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on October 4, 2012
There is not much I can say that the other reviewers haven't said already, except that the 502 is a bit larger than I expected. I ended up having to travel with the head off of the legs and in a camera bag. It's about twice the size of the Manfrotto 701 head.
That said it's about 10 times better than the 701HDV head. I never could get a really smooth pan out of the 701. The 502 on the other hand is a smooth as silk and even has variable speed pans and tilts. I know the 701 kinda does that, but not very well. The 502 makes takes locks and separates them from the adjustments.

It works really well with small cranes (jibs) too. It's size and smoothness hold up to the weight of a crane very well.

Couple the 502 head with some Induro legs and you have an awesome setup for around $300-$350.

Things to note: the shorter Manfrotto plates slide in and lockdown just fine in the 502.
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on February 18, 2013
I purchased this video head along with the 055XPROB tripod (also reviewed). As an amatuer film maker i needed something that would provide silky smooth tilts and pans. My current chinese tripod, in comparison, seems like it has a washboard swivel. I had considered the 701 but chose this for better load capability and some other reviewer concerns on how fluid it really was as well as the drag. Please bear in mind this is my first prosumer head so many of the features are new to me.

The video head was very well packed (which cannot be said for their tripods). When openeing the box, i was not expecting it to be this large. But i wanted something more professional and just by looking at it, that is what i got. The head, of course, tilts and pans with locking screws and drag adjusters. The adjusters allow you to increase/decrease the amount of drag on the both actions. The camera mount is a more professional type with a much longer and wider base. I am sure this is to handle larger cameras and actually dwarfs a small camcorder. It slides and snaps in to place and locks via a screw. It can be locked in any position to counter balance larger cameras (i think). However, once you unlock the screw be careful as it will suddenly slide even though you may not want it to; this is actually quite scary when there are hundreds of dollars sitting on top. As a result, the camera must be held while unlocking. A pan handle is included and completes the professional look. The handle angle is adjustable.

Operation; compared to what i was using, this is amazing! The pans and tilts are silky smooth, the drag adjusters really assist in controlling the movement and the results are astonishing. When tilting, the head seems to slowly go back to the neutral position on its own when let go. I think there is a spring mechanism. I am not sure how this would work with a heavier camera but for a DSLR this is nice since if you inadvertantly let go the camera doesnt just drop forward or backwards.

I am very happy with this purchase and it exceeded my expectations. This is one of two Manfrotto products I now own and i am very happy with them both; especially the video head. Happy filming!
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on June 16, 2012
I have been using a Manfrotto 804RC head with my Manfrotto 190PROB tripod and Panasonic GH2 camera. The 804 head is OK for still images, albeit a bit "sticky" when it comes to adjusting. This stickiness is a major problem when trying to use it for smooth video pans. Smooth vertical tilts are impossible with the 804. In fairness, the 804 is designed as a still image head, so its unfair fault its inability to work well for video. The 502 head was recently released, and I was able to compare it to the 701 head. From what I could tell, the 502 has much smoother panning and tilting, and far better adjustment options. I snapped one up on sale, and have been very pleased with this purchase. A few on-line forum members suggested that my GH2 would be too light for the 502 head, but I don't find that to be the case at all. Plus, I have a small rail rig with a digital recorder, and will soon add a follow focus. The additional weight is easily handled by the 502 head.

One issue I have with the 502 is that the long mounting plate is finished with a rough texture that binds a bit when mounting it into the head. I would think the surface would be smooth for easy in and out, but for some reason its not. It takes a little bit of effort to slide the camera and plate into place on the tripod, but its a minor issue that may be lessened as the surface wears down over time.

I sort of wish the tilt locking screw (on the right of the head) and the tension adjustment (on the left of the head) were reversed, as it would be more convenient for my set up. Minor issue, really.

The locking device for the panning is located inside the head's "bridge" assembly. The location is a bit inconvenient. It will disconnect if you unscrew it, but you only need to give it 1.5 turns to go from locked to unlocked. A simple lever may have been a better option.

I purchased the flat base version of this head. There is a ball mount version, which requires a tripod that has the proper ball mount. The ball system allows for faster leveling, but my 190PROB tripod is a flat base model. FWIW, Manfrotto offers their model 438 leveling device, which I intend to purchase.

UPDATE - June 20th:

After using this video head for a year, I have adapted to the less-than-ideal ergonomics, and I am mostly pleased with its performance. Smooth pans and tilts, and it performs as it did when new. I feel it is a "professional" video head, but I would caution that it may be overkill for shooting stills and a bit heavy for travelling.

Since purchasing the 502, I have added the Manfrotto 438 leveling device. It works great, but does add a bit more weight and height. As I use the 438 a lot, I will probably buy a "ball mount" tripod head the next time around.

One issue that plagues me is that the adjustment screw for the arm frequently binds within the bracket that holds the arm in place. Its a real pain in the butt to sort out, and always happens at the wrong time during busy shoots. I have to be very mindful when adjusting this, as it will always bind if I am not particularly careful when adjusting it. I fear this will eventually fail and be difficult, if not impossible, to replace or repair. Like the awkward ergonomics, I think this is bad design, especially for an otherwise professional product.

