First Look: Manfrotto 808RC4 Three-Way Pan/Tilit Head

A few weeks ago, I picked up a new three-way head from Manfrotto for my Hakuba tripod.  I have a weakness for these three way heads, and the head that came with the Hakuba just wasn’t up to snuff for some of my heavier lenses.  I recognize that there are some real benegits from a ballhead, and I suspect I’ll have one someday, but I just really love setting up for a nice landscape with a rock-solid three way head.

I’ve gotta say, this head is the most solid head I’ve used.  The handles are big and tapered, making them easy to grip and turn, even on the coldest days.  For someone who loves photographing in the snow and ice, this is crucial!  This head also seems to be able to grip well and hold the camera position, despite off-center weight from either my 100-400L lens fully extended or my focusing rails and MP-E 65mm macro lens.  It even seems to be able to handle my big Celestron 750 f/6 lens.  When I first got the 808RC4, I started playing with some macro shots straight down onto the table.  Even under that weight, it held the camera position quite well, despite really being weighted to one side.

A huge design improvement over my old 3030 is the quick release plate system.  The new system uses two teeth to help hold the enormous plates in place atop the head.  This thing has absolutely no movement once the quick release plate is settled into place and locked down with the handle.  I really like the new handle, too.  On my 3030, the handle had a “dead man’s” toggle to prevent the handle from opening enough to let the gear drop.  In theory, that is.  I never dropped anything, but even with the dead man toggle on, the handle could still open up enough to make the gear really rock atop the head.  The new handle removes the toggle, and opts for a push button release on the handle.  It feels more secure, and seems to have less play in it, making me feel more secure about my gear staying upright and healthy.  Between that and the two teeth for the quick release plate, I really feel comfortable with my largest lenses on this head.

More quick release plates arrived in the mail over the weekend, and I’ve already got them installed on three of my big lenses, along with my camera.  It sure feels like this is a great addition to secure my gear, and make for some truly rock solid conditions for my landscape photography.