International travel is back at last, but have you got one of the best travel tripods? If you’re planning trips abroad – perhaps to indulge in some landscape photography or astro-photography – then you’re going to need a good tripod. Full-height tripods are the best, of course, but they’re heavy. Cue the Manfrotto Befree Advanced Travel Tripod Twist, a super-lightweight aluminium tripod designed for travel. Packed with innovations, it’s nevertheless shorter than most.
A stable-mate of the impressive Manfrotto Befree 3 Way Live Advanced tripod in the Italian manufacturer’s lightweight ‘BeFree’ line-up of travel tripods, this version differs quite significantly in that it uses a completely different ball-head, has a different leg clasp system and weighs just 1.49g instead of 2kg. So it’s generally better for travel for general photography, whereas the Befree 3 Way Live Advanced is aimed more at videography.
Leg sections: 4
Max Tube Diameter: 22.4mm
Min Tube Diameter: 12mm
Max Height With Column: 1500mm
Max Height No Column: 1270mm
Min Height: 400m
Folded Height: 400mm
Max payload: 9.00kg
The Befree Advanced Travel Tripod Twist is all about travel, but offers extra support compared to most similar products. Its safety payload tops-out at 9kg, though in our tests it was able to take an awful lot of gear – we’re talking full-frame cameras with heavy lenses.
Still, its key feature is that it weighs a mere 1.49kg, and when packed up it's just 40 cm long (though its ball-head adds another 14cm). That’s compact enough to fit into most luggage, though it’s not nearly as neat and slim as the Peak Design Travel Tripod. As with all travel tripods, the Befree Advanced Travel Tripod’s center column is crucial to its design. So often a weak point, here it’s sturdy enough to shoot long exposures from, thanks largely to a locking ring at its base that secures it. When raised it enables the Befree Advanced Travel Tripod Twist, on its four-section legs, to stretch from 127cm to reach a maximum height of 150cm.
The Befree Advanced Travel Tripod Twist comes bundled with Manfrotto’s compact Advanced 494 aluminium center ball head, which has three independent ergonomic controls. It takes a little getting to know, but gives the photographer a lot of positional flexibility. It comes with a 200PL-PRO plate (RC2 & Arca-swiss compatible) and there’s a useful locking mechanism to add peace of mind, too.
Performance, quality and usability
The Befree Advanced Travel Tripod Twist’s lightweight design might suggest that it’s right on the bubble when it comes to supporting full-frame gear, but that’s not the case. Even when it was loaded with gear, at no point did we experience any droop or slippage.
Shipping with the ball-head is a 200PL-PRO plate that attaches to a camera using a D-ring, but can be tightened using a hex key in the box. Although we didn’t use it, the side of this tripod’s center does include a small hook for hanging a bag or similar, though be careful about using such things in high winds, which (rather counter intuitively) can actually reduce stability by increasing the surface area of the rig. There’s also a useful attachment on the tripod for hooking-up, say, another small tripod to support a smartphone or action camera.
When out in the field the Befree Advanced Travel Tripod Twist’s ball-head proved really useful, allowing easy panoramic movements that keep the horizon flat (really useful for creating stitching panoramas), but also some novel friction control (which adjusts the ball tension) and a useful locking mechanism.
This tripod is also easy to unfurl and take down. That’s largely thanks to new rubberised ‘M-lock’ twist-lock rings on the leg joins, which are simple enough to unfurl all at once if you have big hands. They’re also easy to operate in gloves, or with bare hands in the cold.
Packing the Befree Advanced Travel Tripod Twist in luggage isn’t super-easy. There are a few ways you can do it, but by far the easiest is to remove the ball-head altogether then pull all three legs back on themselves through 180º. It’s not perfect – there are still a lot of gaps – but it remains 9.5cm wide.
It’s generally accepted that you shouldn’t extend that center column of a tripod unless absolutely necessary. On a relatively small, lightweight and compact tripod like the Befree Advanced Travel Tripod Twist, that’s usually a downside. So we love its super-sturdy center column – complete with locking mechanism – and its overall ability to remain solid and steady. Add a lightweight design, M-lock legs and an excellent ball-head and the Befree Advanced Travel Tripod Twist makes a play for being one of the best travel tripods available for all-round use that brings more advances than compromises.