Another issue that bugs me is the high price of the 504 PLONG quick release plate. Manfrotto sells other "long" plates for less money, so I'm not sure why this one costs $65. FWIW, the shorter Benro QR6 release plate fits into the 502 video head, and sells for a reasonable $25. For a heavy video camera the Benro QR6 may not offer as much support, but for my Panasonic GH2 with large lenses it works just fine.

My original review was 5 stars, but now that the honeymoon is over, I took off one star due to the adjustment screw issue. All in all, I like the 502 video head a lot. In spite of the awkward ergonomics, sticky arm adjustment, weight and pricey quick release plate, it delivers great performance and will hopefully last many years.

UPDATE - Feb 20th, 2014:

After struggling with the weird ergonomics of this head and the poorly designed pan arm attachment, I can no longer recommend this head. While it performs well when set up, it is slow and cumbersome to operate due to the poorly positioned tilt lock and pan lock knobs. The major flaw is that the pan arm is CONSTANTLY binding up within the fixture that attaches it to the base of the video head. There is a notch in the soft aluminum arm that becomes misaligned with the mounting screw. The arm becomes easily bound up, and requires complete disassembly. I have done this so many times that the arm is all torn up and has to be replaced ($30 is the cheapest price I can find). I had requested customer support from Manfrotto regarding the arm while it was under warranty, but never got a reply. While I generally like Manfrotto products, this one and the non-existent customer service has me looking at other brands.
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on August 2, 2012
I already own the 701HDV and the 501HDV and this (the 502) is easily my favorite. And that is after only owning it for about 2 hours.

The 701 does not have any fluid drag adjustment like the 501 and 502 have. I have been using my 501 for a few months now and am fairly pleased. Although the fluid drag adjustments are not as intuitive as the 502's.

I placed my heaviest lens (70-200mm) on the 502 right out of the box, made a couple minor drag adjustments and I've got it moving smoother than my 501 has EVER panned or tilted.

Long story short, i've own this for 2 hours and I'm already ordering a second. Great product.
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on November 7, 2013
My advice is that you do not use the 3/8" Easy Link threaded connectors on the sides of the head! In my humble opinion, they’re a great idea, but horribly executed.

I received my 502 yesterday. The instruction manual states, "The head has two 3/8" female thread holes "J" (fig. 11) which can be used to attach accessories (such as Manfrotto arms for supporting lights, etc)." Great!

So, I attached a Youngnuo YN300-II LED video light to a Manfrotto 192B-2 adjustable arm and mounted the assembly onto the MVH502AH head per Figure 11 in the instructions. Much to my surprise and dismay, as I tilted the 502 head forward just slightly, the light/arm assembly ripped right off the head, taking the Easy Link connector threads with it! Yikes! Fortunately, I was able to catch the video light just before it hit the tripod leg.

The light/arm assembly weighed a mere 1.15lbs. It was mounted per the instruction manual. I hope Manfrotto has a good explanation, and steps up to make me whole again.

Aside from that, the 502 is a very nice head.

I will update this post once I’ve figured out how to navigate the maze of Manfrotto Service partners and such. Wish me luck!
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on July 12, 2015
Okay so I started making YouTube videos, but when I was panning with my old setup it was all jerky and so unprofessional. So I decided to research some good Video Heads that would make my video panning smooth like butter. I came across the Manfrotto 502 Video head, and also saw that it was a very popular video head used by a lot of YouTubers. I placed my order(no other way but but Prime Baby) and in 2 days it arrived on my front porch. I could not wait to place it on my new Manfrotto 055 tripod(review coming) Oh my goodness, my first video doing some panning with this fluid drag system was absolutely amazing. My Canon DSLR fits perfectly on the head, and it's so easy to install/remove. Now the head does have some weight to it (3.5lbs) It's solid and well built. No more jerky videos that would make a person dizzy! I am very happy with my purchase and I hope this review helps you with your purchase decision.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon April 16, 2015
The 502 is a midrange fluid head aimed at the serious amateur/semi-pro video market: flat bottom with 3/8" thread to fit standard photographic tripods and a wide platform for DSLRs. It's a big bruiser, boasting cast aluminum fittings, long beefy panning handle and a giganormous QR (5.5") plate. I mated it to a Manfrotto 055 and mounted my 70D. Once balanced and tweaked for tension, it held position perfectly yet delivered smooth pans, even with a heavy telephoto onboard (EF 300 4L IS USM).

PANNING HANDLE: It’s long (plenty of leverage), comfy, thick and easy to grip and steer. One thing I appreciate about the 502 is the panning handle can be mounted on the left or right side. I’m right-handed but prefer to pan with my left-hand, leaving the right-hand free to work camera controls and pan lock. My last head forced me to pan, lock and operate the camera with the right-hand only.

