The Manfrotto 190 tripods are probably one of the most popular series of tripods that have ever been made, and although they’ve been around for a long time they’re continually being upgraded and improved. I can’t say when they were first introduced, but I owned one at least 15 to 20 years ago; it was my hiking and travel tripod for many years and served me very well during that time. The reason for the 190 tripods’ success is that they’re rugged, well-built, sturdy tripods that are relatively affordable — a winning combination.
The 190XPROL is the newest member of the Manfrotto 190 series and is the tallest. It’s an aluminum tripod with three leg sections, with diameters of 25 mm, 20 mm and 16 mm, and rubber feet. With no camera head and the legs fully extended the 190XPROL stands 150 cm (55.1”) tall and with the centre column fully extended its maximum height is 164 cm (64.5”), which is 18 to 21 cm (7.1”–8.3”) taller than the other 190 models. This additional height makes the 190XPROL more convenient for taller photographers so that they don’t have to bend over as much to see through their cameras. The extra height is also beneficial for shorter photographers when they’re set up on hillsides as the legs can reach further down the slope. In order to get the extra height Manfrotto had two choices — either make the leg sections longer and keep it to three sections or add a fourth leg section. As already mentioned, they did the former and kept it to three sections, which means it isn’t as compact as the other models or what it would’ve been if they’d added a fourth section, but it’s lighter and more stable than if there were four sections.
Manfrotto 496RC2 ballhead (top), 804RC2 three-way pan head (bottom)
The leg locks are an aluminum flip or lever type with adjustable tension. You can use the included plastic key (clips onto one of the legs) to adjust the leg lock tension to your own preference and to adjust for wear and loosening over time. During my field use with the tripod, I found that they locked securely and I liked that they have a flat profile and didn’t snag that much on vegetation. Two of the three legs have a dense foam padding covering the upper half of the leg section, which makes carrying and handling the tripod a lot easier and more comfortable. This is especially important in very hot and cold temperatures as the aluminum legs are going to conduct the heat and cold more rapidly than a carbon fiber tripod would. I wish that all three legs had the foam; it would make handling the tripod even better.
Although the Manfrotto 190XPROL is the tallest tripod in the 190 series, it still has all the versatility of the other models in regards to leg positioning and getting low to the ground. Each leg can be independently adjusted with four leg-angle settings (25°, 46°, 66° and 88°), which means that the tripod gets very low, almost ground level. However, in order to use the two lowest leg-angle settings (66° and 88°) with all three legs you must raise up the long 34 cm (13.5”) one-piece centre column or swing it into the horizontal position (more on this later).
The centre column is a rapid sliding (non-geared) type, with a locking knob to secure it in place. I found that the centre column slid smoothly and locked firmly in place, with no slipping when tightened properly. The 190XPROL, like the other 190 models, has the Manfrotto-patented Q90 system, which allows the centre column to be positioned vertically (normal position) or swung 90° so that it becomes a horizontal arm. Switching from the vertical to horizontal position is quick and easy. Whether you like this feature or not is a matter of personal preference; some photographers I know really love it. It does allow the photographer to position the camera in more ways than what’s possible with a tripod that only has a vertical (or no centre) column, but once the centre column is in the horizontal position, the camera’s centre of gravity is no longer directly over the centre of the tripod and, as a result, isn’t as stable. The further the centre column is extended horizontally, the more the camera’s centre of gravity is shifted, making it even less stable and more prone to vibration.
The Manfrotto 190XPROL has a load capacity of about 5 kg (11 lb) and weighs 1.9 kg (4.2 lb), making it a great tripod for any photographer that wants a very stable, versatile and durable tripod that’s relatively lightweight and compact, and is also reasonably priced. The Manfrotto 190XPROL tripod, legs only for photographers who want to put their own tripod head on it, has a suggested retail price of $229.95. If you don’t have your own tripod head, it’s also available with the 804RC2 three-way pan head ($319.95) or the 496RC2 ballhead ($339.95).