pros/cons of lever lock vs twist lock on tripod legs

Discussion in 'Accessories' started by Colin O, Mar 4, 2018.

  1. I want to buy a Manfrotto BeFree Advanced tripod. It comes in two configurations - with lever locks or with twist locks on the legs. My previous Manfrotto had lever locks, which I was perfectly happy with. What are the pros and cons of the two locking systems? Is one particularly suited to some use case, and the other more suited to a different use case? Or does it just come down to personal preference? (I've noticed that the version with the lever locks is just slightly heavier.)

    Befree Advanced Aluminum Travel Tripod twist, ball head
    Befree Advanced Aluminum Travel Tripod lever, ball head
  2. I think it's a matter of personal preference. I like the lever locks on my old Manfrotto 3021 because the setup/takedown is faster than with twist locks. The only downside is that the set screws that adjust lever tightness tend to loosen up over time. And always in the field. Without my hex screwdriver. Damn!
  3. AJG


    +1 on lever locks, although both work if made well. Manfrotto usually provides a plastic wrench that clamps on a tripod leg for tightening leg locks when necessary, a rare occurrence for me in 30+ years of experience with 4 different Manfrotto tripods.
  4. I have tripods with lever locks, with twists, and with wing/knob nuts. My preference is definitely for levers! The others are secure, but take much too long for me. One exception is a tiny travel tripod where the twists take about a quarter turn, but I suspect that's the exception not the rule.
  5. It's personal preference. I have a weird tendonitis in my hands that sometimes gets better, sometimes worse. It's happened that I've tightened twist locks when my hands were well and then found it very painful to loosen them later. These days, I go for flip-lock on tripods and monopods.
  6. Twist locks are difficult to use if the leg rotates. The trick is to hold the upper tube when you tighten or loosen the joint. Start from the top down, and close from the bottom up. Legs in newer models (e.g., Gitzo) do not rotate, so the legs are easy to use in any order. The knobs do not require adjustment, and clamp the entire circumference of the leg with a tapered bushing. Newer Gitzo tripods with "G-Loc" technology have bushing that jams in place, and holds even if the collar is somewhat loose, especially if under tension. The collar engages the bushing, and pulls it out of the way when loosened further. Cheap tripods with collars tend to hold poorly unless firmly tightened, at which point they can be very difficult to loosen without tools.

    Lever locks have no problem with tube rotation, but are noisy and need periodic adjustment. The levers also tend to snag on clothing and branches. The tubing must be slit for the clamps to work, and has thinner walls than Gitzo or its clones. Because of the extra hardware and heavy castings, lever lock tripods tend to be heavier than those with collar locks.

    Lever locks may be more resistant to sand, mud and water. With collar locks, you should always extend the bottom section, to keep the joint out of the dirt, and wipe the legs down before closing if they get dirty. They're easy to disassemble, but to clean sand out of the threads you must remove all of the grease, clean, and relubricate them. I haven't had to do that in a long while, using due diligence, but I now have an ultrasonic cleaner that would make short work of it.

    Freedom from vibration is related to leg and joint stiffness. Carbon fiber is much better in that sense, and dampens vibration quickly, as is larger diameter tubing. You can test vibration by attaching a camera with a long lens (200 mm or more) and tapping a leg partway down. Choose a tripod based on your longest lens, which has nearly nothing to do with weight capacity. Capacity of a tripod is mainly a function of the leg joints, and Gitzo tripods rate very high in that regard. The do this at about half the weight of a comparable Manfrotto tripod.

    I bought my first Gitzo tripod, used, around the turn of the century, and have used them exclusively ever since. Since then I have purchased several others, for both stills and video.
  7. Lever advantages:
    • Slightly faster in use
    • You 'll be able to see what you didn't do: i.e. you can check visually if you locked each & every segment.
    • Breaking mechanisms can be nasty (in other brands at least).
    • A tad bulkier and more likely to pull your spare undies out of a cramped backpack?
    yardkat and Mary Doo like this.
  8. My hand's never been pinched by a twist lock. :oops:
  9. All of my tripods have twist locks and they work well and I have never had a problem with them. I think that most problems with twist locks is that people tend to overtighten them. Once they are overtightened they can be a real pita to loosen. I have seen some that were so tight it was almost like they were welded. I keep mine lubricated with a small amount of grease and be sure that I never crank them down too much.
    Mary Doo likes this.
  10. My hand's never been pinched by a twist lock.