QUICK RELEASE: The 502 uses the Rapid Connect (Q5) quick release system and includes a single 500PLONG plate. The 500PLONG is the extra long (140mm/5.5") version of the 501PL plate. It's designed to slide in the clamp and position for best balance. If you own the older 501PL plate, it still fits in the 502 albeit two inches shorter. And the 500PLONG fits in the smaller 577 clamp used on the 501 and 701 heads.

Rapid Connect is a misnomer since mounting the 500PLONG takes multiple steps: slide in plate from rear, position for best balance and, finally, tighten the side lever to lock. Tabs prevent the plate from sliding out of the clamp if you forget to lock it. To release, unscrew the lock lever and press the release tab while sliding the rig out. Not quick but secure and easy to rebalance after a lens or camera change. I marked the balance points for my favorite lenses with a Sharpie.

I use the Arca-Swiss (AS) quick release system on my other heads. So I installed an AS clamp on the 502 by mounting it on the 3/8" stud of the 500PLONG. The clamp knob was too short to clear the edge of the plate, making it difficult to turn. A 5mm riser plate provides clearance for the knob, but I decided to use a Hejnar 500PLONG clone (M577-550F63B) with integral riser plate. I mounted my clamp on the Hejnar and it works like a dream: slides smoothly in the 502 clamp slot for balancing and locks tight. Best of all, I can leave an AS plate on my camera and mount it on any of my heads without swapping plates. And, yes, mounting/removing the camera is much faster with the AS clamp.

GOTCHA: The vertical pan is limited to +90° / -85°, so not a good choice if you need to shoot shoot critters at ground level. Worse, the extremes of the tilt befuddle me: if I release my grip on the panning arm at the lowest or highest point of the vertical pan, the head is deflected in the opposite direction as if spring loaded. Of course I can simply hold the panning arm or lock it down but all other positions in the pan path hold position (assuming the rig is balanced). I’m not sure if this is a feature or defect but my other Manfrotto fluid head (128LP) simply sits there instead of recoiling and doesn't need to be locked or held. If this is a feature, maybe it’s supposed to keep a heavy rig from suddenly crashing to the extreme of the vertical pan?

FINAL BLURB: The 502 is a a beefy piece of kit and ideal for a medium to large DSLR with telephoto. Plus, it's easy to convert to Arca-Swiss if desired. The smooth movements, excellent fit and finish and thoughtful features make it a joy to use, just wish the tilt wasn't so bouncy at the extremes of the pan range.
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on October 1, 2013
I am returning this and here's why:

1. Top plate is very sticky. Way too much force is needed to slide in and out and is prone to binding on the way in. It's so rough that the light grey paint rubbed off onto the plate's black paint with just 2-3 insertions. Plate gets stuck even with tightening knob totally loose.
2. Plate tightening knob is too close to the top and is clumsy to tighten with a camera mounted.
3. Not enough clearance to mount a Nikon D600 and 24-70mm f/2.8 with the lens hood attached. Must remove lens hood before mounting.
4. While panning is fluid at all drag levels, tilting is not at the light to medium levels. You can hear what sounds like bubbles popping while tilting with heavy drag.
5. There is at least 1/8 turn of loose play while turning pan and tilt drag wheels in either direction, making small adjustments difficult.
6. Counterbalance cannot be disabled, limiting this heads use for lighter cameras - a minimum weight should have been specified.
7. Panning drag wheel has gotten stuck! I turned it to the 'plus' side and cannot move it back to 'minus' anymore!

I was excited to get this with a rebate, but it's inconsistent and has unreliable operation.

UPDATE: I unstuck the red pan wheel with a rubber strap wrench and could hear the sound of grease pulling apart while turning it. I might get around the sticky top plate by permanently adding a separate quick release adapter on top of it. I'm undecided if this is worth 150 after rebate.
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on September 24, 2013
I've been using a Manfrotto 501HD head for the last six years now and it's been a great workhorse for me. It's biggest flaw was that it wasn't a true fluid head, but rather used grease so there was always a bit of backlash and it was never ultra smooth. I finally decided it was time to upgrade and thought I'd try the 502 video head before eventually picking up a whole new system and wow, what an upgrade!

It's so smooth and because it's true fluid head with bearings it actually took me a few hours to get used to it. I was so used to fighting the grease that I would move too quickly, and then blow the take. Luckily it didn't take long for me to get used to the new awesomeness and I was panning and tilting like never before. The drag adjustments work well and allow for a lot of fine tuning. Not huge on the placement of the pan and tilt locks, but otherwise I love it.
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on September 3, 2013
I've had this head for nearly a year now and feel confident in my summary of this product. Although the movements are fairly smooth while in motion, the starts and stops are unacceptable. You get a significant jerking movement when starting or stopping a pan/tilt movement regardless of camera weight. I have striped this head down several times to try and DIY fix the issue. I'm pretty sure it's a design flaw and not a manufacturing defect. If you can make do with motion cuts, this may work for you, but even though this is a low priced video head, I think you are better off looking somewhere else.
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