Manfrotto 345 Tabletop Tripod

Concept: 3 out of 5
Execution: 4 out of 5
Yeah, but: Save some money and buy the expensive one first.

The Long Version: I've bought several tabletop tripods over the years, and I still know where a couple of them are. The Manfrotto 345 is far more expensive than the others that I've bought, but it turns out that it's worth it. This is a very solid little tripod that holds small cameras and speedlights with complete reliability, and can be persuaded to hold bigger gear, as well. It has probably appeared in more of my reviews than anything except for white bristol board.

I see that there's also a Manfrotto 709B, which looks similar but isn't the same. The 709B is part of the lower-cost Modo line, and the ball head is different. The much-more-expensive 345 is built out of a 482 ball head, 209 legs, and 259B extension. It also includes a case, which might be a reason why the whole 345 'kit' is a greater cost than the sum of its parts.

The tripod can work with or without the extension in place, and is much easier to pack when it's in pieces. (Note that I've never actually used the case that comes with the kit.) It's solid and not particularly light, but when I took most of the contents of the photo above (an E-510 replaced the E-1) on a trip to Australia, there was no way the tripod was staying at home. It's part of my standard kit for product photography because it can handle a strobe with a little 6x8" softbox attached, and takes up less room than my gorillapod. What it gives up in flexibility, it makes up for in stability, although with the way the extension tube telescopes, it's actually pretty flexible as well. Naturally, since it's essentially a low-level tripod with a long centre column, increasing the height decreases the stability. Compounding that limitation, its leg length and angle can't be adjusted, so there's no way to level the tripod on an uneven surface. TANSTAAFL.

When it's low and positioned with a leg forward under the lens, the 345 can handle something as heavy as an Olympus 35-100/2.0, and for added entertainment I've added the 1.4 teleconverter and an E-1 with the battery grip. The total load is about six pounds, so when it's heavy but balanced it still holds securely. I wouldn't want to do this with the extension in place, or on a windy day, but that has as much to do with the small footprint of the legs as the strength of the Manfrotto 482 ball head. I'm not going to endorse it for all-around field use, or say that it can overcome physics - it's just a small tabletop tripod. But it is a very good one.

I have two complaints about the 345, aside from the fact that it's more expensive as a kit at B&H than it is as functional components. The first is that the telescoping extension isn't the easiest to use. I've added the rubber bands for a little extra grip, which makes turning the locking collar much easier. Some additional knurling would have solved that particular problem, and it's not like Manfrotto to miss something like that. It's also not uncommon for photographers to solve equipment shortcomings with rubber bands and tape, so I can let that one go. The other problem is that after six years, the little cork non-slip disks have fallen off of the tripod feet. That's a bit more of a stumper, but I'm sure that a little ingenuity will be able to solve that problem, too.

My two highest endorsements are these: when I'm using it, I forget what it costs; and if something tragic happened to it, I'd go out and buy another one. It's not sexy, but it's reliable and it works. That's enough for me.


  1. Both Mitchie (my wife) and me have the 709B, and that's also something I would replace instantly if one of them would break - what they don't do. It holds my E-520 or any of the Pens just nicely and goes anywhere I go - except that during winter, most of the times I also take my normal tripod along.

    For roundabout 35$ or so, I wouldn't recommend any other than the 709B.


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