Comparing tripods for APM 100-90 binoculars: Manfrotto 161MK2B vs Manfrotto 475B

Italian brand Manfrotto is making high quality tripods. I’m using different Manfrotto products for photo and astronomy for many years. Recently I was looking for a good heavy duty tripod option that can support large astronomy binoculars – APM 100-90 (about 15lb or 7kg) plus weight of a fluid head (about 5lb or 2.3kg). In this article I’m comparing two good options.

Below is a comparison shot of APM 100-90 binoculars mounted on a Manfrotto N12 head with two tripods:

  • Manfrotto 475B (left)
  • Manfrotto 161MK2B (right)

Both tripods deliver set of important features:

  • Geared central column with 10″ elevation range and anti-slip mechanics
  • Payload capacity much higher than weight of binoculars + head
  • Durable mechanics and numerous securing points for a stable view

Most noticeable PROS differences of these tripods are:

  • 475B is cheaper, lighter ( 4.3kg vs 7.9kg ) and more compact (80cm vs 105cm tall)
  • 475B has quicker to use flip-locks
  • 475B has sliding ring around central column for quicker setup
  • 161MK2B has higher safe payload (20kg vs 12kg) – so better overall stability
  • 161MK2B central column is about 30% thicker and more secure
  • 161MK2B build is much more durable (larger bolts, tight moving connections)


Manfrotto 161MK2B is much taller and wider when collapsed. With tripod head attached it may not even fit some more compact size car trunk. Manfrotto 475B legs need to be significantly extended to fit 161MK2B height when in use though. If you already have one of this tripod pictures below should help to be more prepared to the size differences.

Central geared column

Manfrotto 161MK2B geared mechanism has same rotating lever but much more durable overall build with thicker central column, wider thread and more solid construction.

Once elevated, both column keep exact vertical position without slipping-down even under heavy weight due to worm-threaded mechanics. Both are very safe to hold your precious optical equipment without a risk of rapidly moving down.

It’s important to always secure 475B column after elevating to eliminate column horizontal movement. 161MK2B sits more stable even without locking the column bolt.

Central column spreaders

Manfrotto 475B has more thin spreaders that are connected to a ring that can slide up on the column. That allows to setup tripod legs positions, secure spreader locks and then collapse tripod and unfold legs to exact “memorized” position.

Manfrotto 161MK2B however has more durable spreader connection with thick bolts, and without sliding ring.

161MK2B platform is wider. I’ve tried to shake both tripods by holding on a platforms – obviously the additional weight of 161MK2B makes it more stable to vibrations. For 475B it’s recommended to use vibration suppressing pads to get same level of anti-vibration stability that 161MK2B delivers without any pads.

Legs connections are enormously larger on 161MK2B to support heavier 20kg payload, they can be tightened by top two allen bolts. Though 475B connections are also quite durable and friction can be adjusted by tightening metal inserts siting below the connecting frame. What I like in 475B – due to higher portability it has built in strap connector.


161MK2B has special design of legs locks to support heavy payload without slipping the position. It takes more time to lock/unlock but more secure grip of other sections. I didn’t have to extend 161MK2B sections though even for standing up observations.

475B locks are quick and easy to use, that is a good thing because in most cases I’m extending/collapsing tripod leg sections quite often.

Brief conclusions

Personally I like Manfrotto 475B more for it’s portability, and generally it works nice with APM 100-90 delivering stable view on high magnifications. Though it’s absolutely necessary to add anti-vibration pads to compensate light weight of the tripod itself. Just to remind that gravity center is much higher with 475B due to large binoculars weight.

Manfrotto 161MK2B is much better for stationary observations when you don’t need to move it often. It’s extremely stable with APM 100-90 and I think should work excellent with much heavier APM 120 and APM 150. SO it’s also a good investment if you plan to switch to larger BT.