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on January 15, 2010
I got this from J&R NY through Amazon, along with a Manfrotto 055xprob tripod from Adorama. Excellent service from all parts involved and items arrived earlier than expected. These top notch Manhattan establishments have never dissapointed me (along with B&H).

Originally I was going for the 486RC2 but then I found out that this model was replaced by the 496RC2. Main addition is the friction control knob and I gotta tell you this was an awesome addition. The quality of this head and the Manfrotto tripod is outstanding, you do feel the quality components when you touch them. Friction control is great because you can fine tune it depending on the weight of your camera lens.

I was a little worried about not having a separate panning knob like the 498RC2 but the friction control allows me to have just enough friction so I can pan easily with the main knob without changing the vertical alignment of the camera so its a non issue.

Grazie mille Manfrotto per questo produtto, mi piace moltisssimo!!!

Update 01/19: after some use I just want to comment. This ballhead is all I wanted it to be! However, if you do a lot of panoramas do get the 498 model which has a separate panning head. I found out I don't miss one as I don't do a lot of panoramas, plus I have it on top of a Manfrotto 055xprob which is very tall so I don't need to extend the center column. This allows me to loosen the center column nob a little when I need to pan so it serves me as a panning knob. Also you can do it be releasing a little the friction control knob as I stated above.
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on January 10, 2013
This is a video review from the TrussReviews YouTube Channel

This my Unboxing and review of the Manfrotto 496RC2 Ball Head

Enjoy the video!

PS: For more reviews check out my youtube channel
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on January 27, 2010
I recently purchased a Manfrotto monopod and, with it, the Manfrotto 234RC head. I found the head to be so well-made and the quick-release plate to hold so well that I decided to buy the 496RC2 for my tripod.

Right out of the box I could feel how well-made the head is. It rotates very smoothly and the ball head moves so easily when the Friction and Lock knobs are open that it is a delight to use. In addition it holds my camera and lens (Canon T1i and 18-200 mm lens) very snugly. The Friction knob allows me to position the camera and then lock it with the Lock knob. When the camera is horizontal I can take extended time exposures (10 seconds or more) with no fear of camera movement. I have seen some camera movement when the ball head is turned so that the camera is vertical, but very little and it is not noticable unless I view the picture 1:1. Considering that my camera and lens together probably weigh 4 pounds and that the tripod I am using is not particularly good, I consider that to be acceptable. I expect to upgrade my tripod anyway and believe even the vertical movement will disappear when I do so.

One word of caution. The 496RC2 does not come with a thread adapter so it will not fit a 1/4 inch screw. I had to take the adapter from my 234RC (which did come with one) and use it on the 496RC2. I also bought an extra one from Amazon so I would have both. If your tripod uses a 1/4 screw you will have to buy an adapter (Gitzo GS5000 - $4.00 from Amazon).
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on September 7, 2010
Hi,

Even though I read pretty negative reviews claiming that this ball-head is no good for panoramas, I still decided to go for this because it fit my budget and the general reviews were very good.

I would like to let you know that don't get bogged down by the panoramas part. I used my Manfrotto setup (Manfrotto 190XPROB 3 Section Aluminum Pro Tripod) and this ball-head extensively during my recent trip to North-East USA. Produced some really beautiful panoramas of night time New York skyline where each exposure lasted 12 seconds! By the Hudson, the winds were really strong. I guess, this itself proves both the stability of this ball-head and its usability for panoramas.

Definitely, GO FOR IT!
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on April 9, 2010
Hi everybody!
Ok, right off the bat I have to say, I am a new photographer. I do not have years of experience yet, and this tripod and head are my first I have ever purchased. That being said, buy this thing! I bought this head, the Manfrotto 496RC2 Ball Head with Quick Release, to put on top of my 190XPRO-B tripod. This system supports my Nikon D90 and 55X200 mm lens rock solid in any position I have tried it. Granted I do not have the highest dollar, heaviest zooms yet, but all of the Manfrotto gear is very well made. I do not have any doubts that this head will serve me for years. I have been an Aerospace Machinist for many years, when I say it is well made I know:) It secures to the tripod very well, it is very simple to use. I seriously had never touched a tripod or a head before, ordered both and could not be happier. I cannot review the weight factor, I am extremely active and they feel like they weigh nothing to me! I think combined it is actually around 5-6 pounds or so. I bungee them to my bike, my pack or just my back and hike for miles with them. Buy this product!
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on July 14, 2010
This head is certainly lighter than my 488rc2, but with the QR plate folded over, it's only about .25" shorter. So, from a packing perspective, it's nothing to write home about.

