A Review of the Manfrotto MKC3-H01
The other day I was walking through my local Best Buy, and I spotted this sexy little travel tripod with a pistol-grip ball head on an end cap out of the corner of my eye. I stopped to examine it, more out of curiosity than interest. My first surprise came when I picked it up – “wow…this is light!” It was a very compact package too – the pistol grip head folded down in a way that looked like it could easily hook right on a backpack or sling bag. I said to myself “This would make a nice travel tripod…I wonder who makes it?” I looked down at the box it had been resting on, and got my next surprise when I saw “Manfrotto” on the label. “When did Best Buy start carrying Manfrotto???” I wondered to myself. “I’ll be it’s hideously expernsive” was my next thought. But again, I was surprised (shocked) to see the price tag on the end cap was just $60.00. “This has to be a mistake…the boxes that Manfrotto tripods come in cost more than $60.00…” But sure enough, I matched up the MKC3-H01 model number on the tripod to the same model number on the price tag…it was indeed only $60.00.
I walked away thinking “you know, I really could use a good travel tripod.” I currently use my first “studio” tripod as my travel tripod – a no-name aluminum piece of not-well functioning junk I probably also bought at Best Buy for no more than $29.95 about 15 years ago. It’s light though, so I break it out when I want something I don’t mind walking around with. I’ve now got a GREAT tripod I use in my photo studio – my Manfrotto 3021BPRO tripod with 488RC2 head:
Having both experience with and respect for the Manfrotto name, this little $60.00 travel tripod certainly intrigued me. So I went back and bought it. 🙂 Here’s a stock photo of the tripod:
So far, I’ve taken it out on just one shoot – the car photography shoot I posted about earlier this week. On the shoot, I used my Canon 5D Mark II, mated to my Canon 17-40L lens. So much of my observations below are based on that, as well as some post-shoot testing I did with the tripod.
First the bad news – it’s made in China:
I guess in reality it’s not such a bad thing…what isn’t manufactured in China these days? Still…I think of the Manfrotto as producing a premium product, not a “made in China” product. But it’s hard to argue with the price point. Particularly for something that I’m not going to use nearly as much as I do the equipment which is in my home studio.
Besides the weight and form factor, another intriguing feature of this tripod is the pistol grip ball head:
You tighten down the head with that rubber wheel pictured above. I was initially concerned that it would be unable to support a DSLR with a heavy lens, but I have tested it with my Canon 70-200 L IS lens, and there was no lens “creep” – it stay firmly in place. Impressive. The head also has a unique “photo-movie selector.” Given that I’ve started doing a lot more DSLR HD video in the last year, I was quite excited about this capability. Unfortunately, it doesn’t function as well as I would hope. My thought was that when in “movie” mode, this switch would limit the movement of the ball head and allow you to do smooth, panoramic panning shots. And to a large degree it does just that, but the problem is that vertical movement of the head is not restricted. So it will take a careful, firm hand (particularly in a slow pan) to keep the head from moving up or down. This is fine I suppose for non-professional video applications, but I wouldn’t use this tripod otherwise for video.
The only other (minor) annoyance with the MKC3-H01 was the four clip points on each leg as opposed to the normal three clips I see on most tripods – that’s three more clips I have too fool with to both set up and take down the tripod. And on the shoot I described above, I went to about five different locations – having to set up and take down at each stop. Not only did those clips get to be annoying, but it also took time…and I was trying to get as many photos from as many locations in the prevailing light I could.
For reference, here’s the specifications from Manfrotto on the MKC3-H01:
Manfrotto MKC3-H01 Compact Photo-Movie Tripod Specifications
- Still Photography, Video
- Aluminum legs and technopolymer
- Front Tilt
- 0° / +90°
- Lateral Tilt
- -90° / +90°
- Panoramic Rotation
- Maximum Height with extended center column
- 60.6 inches (154 cm)
- Maximum Height with center column down
- 52.8 inches (134 cm)
- Minimum Height
- 17.5 inches (44.5 cm)
- Closed Length
- 18.1 inches (46 cm)
- Column Type
- Column Cross-Section
- Column Tube Diameter
- 22 mm
- Leg Angles
- Leg Cross-Section
- Leg Sections
- Quick Release Plate
- 785PL quick release plate with 1/4-inch screw
- Maximum Load Capacity
- 3.3 lbs. (1.5kg)
- 2.54 lbs. (1.15 kg)
Overall, I found the Manfrotto MKC3-H01 excelled in the primary areas I was looking for – size, weight, and stability. It’s not as functional as a travel video tripod as what I would have hoped for, but for my uses, the video portion was more “icing on the cake” anyway. So if you’re looking for a nice, functional travel tripod, do give the Manfrotto MKC3-H01 strong consideration. Here’s a link to it on Amazon:
John B. Holbrook, II
John B. Holbrook, II is a freelance writer, photographer, and author of ThruMyLens.org, as well as LuxuryTyme.com and TheSeamasterReferencePage.com. *All text and images contained in this web site are the original work of the author, John B. Holbrook, II and are copyright protected. Use of any of the information or images without the permission of the author is prohibited.