Manfrotto 190 MT190XPRO3, £180
Manfrotto's popular 190 series tripods have had a major revamp. It's claimed that the new 'Quick Power Lock' clip fasteners on each leg section are easier to use, with closer positioning for one-handed, simultaneous operation of pairs of locks. Even so, the locks aren't any closer together than in the Manfrotto 290 series.
Up at the top end, the pivot mechanism for the centre column has been redesigned. The new version fully retracts into the tripod shoulder when used in regular upright mode, shrinking the carrying length by 7cm. However, the maximum operating height is also diminished, the tripod stretching from 59cm when folded to a modest 160cm at full extension. Multi-angle leg locks give quick access to four separate positions. The top surface of the mounting platform is styled with Italian flare, although you never see it once a head is attached. The platform also features a bubble level.
Everything on the new Manfrotto operates smoothly and efficiently. The leg sections free fall under gravity when the locks are released but lock very firmly, aiding the impressive overall rigidity. It's very easy to flip the centre column into pivot mode but, unlike most competing systems, you can only use the centre column in fully upright or horizontal modes. It therefore lacks 180-degree rotation.