GEAR REVIEW - MANFROTTO 405 PRO GEAR HEAD
When fast, frequent, precision framing of your image is a prerequisite of your photography, the Manfrotto 405 Pro may just be the tripod head for you.
For many years I had used the basic 3-way tilt 804RC2 in studio without issue for portraiture but, as product and macro photography became a more prevalent feature of my work, I increasingly noticed the frustrations of attempting to fine tune the positioning. To overcome this issue, I elected to invest in the Manfrotto 405 Pro and have been thoroughly pleased with the decision ever since.
The first thing that strikes you about the 405, is the size and build quality, which is quite superb. It stands 16cm tall, constructed with solid aluminum throughout and rubberized grips on the control dials. The whole ensemble weighs in at 1.6Kg. Everything about it states that this is a heavy-duty, robust tripod head. It utilizes the 410PL quick release plate, which is considerably larger and sturdier than the 200PL used with the 804RC2. This is primarily because the 405 Pro is designed for use with medium format cameras and large DSLRs - hence its safe load bearing capacity of 7.5Kg! While it would be fantastic for use out in the field for macro work of flowers and non-skittish insects, the combined weight of the head and tripod is quite considerable compared to others. For the benefits it brings though, I would say it's a small price to pay.
Secondly is the speed at which you can make adjustments to the frontal and lateral tilts, to precisely frame your subject. It is very quick indeed! This is down to the clever feature of being able to instantly disengage the gears and approximately position the camera. You do this by rotating the larger section of the knob whichever way the arrows are pointing. Then using the smaller section, you can fine tune the camera to pinpoint the exact alignment in a matter of moments. The 405 Pro has a 360° pan, as well as +90°/-30° frontal and lateral tilt adjustments, making it very versatile. Another feature that you do not commonly see on the majority of tripod heads is 3 spirit levels. This enables you to square the 405 Pro in all 3 axis.
The 410PL quick-release plate comes with both 1/4" and 3/8" screws, so there should be no compatibility issues with your camera mount. Unlike the 200PL which can be screwed in by hand using the swivel latch underneath, the 410PL will require either a screwdriver or a coin to tighten - preferrably a 20p coin or one that has similar flat side. Not a huge issue but, if you don't have either to hand when you need one out in the field, it could be problematic.
As far as stability goes, the 410PL is excellent. Simply slide the plate into position by aligning the two teeth with the corresponding ones on the 405 Pro and push down. Once you hear a click, the leaver has moved from the open to closed position and everything is locked down securely, with no play. One of the best features of the 410PL/405 Pro combination is the dual safety mechanism when removing the plate. This prevents accidental release and dropping your extremely expensive camera gear. To remove the plate, you have to slide the lever from it's locked position on the left, to the right. At this point the plate becomes loose but still non-detachable. To complete the procedure the silver button on the lever must be held in and the lever moved all the way to the right. Then simply tilt and pull away.
I tried but, I genuinely cannot find any negatives to comment on with this head. It is so fast to position for shots where framing isn't so critical and gives you the option to fine tune when you need it. The construction is absolutely first rate and the ergonomics are brilliant. If you're into macro or product photography where you require fast, precise framing of your subject matter, I highly recommend the Manfrotto 405 Pro Geared Tripod Head.