Customer Reviews: Manfrotto 393 Heavy Telephoto Lens Support for Monopod Replaces 3421
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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on September 18, 2007
Compared to the alternatives, this is the best priced solution out there. I don't use the product the way the photo shows. Instead I drop the bracket down to create a U shape that is open on the top, then mount my camera lens with the mounting plate facing down. This is very stable that way, and still gives me all the maneuverability I need for a shot. I can tighten the knobs to lock in a camera position should I desire, or loosen them sufficiently to give a very smooth pan across all angles. This bracket is a pleasure to use. Too bad it's so hard to find when shopping around.
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on July 24, 2007
If you are jaded by the prospect of spending $600 on a gimbal head from Wimberley or Kirk, then this is the right alternative for you.

It's not as compact or as elegant as those alternatives, but the 3421 works, plain and simple.

I use mine for a Canon EF 400mm F2.8 series 1 as well as a Canon EF 500mm F4 IS. Both are mounted with extenders as well as on a 1Ds or 1Dmk2. This head renders this setup virtually weightless as a gimbal should.

Tracking birds in flight is just as easy as with the Wimberly.

It's easy to balance the lens/body on this head. The very long quick-release plate allows easy fine tuning.

Adjusting drag for all movements is a very simple friction affair adjusted by knobs. Not fancy, but it works very well.

A nice plus is if you forget to tighten the plate down, there is a safety which prevents the lens from sliding off the head unless you depress a button.

I only have two gripes:

1) The rubber knob protector for the friction adjustment slips off easily. I already lost mine.

2) It's pretty big. I wish Bogen could somehow redesign it to be smaller to place in a camera bag.

But this is nitpicking because at 1/3 the price of the competition, it is a flat-out BARGAIN. Could be the most over-looked head for those in need of a gimbal.

My friend liked mine so much he bought one for his Sigma 300-800 F5.6 and it works great for him too.

A FANTASTIC head, this is!!
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on August 10, 2010
For my wildlife photography tours, this is one of the cheapest and best alternative to the often expensive gimbal setups. I even prefer this to gimbal head due to the additional protection it brings of having two metal brackets surrounding the lens. Very easy to setup on a monopod or tripod and has worked for me on multiple models of tripods/monopods.
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on December 11, 2010
I had been tryiing to use a standard ball head on my carbon fiber manfrotto tripod with my sigma 150-500mm lens to shoot raptors with not much luck. I was having great difficulty framing the bald eagles ive been shooting since the ball head did not facilitate ease of use for panning or tilting the caamera and lens with a moving subject.

When i started looking for the right head, my jaw almost dropped at the cost of another well designed gimbal head that was almost half the cost of the lens i would mount on it at 550.00. Since i am about as cheap as jack benny the wimberly was way out of my price range but the manfrotto was a reasonable option i thought.

The head is sturdy in its construction and allows me to pan and tilt the nikon d300s with the sigma 150-500mm without any problems. It provides great support for the heavy lens and camera combo and is about 1/3 the cost of the wimberly competitor's product. For those who dont want to shell out alot of cash this one so far has been a great and functional option for this cheapskate
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on April 23, 2008
After trying the Sidekick, the full Wimberly gimbal, the 3421 is easily the best value. It is far, far better than a Sidekick and just as good as the full gimbal head (though it does lack the snob appeal of the Wimberly). Easily my best camera purchase ever as it turned the 600mm IS from a real chore to a true treat to use in the field. It is rock solid stable and smooth and makes tracking flying birds a breeze. The only complaint is that the rubber knob on the friction adjustment slips off easily, but this is just a nit. All in all, if you have a long lens, buy this head.

