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119
4.4 out of 5 stars
Manfrotto 502 Video Head MVH502AH
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Price:$199.88 + Free shipping with Amazon Prime
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on October 4, 2012
Verified Purchase
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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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on February 18, 2013
Verified Purchase
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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35 of 40 people found the following review helpful
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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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on August 2, 2012
Verified Purchase
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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on December 7, 2013
This is an extremely good pan head for the money, perhaps the best available for under $200. It's not perfect, but the things I like about it are:
1) the fluidity, smoothness in every respect are very similar to my much more expensive head that I use when I use my larger tripod with the bowl head.
2) there are separate controls for drag and lock. This is very important when you want to set a consistent drag level while also being able to simply lock the head without changing your settings. It's a must have pro feature.
3) well built, tilt arm adjusts nicely, the entire thing looks well made

I've taken this on shoots to Peru and Mexico and across the country. Reliable, and if you treat it like you would any other piece of expensive equipment, then you won't have a problem with it failing on you.

The weaknesses aren't insurmountable, but curious why Manfrotto decided to do some things the way they did. For example, the quick-release plate is anything but quick. To use it, you mount it to your camera first, as normal. Then, there is one end that dovetails into the head. To insert, you have to hold in the release button on the back of the pan head under spring tension. You also have to make sure that the locking knob on the right side is backed out far enough to allow the insertion of the plate. The plate has a textured finish and doesn't like to glide smoothly into position but sort-of grates into place. Then, once you have it where you want it, you need to tightened down the thumbscrew on the right. Depending on your rig, this can be difficult if your camera hangs over on the right side. The knob is bumping into the bottom of your camera gear. You can pull the plastic part of the knob out, giving it the ability to ratchet (rather clumsily) so that you can still tighten the thing. What I usually do is get the plate where I want it, then pull it out and gently adjust the locking knob so that I don't have to turn it very far. Once I do that, I have less work to do once the thing is in position. Once it's in, then simple forward or back adjustments aren't too hard, but you have to fiddle with that silly knob under the camera. I have a DSLR with a Beachtek audio box under it. The audio box is larger than the camera, so the locking plate knob requires some fiddling.

I also have a Cartoni head for my larger setup. It cost 5 times what the Manfrotto did, but it's a nearly perfect product. The quick release plate on the Cartoni is the best in the business in my opinion. You merely tilt it to the side slightly, get one side of it under the edge of the groove, and push down lightly until it clicks. Very elegant design. There is a locking handle that doesn't require screwing anything in, it's just a lever that you cock open and then it snaps closed. Perfect. But then again, you get what you pay for.

In general, the Manfrotto 502 head in my opinion is brilliant in all the other areas. As long as you don't abuse it, it will give you tremendous service and after looking at and testing out a number of other pan heads of this size and weight, I couldn't find anything this nice for $200. There just wasn't anything that worked this well for still and moving images.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on November 7, 2013
Verified Purchase
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 24, 2013
Verified Purchase
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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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on February 4, 2013
Verified Purchase
I actually like this head a lot. It seems well built and the movement is super smooth.
However, here was my problem with it: When tilting slowly, there is this internal very faint squeaking / friction noise. Couldn't hear it until I put my ear close to it. My microphone mounted on camera would pick it up when turned up during very quiet moments.
I tried to "excercise" it out and played with it changing tension, etc and used it alot giving it plenty of time hoping it would work it self out before my return window would expire. It still would ocassionally make that noise.

The other thing I noticed was that it is made in China. Seems Manfrotto is too embarassed to display that since it was faintly stamped and barely visible, hidden on the under side of the head. I own A LOT of Manfrotto / Bogen products over the years and they have always been made in Italy and never a prob. I guess times are tough from them too.
This would explain why this head is very affordable over its other models?

It wouldn't be a huge issue with me except I did notice a couple of manufacture QC imperfections: The top of the head had a shallow scrape gouged in it right before the coating was applied, And the molding around the inset screw threads to attach the handles were not formed smooth.
I know these are all petty cosmetic issues and would not make a darn difference in its operation, considering they eventually get beat up and worn anyway. However, it makes me question the Chinese production quality control over the the Italians. Maybe this had something to do with whatever was causing the tilting noise?
I really like this head otherwise, however I am not sure about the long term reliability past the warranty period.
I'd rather pay the few bucks extra for the piece of mind. Now if I can still get one made in Italy...
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on February 2, 2013
The Tripod head is ok overall but I have am yet to figure out the Panning design. No matter what tension setting, at the end of a pan, the Tripod heads jerks into position slightly. Shooting with a Canon 5D Mk iii, it's rather not usable for panning. Once you get to the end, there is a slight springy type movement. My $49 Velflo 8 does not behave like this, it's way smoother for panning and comes to stop perfectly. The Tilt however is acceptable with the right amount of tension dialed in.

I am surprised that nobody has noticed this, unless I got a bad copy...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 2, 2013
Verified Purchase
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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