Manfrotto 501HDV Fluid Tripod Head Review
The Manfrotto 501HDV is a dedicated video fluid head. As camera manufacturers add more and more DSLRs with HD video capture, photographers’ interest in video seems to be growing at an exponential rate. I know my interest has been piqued since I picked up a 5D Mark II roughly a year and a half ago. One thing we’re learning though, is that good photo equipment doesn’t necessarily make good video equipment as well.
While I love a ball head on my tripod when taking photos, it’s practically useless for everything but blocked off shots with video. If you want to pan and tilt while shooting video, you’ll need to pick up a good fluid head. And that’s what the 501HDV is – a good fluid head. While you can find more basic heads, like the 701HDV, the 501HDV is a better starting point for HDDSLR video capture. I’ve found the 701HDV to be a little on the small side for DSLRs and feel that it is better suited for smaller camcorders (although it’s rated up to 9.5 lbs payloads).
The 501HDV is quite heavy at 3.5 lbs; however, it has the solid build that is required for smooth camera movements. It can handle up to 13.2 lbs payloads, which should cover all but the most extreme HDDSLR setups.
The 501HDV has separate drag controls for both pans and tilts. It also features pan arm rosettes on either side of the head, and includes a solid pan arm to attach. The head also features a rather long, sliding base plate to help with balancing your setup. The switchable counterbalance, which lets you move the balance point forward or back with the flip of switch, is a pretty slick setup.
The pan and tilt movement on the 501HDV is very smooth and I have comfortably used it with a 300mm f/2.8 lens. Smaller setups, say a DSLR with a 50mm lens, will seem like nothing is on the head. The drag controls for pans and tilts are easy to adjust on the fly and lock down tight when needed.
If you’ve tried shooting video with anything less than a fluid head, you’ll fall in love with the 501HDV instantly – and you’ll never try to shoot video without it again. In terms of “getting into video” with your HDDSLR, the 501HDV sets the bar for entry-level video kits. And since it runs about $30 more than the 701HDV, there’s really no reason not step up to the 501HDV.
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