Update. After a couple of years, this thing wore out pretty good, and hence the downgrade to three stars. The aluminum eventually bends due to being knocked around and the bushings all went to hell. While I could buy another 3 for the price of the Wimberly, I bit the bullet and bought one just so I never need to worry about a tripod head again. However, if you are a light user (say 10-15 weekends a year) or take better care of your gear than I do, then I still highly recommend this head as it works great until you abuse it.
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on October 3, 2011
I tried the Full Wimberly Gimbal, and knew I had to have one, then I read a review for this Gimbal head. Based on that review and price point I decided to give this Gimbal head a try. Even though it is heavier then the Wimberly, it does the same job and for much much less money. I have used it for bird photography on the back waters of the Mississippi, and it has met and surpassed all of my expectations. It swings so smoothly, and is a pleasure to finally get good, sharp, keeper captures. I have an older....20years old...tri pod and this head fit right on with no problems. It is heavy on the tripod, but I think that this extra weight stabilizes the platform, and enhances the performance of my camera system. I would recommend this to anyone who is looking for that extra edge in capturing sharp, clear, wall hanger images. It is extremely easy to use, and really has no learning curve to over come. Other owners of this Gimbal head complain that the rubber control knob in the center of the bracket is easy to lose, but I have not experienced this as of this writing. I sincerely recommend this to all serious hobbyists and aspiring professional photographers. It will make all your other tripod heads gather dust on your equipment shelf...mine are.
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on March 21, 2011
Excellent support - secure and steady. This offers smooth pan / tilt and rock solid support when stopped.

I use this for up to 600mm focal length. Must be on a stable tripod to appreciate how robust this is. On a manfrotto 055xprob, tripod flex produces vibration at the lens - but the head is practically rigid. On a gitzo series 3, steady and solid.

Some complain about weight, but it is only marginally heavier than alternatives. Some claim that access to lens controls is a problem, but I have not had any problems.

I have complete faith that this head will securely hold long lenses with the tripod slung over the shoulder. That is very important.
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on August 1, 2007
works perfect for my 500mm lens. works as well as much more costly mount and works just the same
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on June 7, 2010
By whatever name, this is a gimbal head. The item promo shows the camera/lens hanging from the camera support in an "up" position. Why? Who knows! The camera/lens should rest on top of the support with the support in the "down" position as would be normal with a gimbal from any other mfr. I have used Manfrotto quick-mount system for nine years on several cameras and tripods/monopod. All other gimbal systems use Arca-Swiss or variations, and the ones I checked were not adaptable to Manfrotto. As it would cost too much to switch to Arca-Swiss (and most of the other gimbals cost much more than this item), I elected to buy two of these for our (my wife and I) cameras to shoot birds from blinds. All other gimbals I've seen are "one sided" (quarter-circle) while this item is "two sided" (half-circle); a search on Amazon for "gimbal head" will show what I'm struggling to describe. And this two-sided design is why I've rated it four stars instead of five because (for us) the left side impedes access to zoom and focus controls (as well as lens switches - Canon IS USM zooms). But wait, there's more ...

I have a hobby 3-axis mill and hobby lathe as well as other shop tools. In short, I modified both of these gimbal heads we bought by removing the parts left of the tripod mount and camera mount then replacing the upper gimbal pivot hardware with heavy duty shoulder bolts and bronze sleeve bearings. I've added a Before and After photo with notes showing the modification. We used both gimbals after I modified them for over 40 hours during five days in photo blinds. They worked perfectly ... and the two cost us less than the cost of one of the "famous" brands, and that accounting does not include what the Arca-Swiss plates would have added to our cost.

I realize that not everyone has the tools to modify this item as I did. Maybe Manfrotto will change their product?
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on March 30, 2014
I have been using this quite often for wildlife photography over the past year. I looked at Wimberly, but chose to go with this option based on price, even though everyone I knew had Wimberly heads. This was probably the best purchase I made last year. It performs exactly like the expensive stuff, it's just a little heavier and bulkier. To carry it into the field requires carrying it separate from the backpack. But I don't mind that! I think the trades off for the $400 savings is worth it.

It tightens well, provides an adjustable amount of friction, it has a mounting plate that allows you to very securely attach your lens, it has an adjustable balance, and it allows for two types of mounting the lens to the head: upside down or right side up. Highly recommended to try before spending the money on a more expensive gimbal.
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