The new friction knob is OK. I suspect that if I was keeping this head, I'd come to like it.

The show stopper for me is the panning, which is non-existent. Yes, I know there's no panning knob, but from the reviews and Amazon's description ("the 360° pan movements") I was hoping to be able to carefully pan. But that just wasn't happening with the one Amazon shipped me.

There is a "bearing" between the body and the bottom plate of the head, but it was VERY stiff. So stiff that I ended up moving the ball in the socket instead of rotating the whole head.

If you don't care to make panoramas, this is a decent head. I'd be inclined, however, to look at the 494rc2 instead. It's quite a bit smaller, and significantly smaller than my 488rc2.
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on October 16, 2010
Got this Manfrotto 496RC2 to replace the Giottos MH-1002 head on my Giottos 9242 tripod legs. The old head had independant panning but was marginal support for my Canon T1i and 7D.

My copy of the 496RC2 attached to the legs beautifully and supported the 7D with ease, but then I noticed that when the locks were loose that rotation on the base was very rough and had a grinding feel. Later on the first day, the head stopped locking at all. No matter how hard I tightened the preload and the lock lever, the ball would flop around, although the head locked to the base. Bummer. I was prepared to contact Amazon for a replacement but decided to first have a good look at the unit. I ended up disassembling and cleaning it.

Warning: Disassembly voids your warranty, but if you must... Remove the lock lever screw and the conical insert that it holds and then the preload screw. Carefully remove the rectangular label so as not to bend it and remove the base retaining screw behind it (this is the crux of the disassenbly). Lift the ball housing off of the base reveals the ball locking components (note where the lock lever inserted. Remove the 4mm hex screw under the camera mount plate which allows the QR mechanism to be removed from the ball stem. The ball can then be removed. Inspection found a two areas within the ball housing that showed some galling (scratches). I used a little Micromesh sandpaper (400 grit and finer) to clean up most of it. The base locking mechanism didn't show any signs of abrasion so my guess is that foreign material somehow got into the assembly. I applied a little Trek synthetic grease to area where the galling was. This area doesn't come into play when the head is locked, but does when unlocked and you rotate the housing on the base. I put a little blue Loctite on the preload screw (which can be very loose when the ball is locked) and reassembled the unit. This clean, lube and adjustment completely cleared up the head rotation roughness and the non locking problem.

The head now has a silky smooth feel when rotating. It locks tightly and securely supports my 7D kit which can weigh as much as 6-7 pounds. I don't miss the panning base since I use reference points in the viewfinder to pan. I like the anti-catastrophe quick release which requires a deliberate move to unlock. The preload screw works very well, but as with any ball head, you need to hold the camera, or whatever, before you release the lock lever. I really like this ball head now, and I know how to maintain it if that ever becomes necessary. Not sure what caused my problem, but I'm sure its very very rare. Great ball head.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon March 3, 2013
I searched for a modest ball head for my Manfrotto 190 tripod and landed on the 496RC: petite size, decent build, good fit and finish and, at $65, inexpensive price. It's made from an odd mix of materials: aluminum body shell and quick release platform, plastic adjustment knobs, stainless hardware and phenolic resin ball. Phenolic resin is the plastic used for pool balls, so it is tough. Nevertheless, I prefer a metal ball like used in the older Manfrotto Mini Ball 352RC. The cast aluminum body is attractively finished in matte black. Cast aluminum--old timers call it "pot metal"--isn't as strong as machined aluminum but shouldn't be a concern as long as you don't toss your tripod on the rocks.

The 496RC2 sports two controls: a large knob to lock the ball/pan and a smaller one to tweak tension or drag. My initial impression was the ball movement and controls felt rough: jerky ball and spongy controls. However, the ball mechanism became smoother under load, delivering reasonable control with light to moderate gear. As a point of comparison, it isn't nearly as smooth as my slightly smaller Gitzo G1177M ball head. I swabbed a wee bit of silicone on the ball with a Q-tip and it helped slightly.

