Manfrotto 244Micro – Quick Review and Repair HowTo

21Oct

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.

manfrotto_244_micro_repair_001

But before we go on to the negatives, let’s sum up what’s really handy about the 244Micro friction arm:

  • Size and weight: small and light ; perfect for video rigs or fluid video heads.
  • Quality materials: from the moment you hold the arm you realize that it is built with good materials. It feels solidly put together. Apart from the plastic handle and the washer in the middle of the arm, everything else is metal.
  • Functionality: when paired with the various attachments the arm becomes even more multi-functional. If you have a newer 055 or  190-series Manfrotto tripod you can get the anti-rotation adapters which would make your life very easy when it comes to setting things up. Furthermore, the adapters are fairly easy to swap and mix in a matter of seconds. Manfrotto even offers a cold shoe adapter, so now your flashes, microphones or other gear can get twised around, hung over and so on in the weirdest of places.
  • It’s serviceable. And you’ll need that.

After about 6 months of use I have come to face a few negatives about the friction arm:

  • Price: it’s expensive, but you could swallow that, given it’s very useful to have. Really, it is. What is hard to swallow is the fact that the adapters could cost you anywhere between €15 and €25, while they’re essentially very simple pieces of metal or metal & plastic combos. It is a little obvious that the prices are pushed up, since the adapters are specific for the 244Mini and 244Micro models.
  • Can’t handle water at all: granted, submerging a mechanical tool in water is not a good idea and few would handle it well. But getting it a little wet is to be expected, especially in professional use. The design allows for any water entering the mechanism to stay in it for a very very long time. The sticker with the logo on it (opposite side of the handle) prevents any water from exiting the arm. Mine got wet with rain water and after that basically stopped working – it had locked itself tightly and there was no getting it loose until I took it apart.
  • Pain to setup without anti-rotation adapters: If you don’t have a new Manfrotto tripod which takes the anti-rotation adapters, you’re left with two options: always carry a 13mm wrench along to tighten and undo the arm to your tripod/head/stand or use the friction of the arm itself. The latter is what is more likely to happen but it often leads to a problem where the arm locks itself (completely or just partially). For their price, Manfrotto could have given the adapters small wings on the side to aid in turning them by hand while attaching them to other gear.
  • Payload is on the optimistic side: the claimed safety payload is 3kg. My arm usually only carries a quick release plate and an Atomos Ninja Blade recorder with an SSD in it. That’s well under 1/3 of the max load but I often need to tighten the arm near its max to ensure nothing will slip or move. Once again, this leads to the lockup issues I described earlier – either the whole arm or half of it won’t unlock when you undo the handle. Small adjustments of whatever hangs on the arm then become an annoyance.

Servicing the Manfrotto 244Micro 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):

manfrotto_244_micro_repair_002

And this is how the arm looks when you take it apart:

manfrotto_244_micro_repair_003

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:

  1. Undo the handle all the way until both halves separate
  2. Then you need to place the ball joint at the end in the position from the second photo above (90deg angle) and use two wrenches to undo the nut underneath the joint. Push the nut down and it will release the two stopping metal rings (the bits cut in half).
  3. Once this is done you simply empty the contents of the tube and the middle section, taking care not to lose that metal ball.

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:

manfrotto_244_micro_repair_004

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.

manfrotto_244_micro_repair_006

 

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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  Discussion  (2)

  • Brendan
    Jan 5, 2017

    Hi! Thanks for your great post!
    My micro 244 just crapped out with one side locking and the other totally loose. I took apart the two main pieces, and noticed the larger normal looking washer in the middle was a bit too much con-caved to one side. So I simply turned it around to start bending the other way and it worked! I will try not to over tighten, but over time, if I do, then I hope I can do the same:) I hope this tip helps! All the best, Brendan

  • Petar Neychev
    Jan 5, 2017

    Brendan,
    Thanks for the tip! I’ll keep it in mind. I haven’t been using mine as much in the past months, but who knows when it might be needed. It’s been relatively smooth since I greased it… well, with the occasional hiccup when under heavier load, but given how it used to be – I can’t complain.

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