I decided to compare three Manfrotto heads in a similar price range.

I picked up the Induro tripod because I needed another one for interviews and got tired of using my old cheap tripods with no plate system, but since I got the new tripod I needed another fluid head so I decided to compare three Manfrotto heads in a similar price range.

Why Manfrotto? Because I am already bought into their plate system (501PL), no sense going with other fluid head with a different plate system.

Why not a Vinten, Sachtler, Miller? They are totally out of my price range!

Can They All Do A Good Job?

I think they can all do a good job, but that comes with practice. I have had the Fancier for 3 years and I can get some great results with it since I have a lot of experience with it. I think any of these will also give you great results if you spend sometime with them.

Find Prices (all in the same price range)

So Which One Did I Actually Buy?

Since the Francier with it’s built-in drag works well with long lenses zoomed in but is pretty heavy and can’t do a whip pan to save it’s life, I went with the Manfrotto 701HDV (has been replace with the Manfrotto MVH500AH) because of two reasons; the 701 is very light which works great with my new light weight Induro tripod for traveling, and the second reason is it works fine for wide angle shots that require fast movement.

So I will be using the Francier for the heavy long lenses and using the light weight 701 for when I am shooting wide and need to pan quickly. I know over time I will get good with the 701 as I get more practice.

Fluid Head Shootout

Where I did my Fluid head shootout

Manfrotto Fluid Head Comparison

HDR Near Where I Live

Products Used In This Video – Find Prices

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  • It seems like each device would have its own learning curve in terms of getting used to the resistance, swiftness, drag, etc. I would think the main thing to check in terms of compatability with your extant system would be checking the interchangeability with your current plates and the various heads.

  • Looks great Dave. Based on your clips, I would be choosing the 502. My only concern is that longer looking baseplate.

  • Great video Dave. Thanks for the effort. I am in the same boat as you because I own a 717 [Weifeng brand] with a 5DII, and want to upgrade. You right about the stiffness of it because I can’t adjust it the way I want it, I must adjust myself. I used it only a couple times, but I want to try an idea of utilizing a smaller bungee cord to smooth out the jerkiness of the pan [and tilt]{but it won’t look that cool to others}. I wasn’t that impressed with the superiority of the more expensive ones for the size & weight of the 5D. Also, getting another 717, I can easily interchange cameras to two different tripods both with the same plates on the bottom.

  • Dave, I have all of those. All have big downsides. I’m only using the Fancier for my slider now so I don’t care about that one. But I tried a Benro S6 and loved it. Only $160. I don’t know if I actually owned it if I would continue to love. I have been a Manfrotto user forever and lately their quality control leaves a lot to be desired. I have three tripods or heads that have issues. Granted, one of the tripods was at least 15 years old but the $400+ sticks/head combo had a “metal” piece on the spreader just crumble after just a couple of months. And try to get parts… Takes forever. Check out that Benro. I shoot with two cameras. One camera is always locked down but if I’m going to move the other, I currently prefer the big Manfrotto. The flat base is too loose (feels nice moving it but a bit shaky) the Weifeng too stiff, the little one is just on my monopod so actually won’t pan when it’s on a tripod.

  • And one thing I’ve learned in the past year? Cheesycam’s recommendations don’t always work out for me. I am now realizing it may be better to spend a little more for a better product. Weifeng, Exhibit A. Also, i replaced the Konova slider with a Kessler Pocket Dolly and the difference is incredible. Granted, it’s almost twice the price but the smoothness is unbelievable.

  • Dave, very HDR cloudish? Is that a “thing”?

    I was looking for a new head(s) to replace my old Bogen/Manfrotto 3046/3063 workhorse that’s I’ve had since last century… Looking at what you’ve presented and from what I’ve read, I’d go with the 502. The Fancier is cheap and I might get a few for my school to use, but for professional use, I think the 502 is your “go-to” head.

    Good Luck with everything, and Merry Christmas!

  • Hey Dave, thanks for all your videos this year, they are always informative and I’ve learned a lot from them.

