Magnus Tripods Review

Magnus VT-4000

A decade or so ago, it was very difficult to find an affordable, professional-quality tripod for video use. Companies like Gitzo and Vinten made – and still make – excellent products, but they cost upwards of $1,000 for a set of legs with a fluid head. Bogen – now Manfrotto – was one of the first companies to offer decent, reasonably-priced tripods, and for years, I have recommended their products as the best option for microbudget production.

However, thanks to some truly value-priced new offerings from a company called Magnus, I’m saying “out with the old, and in with the new!”

Magnus manufactures three products that are designed for video (as opposed to photography) use. The VT-400, the VT-3000, and the VT-4000. Surprisingly, the price difference at each step of the ladder is only $10. That means the top-of-the-line VT-4000 costs only $20 more than the low-end VT-400. Since the VT-4000 sells for $150 – more than $40 less than the cheapest Manfrotto tripod with a (“mini”) fluid-head – this definitely begs a closer look.

Magnus VT-400

The $130 Magnus VT-400 boasts aluminum construction, but I have to say that it feels a lot like plastic. It weighs 5.95 lbs, but – oddly – is rated for the heaviest weight capacity (15 lbs) of the three Magnus tripods. I say “oddly,” because when I mounted my Panasonic AF-100 on the VT-400, it didn’t feel very stable. The fluid head tilts and pans smoothly, but it gave every indication of being designed for very light cameras only.

Magnus VT-400

Also, I wasn’t particularly pleased to see that the quick-release plate that attaches to the camera was made of plastic, rather than metal.

Magnus VT-400

The advantage of the VT-400 is that it has a telescoping center column to allow for a little more height. The downside of the telescoping center column, however, is that the only way to level this tripod is to adjust the length of the legs. In a run-and-gun situation, this can be a real hassle, and that same issue has been my biggest beef with the low-end Manfrotto pods for years.


Magnus VT-3000

The $140 Magnus VT-3000 is a whole lot more than $10 better than the VT-400. At 7.75 lbs, it immediately felt sturdier and more rugged than the VT-400. The fluid head is more robust, and uses a metal quick-release plate. It took me a minute to figure out how to remove the quick-release plate from the head though, as it has an odd, geared design that requires one to unlock it, then turn a knob while pushing another button to release it.

With my Panasonic AF-100 mounted on it, the VT-3000 felt stable and secure.

The only elements of this tripod that seemed flimsy to me were the flip-locks on the legs. They’re made of a fairly thin plastic, and I wonder how well they’d hold up to repeated locking and unlocking.

I was very pleased to see that, in contrast to the VT-400, both the VT-3000 and the VT-4000 have fluid heads that mount with a 65mm half-bowl configuration. This allows the head itself to be quickly leveled, without touching the legs. This is a feature normally found only on tripods costing several times the price of these products.

The VT-3000 seems to be designed by people who actually use tripods, as it had a few small touches that I appreciated. Not only is there a mid-level spreader to keep the legs from flopping around, but there’s a small metal clasp on the underside of the unit that locks the legs together for transportation.

It also comes with a lightweight carry bag, which is a nice gesture by the manufacturer. Even though this is clearly an economy-priced product, Magnus is making its customers feel as though they’re getting more than they expected. This is a great attitude for a company in any industry to have!

Magnus Tripod Bag


Magnus VT-4000

Magnus VT-4000

Priced at $150, the Magnus VT-4000 really made an impression on me. It has similar all-metal construction to the VT-3000, and tips the scales a fraction heavier at 7.9 lbs.

This fluid head is a little nicer, with adjustable tilt and drag, and a more convenient quick release plate

Magnus VT-4000 fluid head

The VT-4000 has much sturdier flip-locks than the VT-3000, and even includes a couple of allen keys to adjust them with.

Magnus VT-4000 with Panasonic AF-100

Like the VT-3000, the VT-4000 comes with a carry bag, has a 65mm half-bowl to facilitate leveling the head, and has a mid-level spreader and leg latch. On the VT-4000, the leg latch has a little ribbon to pull it off with, which – like the carrying case – comes across as a little “mint on the pillow” from the manufacturer.

The VT-4000 easily handled my Panasonic AF-100. I was able to smoothly start and stop movement in any direction, with none of the friction or jerky motion that I sometimes experience with my Manfrotto.

Magnus VT-4000 with Panasonic AF-100


Conclusion

Each of the Magnus tripods uses different quick release plates & attachment mechanisms. I don’t understand this decision, as it seems to me that it would be more economical (and user-friendly) to use the same plate for a range of heads, as Manfrotto does. As it stands now, the quick-release plate on the VT-4000 is substantially better than the other two.

Ultimately, the difference in price is so small – $20 – between the flimsy VT-400 and the full-featured VT-4000 – that it’s a no-brainer: get the better one! The VT-3000 is not a bad option, but the sturdier flip-locks and more convenient quick-release plate on the VT-4000 make it my choice.

To put this comparison in perspective, you could buy BOTH the VT-3000 and the VT-4000 for less than the price of the tripod I normally recommend, the Manfrotto 055x, which does not have the 65mm half-bowl (meaning that the legs have to be adjusted to level the pod).

Yes, there’s always a tradeoff: the Manfrotto is made of thicker metal and feels sturdier. However, if you don’t need the burliest set of legs on the block, or just want a lightweight tripod for occasional run-and-gun shoots, the Magnus VT-4000 makes a lot of sense for the video shooter on a budget.

11 Replies to “Magnus Tripods Review”

  1. Why don’t you review the vt 300? I am looking into buying a tripod and found your review but you don’t talk about the 300 at all.

    1. To be perfectly honest with you, I’d be very wary of any video tripod under $100. I’ve bought a couple of cheap tripods over the years, and they’ve always been very flimsy. Not having seen the VT-300 in person, I can’t say for sure, of course … It might be terrific.

  2. How would the VT4000 hold up for still photography? I’m looking for a tripod that is sturdy and stable enough for stills but also has the panning option for a few short film ideas that I have. Will the VT4000 handle my needs or should I buy a video tripod and a photography tripod separately? Thanks

    1. The biggest problem with using a video tripod for stills is that it won’t flip up to allow vertical shots. That’s a pretty big drawback, so you would probably need to get a separate photo tripod.

    1. Sounds like it’s leaking the “fluid” part of the “fluid head.” I’d definitely call the manufacturer.

    2. Did you reach out to the manufacturer. How did the handle your request?
      I’m currently re-searching these guys.

  3. I use the VT-3000 with my junior high film making class. I’ve had trouble with the barrel nut/screw combo that holds the spreader bar in place. The nuts loosen and, because they’re junior high kids, get lost, rendering the tripod useless. Do you have any suggestions?

  4. Thanks so much for your review. It was a tremendous help in deciding to get the Magnus VT-4000. I have Vinten which I paid many K for years ago. But who wants to lug that thing around to use a camera weighing under 3 lbs. Would sort of defeat the purpose of a light weight camera.

  5. What about the vt-350? It has a 83″ maximum height and supports up to 15lbs? For a cheaper price it seems like a great video tripod

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