anti-shock collar
  • Maximum working height of 169cm
  • 3 leg sections
  • 1.9kg weight
  • D-shape leg sections
Manfrotto MT294A3 Tripod Review: Manfrotto MT294A3 Leg Release
The leg angle released by thumb
Manfrotto MT294A3 Tripod Review: Manfrotto MT294A3 Leg Angle
The two angles available

Manfrotto MT294A3 Tripod Review: Manfrotto MT294A3 Collapsed
Leg angle position 1
Manfrotto MT294A3 Tripod Review: Manfrotto MT294A3 Collapsed Wide
Leg angle position 2
Manfrotto MT294A3 Tripod Review: Manfrotto MT294A3 Reversed Column
Reversed centre column

Manfrotto MT294A3 Handling

This tripod handles well. The quick-release legs locks can be released in one action and you soon have the tripod fully extended ready for use, and as quick as it extends you can release and collapse so you can be packed up and ready to go to your next destination with speed.

The factory setting for the quick-releases is stiff but not unmanageable. You can tighten or release the stiffness of action using the supplied small plastic spanner that clips on to one of the legs for storage.

The lock for the leg splay is a simple action too that's easily set to allow the tripod legs to angle out at 23 degrees or 51 degrees. The wider angle lets you get the camera down to about 51cm from the ground.

You could buy a case to carry the tripod around but most don't bother and it's good that the grips have been added so you can hold it in cold weather and not feel the cold aluminium. The grips also make it more comfortable and easy to hold with gloves.

Manfrotto MT294A3 Tripod Review: Manfrotto MT294A3 Extended   Manfrotto MT294A3 Tripod Review: Manfrotto MT294A3 Extended Column
The tripod used without the center column extended is perfect for someone with a height of 5ft 10in. Extended the column and it's too high even on tip toes and stretched. Perfect for the growing number of taller photographers.

Manfrotto MT294A3 Tripod Review: Manfrotto MT294A3 Qr Plate
Above: The quick release plate is Manfrotto's standard RC2 which is compatible with a wide range of their tripods as well as models from Giottos. Right: the plate locked in place on the 804RC2 head also shows the spirit level and three handles to control pan, tilt and horizontal/vertical positioning.
Manfrotto MT294A3 Tripod Review: Manfrotto MT294A3 Spirit Level

Manfrotto MT294A3 Performance

The D-shaped legs really do offer a rigid support even when fully extended, further strength is in the triangle shaped center column which prevents rotation and locks rock solid. You can feel confident in using the tripod at low level or fully extended. The rubber feet grip most surfaces and the two leg angle adjustments allow you to maneuver it into positions on awkward surfaces, but the lack of a lower position is limiting for nature photographers who may be shooting flora and fauna closer to ground level. The center column can be reversed but it's a bit of a pain having to unclip the plastic cap which will probably at some point get mislaid. Also sticking your head through a tiny gap of the legs at low level can be uncomfortable, but at least the option is there. Live view or a right angle finder may save the day in such situations.

Value For Money

This is a popular price point for enthusiast photographer tripod so there's lots of competition. If you want really small with a quicker reverse column you could consider the £120 Nivelo 245BK. It's no where near as sturdy, but small in comparison. Or you may want a more feature packed model such as the Giottos MTL9351B with its macro arm lower angle leg positions. For many the simplicity of this one will win it points and especially considering Amazon have it on offer at just £90 - Manfrotto MT294A3.

Manfrotto MT294A3 Tripod Verdict

Manfrotto have always been the king of good value for money and robust options. They tend to rule the roost in the mid price point range and this one's no exception. Incredible height and robust frame, what more could you want? Well a smaller closed length and a third, wider leg angle would be good, but you can't have everything!

The current deal from Amazon (as of 08 May 2012) makes it an incredibly good buy. If you're a studio photographer or landscape and nature you'll find this a useful beast (especially if you're over 6ft tall), and if the limitation of the low level is an issue you could buy a macro arm to attach to the head.

  Manfrotto MT294A3 Tripod Review:
  Incredible height and robust frame, what more could you want?

Manfrotto MT294A3 Tripod Pros

Solid metal construction
Excellent maximum height
Reversible centre column
Anti-shock collar

Manfrotto MT294A3 Tripod Cons

Limited leg splay of just two angles
No spikes on feet


Manfrotto MT294A3 Specifications

Maximum Height169cm
Minimum HeightNo Data
Maximum Weight Capacity5kg
Number of Leg Sections3
HeadNo Data
Box Contents
Box ContentsNo Data

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