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05-07-2010, 04:07 AM   #1
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Manfrotto 405 review

I have been using the Manfrotto 405 for a week now and due to the scarcity of online reviews I have sought to rectify this situation.

I'll be honest, it's a heavy head weighing in at 1.6 Kg (3.5lb) maximum load capacity is 7.5Kg(16.5lb) so it can comfortably handle a 8X10 view camera no matter what angle I have it set to. I’m currently using it on the Manfrotto 055X PROB tripod legs which are currently the lightest set I use. The quick release platform is the RC4 which is my favourite due to the fact that it has enough area to evenly distribute the weight of almost any type of camera. The first image shows that there are now four spirit levels on my tripod, so if something is off kilter I’ll be promptly informed, very useful for panoramic work.

It can rotate 360 degrees, yaw -30 to +90 and pitch -30 to +90 so it has a fair range of motion, not as mobile as a ball head or the Arca Swiss Cube, however I don’t really like the design of the Cube, the gears are too exposed and that could be hazardous in inclement weather or sandy/dusty conditions. The 405 features very precise adjustment on each axis but the quick set rings on the tops of the control knobs when turned anti-clockwise enable the user to disengage the gears and quickly adjust the positioning of the camera. This feature could be very useful with panning shots where ball heads enable movement on all axes’ the Manfrotto 405 head enables isolation of movement. And once you have finished adjusting the position of the camera release the quick set rings and you don’t need to lock anything down...it stays there.

My k-7 is in the repair shop, so my ME super has had the task of modelling the head so you will get the idea of how large this thing is. I have yet to test the head with really long lenses or the Pentax 645/67 however I'll add my impressions of handling these larger cameras in the future. I’ll say in regards to ball heads the 405 isn’t the quickest dog in the park. However, this head is designed for precision; macro, architecture, landscape, still life and commercial work. Photographers who require precision should all consider this head or it’s somewhat more compact (and cheaper) cousin the manfrotto 410.


Last edited by Digitalis; 05-20-2011 at 11:46 PM.
05-07-2010, 08:19 PM   #2
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Thank you for posting this review; these heads are indeed hard to find reviews about.

You're right, the 405 is a bit of a beast and is overkill for a DSLR user but perfect for the medium format user. I've checked out the 410 in person and it has the exact same range of adjustment, but it's much more compact and designed for the DSLR user even with a 70-200 or 100-300 attached; not sure about lenses like the Bigma, however.

The 410 has been on my wish list for the past few months to replace the simple ball head I've used for years on my tripod because I've grown weary of trying to make quick yet precise micro-adjustments with the ball head, especially when I'm zoomed in on something and just need that very minor adjustment to frame the scene perfectly.
05-08-2010, 02:19 AM   #3
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I have used the 410 - however I don't like the plastic they use on the quick adjustment rings. call me old fashioned but I like my tripod heads to be METAL and nothing less. I have no objection to a bit of rubber here and there for comfort mind you. I have seen tripod heads* with plastic quick release levers - IMO that is just begging to be accidentally snapped off.

I did a quick test with the Pentax 67 and the SMC-P67 300mm f/4 today ( sorry no pics, I'll do a video with My K-7 when it comes back) - A harsh test of a tripod/head combo. I used the Gitzo basalt 3830 which is a very heavy duty tripod. Without using mirror lock up I fired the shutter of the 67 at 1/30th and at 1/8th and in both tests the 405 didn't even twitch - outstanding performance. I have never seen a ballhead do that. typically ball heads suffer from a bit of residual vibration with the Pentax 67 because of their relativity low mass compared to the mass of the camera. The mirror on the Pentax 67 has a fair amount of mass, and so does the focal plane shutter which commonly "bounces" at these shutter speeds. However the 405 did superbly in this test.


*admittedly these heads were entry level, but when I invest in a camera support I want something that is going to last, and on that point the 405 could probably survive atmospheric re-entry.
05-08-2010, 03:57 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Digitalis Quote
I have used the 410 - however I don't like the plastic they use on the quick adjustment rings.
Hmmm, I'll have to check this out more carefully the next time I can compare the two heads. But since I'll never shoot medium-format, the 405 probably won't be worth the extra bulk and expense for me anyhow.

