Manfrotto MVH500AH Fluid Video Head

This week we're reviewing the Manfrotto MVH500AH Fluid Video Head!

The great thing about video heads is that they can be used pretty easily for photography, but there are SO many options for tripod heads in the market.  Manfrotto seems to really have a strong foothold on the higher-end tripod market, but are their products worth the cost?  Well today we're going to take a look at one of their most popular (and relatively one of their cheapest) video heads, the MVH500AH.

 

Single Sentence Summary

Though it won't be the last tripod head I'll ever buy, I'll probably still own it for life.

Why I Bought It

Well, despite how I invest in my lenses and bodies, when it comes to some accessories I prefer to save money and focus on simple function.  When it came to choosing a tripod head I had two simple requirements: 1. It needed to support larger cameras (like my D4s or my D810's with battery grips) with big lenses (like my Nikon's 200mm F/2), and 2. It needed to offer smooth movement for video panning and tilting.  This head fit both of those requirements while still being well within my price range.

What I Like

Photography and video, it nails it all.  I found that many of the still photography tripod heads were very limiting when it came to video application (which I do more and more lately).  The smooth panning and tilting enabled with their fluid drag and spring system is incredible.  It's scary good at ensuring that there is no jolt in video movements.  Honestly, it blows me away.

I love that it's simple and easy to adjust, not convoluted with features, just straight-up function.  It offers a solid, stable wide platform, with super convenient quick release plates that match my other Manfrotto heads.  This means I can leave the plate on the camera or lens and swap it onto another tripod without needing to interchange the base plates, talk about a time saver.

The head is rated to carry up to 11 pounds, which is well beyond anything I've ever needed it to do to date.  It's super solid, and the feel of its build reassures me that I don't have to worry about it bending or snapping off when I'm perching thousands of dollars in equipment on it.  And how about the Easy Link3/8” connector on the side?  Yeah, that thing opens up options to mount accessories such as a monitor or audio recorder beside your camera.  Super convenient.

Man, this thing is gorgeous.  I love what Manfrotto did with the styling on this one, particularly given that it's relatively entry-level based on their pricing.  The slide-lock design allows me to easily adjust the center of balance without worrying about it sliding out and falling.  It seems like a trivial thing, but when you're shooting in the dark it's good to have that extra measure of security.

What I Don't

There are only two things I could say about this:

  1. I regret not buying the MVH500A instead.  It's the exact same head, but with a quickly adjustable ball to level it in a snap. In my military photo work it's rare that I find myself on perfectly level ground, and it's much easier to level your horizon with the ball than to have to adjust the legs awkwardly in a rush.  Wedding videos are even worse for absolutely demanding level horizons, particularly for panning motions.  Have you ever watched a pan motion that isn't level?  It's absolutely jarring.
  2. Though 11 pounds is quite a bit of weight, you really need to be sure you balance the weight well if it's pushing towards the limit or else you're really going to have to crank on the locking dial to stop it from slowly lowering.  I've had a few times where the weight of a 200mm F/2 and an Atomos Ninja will really cause this bad boy to dip.  To that end if you're a serious cinematographer/videographer you may want to consider something a bit heavier-duty.

Bottom Line

I doubt I'll ever regret buying this head.  I'd recommend it to anyone who's in the market, and I've had a few friends buy them and never look back.

Score

9/10

I'm not sponsored, and I don't write this blog to push any products, but you should totally buy one.

 -Wes.