The Manfrotto 244Micro is a very compact and lightweight friction arm which is likely to become a popular purchase, especially among DSLR video shooters. At a total weight of 220g and a total length of ca.15cm it’s easy to see why – it’s practically pocketable while at the same time offering interchangeable attachments (using a clever and reliable mounting system). Being a Manfrotto product, it is expected that the price will carry a little extra “badge weight”. Currently, it sells for anywhere between €60-85, depending on the configuration. As of lately, various kits are also made available. For example, in combination with the 386b Nano Clamp, which is actually where I often mount mine on.
The materials used to build the friction arm are solid, but the design leaves a little more to be desired when it comes to demanding use.
But before we go on to the negatives, let’s sum up what’s really handy about the 244Micro friction arm:
After about 6 months of use I have come to face a few negatives about the friction arm:
An important disclaimer: any modifications, including the taking apart of the friction arm, which I have described below may invalidate your equipment’s warranty. Doing what is described below is entirely at your own risk and you are responsible for any damage it may cause to your equipment, people it might hurt, etc., etc. You don’t have to do what I’ve done unless you decide so yourself.
With that out of the way, here’s a quick breakdown of how the arm is put together and what makes it work (and not work):
And this is how the arm looks when you take it apart:
The working principle is very simple. When you tighten the handle, you’re forcing two “nuts” (inside the center of the arm) to move in a certain direction. The nuts have a cone-shaped hole, inside of which a small metal ball is seated. When the ball moves to the conical side of the hole it is also being raised. This, in turn, pushes a metal pin up which then pushes the soft aluminum friction element (the light metal piece) against the ball joint at each end of the arm.
Releasing the friction simply relies on the fact that when the pressure isn’t there the ball will go back to its deeper seating in the hole.
Originally, only the ball bearing washer on the side of the handle comes greased. This explains why the arm doesn’t like water at all.
To take the arm apart you need to:
As you can see from these and the photos below, I have applied small amounts of copper grease (“lighter” grease tends to liquify easier and make a mess of everything). This significantly dampens the working of the arm – it’s silky smooth now.
Just make sure not to put any grease on the ball joints at the end – where the adapters are mounted. That’s where the friction happens and you want it to stay that way. 😉
The assembly takes place in reverse order.
Here’s a few more photos which show the workings in detail:
Above you can see the point into which the metal ball fits.
Below you see the elements of the ball joints at both ends of the arm. The soft aluminum “cup” which holds the steel ball is actually very soft. This is probably the only important element which will wear out with time. If your arm locks up frequently, chances are it won’t take too long before it wears out too far. Toward the inside of mine you can already see the wear marks caused by the hard steel ball.
To summarize – if the friction arm and accessories were more reasonably priced and the locking up issues resolved already at the factory – this would be an almost perfect product.
Currently, I’m left with disappointment, yet again and this has been the final drop in my cup filled with similar feelings toward anything bearing the Manfrotto badge.
I guess I expected much more. If you buy the arm, knowing all of its shortcomings and you learn to work with or around them – then it’s a very useful piece of support gear. But I would first give the competition a try – at least most of the other arms are much cheaper (up to 50%).
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