Photography News issue 25

First tests 45

Photography News Issue 25

Manfrotto MT290XTC3 £195

Mini tests

WesternDigital My Passport Ultra 2TB £100 Having a secure back-up of your files is such an important facet of modern life. You might be using cloud-based back-up which is okay for smaller files but photography is rarely about small files so a physical drive is better.

Manfrotto’s 290 tripod range was recently refreshed with several new models, including Xtra and Dual versions, plus a monopod. The MT290XTC3 carbon-fibre model, whichwe’ll focus on here, is in the Xtra bracket and is the lightest of the lot, being the only carbon-fibre version in there. Feature wise, it looks sparse; there are few bells and whistles, such as a bubble level or leg pads, and, unlike the Dual version, the centre column is only reversible, rather than having a mechanism to switch it horizontally. But this basic design is twinned with exceptional quality, and the stripped-down features list keeps it light. I took the legs, twinned with a Manfrotto XPRO ball head on a recent shoot in Iceland and found it performed very well throughout. The MT290XTC3 has an exceptionally well-made feel and the build quality suggests that, with care, it will last a lifetime. In striking the tripod, the legs operate with reassuring smoothness, taking just the right amount of force to position them without feeling stiff and neither is there any wobble or looseness. The leg sections, of which there are three, slide out easily and lock firmly with no sign of slippage. The maximum payload is rated at 5kg, which might not sound a lot, but even with lots of extra downward pressure exerted to test the strength of the locks there was only very minor movement. The lever leg locks are made of magnesium alloy and fast to use. And because there are only two on each leg you can operate them together to speed up operation. The locks are also easily tightened or loosened with an Allen key, so you can do a bit maintenance if required. Thanks to having only three sections, and with reasonably large diameters of 25.3mm, 21.7mm, and

18.2mm respectively, there’s no ‘whip’ to the legs as you’d find with thinner versions, either, so it offers a very rugged and stable platform. The large rubber feet add to this, and I found they prevented slipping on all but the slickest rocks; they’re removable for cleaning or replacing with spikes when you need to dig in. As with most tripods, there’s also a hook for attaching ballast. At full extension, minus the centre column, the MT290XTC3 reaches a respectable 142cm (this increases to 165.5cm with the centre column up). Minimum height is 30.5cm which is fine, unless you want to shoot very close to ground level, in which case the centre column is reversed by loosening it, removing the rubber cap, flipping it over and inserting it back into the tripod collar from below. Thankfully, this can all be done without removing the head. With four leg angles available, uneven terrain was easily negotiated The strength and build quality are equalled by the lightness of the legs, and I reallydidn’t notice itwhenhiking to locations, and the lightness also means that it’s less likely to unbalance your load when it’s strapped to a backpack. It comes with a carry bag of its own, too. Closed, the legs measure 62.7cm, so they’re by no means small, but I had no trouble fitting them in a suitcase for travelling. KS The leg sections slide out easily and lock firmly with no sign of slippage

The WD My Passport Ultra hard drive is available in 500GB, 1TB, 2TB and 3TB sizes. The interface is USB 3.0 and a cable is supplied, as are software utilities that let you check the drive’s status. There is a security feature that lets you password-protect the drive’s contents, in case your drive gets stolen. A nice choice of colours, too. Write performance is impressive with 20GB of material transferred and written frommy iMac Mini in four minutes. I appreciate that speed is not always important but it’s great to know it’s available. WC Verdict Reliable storage is important and I had no issues with this unit. I uploaded a bunch of files and had the drive (without extra protection) in my bag for a few weeks. While a longer test might say different, I didn’t manage to break the unit so that is definitely a good thing.

TenbaTools from£18.99 Being organised is so important, especially if you’re on the move. Leave an Allen key, cable, charger or card reader at home and you can be snookered. Tenba has a range of good-value products in its Tools collection that will help keep you organised. The Tools collection comprises a number of bags and wallets and here, I focus on the Tool Box and Cable Duo bags. The Cable Duo 8 (£18.99) has storage both sides and the clear TPU plastic

windows mean you can see what’s inside. One side has a series of elasticated loops for cables and tools. There is a carry loop, too. While the Cable Duo is a soft bag, the Tool Box 8 (£30) has greater rigidity and it’s padded so more protective, ideal for flash triggers, microphones and filters. It comes with a selection of movable dividers and the clear front means you know what’s inside without opening it. Storage isn’t very exciting but it’s so essential, and being organised saves time and angst. I packed the Cable Duo with all the stuff I need when I travel including tea bags and headache tablets as well as photo stuff. None of the items are needed at home as I have duplicates so it means when I pack, I can just grab the Cable Duo and go. In the Tool Box 8 I packed a flashgun and radio triggers so it is all together. WC Verdict Great idea, great design, well executed and excellent value, too. Perfect stocking fillers for Chrimbo perhaps! DigiPower Re-fuel RF-A52 £32 Many of us can’t live without a mobile phone or tablet, but the thing is they consume quite a lot of energy. To overcome the potential disaster of having a flat battery, you need a portable power pack like this Re-fuel unit from battery specialists DigiPower. Portable, easy to use and effective, this power pack houses a lithium polymer 5200mAh rechargeable battery with two sockets, one micro USB input and one standard USB. Plug the unit’s micro USB into a USB socket to charge and you have four LEDs to indicate the charge. All four LEDs glowing shows you’re fully charged. The other USB socket is used to connect your smart device. Plug your device in, turn the Re-fuel on and charging starts. It also turns off when fully charged. On an iPhone 5C with 20% charge to a full charge took two hours with the Re-fuel still showing three LEDs at the end. It is

Top Three leg sections and carbon-fibre construction means the MT290XTC3 is an excellent outdoor tripod providing solid support. At £195 (legs only) it is very competitively priced, too.



Carbon fibre

Leg sections


Leg angles 4 (25°.46°.66°.88°) Leg tube diameters 25.3, 21.7, 18.2mm Leg lock type Lever Reversible centre column Yes Maximumheight 142cm; with centre column 165.5cm Minimumheight 30.5cm Closed length 62.7cm Maximum load 5kg Weight 1.540kg Contact

no problem getting a partial top-up and the iPhone was up to 55% in 30mins. Also, you can carry on using your device while the Re-fuel is connected. I got 2.5 charges of my phone from the same starting point before the Re-fuel needed charging. WC Verdict

How it rates

Verdict In many ways this is an ideal landscaper’s tripod – it’s light, tall and easy to use with a classically simple and effective design. You’re unlikely to exceed the max payload of 5kg even with a full-frame DSLR. At £195 you won’t feel short changed by the build, either, making the MT290XTC3 highly recommended.

Definitely worth the investment for those occasions when you can’t access any form of recharging. A good reliable unit that doesn’t take up much room, and is excellent value.

Pros Simplicity, build, handling, weight Cons Maximum load, minimal features

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