I am always on the look out for equipment that can enhance how I perform surveillance photography in the field so when I came across a 2nd hand Manfrotto 322 rc2 in my local camera shop I was keen to purchase an item that I had been after for sometime. The model I purchased is not the latest version but I am more than happy to purchase much loved, previously owned quality equipment at the right price!
What is it?
The Manfrotto322 rc2 is a ball head tripod mount that I refer to as a joystick grip mount. What I initially liked about the 322 is the ability to move the DSLR in all directions with only one action meaning that it should be possible to make quick, accurate alterations to ensure that you can get the money shot.
Attaching this mount to your tripod is easy, simply remove the little grub screws that are fastened in to your existing head and work the incumbent head off. This may (as it did for me) take a little working as I had not removed my head for several years but it will come off. Placing the new head on is simply a reverse process. Once on it feels locked in place and secure then simply place your DSLR on top but as ever make sure that all is locked down before you hear an expensive clunk once your back is turned!
The 322 is neat and tidy for sure and could work in a variety of situations and environments. I used my Nikon D7000 with a Sigma 70-200 for the test and it felt well supported throughout. The resistance of the head can be altered by turning the small screw on the handle of the 322. I did move the screw from one extreme to the other, there is a difference in resistance but it is not massive. The mount has a levelling bubble that does prove useful uncertain circumstances but can at times become obscured when you are using the camera in a covert environment as we tend to do when conducting surveillance photography. That said, I truly believe that you know if your camera/image is straight when you look through the viewfinder and line up your image. In addition to this, given what we as surveillance photographers do, having the image absolutely straight may well not be the most important factor. It is there, it can be used but its not mission critical.
So them just how did this piece of equipment perform over a period of time? I’d have to say ‘ok’, ‘not bad’ but could do better. My 2 main reasons for this summary are that I could move the DSLR in all directions with one action and in this respect it achieved its mission. The other was its compactness and again it achieved its raison d’être. However, I have not been totally satisfied with my purchase, not disappointed but not wholly pleased. My main area for concern is the ability for micro adjustments. It may be that because my 322 is second hand that the movement is not as precise as it could be but i’m not so sure about that having tested the latest version (in a shop with camera mounted) since. The friction just seems a little too firm to allow precision movement. This is a minor but important point and did disappoint me somewhat.
This bit of kit will remain in my kit bag for sure but it is unlikely to be my main head for use in surveillance photography. In most cases that will fall to another Manfrotto, the 393 as reviewed here for Lateo Surveillance. That said, the 393 will not be suitable for all environments and the 322 is nothing if not flexible. Equally suited to a camcorder as it is a DSLR it could also be used to good effect inside a vehicle where space is at a premium.
This bit of kit is good but maybe not good enough, 6.5 perhaps shading 7 out of 10 but great value for money second hand!