One of the features I like is the built in spirit level. Whilst it has obvious benefits for photography, I also find it quite useful when birdwatching. If I am sea watching or at somewhere like a large reservoir, I like to level up the tripod so that I can pan the 'scope round in a wide arc without having to constantly readjust the tilt. Having a spirit level built into the base of the tripod head is therefore, very handy.
|Scale for the sliding quick release plate.|
|Tightening mechanism: top - the screw removed, bottom - the plate and screw.|
This can get quite annoying since, I have it set up as best I can for whatever gear I am using, but as soon as you carry it about for a bit, the plate slides to one end or the other and isn't in the right place for the next time you stop.
It has been a fairly robust piece of kit and is still in good, functioning condition after 12 years, if with a bit of chipped paint here and there. Spares are available from the Manfrotto spares web site and I have had to avail myself on a couple of occasions. I managed to lose the long handle on my way back from one trip abroad (it was disassembled for carriage) and I managed to break the head off the pan tightening screw on another occasion. In both cases I got the necessary parts with no problem, but they are rather pricey!
All in all, it has been a very good tripod head and I continue to use it. The one thing I would change is the sliding quick release mount. It needs the locking mechanism modifying so that it locks in place positively and, ideally, needs a bit more travel.