A lot happens on the street and that is the reason for the increasing popularity of street photography. But besides photos you can also make videos on this dynamic location. You can shoot out of hand, but for a more stable image and smooth camera movement a tripod is essential. Unfortunately, most video tripods are big and heavy. However, Manfrotto introduced the Manfrotto BeFree Live: small, light, stable and with a cushioned head. In this review Pieter Dhaeze shares his experience with this travel tripod.
Most photographers are in possession of a tripod, and for some branches of photography a tripod is indispensable as well. Can you also use a camera tripod to record videos? Of course, but that limits it to static shots, wherein zoom or change of focal point are the only dynamics. If you want to pan horizontally or vertically - common recording techniques - a standard ball head or three-way head are not suitable. The movement you make when you unlock the head will always be choppy. Even rotating horizontally will not be smooth. What you then need is a video head. This is specially designed to rotate precisely in the horizontal or vertical plane, making the movement smooth, thanks to a long lever in combination with fluid damping of the pivot point. So you can very smoothly pan with a 'fingertip' with some resistance.
The legs of a video tripod are often different from that of a photo tripod. They are double fold and the lock is different. The link with the tripod head is different as well. This is often a kind of ball head to level the video without having to adjust the length of the legs.
Manfrotto BeFree Live
The Manfrotto BeFree Live is a video tripod with a head with all the characteristics for smooth video recording, but in a compact form. This does not have to be detrimental to the performance of the tripod and the quality of the recordings, but it reduces the weight of the camera, lens, and accessories you use. It is a lightweight tripod and it is not suitable for a load of more than four kilograms. However, when you have a standard system camera with a reasonably normal (zoom) lens, the Live BeFree is fine to use.
The legs of the tripod are carried out as in a tripod of a camera tripod, so some legs with a clamp coupling. The hinge mechanism is well worth a mention. On the hinge is a three-position button with a position for transport, a standard width, and a wide mode. It is very basic, but once you're used to it, it works fine.
The head is fluid damped and that you feel at horizontal and vertical movement, whereby the long handle provides good control. Unfortunately, you can not regulate the degree of attenuation. Of course, the head can be fixed put with small screw knobs. The button to secure the quick release plate, is actually al little too small and slippery to be tightened easily. Sometimes it sits directly underneath the bottom of the camera, which makes tightening even more difficult. It's not a deal breaker, but there are better solutions for such a button.
The head and legs are connected to a ball joint and that is easy to operate with a wide ring, so that the head on the basis of an indication of a small level eye, can be leveled. It is advisable to do this in combination with an electronic level on the camera, if you have one.
Do you often shoot on the street or on location and do you want to use a tripod for smooth camera movement (pans), then the Manfrotto BeFree Live is a good choice. It is compact when folded, relatively light and comes with a handy shoulder bag. The execution is what you can expect from Manfrotto: good materials, well finished, and durable operation. All in all, as a videographer the Manfrotto BeFree Live gives you quite a lot of freedom of movement in the field, while you still have access to a real video tripod.