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I've taken a look at quite a few tripods and accessories recently, including several carbon fibre models such as the fantastic Gitzo Traveller 2, the highly desirable Manfrotto 190CXPRO4, and last year's group test of a selection of leading models. They were all good quality products, but they all have one thing in common; they are very expensive, with even the cheaper examples costing over £200, and the Gitzo Traveller 2 priced at a wallet-pounding £600. There's clearly room in the market for a good quality carbon fibre tripod at a more affordable price, and so leading manufacturer Manfrotto has launched the 732CY, part of its M-Y series, and aimed at amateur photographers using super-zoom or advanced compact cameras.
The 732CY is one of a new generation of tripods made from carbon-basalt fibre. Basalt is a common volcanic rock that has many applications in industry, where its high strength, abrasion resistance and heat resistance are useful properties. The technology to extrude and use basalt into fibres is relatively new, and basalt-fibre reinforcement is being seen as an alternative to pure carbon fibre, providing the same high strength and low weight, but at a considerably lower cost.
As a result the 732CY has all of the rigidity and strength of previous expensive carbon fibre tripods such as the 190CXPRO4, but is priced at around £170 from several leading retailers. It also shares Manfrotto's well-known build quality and attention to design detail, resulting in a reliable, easy-to-use low-mass tripod at a price which is well within the reach of most hobby photographers. Combined with the versatile 494 mini ball head (around £40) it makes a compact and lightweight package ideal for smaller DSLRs, super-zoom cameras or large compacts.