    I used both the 701 and 501 at university. I never really liked the 701, it always felt too loose or too stiff, but the 501 was pretty good. It survived years of being abused by students. The balance button/toggle on all of them was just as dodgy as the one you have.

    The 502 is probably the the best choice and worth the extra expense in the long run.

  • Thanks Dave, that was really informative. I find that I use tripods to pan in 2 ways. 1. long lens pans like the examples you give and 2. Wide angle pans that are much quicker and cover a larger arc.
    In the later case you really need the broader range of tension from the more expensive heads. Whip pans just aren’t possible on the Fancier.

    +1 on panning with a rubber band attached to the handle too 😉

  • Shooting at such long focal lengths with extended pans is a worst case scenario for those heads. I’d really want to try each head in a real world scenario to get an idea of their ergonomics and how they feel in use.

    I own the 701HDV and use it when I need something extremely lightweight where it’s lack of ability to balance or adjust isn’t an issue.

    Your footage from the Fancier looks as good or better than the footage from the others… If if you’d decide you must have something better, I’d look at how easily you can balance your rig on the 501/502. Being able to aim your head and not have it move is a big deal.

  • I’ve only had personal experience with the 501. I thought it was easy to use, accurate and rugged.

  • My manfrotto 055XB & RC128 came with a camera I bought but I never liked the head from the outset. I now have the 502AH which feels superb. The only teeny annoyance is it needs a levelling plate but its great for mounting a slider on.

    Gear I’ve bought recently:
    Konova K2 32″ slider
    Manfrotto Monopod 561BHDV-1
    Manfrotto 502AH
    Wieldy Vest, Arm & Stabilizer
    Switronix TorchLED
    CBS shoulder pad.
    Leash & Cuff on its way from kickstarter

    Yep, I like buying gear 🙂 Some of it I wouldn’t buy again tho

    Seasons Greetings Dave

  • Hi Dave;

    Nice Comparison!Thanks!

    I think a fault ist to tighten the 701 from Manfrotto. As a personal user it works much better with fully loosen screws.


  • Dave, The 501 is the best however as you mentioned the balance mechanism, lasted me 2 days, I found is not so important so I just forgot about that and have being using it
    with great results for a couple of years.
    Also found that is very good idea to warm up the head practicing the movement before the shot.

  • hi
    my choice would be the 1st one, i saw all your video, i thought the last two ones(502,501) would be the best, but after seeing the video again, absolutely i go for the 1st one which is “fancier ft717”

  • Dave,

    I was on the fence and looking at these choice. Your review helped me (once again).
    Went for the Manfrotto 701HDV. They had a rebate from amazon on heads ($10.00) and tripods ($25.00), so we picked up a 190xPROB. If you are not familiar with it, this tripod is amazing! Will go real low to the ground and also does a horizontal arm, all built into the unit.

  • I just got the Manfrotto Photo Video head. So far I like it, shame you didn’t include that in your comparison.

  • I think with practice the 701 will be good. I just posted on the video Doug, but I seem to have more adjustment range on mine than your video shows. Make sure the column is locked tight, and as low as possible. I got it for something lighter than my 1,500.00 Sachtler FSB8, and to use with light cameras on top of a slider. No complaints for 125.00!

  • Hey Dave, Love your sight.

    I think you should buy the cheaper head, and invest in a “video tripod”. I noticed some movement in your sticks.
    One think I have learned is,” your head is only as good as what you set it on”.
    I have been a still shooter for 25 years. When I got into video I noticed the tripods for the two industries were engineered differently. The single tube leg design for Stills, works great for what it’s intended for. But that same peace of equipment when panning with a fluid head will twist loading up energy and release that energy causing vibrations in your shot. But video tripods with it’s dual tube leg design will greatly minimize those problems.

