The Manfrotto Snap Tilthead and Nanopole Stand are a couple of pieces of great looking new gear that appear to have really slipped in under the radar, as they have actually been available for a few months already with very little mention.
The Snap Tilthead is new compact umbrella swivel / speedlite mount. And the Nanopole Stand is an upgrade of the original compact Nano Stand, now adding an adjustable leveling leg, and a removable column, doubling as a hand held boom pole.
A quick background on umbrella swivels – Up until now there have not really been many serious attempts at engineering a good compact swivel option, partly because its harder than it sounds to actually do well.
Over the years many people often end up turning to the more heavy duty Manfrotto 026 Lite Tite, or variations like the Phottix Varos BG. Because these swivels (like most serious grip gear) are simply bulletproof, and provide a huge amount of versatility with the universal 5/8″ stud mounting system used at both ends.
The trade off though is added weight and bulk, which can be overkill for simply mounting a lightweight speedlite and umbrella, for a super compact carry around kit.
The main relatively solid compact alternatives have been then the E-Type Swivels. And these were making good progress and improvements at one stage. Though even they have gone though a bit of a de-evolution, with even many name brands all just selling the same cheapest variations now.
Many are still ok, but not nearly as good as they could be, or even once were (which is often the same issue with clamping coldshoes now).
Enter the Manfrotto Snap Tilthead –
Manfrotto appear to have incorporated a number of clever functions into the new Snap Tilthead. In order to keep it nice and compact, as well as very functional and user friendly.
Clamping Coldshoe –
Firstly a unique new clamping cold shoe mount is built directly into the top of the swivel.
Instead of twiddling a very small thumbscrew (with the tips of your fingers), a large easy to grip locking ring is now used to clamp the flash foot securely in place.
And this is universal to clamp most any flash with a standard foot.
Swivel Joint and Counterbalance –
And then there is the swivel joint itself. Its surprisingly difficult to engineer a swivel joint that will hold in place tightly, without having to apply a huge amount of pressure on the locking lever or handle. Or in this case a relatively compact thumbscrew.
So without having one of these yet to dismantle I’m really not too sure how Manfrotto have managed this. Though its pretty clear there is not a lot of strength needed lock the swivel securely in place on the new Snap Tilthead.
Another very unique feature of the swivel joint though, is what Manfrotto are describing as a counterbalance. This is actually a clever spring mechanism which dampens the fall of the flash if the swivel joint is left loose. So if left to fall, the flash will simply bounce back on the swivel joint.
You can see this counterbalance feature in action (around minute 1:50) in this short video review I came across by Rob Richards of Ferj Photography.
Stand Lever Clamp –
One catch (pardon the pun) with the Manfrotto Snap Tilthead may be the new locking lever used to attach the Tilthead to a light stand stud. That is if you intend to use the Tilthead on stands other than Manfrotto’s own Nano, or new Nanopole Stands.
The locking lever uses a cam mechanism (similar to a tripod leg clamp) to tighten onto the recessed section in the middle of the 5/8″ stud at the top of the light stand.
Manfrotto appear to make this recessed section a slightly smaller diameter on their stands than most other brands though. Which means when using other stands, the locking lever may not actually clamp over far enough to hold itself in place without coming loose again .
If you’re a little bit handy though, I would be surprised if just filing a small flat section on your light stand stud recess, would not then allow the Tilthead to lock in place very well.
The Snap Tilthead does also engage a safety locking mechanism as its placed onto the light stand stud. So the swivel can not fall off the stand, the lever lock just stops it from moving or rotating on the stand.
The Manfrotto Snap Tiltheads currently retail for just under $40. Which is obviously not cheap, and even slighlty more than the heavy duty 026 Lite Tite (without a coldshoe).
Though if you’re looking for something a bit more refined and convenient than the compact Chinese swivels available, the Lite Tite at least, are made to last a lifetime, so its likely the Snap Tilthead will still be money well spent as well.
One piece of gear there are plenty of good options available for now though, are similar alternatives to the original Manfrotto 190cm reverse leg Nano Stands.
So its no surprise Manfrotto would want to raise the bar here as well, with the new Nanopole Stand now incorporating a couple of very useful new features.
Leveling Leg –
Firstly the new Nanopole stands now has an adjustable leveling leg.
A leveling leg helps to keep the stand as upright as possible on uneven surfaces. This helps to keep the weight centered over the stand so that it won’t overbalance too easily.
And with really lightweight stands like the the Nanos this should be even more of an advantage, particularity if using the stand outdoors often.
Detachable Boom Pole –
The other significant feature of the new Nanopole stand is that the centre column now quickly detaches to become a separate hand held boom pole.
And there is also a hook added to the upper leg clamp, to hang a sand bag or weight like a battery back etc from.
You then have a very lightweight boom pole set up, still with great reach though if needed.
And there is also a kit with Nanopole Stand, Snap Tilthead, and a carry bag. A compact double fold umbrella would likely fit in nicely as well.
Though I’m not sure where this combined is kit is available as yet.
And just a small tip for anyone looking for something more stable than the original manfrotto Nano Stands.
They both have their place, and the Nano are still more suitable if traveling as light as possible. Its just that many people are not aware the sturdier MERF stands are also available.
Price and Availability –
The Manfrotto Snap Tilthead, and Nanopole stand are available now for around $39 and $79 respectively –
Manfrotto – Website.