At A glance: Cross Over

As we all know, rock-steady shots, as well as smooth pans and tilts, can easily separate your work from the non-pros. In the October 2010 issue of HDVideoPro, we reviewed the Manfrotto 504HD fluid head, which was Manfrotto’s first video head to use their patented Bridging Technology. With lightweight and compact large-sensor camcorders hitting the market (Sony FS-100U, RED Scarlet-X, Canon EOS C300 Digital Cinema Camera, etc.), Manfrotto releases a "little brother" to the 504 series, which was designed to handle cameras weighing between 5.5 and 16.5 pounds. (This payload would include lightweight DSLRs all the way up to shoulder-mount ENG cameras.) The new indie-friendly 502 fluid heads are designed for both DSLRs and the latest large-sensor camcorders, and can support cameras weighing up to 13.5 pounds. The 502 video head comes in two models—the MVH502A and the MVH502AH. The MVH502A has an adjustable 75mm ball base while the MVH502AH has a flat base with a 3⁄8-inch thread.

I had the opportunity to test the 502A head and, yes, it’s similar to the 504HD series, except for being smaller with a few minor changes. The head is made of aluminum and has attractive red details, which matches well with your new RED Scarlet-X or Canon EOS C300. The 502 series uses Manfrotto’s patented Bridging Technology, which gives the head the shape of a bridge. (According to Manfrotto, the architecture makes the head more rigid.) The design also lets you adjust your pan fluid drag-system knob because it sits in the open space beneath the base or bridge. Unlike most tripod systems, the 502 series head contains two additional ball-bearing drag systems for more precise control in your pans and tilts. There are also a few cool features, including Easy Links to add accessories like a monitor or sound recorder and double attachments for your pan bar for left- or right-handed operators.

The head has a wide cross-section to better fit the wider body of a DSLR and also contains a long sliding plate for extra balance control.

The head has a wide cross-section to better fit the wider body of a DSLR and also contains a long sliding plate for extra balance control. I tested the fluid head with my Canon EOS 7D, and I did have a problem tightening the baseplate to the head with my 7D attached. Once I locked in the camera, I was unable to tighten the plate in place because the camera’s wide body blocked the knob from adjusting 360º. The camera had to sit either in front of or behind this particular knob. Since this tripod will be used by many DSLR shooters, I did find this detail kind of annoying, although not entirely Manfrotto’s fault.

In terms of the legs, the Manfrotto system offers three tripod systems. The Telescopic System has an elliptic telescopic twin leg and is the most compact, and the Twin Leg System offers a mid-level or ground-level spreader. I tested the Single Carbon Leg System, and I loved how the legs gave me a wide range of height I could shoot from. Just unlocking a lever on each leg, you’re able to lower the tripod down to a height of 15.7 inches for low-angle shots. The days of bringing a tripod system and a separate hi-hat are long gone.

But as solid as the Manfrotto 502 series is, perhaps the most attractive aspect is the price point, which Manfrotto excels at. The MVH502A is priced at $225, and the MVH502AH is priced at $200. If you’re in need of a solid, nicely styled and affordable fluid head, the 502 series is the system for you.

Contact: Manfrotto, (201) 818-9500,