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Home > Reviews > Bogen / Manfrotto 728B Digi Tripod with 3-Way Pan/Tilt Head

Bogen / Manfrotto 728B Digi Tripod with 3-Way Pan/Tilt Head Review
02/05/2006

I've been looking around for a decent tripod for my Digital Rebel XT and what I found at the local electronics stores, such as Best Buys and Circuit City, was not what I expected. The tripods they carry lacked the quality and precision that more serious amateurs and professionals demand. I was looking for one that was fairly durable, lightweight, compact and easy to setup, and they all are. But my primary requirement is a smooth pan and tilt, something you can only get with high end equipment. After weeks of research, I've finally decided on the Bogen/Manfrotto 728B.

What's Inside

The tripod I received included:
1 - Bogen/Manfrotto 728B Digi Tripod
1 - 3157N Quick Release Plate
1 - Carrying case (appears to be nylon, not padded)
1 - Instruction pamphlet
1 - General instructions and warnings pamphlet
1 - Registration card
1 - 3 year limited warranty extension card (which is "not valid for USA").

I wonder why the "3 year limited warranty extension" is not available in the USA?


Specifications (from www.bogenimaging.us website)

Maximum Height: 64.8" (164.6 cm)
Maximum Height w/o Column Extended: 52.4" (133.1 cm)
Minimum Height: 19.1" (48.5 cm)
Folded Length: 20.3" (51.5 cm)
Load Capacity: 7.7 lb (3.5 kg)
Leg Sections: 4
Leg Lock Type: Flip-levers
Independent Leg Spread: Yes
Center Column Sections: 1
Center Column Type: Sliding (reversible)
Center Brace: No
Spikes: No
Head Type: 3-Way pan & tilt with quick release
Head Mount Thread Size: Head is not removeable
Weight: 3.9 lb (1.7 kg)


Anatomy of the 728B
This is a 4-section tripod with a 3-way pan/tilt head with quick release. The leg sections are constructed from tubular aluminum (black anodized finish) and has three facets (in other words, a round tube with three flat sides). This supposedly makes the legs more rigid/sturdy but compared to other tripods of this size and price range, it doesn't seem to make a difference. On the other hand, compared to tripods that are half this price or less, this 728B is rock solid.

The legs are attached to an aluminum cap with a single 5/8" diameter hinge pin. This pin is clamped to an aluminum collar/neck that allows the legs to swing out. The clamp is adjustable with an allen wrench. I would also like to point out that the collar/neck does not have a bubble level.

To extend the legs, each section (except for the smallest) has a plastic collar with a flip-lever clamp (also plastic) that hinges on what appears to be a 1/8" diameter brass pin. There are no clamp adjustments here. The last/bottom sections have rubber pads (or feet as some people call them).

At it's minimum height, from the floor to the camera plate, it measures at 19". According to the specifications it should be 19.1", but my tape measure says otherwise. Now, with the other three legs fully extended, the height is just a tad over 52 1/4 ". A little less than the 52.4" in the specifications.

I have a feeling that the specs include the height of the 1/4-20 threaded camera screw.

Center Column/Post
The center column appears to use the same tube as the second leg section and is 14" long. To extend the center column, you have to pull out (or release) the red lever as shown here. The center column extends about 12 1/4".

One of the feature I was looking for was a removable head that can be mounted to the base of the column. Unfortunately this tripod does not have a removable head, but it has the next best thing. By removing the rubber cap at the base, the column/head assembly slides out. The advantage here is being able to position the camera at ground level.

Head
The Manfrotto 728B tripod head is mostly aluminum and solid compared to the tripods you'll find at consumer places such as Best Buy and Circuit City (USA). The tripods I've seen at those places come with plastic heads, and the movements that plastic heads provide are not smooth. The handle and knobs on the 728B are plastic.

I've inspected this same tripod at a distant camera store and I remember the tilt being very free and smooth. Unfortunately, this new tripod, the tilt is tight. It may take some usage for the tilt to loosen up. The camera platform rotates 90 degrees for vertical shots. This was also tight. The horizontal pan, however, moved freely, and very smooth. No wobbles. After several days of usage, the tilt loosened up a bit to my delight.

Rapid Connect 2 Quick Release
The RC-2 quick release operates the same as all the other tripods with quick release plates. Pull out the release lever, lift the mounting plate away from the lever, and it's free (oh... and the lever is plastic). Placing the plate back in is just a reverse procedure.

Only time will tell if this mechanism will loosen up and become sloppy like some of the plastic heads I've experienced.

3157N Quick Release Plate
Unlike other tripods I've used, the 3157N quick release plate, is die cast anodized aluminum. It weighs just under an ounce, or about 4 quarters (US).

It has a solid rubber pad for the camera/camcorder base and a black plastic VHS (camcorder locator) pin for positioning the camcorder. I intend to use this tripod with my camera, and since my camera doesn't have a recess for this pin, I just popped it out using a straightened metal paper clip from underneath the plate. Now, where am I going to store this tiny plastic VHS pin? I had a brilliant idea by re-inserting the pin from the bottom of the plate. Duhhh... you can't turn the thumb screw! Oh well, it's just one of those things that will be misplaced/lost on the day when I do need it.

The thing I like about this mounting plate is the thumb screw. The screw appears to be steel with black chrome finish. The head of the screw has a flip out D-ring, so you don't have to worry about carrying around a screw driver, or making sure you have coins in your camera bag.

Velbon VS-3 Velbon VS-3 column
Velbon VS-3
This is my Velbon VS-3 that I have been using for some time now and, in fact, I still use it today. It was purchased back in the 80's and, although it is showing some signs of wear, it is still a workhorse.

The VS-3 is a 3-section tripod with extruded aluminum legs with metal collars and clamps on the legs. Very solid construction which probably explains why it weighs in at almost 6 lbs. It's folded length is 25 1/4".

Conclusion
I've been using the Bogen/Manfrotto 728B Digi Tripod for several months now. The complaint I had about the tilt being tight no longer exists. It's light weight and compactness allows me to carry it just about anywhere and will comfortably fit in most carry on luggage.

It's light weight does have a disadvantage. Outdoors, on windy days (over 15 knots), the tripod will blow over. By removing the rubber cap from the base of the center column exposes holes that will allow you to attach an s-hook to add some weight. I use a 1/4" diameter wood dowel, about 4" long, and run it through the holes and rope the weight (a brick) to the dowel (so as to not mar the finish of the tripod).

The pan and tilt is very smooth and precise. Although the 728B is not one of Bogen/Manfrotto's high-end tripods, it is perfectly suited for the my Digital Rebel XT and I'm more than pleased with the solid construction and high quality craftsmanship.

:-)

Gary Kawamura
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