The ball is tiny compared to the housing and I suspect a design of less housing and more ball would yield a smoother ride. Nevertheless, it works okay with my 7D and 15-85 zoom. It settles a bit upon tightening but doesn't creep thereafter when vertical or steeply angled. Big glass users should buy a larger model (054, 055 or 468MG series) as this head is designed for a light prosumer DSLR kit.

Unlike some older Manfrotto ball heads, the 496RC features a double drop slot so you can save a rotation when you flip the rig to vertical.

The QR platform is not as easy to use or as tight closing as my Manfrotto 323 RC2 Rapid Connect Adapter with 200PL-14 Quick Release Plate - Replaces 3299-Black or the prior 486RC2 model. I'm guessing they dumbed the QR down to make their more expensive ball heads look more inviting. They expect you to open both the release and lock levers with a single finger but I found such operation fiddly and uncomfortable. The spring loaded safety lock can be locked open but is not easy to do: pull firmly downwards and twist a half turn. The tiny little lever actually hurts my finger! The spring that snaps the main lever shut works okay but is a little weak compared to the 323 RC2 accessory quick release.

The 496RC2 ain't perfect but is a good product for the money, ideal for weekend warriors with a light DSLR or M4/3 kit. However, the plastic ball does not inspire confidence and I'd prefer a larger and smoother moving metal ball. But for $65 I can't complain much. However, I decided the 496RC2 was not for me and returned it, exchanging it for the Manfrotto MH054M0 Magnesium Ball Head. Yes, it costs two times more but is actually three times better in terms of stability and smoothness. I bought the version without quick release and installed a Hejnar Photo FM496RC2 Arca quick release clamp on it.
review image
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on May 26, 2010
I finally decided on this item after a lot of research. I was looking for a new manfrotto tripod head to use for surf photography. Must say I am very happy with my final choice. I have also seriously considered the 498RC2 model but have decided against it as it is significantly heavier and I do not really have the need for the added panoramic functionality. What I needed was a tripod head that provides total freedom to move the camera in all directions,primarily horizontal panning but also slight vertical adjustments. I have opted for the RC2 bracket as I already have this on my other tripod head that I use for portraits and landscapes. I would definitely recommend this tripod head for sports photography. It is however suited to lighter equipment. Also, if this is going to be your only tripod head, I would rather consider the 498RC2 with its panoramic functionality. I use a Canon 7D camera with a Canon 400mm F5.6 lens. In total it is still significantly lighter than the max weight for this tripod head. If you are planning to use much heavier lenses I would not recommend this head. By using this head and tripod I have increased the sharpness of my surfing images significantly, without loosing the freedom of movement. It is also very light, which helps when having to drag the tripod and camera around on the beach and rocks. Previously, I used a manfrotto monopod for surf photography but my images were not very sharp when viewed at 100%. The tripod makes a significant difference.
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on September 16, 2011
I generally research any camera gear I buy extensively and after a long and almost mind numbing review ( there must be more ball heads available than there are stars in the sky) I found they all fell into three categories. 80% could be classified as pure junk. 15% are excellent and usefull to almost any photographer. The reamaining 5% are just plain stupid-expensive. Manfrotto products definitely are in the excellent and useful category.

The 496RC2 is a delight to use, well made and funtions like a fine camera lens. It takes very little effort to tighten the head rock solid. The tension adjustment is similar and feels like a fluid video head. Everything but the knobs is finely finished metal (the handles themselves are the only plastic, but the tightening hardware is metal) The quick release plate attaches with a folding 'D' ring, so you don't have to go fishing for loose change or a tool when you're in the field. The quick release mechanism operates flawlessly and snaps tight by simply clicking the camera onto the receiver. I compared it to a Vanguard ball head of the same weight classification and found the fit and finish to be much better on the Manfotto and it took less force to tighten the ball. It rotates to vertical on both sides and does go to a full 90 degrees if not a bit beyond.

When making your final consideration, do err to more weight capacity than you think you need for any brand you choose. You never know what lens you'll end up getting in the future.
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