REVIEW : The Manfrotto 420B MIGHT be the only light stand you need

At some point, all serious and emerging photographers realize the need for a light stand.  So we head into our local camera store or go online in search of the one solution to myriad problems.  After all, we don't have tons of space to store kit, and we've all been down the road of buying something that looked perfect and actually, wasn't.

Manfrotto 420B Kit including stand, boom and sandbag

Manfrotto 420B Kit including stand, boom and sandbag

Maybe you get lucky at the store and you meet someone with real world experience, or who has some training in stands.  Maybe you find some online review by someone who reads as credible.  If so, awesome.  My own experience says that either of these is relatively low probability.  Camera store salespeople are often very nice but are not photographers.  They are sales professionals motivated by margin and spiff.  Online stores are even more challenging because they are often motivated by the reality that low price wins the deal more often than not and you might not know what you are actually getting.

Manfrotto has being doing this kind of thing for a very long time.  While the original Manfrotto company is long gone, now part of a much larger consortium, Manfrotto's reputation has endured.  There are LOTS of offshore clones of the 420B, but I have yet to find any that match up in terms of quality.  A good light stand will last decades not just a couple of years.  You don't want to be continually replacing and you also don't want to lose an expensive piece of gear because you went low ball on the stand.

In our real world, a vertical only stand is ok, but will not serve all needs effectively.  In a stand, you want something that can be vertical only, but also have a boom capability that you can swing out above your subject, for example to hold your speedlite and beauty dish setup.  Gravity always works and all light stands need some kind of stabilization model.  These can be physical weights that clamp to the stand or a simple cloth bag that you fill with sand, or cat litter, or gravel, widely known as a sandbag.  The Manfrotto 420B Kit brings you all of these things in a single package.

It is a very stable stand platform that in pure vertical orientation can extend 154 inches (over 12 feet high) and carry up to 2kg (4.4 lbs) of payload.  In the boom orientation the vertical height is just under 6 feet, and the boom can extend over 6 feet out.  The boom is drilled to except a sandbag clamp as an offsetting weight to compensate for whatever you have connected to the working end.

Unlike many boom arrangements, the angle of the boom is limited to some extent but the boom locking mechanism is robust and you do not need forearms like Schwarzenegger to lock it down. I've never had this boom slip in its angle holder, unlike every single offshore one I have seen.

The tubes are aluminum and not the frail thin-walled junk found on so many third party stands.  The Manfrotto 420B kit lists for $299 which may sound expensive when compared to offshore units costing ⅓ the price.  Just be aware that they are typically 1/5 the quality.  The stand kit, without filled sandbag weighs about 6.5 pounds, sturdy without being exhausting to tote around.

A good light stand is an investment that should last a very long time.  Save your money long term by buying right today and for your first, or next, light stand, get yourself a Manfrotto 420B kit.