The 494 Mini Ball Head is another recent addition to the Manfrotto range. It is a simple but effective design, sharing some features with the larger and much more expensive 468MG. It has a quick-action locking lever on one side, and a separate adjustable friction control on the other side. The ball can be tilted up to 90 degrees in two directions, and of course the whole head can be freely rotated.
The body shell, ball and other components are made from aluminium, which isn't as strong as the magnesium alloy of the more expensive professional heads, but the castings are strong and chunky and the shape provides plenty of protection for the surface of the ball. It moves smoothly, and the adjustable friction control is fine enough to allow smooth panning while still supporting the weight of the camera, useful for tracking moving subjects.
The camera mounting plate is a simple disk with a standard tripod bush thread and a thick textured rubber surface providing a secure grip onto the camera, and is attached by loosening the lock and rotating the plate. The 494 is also available with Manfrotto's popular RC2 quick-release camera mounting plate.
For a combined price of around £210 the 732CY and 494 ball head make a very affordable package, a lightweight, compact and very slim tripod that nonetheless provides a very strong and rigid platform capable of supporting most modern digital cameras. It lacks some of the versatility of more expensive models, but it has the same outstanding build quality and should provide years of trouble-free service. It is ideal for travel or just for days out with your camera.
The Manfrotto 732CY is a well designed and very well made tripod, using the latest composite material to offer a great combination of strength and rigidity with low weight and compact folded size. Combined with the 494 ball head it is possibly the best entry-level CF tripod on the market.