When we spoke to Manfrotto at IBC they had just announced their new “FAST” tripod system. The name fast comes from their super quick usability. You can open a latch and pop open the full length of the tripod with just one click.
The fast legs (645)
The legs feature a three-section twin-leg mechanism. The mechanism is similar in a way to the Flowtech that we reviewed a while back. (and when I say “reviewed”, I mean dunked in one of the saltiest waters on earth, the dead sea). The Flowtech was our first experience with this kind of mechanism, and we absolutely loved it. There is one difference though, on the Flowtech the latch is not the top, close to the head, and on the 645, the lats in between the top and middle section. So it’s close to the head when the tripod is folded but stays at reachable height when the tripod is fully searched.
You can see the attention to detail is incredible. It just looks like Manfrotto went above and beyond to make the package almost irresistible. (The Aluminum system comes at $999.00 and we assume that the Carbon fiber will come in at about $1,300 – or you can just buy the head ($399.00) and the legs ($949.99) separately) Let me share a few examples of how Manfrotto really up the value of the package. (This is also a great place to say that Manfrotto did not pay us for this review)
Take the spreader for example. The spreader that is included in the package can be adapted to three positions. High, low, and floor. This is all in one spreader. This is great, with some systems you are forced to buy a mid-level OR a floor spreader.
Or take the bowl rest, the tripod is a native 100mm, but it comes with an adapter for 75mm so if you already have a 75mm head, you can use it right away.
I don’t think that those two items cost a lot to produce, I just think that those items show how Manfrotto cares about their customers, and they don’t nickel and dime them.
504X is the new 504 series champion
The head really feels like a huge jump from the 504HD, through. It has quite a bit of high level end features integrated into it for a $399.00 head. The biggest one: the knobs that adjust the fluid drag tension are now “declicked”, so you are not longer restricted to a few levels of tension. You can really go in and fine-tune the resistance to your liking. This applies both to the pan axis and to the tilt axis. Another bonus is that the tension is separate from the locking (unlike some tripods where the lock position is simply full tension)
The 504x Head
The head has all the standard functions you would expect in a mid-level video head. It weighs about four pounds and can carry about 26 pounds. It features fluid drags on both the pan and tilt axis. and they are very easy to control and feel incredibly very smooth.
Just like the legs, the head has a few clever surprises. Well, aside from the fact that it’s smooth. There is The rosette for the handle on both sides of the head. If you are using only one handle, you can mount accessories on the other mount (like a monitor). What really bought me is that Manfrotto does not lock you into their anti-rotation system and they have Arri locking pins as well.
The head also has a 4 step counterbalance to control the speed of returning to the leveled position when tilting.
There are even tiny reminders all over the head that let you put replacement screws for when you forget, need, or don’t need an extra screw. And every thread comes with a small engraving wit the size of the thread. How convenient.
Not to mention a super sexy deep engraving of the 504x logo. I don’t know why every product name with an X just sounds sexier by default.
Comparing to the previous generation
In terms of height, this system is very close to the MVTT-WINGA system at 61.8” maximum height, but it goes significantly lower with a 10.6″ minimum height. Being able to put a camera so low, provide some great angles.
The weight and load capacity of the old Twin Leg and the new fast tripods is very similar, but on the head side, the 504x is about two pounds lighter at 4.4 pounds but able to carry 10 pounds more at 26.5 pounds. We tested the combo with a Black Bagic, Irix 45 Cine, a 95WH Vlock, an Indie pro power grip, and a Shogun 7. Let me tell you, at this load, it was a pleasure to work with.
Comparison to Flowtech
Now… there’s a couple of things we need to talk about. I’ll just be transparent here and say, using the Flowtech has definitely spoiled me. And I think that without having experienced the Flowtech in all its glory, I probably would only have only neatpicking issues with the tripod. But I am using the Flowtech, and there are a few things I wish that the FAST line would adopt.
I mentioned in our Flowtech review that the handle is a godsend. Now that the handle has been “taken away” I realize how much I miss it. In every production where I had to lift the tripod (either open or closed) my wrists say hello.
The magnetic legs on the Flowtech are also a better way to “lock” the legs in the closed position. The 645 has some plastic clippy thingies that attach the legs to each other but, not sup[risingly, we have already lost one + they feel more cumbersome than magnets.
So, what do we have here? We have a fast, strong, and robust tripod with a borderline professional head despite the price point. I think this system deserves heaps of praise. If you are in the market for a new tripod go and get yours for $999.00 (alu) or $399.00 (head) and $949.99 (CF).