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About a year and a half ago I purchased a new Manfrotto Pro BG055CXPRO3Carbon Tripod. It is a good all around tripod and works well for the type of photography I do. I don’t specialize in any type of photography but engage in Landscape, wildlife, macro and some studio photography. I also have several heavy lenses and the heft of the BG055CX provides a very stable platform. The price was right and other photographers seemed happy with it so I decided to give it a try.

It is the third tripod I’ve owned. I don’t even remember what brand my first one was but it was really cheap and after spending a day photographing out on the ice of Lake Superior it fell apart.  My second tripod was a Manfrotto 190XB. I used this for a number of years when I first started serious photography. One day I was out photographing in deep snow. I had the legs extended when I was moving from one location to another. I tripped and caught a lower tripod leg between my legs and bent it. The tripod was still usable but I was already thinking of upgrading because I wanted a more stable tripod so this incident provided the impetus to start looking for a new one.

I looked at a wide variety of tripods from the most expensive to the mid range. There were a number of them that I liked and would have purchased but they all had the twist type leg locks. I have a variety of skiing and hiking poles with twist leg locks and my experience with them has not been the best. I’ve had them fail on me at different times. In cold conditions they are difficult to adjust. In addition, I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to easily tell if the tripod legs were really locked when using twist locks. I tend to get a little excited when I find a great subject to photograph and the last thing I wanted was to set the tripod down and discover that one or more of the legs were not locked. With the BG055CXPRO3 it is easy to see if the legs are locked because it uses a locking lever. I already had experience with similar leg locks on my 190XB and that worked out fine. That was the deciding factor in choosing the BG055CXPRO3 over some of the other brands.

When I received my first BG055CXPRO3 I noticed that one of the lower legs did not extend easily and I could see where it was scraping against something. I returned it, at my expense, and ordered a second BG055CXPRO3. This time I didn’t have any problems with the legs extending.

Manfrotto-BG055CXPRO3-Tripod-12-11-_1173Setup is very easy. Just flip the locking lever and extend the legs to get the tripod at the right height. When the legs are at the right height just flip the locking lever back to its original position and the legs are locked.

Manfrotto-BG055CXPRO3-Tripod-12-11-_1167The BG055CXPRO3 comes with a spirit level to enable you to level the tripod. Normally this is not an issue because I usually use a shoe level on my camera. However, I do some panorama photography and it is important to have the tripod level when shooting panoramas.  My190XB did not have a spirit level and I ended up using a level that attached to the center column. It worked but having a level on the tripod gives you one less thing to keep track of.

Manfrotto-BG055CXPRO3-Tripod-12-11-_1160The angle of the legs can be changed by pressing down on the locking button, slightly closing the leg toward the center column to release the lock. While holding the locking button down spread the legs to the desired angel. Release the locking button and you will hear a clicking sound when the leg is locked into position.  Each leg can be adjusted independently which comes in handy when shooting on uneven surfaces or if you want to adjust the height or angle of the camera. There are four different angles ranging from 23 degrees to 89 degrees which means that the tripod can be placed almost flat on the ground. In order to place the tripod at the 89 degree angle you must move the center column to a horizontal position. This is discussed later.

Manfrotto-BG055CXPRO3-Tripod-12-11-_1155The BG055CXPRO3 comes with an 18 inch center column. To raise the center column loosen the locking knob and raise the column to the height you want. Tighten the locking knob and the center column is held firmly in place. Because I’m short and the tripod with the legs full extended is so tall I rarely use the tripod with the center column extended.

Manfrotto-BG055CXPRO3-Tripod-12-11-_1176The BGT055CX features a center column that it can be placed in a horizontal position. This maneuver can be easily accomplished. Simply loosen the locking knob, raise the column to its fullest extension while pressing the center column release button located the bottom of the center column. When fully extended rotate the center column 90 degrees and slide it into the hole in the collar and lock the locking knob. It sounds more complicated than it is.

Manfrotto-BG055CXPRO3-Tripod-12-11-_1184Placing the center column in a horizontal position allows you to fully spread the legs of the tripod and photograph from ground level. It requires a little more effort on your part to photograph at ground level because you need to go through the effort to place the center column in a horizontal position and adjust the camera to photograph from this position.

 

Manfrotto-BG055CXPRO3-Tripod--12-11-_1180The fact that the center column swings up and horizontal is also a plus if you have limited space to set the tripod and there is an object in the way. By placing the center column horizontal it is sometimes possible to shoot around the object blocking your view. I’ve also used it when shooting from a platform with a railing. Sometimes the railing is in the photo and by using the horizontal center post its possible to move the camera out over the railing. This feature also allows you to shoot directly down on an object without getting the tripod legs in the photo

 

Markins-Ball-Head-12-5-_0191aThe one problem I’ve had using the center column in the horizontal position is with macro photography. This most frequently occurs in the early spring when many of the wildflowers are small, close to the ground and found on a steep south facing hillside. It is particularly frustrating when photographing in the field and finding that the center column is in the way and prevents me from lowering the camera into the proper position. In essence the center becomes a fourth unwanted  leg. I also find it frustrating to maneuver the camera into position once the center column is in a horizontal position. In these situations I need to rotate the camera into a vertical position using the vertical notch in the ballhead. I also usually need to loosen the panning knob and rotate the entire head in order to get the camera and lens into position. This is easy when working on at normal height and on a flat surface but more difficult when working on a hillside. While the center column does allow the user to lower the tripod as a practical matter it is not a tripod I would purchase If I were going to be doing a lot of macro photography close to the ground. You can purchase an optional short center column for this tripod but that only allows you to spread the legs to about 60 degrees.

