11.07.2015

Culinary photography: 190XPRO tripod test

11.07.2015

Culinary photography: 190XPRO tripod test

For a long time I took pictures of my dishes with my hand raised. That way I felt free to move where I wanted to take pictures.

But wouldn’t you know, the years of twisting every which way did a number on my back. Now that I’m in a more delicate state, I have turned to using a tripod in order to continue with my work. I started with a low-end tripod, but quite soon after I really needed solid equipment that was stable but would also give me flexibility in my shots.

So I was able to acquire a tripod from the new Manfrotto 190 series, and here’s my review of this product.

Presentation

The 190 series has several tripod models. The one I’m talking about in this article is an aluminum tripod in 3 sections with a movable central column and a rotating ball joint head.

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The ball joint gives you a great degree of freedom of movement in order to place the camera exactly where you want: more to the left, more to the right, at a sharper angle, lower, or higher.
For photos taken vertically, there is a notch so you can prop the camera in such a way as to place it perpendicular to the ground and get really straight shots.

In addition, the head is equipped with 3 small bubble levelers for any user who is really very meticulous about very straight composition: one leveler is located just below the rotating ball to verify the horizontal plane of the tripod’s body and there are two levelers on the rotating ball to verify the horizontal plane of the camera (you use one or the other depending on whether you are photographing horizontally or vertically).

Adjusting the rotating ball joint is easy: there are two screws to loosen either the ball the camera is resting on or the entire head so you can turn it 360°.

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On the upper left: view of the rotating ball joint.
On the top right: you can see the notch you place the camera in when you want to take vertical shots.
On the lower left: the quick plate the camera is set on. It’s used for quick and easy clipping. The clip is held by a blocking system. When you set the clip, the blocking system releases and the clip holds in place. That’s a wonderful time saver!
On the lower right: a view of the ball placed vertically and one of the bubble levelers.

What’s unique about this tripod is the movable column, so you can adjust the column from vertical position to the horizontal position very easily. This way, you can easily get shots at just the right time and you can take your time to orchestrate the scene.

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Movable column system.

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Now, to get a complete sense of the tripod’s capability, you can place the camera as high as 1.70 m from the ground, so it’s perfect when you want to photograph something set on a table. This way, you keep a nice margin of maneuverability so you can photograph the entire scene if you wish.

The minimum height is 9 cm. It can also go very low.

The tripod is really stable and the feet are skid-resistant (so they’ll not slide on tile flooring) and the locking system on the legs is high quality and easy to use. 

Use

Horizontal column positioning was an option I was really looking for in a new tripod. So I can get really parallel shots at just the right time, and I can easily set up my shots without having to adjust the composition.

Before I had this tripod, I had to climb on top of a chair (or position myself above the scene if I was taking a shot of something on the ground) to achieve that perspective. As a result, I couldn’t get myself into the photo and this position (with the camera held at arm’s length) made my back way too sore. Therefore, I really couldn’t adjust the composition and staging of my shots the way I wanted.

At the same time, the column, placed horizontally, presents some limitations when you are trying to take a picture on a table top, which is what I do most of the time.

For one thing, you can’t adjust the height (except by changing the size of the tripod’s legs, but the height is adjustable to different levels). At its biggest size, height can be a bit too much (1.45 m) when you’re taking a table-top picture (so you’ll need a lens between 35 and 50 mm).

On the other hand, the column length is a little short if you want to be able to move in completely above the shot. However, if your shot is right at floor level, this limitation won’t apply because the tripod can be set right above the shot.

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Of course, I don’t use this tripod only for shots taken from above. I use it for all sorts of angles. Adjustment is easy and you can easily change the tripod’s height and position. The only issue for me is that my little arms struggle somewhat with the weight of the tripod. 😉

The column and the ball joint are very stable. The camera remains entirely still when the column is taken totally out. This is a really valuable feature when I need to work for a while on the same composition. I can redo the photo without any lag, so for me it’s a great time saver when I’m doing my work.

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To summarize everything I’ve said, this is a really superb tripod. It’s the perfect marriage of solid design, stability, and ease of use. The only drawbacks are its weight and the column, which I think is a bit too small for the horizontal position.
As for the weight, please keep in mind that there is also a lighter, carbon version of this tripod.
Manfrotto has built a high-quality tripod, and it’s really a joy to do my work on a daily basis with equipment like this.

Chef Nini

Under the pseudonym chefNini, Virginie has written a culinary blog by the same name since February, 2008. She shares her recipes, technical articles, purchasing guides and test products.
She has been a professional photographer, stylist, and culinary designer since 2011.
She has written a book on culinary photography, published by Pearson, as well as a Cooking Almanac, published by Editions 365.

Blog: http://www.chefnini.com/
Portfolio : http://virginiefouquet.com/
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