    I know these types of tripods are expensive, but not as expensive as losing a clients important shot do to poor equipment performance. The good news is you will never be sorry you invested in a good tool.
    Dale D

  • For comparison with the 701, there’s the Benro S4 for $134.(see Diana above), and the Calumet CK9075 $ 149.mentioned by Ocean Ho above. Here’s a video comparison of the 701 and the S4 – see at 0:45 mark – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHXAa9Hnf_w

    There are no reviews that I can find on the Calumet. The Benro appears to have just been introduced in the USA since October or so. Definitely competing directly with the 701. B&H has the 701 on sale for $114. until 12/31 ($25 Visa rebate). Manfrotto has history, but the Benro is brand new, so question is: worth the gamble?? Dave, any chance you can get the Benro S4 (and/or S6) from B&H for additional testing?

    I’m looking at the Manfrotto 190XPROB tripod, which is the little brother to the one you have – 57″ instead of 70″, and about 1.5lbs lighter. But still has the awesome feature of the convertible center post to horizontal mode. On sale ab B&H for less than $94 until 12/31. Definitely going to buy that (through your link) before next week. But don’t know about the fluid head yet for using with my Canon T3i.

  • have fun with that 701. I brome mine. If you plan on leaving it on the tripod permanently you will be fine. If you change it out frequently look out. It is difficult to remove and the only way is to lock the pan and try to thread it free. Well the pan lock broke the body of the head. I have the 501 and love it.

  • Looking for a set of tripod legs for your new video head? Check out the Vanguard Alta Pro 264AT and 263AT at B&H here: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/733656-REG/Vanguard_ALTA_PRO_264AT_Alta_Pro_264AT_4_Section.html

    I just ordered the 264AT, which is $149 less $25 rebate until 12/31. ($124). This unit has an AMAZING Multi-Angle Center Column that offers MORE versatility than the Manfrotto 190X or 055 legs, which are in the same price range. The center post can be placed at practically any angle, rather than just vertical or horizontal with the Manfrottos. Same plate system that is also interchangeable between the two brands.

    The Alta model 263AT has only 3 leg sections, where the 264AT has 4 sections that pack to 21″, rather than 24.75″ for the 263AT. But the 263AT is taller by 4″ (65″ total) and is $104.99 after rebate.

  • great review dave!
    I personally have owned the 701hdv since 2008. Ive taken it all over the world in some of the most extreme hot and cold conditions. Its been a work horse with a DSLR, and it still feels as new as the day I bought it.

  • Ive got the same Induro / 701 combo, works superb and weights nothing. It also fits snug in the included Induro tripod bag.

  • Anything you shoot with a telephoto lens you should be using as much drag as possible… especially when your moves are very small. It should move SUPER SLOW and have tons of resistance when pushing with one finger. For wide lenses tracking large objects in the scene, less drag can be beneficial. If you’re looking for the “best” video head you have to consider what you’re going to use it for. If it’s for a wide variety of stuff (from wide to telephoto) the heads with drag control are ideal. If you have a heavier rig then something with tension springs on top of drag controls is especially helpful. I have owned from the cheapest of fluid heads to the 701/501 to sachtler heads and have used super large vinton heads that can handle up to 100lbs. With that being said, I would love to understand what exactly you were testing for? Something extremely lightweight for backpack shooting only where you don’t need precise control and a head that can tilt straight down (701 is great for that… especially great on sliders when you want to shoot straight down) or the opposite?

  • I’ve owned all the reviewed tripods I found the Manfrotto 501 head to offer superb feel/drag for the price too. HOWEVER the ergonomics were completely counter-intuitive to most professional tripods. Solution: Operate it backwards! By reverse mounting the handle you can keep tilt lock on the left & horizontal lock at the rear. The only downside is the level-bubble is at the front, a small price to pay avoid awkward reach arounds for the most used knob on a tripod.

  • D, i changed from 501 to 502 ’cause my 501 broke the components and the inside gear. The 502 do an amazing pan and tilt. I’m very happy with it.

  • oh and I own the 701 which works well for panning using the rubberband trick but tilts are more challenging.

    Wouldn’t this be easier using a monitor rather than moving your head to follow the tiny screen?