OK, I saw this post on one of the photography boards I frequent, after the response we've gotten to the calendar I decided we got plenty of budding photogs here and some of you might benefit from this as well.
I hear nothing but good info on these Manfrotto knockoffs. People that have won the bids are getting them for about $40 plus S&H. It sounds like they are very stout. I must warn you that people are mentioning the weight of these tripods. But if you can pick up a good sturdy tripod for under $100 then it might be worth it for you.
A Manfrotto 3221 and pistol grip is about 6X the average winning bid.
I took a look at the auctions and decided to bid on one. I won the auction for $26.50 + Shipping and handling. I did a search for reviews of these tripods and everyone that's gotten one seems very pleased with them. For the amount they charge for shipping, you'd think they would be quicker (they are up front that unless you want to pay an additional 15 bucks for "rush" shipping...it won't ship for 5-7 days) about getting it out to you, but if I can get a good sturdy tripod that comes close to the quality of a manfrotto 3221 with a pistol grip ball head for $50.50...I can wait an extra week for shipping.
I received the tripod 12 days later and did a little initial review of it, here is that review.
Tallest: 79 inches (6.583 ft)
Lowest: 15.8 inches
When folded: 33.5 inches
Weight 7.65 lbs
max load 13.2 lbs
Head: grip action ball head
All thumbnails are clickable
I am very pleased with this tripod, it is very sturdy, easy to use, easy to set up and with a reversible center post you can shoot from ground level all the way up to 6 1/2 ft. This is the first tripod I've ever been able to use fully extended without having to stoop.
This tripod utilizes a grip action ball head (pistol grip) which makes minute adjustments a breeze. Just squeeze the handle and adjust away, let it go and it stays put. There are three bubble levels on the head, one on either side of the pistol grip and one on the base of the head.
The head has a quick release and the tripod comes with one plate (I would have preferred two), one thing I like about this quick release is there is a safety built in, switch the lever and it raises a pin to lock the locking mechanism in place. (sorry about the blur, wrong focus point)
Adjusting the height of the center column is (like all tripods) a simple twist of a knob (lever in this case). The legs open to three positions, the locking mechanism is easy to use, just takes a press of the thumb.
The legs extend via two quick release levers making setting up the tripod very easy.
As mentioned before the center column is reversible to allow you to get very low. These next photos alos show the legs in the mid-spread position as well as the widest spread.
As mentioned I'm very pleased with this tripod, it's rock solid with an all metal construction, it's sturdy and simple to use. It's a little heavy, but for 55 bucks...I couldn't be happier.