 The presence of the center column is a tradeoff. As I noted it adds more height to the tripod, allows you photograph around objects and photograph at ground level. This makes it a good all around tripod for a wide range of photography which is what I do. 

Manfrotto-BG055CXPRO3-Tripod-12-12-_0899I use a Markins Ballhead on my tripod so the first thing I did after figuring out how to use the tripod was to mount the ballhead on the tripod. The tripod comes with a 3/8 inch mounting screw. Simply screw the ballhead to the mounting screw. Raise the center column to gain access to the bottom plate at the top of the center column and then tighten the three screws up through the base to the bottom of the head. This prevents the head from unscrewing accidently. I frequently carry my tripod with a camera mounted so having the ballhead loosen would not be good.

Manfrotto-BG055CXPRO3-Tripod-12-11-_1186The tripod also comes with a hook that allows you to hang a weight from the top of the tripod.  In order to use it you need to have a weight to hang from it. Most likely this is going to be a camera bag or pack. However, the hook is located in such a position that it can be difficult to hang a bag directly from the hook because the center column is in the way. I use a shoelace that I drape over the hook and attach to my pack. Because my pack is usually quite heavy I set the pack on the ground and use the shoelace with a lock to adjust the tension to provide a little more stability. With a weight attached you will get some additional stability in conditions where there could be movement of the tripod. I use it mainly in windy conditions. It also might be useful when shooting in a stream but I have yet to give it a try since I can’t use my pack as a weight.

Manfrotto-BG055CXPRO3-Tripod-12-11-_1164The tripod also comes with a hanging ring that allows you to attach an optional carrying strap. I’ve never used this feature so I can’t comment on how well it works. I normally carry my tripod in my hands, over my shoulder or in my pack. See my earlier blog on this topic. The tripod is also stable enough that can easily be used as a walking stick which comes in handy when walking over rough terrain.

Manfrotto-BG055CXPRO3-Tripod-12-12-_0895The tripod comes with a tool to adjust the tension on telescopic legs to make them easier or more difficult to extend. I’ve not had to adjust the legs on the BG055CXPRO3 but  I did have to do this a few times on the 190XB so I’ve always carried the tool with me. The tool is designed to clip on to one of the legs but that is a disaster waiting to happen. With a slight nudge it will come unclipped. However the ends of the clip have holes in them so I just took a long plastic tie and attached it to the leg so it can’t come off.

Manfrotto-BG055CXPRO3-Tripod-12-11-_1174One of the other things I did when I first received the tripod was to tape the rubber feet to the legs of the tripod. On my 190XB I started losing the rubber feet. This usually happened when I placed the tripod legs in mud or crusty snow. When I removed the tripod the rubber tips came off. The solution was an easy one. Take some electrical tape and wind it around the top of the rubber tip and onto the tripod leg. Problem solved.

Manfrotto-BG055CXPRO3-Tripod-12-11-_1155aOne of the issues I had with my 190XB was the tension that allowed me to change the angle of the legs. You should be able to spread the legs and have them remain at the set angle. After using the tripod for a while the tension on the hinge became loose. Sometimes when I lifted the tripod one or more of the legs would flop to a vertical position. A couple of times when I set the tripod down I hadn’t noticed the leg swing closed and the tripod almost tipped over when I set it down. There is a screw at the top of the leg that can be adjusted although with limited success.  An Allen wrench that was included with the tripod allowed for the adjustment. Something I had to do fairly frequently. The BG055CX uses a different type of screw to keep the legs tight. After looking through the box when the tripod arrived I couldn’t find the tool required. The last item on the instruction sheet contained a reference to a T25 Torx key. Something that was not supplied. I finally called the company and found that the tool was not supplied but that I could purchase a T25 Torx key at most hardware stores. I went out and purchased one thinking I would be tightening the legs constantly but in the year and a half I’ve owned the BG055CX I’ve only had to slightly tighten one leg once. Strangely the instructions do not mention using the Torx key to control the swing of the legs. They only mention using it to remove the locking collar on the legs.

Manfrotto-BG055CXPRO3-Tripod-12-11-_1170One of the first things I noticed when I picked up the tripod to carry it was that the upper legs of this tripod were much greater in circumference than on the 190XB. On the 190XB  I was able to use some pipe insulation to put around the leg so it wasn’t as cold to carry in the winter. Because of the larger legs and my small hands it quickly became clear that pipe insulation would not work very well. I just couldn’t get my small hands around the leg with pipe insulation attached. I spent several months looking for a solution and finally found that using flexible bandages that are used to wrap the legs of horses was a good solution. I wrote about this in an earlier blog. I’ve had the initial leg wraps on for over a year now and they are still going strong although I’m thinking of putting another layer of wraps on for the winter photography season.

Manfrotto-BG055CXPRO3-Tripod-12-12-_0893The BG055CX is a tall tripod with a height of 55 inches with the legs fully extended and the center column down and a height of 69  inches with the center column fully extended. As it turns out this tripod is a little too tall for me. The 190XB with the legs fully extended was about the right height. With the BG055CX  legs fully extended it is too high for me to comfortably photograph. This means a little more adjustment to the legs to get the right height. On the positive side the fact that I have more height to work with makes it much easier to photograph on uneven surfaces without using the center column.

I’m currently using both tripods side by side while doing some bird photography. When I just had the190XB  I didn’t realize how unstable it was. When I move from the 190XB to the BG055CXPRO3 I can really tell the difference in the stability. If I were looking for a tripod I would definitely start out with the BG055CXPRO3. I’ve used it now for over a year and have been very happy with it.

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One Comment

  1. Superb review. I use this tripod myself and your experience of it mirrors my own.


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