They say the best camera is the one you have with you. And surely that goes for any gear? I've lost count of the number of times I've ditched the tripod while packing. They're so often the heaviest and bulkiest items and whether packing a suitcase for a budget flight, or a rucksack for a mountain hike, it's always tempting to leave it behind.
Having made the move to a mirrorless camera system, like so many others, I was looking for weight savings in my other kit, and this model from Manfrotto really fit the bill. At 1250g (including the excellent 494 ball head) and a packed length of 41cm it's clearly a complement to a minimalist set-up. Factor in a maximum payload of 8kg and a maximum height of 150cm, and you'll see it punches above its weight.
Clearly the stripped-down nature means the legs are a little more flimsy than bulkier (heavier) models - despite the carbon fibre construction - and I wouldn't want to trust it to long exposures on a windy beach with a pro-DSLR, for example.
But for everyday use, the BeFree Advanced Carbon is a revelation. It's a shame the name 'BeFree' is so cheesy because shedding the kilos of a heavy camera set-up really is a liberation, and the 'freedom' to choose to bring along a tripod without having to consider future back pain is priceless.
I've also used this model for film work, and combined with the BeFree Live fluid video head it makes an ideal platform for mirrorless filming.
It loses half a point for looks (wildlife specialists will not appreciate the red flashes on the legs) but is otherwise basically flawless in achieving what it sets out to. The twist lock controls on the legs, and the leg-angle selectors, are very simple and quick in use, and the ball head has a friction adjustment located within the main knob in an everything-you-need-nothing-you-don't kind of way.
And if the carbon version is a little steep, it comes in various aluminium models too.