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Manfrotto 502 Video Head MVH502AH
|Price:||$157.50 & FREE Shipping|
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- Pan fluid drag system. Base Diameter: 75 mm, Working Height: 13 cm. Weight capacity is 15.4 lbs. and counterbalance supports 8.8 lbs. Accessory Compatibility: 502HLV, 509HLV, 520BALL, 520BALLSH
- Easy Link connectors for easy attachment of accessories. Top Attachment: 1/4 inch screw, 3/8 inch screw
- Wider and longer top plate for extra stability
- Built in counterbalance system
- Ball-bearing drag for precise, smooth movements
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|Sold By||Lassys||Unique Photo, Inc.||Wiki Deals||SSE Photo & Video||Amazon.com||iStockOnline|
|Item Dimensions||8.5 x 15.7 x 8.5 in||5.8 x 5.8 x 14 in||4.57 x 13.58 x 5.16 in||10.63 x 10.24 x 0.4 in||7.48 x 8.46 x 30.31 in||5.5 x 27 x 5.2 in|
This head is the perfect synthesis between and innovative "Bridge Architecture" and manfrotto's Cutting edge engineering. A pan fluid drag system gives more ergonomic operation while a wider top plate and longer sliding plate offer extra stability and balance. This head offlbs @mmers an even more rigid structure for maximum precision and improved responsiveness. The built in easy link connectors offer extreme flexibility for accessory attachments. The counterbalance system and ball bearing drag sysem both offer precision and smoothness of operation. This head has been carefully constructed from lightweight modern materials for optimal balance of strength and size. Technical Specifications: Max Payload 13.2lbs; CSB 8.8lbs@55mm; FDS pan variable cartridge; FDS tilt variable cartridge; Tilt range +90° / -85°; Camera fixing quick release; Top plate 140mm 5.5 inches; Height 5.1in.; weight 3.5lbs.
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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.
The most serious problem with the head, at least for DSLR users, is the location of the quick release plate tightening knob. If using a lens that doesn't have its own tripod collar (i.e. about anything that isn't a large zoom), the DSLR will tend to balance out so the body is situated right over the knob, making it difficult to tighten despite having the ability to ratchet. The remedy is to find a knob with a threaded shank long enough to clear the DSLR, and fortunately I had some random knobs from a broken tripod lying around to make this a pretty simple fix. I probably won't keep the longer knob on the head by default, mainly because I don't want it to get damaged since it does stick out about 1.5 inches from the head.
Some users also seem confused or frustrated by the counterbalance feature. After doing some research about how counterbalance is supposed to work on pro-level heads, I feel like I can offer some insight.
First, Manfrotto specifies the counterbalance is rated up to 8.8 pounds, which means anything below that will be subject to the counterbalancing spring, which is always "on" and cannot be adjusted. Almost nine pounds is a fair amount of weight, and you'll be hard pressed to exceed that with most DSLRs or camcorders, so you'll find the head after being tilted down or up will readily tilt / spring back (depending on your fluid drag setting) to the neutral (or horizontal) position. This may seem like a good thing - and it is certainly preferable to having no counterbalance whatsoever, which would result in the camera and lens slamming forward or back - but counterbalance isn't supposed to work that way. If your head/camera is tilted down or up, counterbalance is supposed to help it stay in that tilted position without needing to hold it or engage the locking mechanism. With the Manfrotto head, I only see this happening when the fluid drag dial is turned to maximum. I don't know if this is how it's intended or if it's because I have an old copy, but assuming this is the same behavior on a brand new one, I can see how some may find this unacceptable if they prefer to have a lower drag setting.