    Well, yeah, there is that...:(
  11. Pros and cons well cited above. Twist locks may be less prone to breakage in rougher situations out in nature. - For example, when the tripod hits a rock at the joints.
  12. If you are considering a tripod with twist locks, there is a simple test you should perform. Tighten the collar. If it takes more force to loosen than you used to tighten it, run, don't walk, away from the deal. The same if the leg doesn't slide freely after you loosen the collar. Either way, it is likely to jam when you least expect it.
  13. Levers or T nuts work better in the cold or wet, than a twist collar, at least for me.
    The lever or T, gives me something easier to grab and hold onto.
  14. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Actually, the quickest tripod I've ever used is the old Welt Safe Lock - single lever per leg, one hand deploy & lock on any surface, with camera and lens mounted. A bit of a compromise, but not at all bad and still going strong after nearly fifty years.
  15. I don't need to be fast with a tripod, but it shouldn't be too fussy either. Leveling a tripod one leg at a time is tedious and not particularly effective. I use a leveling platform under the head, with a 7 to 15 degree swing. It's easy to level a tripod within those limits. Leveling is important for panoramas and essential for video, so the axis of panning is vertical.

    If the weather is not extremely cold (< 10 F), I wear a pair of tactical gloves. Their thin enough to pick up a dime on the sidewalk, sticky enough to turn a tight bottle cap, and keep my hands from stinging when shooting (or taking pictures). My tripod collars aren't hard to turn at much lower temperature than that. If you get grease or oil on the legs or collet, they can get hard to collapse. Gitzo legs fit tightly enough that grease will make them hard to use even in warm weather. Fortunately you can lubricate the collars without ever getting it on the legs.
  16. Lever locks wear out or need occasional adjustment/repair.... but, they're generally a lot more convenient.

    I think all the other pros/cons have been covered above.

    Time to make a personal choice, or maybe just toss a coin.
  17. At least on the big old Manfrottos I have, the lever locks are easy to adjust with a little hex wrench. I have a little portable tripod with twist locks, and that works all right, but I find that it sometimes unlocks in carrying, and sometimes doesn't completely tighten in use, so that sometimes I'll have a leg suddenly popping out, or a tripod suddenly going limp.

    Lever locks have the advantage that you can always know when they're locked or unlocked, and they're always completely one or the other. It's also very easy to adjust a leg after the tripod is up.

    Twist locks have a great advantage in portability since nothing sticks out. On the little Sirui tripod it's also possible to unlock four collars at a time, and to relock them together, so it makes the rig pretty quick to operate.

    Thumbscrew locks are slow and a little clumsy, but rugged and never need adjusting, and if you lose a part you can probably fake it.
  18. Lever locks aren't all adjustable; when they loosen up over time, cheap ones often don't have the capacity to be tightened, and they stay loose. Those that are only somewhat cheap (like this one) MAY have a mediocre-quality collar or metal internals that weaken with successive tightenings, which means you can only tighten it X times until the thing seizes up. I say may because some will do this, others won't. If it can be tightened, you're almost always guaranteed several years of all but the heaviest use without a problem though.

    By contrast, only the cheapest of twist locks will wear out in less than several years, even under heavy use. You may have to twist them more to lock, but they will still lock. Twist locks are also smaller, and less likely to catch - important when backpacking.

    My travel tripod has twist locks. My studio tripod has levers.
  19. Vincent Peri

    Vincent Peri Metairie, LA

    I "bought" a Gitzo tripod once, and the first time I used it (in the camera store), a leg seized up and wouldn't unloosen. Go figure :eek:

    I returned it and bought a Leitz Tiltall , not the greatest tripod, but it worked as it should.
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2018
  20. My experience too.

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