Manfrotto 055CXPRO3, £250
Weighing in at 1.65kg, the carbon fibre 055CXPRO3 is a mere 50g heavier than the Manfrotto MT294C3, yet has a greater maximum load capacity of 8kg instead of 5kg. Its carrying length is 4cm longer but it also reaches a loftier maximum operating height of 175cm, compared with the 294's 61cm and 169cm respectively. The 055 has a sturdier feel to it, with slightly wider diameters to its three-section legs. It's also much better endowed in the clever tricks department.
There are four separate leg angles on offer, via a spring-loaded clip. It's not quite as fancy as the lever on the new 190 series tripod, but is still very quick and simple to use. The pivoting centre column system is also an older generation design but, again, is very speedy and easy in operation. It lacks the automatically retracting section of the 190 but the payoff is extra centimetres at maximum operating height. There's a useful bubble level on the centre column platform, which also features three grub screws for firm attachment of a head.
Rigidity is excellent, even when the legs and centre column are all fully extended. The locking clips for each leg section are slightly further apart than in the other Manfrotto tripods, but it's still possible to release and close them simultaneously with one hand.