Manfrotto 294 MT294C3, £200
With an asking price of just £20 more than the new Manfrotto MT190XPRO3, this 290-series tripod has a carbon fibre construction and is 400g lighter in weight, at 1.6kg. The maximum load rating is also reduced from 7kg to 5kg. The 294 retains the same three sections per leg but, while it's only 2cm longer when folded, it's 9cm higher when fully extended, at a more respectable 169cm.
The small increase in price, compared with the new 190 series tripod on test, makes sense when you get into the details. Whereas the 190 is fairly feature-packed, the 294 is more of a bare-bones affair. There's no pivot facility for the centre column although, as usual, you can remove and refit the centre column upside down for extremely low-level shooting. And where the 190 has the availability of four different leg angles, the 294 only has two. At least the mechanism for switching between angles is incredibly straightforward. Another notable difference is that whereas the 190 has chunky rubber comfort pads on two of its legs, the 294 has none at all. It's easy to feel you're missing out on little extras but, then again, their absence helps to keep carrying weight to a minimum.
The 294 is a remarkably quick and easy tripod to use, but that's mostly down to the basic nature of its design. It's very lightweight to carry, yet offers very good rigidity. Overall, performance is very good but it's not particularly great value for money, given the lack of advanced features.