05-23-2010, 12:36 AM   #5
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just some more pics demonstrating the 405's size in comparison to a K10D with battery grip w/Sigma 100-300 f/4 APO EX DG lens and AF540FGZ

Last edited by Digitalis; 01-28-2015 at 12:36 AM.
05-23-2010, 08:10 AM   #6
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Thanks for the Review

I have been keeping an eye out for a 410 for the macro bellows I use. Your writeup is very helpful. I had not considered expanding my search to include a 405.
11-06-2010, 07:42 PM   #7
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A Quick update on this review...After several months of consistent use I liked the 405 tripod head so much, I bought a second one. Which I am using on my heavy duty Manfrotto Triman tripod. I do use ball heads in situations where their superior mobility and speed are to my advantage, and in situations when ball heads tendency to "droop" is least likely to irk me. But for everything else the 405 has become my first choice for my studio,landscape and Macro photography.

I look forward to using this tripod head with the 645D, It is important to note that the 645D has a second tripod mount on it's side making for an easy switch to portrait orientation. All you need is two quick release plates: the competing Mamiya/Phase one AFD, Sinar hy-6, and Hasselblad H series cameras do not posses this feature, but some digital backs employ an awkward rotating sensor platform to make up for this shortcoming.
11-06-2010, 08:11 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by stover98074 Quote
I have been keeping an eye out for a 410 for the macro bellows I use. Your writeup is very helpful. I had not considered expanding my search to include a 405.
I also have been considering the 410 as a future purchase to use for macro and with my 4x5 field camera. The 405 just looks to be TOO much, but I may yet change my mind when it comes down to actually making the purchase.

Out or curiosity, are there other players in the geared head business beyond Manfrotto and Arca?


Steve

11-06-2010, 08:15 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by stevebrot Quote
Out or curiosity, are there other players in the geared head business beyond Manfrotto and Arca?
As far as I know there aren't any others. Gitzo are primarily a ball head manufacturer, so it RRS. There isn't much demand for geared tripod heads because they are rather specialised and quite a piece of engineering and that means expensive - there is no getting around that point, but considering the quality of the 405 it is WORTH it.


QuoteOriginally posted by stevebrot Quote
The 405 just looks to be TOO much, but I may yet change my mind when it comes down to actually making the purchase.
You know what they say: "Quantity has a quality all of its own*" if you think the 405 is going overboard, the chance is good that you won't need to buy anything else.


You might think that the 405 is a bit much, but consider this, most people just buy whatever tripod head their tripod comes with, then upgrade to something else, and then perhaps discover the flaws in their purchase and then get what is more appropriate for their equipment, they could have saved themselves a lot of time and money but instead they bunny-hopping from product A, B,C and finally settling for product D I think it is better to go straight from point A to D instead of mucking about with concerns over what they ought to be using because of what is considered popular opinion, and choosing what tool offers the functionality they require.

I use three distinct types of triopod heads, Gimbal (whimberly), Ball head (RRS), and geared (manfrotto) - the gimbal head sees the least amount of use with the ball head and the geared head suiting my purposes 98% of the time.

* quote from Josef Stalin

P.S I have been using the 405 with my Ebony 8X10 and I just can't go back to using my RRS B-55 - I'm not besmirching the B55's incredible build quality and superb handling, it's just the smoothness and precision that the 405 provides is what makes using large format so much more satisfying.

Last edited by Digitalis; 11-06-2010 at 08:56 PM.
11-06-2010, 08:54 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Digitalis Quote
* quote from Josef Stalin
Ha! Ha! Ha!

I read that remembering that many of the quality issues associated with Kiev and other FSU cameras were related to unrealistic production quotas!


Steve
11-06-2010, 08:57 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Digitalis Quote
As far as I know there aren't any others.
I did a little more research based on some old memory and dug up that Photo Clam has effectively cloned the Arca Cube.
MultiFlex - Kyung-IL Machinery Co., Ltd._Photo Clam Korea

Steve
11-06-2010, 09:09 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by stevebrot Quote
Photo Clam has effectively cloned the Arca Cube.
ahh that name rings a bell, and it also takes Arca plates as well, very interesting. But is seems to have the same issues of exposed gearing that the 405 doesn't have - which for me, is a primary consideration in light of the sandy/dusty/rainy environments I often find myself in. I like the additional grips they provide for easier tightening and loosening of the controls, it would make the multiflex much more user friendly for those who find themselves wearing gloves. I find their maximum load capacity of 100Kg(220lbs) to be utterly absurd.

Though this could cause problems:

"Since the Korean copy of the Arca Swiss cube is mentioned, it should be mentioned that this device not only is a couterfeited design, and hence cannot enter the European Union, like anything counterfeited which is not protected by a technical patent, but duly registered as an original design & model ; but the Korean device copied a patented technical feature. Too bad... therefore the device will have really hard times to enter the US territory as well.

Our friends across the Atlantic have different regulations regarding counterfeited designs. To put it shortly, if a counterfeited design does not infringe any technical patent valid in the US, the product can enter the US with a minimum of legal paperwork.
The typical example is a copy of some famous Swiss watch, engraved at the back "made in China, Japanese movement". Such a watch is banned for import in the EU and Switzerland as a counterfeited design, but can legally enter the US : "eh guys, everybody can see immediately that this is not a Swiss watch, and no patent is infringed", this is the US spirit of the law."

Michael reichmann makes a mention of the photo clam multiflex in section 8 of his review of the Arca Cube.

Last edited by Digitalis; 11-06-2010 at 09:23 PM.
07-30-2015, 02:20 AM   #13
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Wow this is an old thread. (even needed to sign a disclaimer). Thanks for posting it.
I'm getting more and more in extreme macro and from there ended up in geared heads, since any lens movement on a subject that is 2mm is generally too much; I need controlled precision. (I also pray for light and patient subjects).
From budget and portability I was looking more for the Manfrotto XPRO WG. I went to touch it in the shop and it feels OK to me.
The 405 is out of the budget I wanted to spend, but I now found someone who has trouble selling his second hand so wanted to bid half the retail price.

Clearly I already have a lot of gear when I want to do Macro (055 tripod, 293 long lens support, macro rails) and I want to use the 405 also for other 3D head uses (have a 498 ball head, a 393 Gimbal and a cheapo fluid head). The goal is indeed to buy one of the best gearheads, not to have to buy an upgrade in a few years. You seem to support that option.

P.S.: on most forums gear heads are not a popular subject
07-30-2015, 03:38 AM   #14
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yeah this is an old thread, and still reviews are rare for the 405. For the record: I'm still using it, it is quicker and safer to use on location than the Arca cube (which has exposed gearing, that can accumulate dirt and grit)


Last edited by Digitalis; 07-30-2015 at 03:48 AM.
08-09-2015, 01:12 PM   #15
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My little input.

I see the point on the structure being completely closed and thus better protected in the field than most geared heads.


The RC4 works well for me. The most load I use is my Sigma 500mm f4.5 with a DSLR, about 4.5 kg, it works fine. I do not use the Quick Set with the heavy load it gives the same issue as a ballhead, it flips over.

Other points I read where people saw possible improvements:
- movement between the quick release plate base, plate and the camera, there is some, but not a lot. True the RC3, plate with screw seems to be my preference with less movement.
- adjustment of one direction moves the other direction. It seems to me that it does, I do not have a problem with it, adjusting works quickly for me.
- 30 degrees is quite a lot and if you really need more reverse the plate on the camera/lens.
- it is big and heavy, it is. When I can I use it though, since the precision is a joy to work with. On longer hikes the ballhead will have to do.

It is difficult to explain the precision of geared heads though, I guess you have to use it to really understand. It is very much like macro rails, maybe a bit faster in thread.
So I do not regret to have a Manfrotto 405, it is more then I need and is not very portable, but there is no fiddeling, it feels secure and works like a breeze.
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