…and you’d expect every human who came after to build on from that right?
Wrong. It seems manfrotto is bent on re-inventing the wheel (in this case the chain) in order to line their pockets at the expense of their captive market.
Here we have two drive chains, both intended to turn a sprocket. The one above seems to have been produced by a far more advanced civilization, with better steel and better tools. The difference in sophistication between these two is so vast that you would think people who lived in the age of the less advanced chain (the bottom one) would look to the other and regard its construction as some work of magic.
Drive chains like these have been around since the 3rd century BC, chains like the one at the top have been used on bicycles for the last 130 years. But it’s only in very recent history that Manfrotto has been making the one at the bottom, which seems more like the work of an arts and crafts project than a product of a hundred odd years of industrialisation.
If Manfrotto was doing this to deliver photographers a cost effective product I’d cut them some slack, but when my Manfrotto expan system broke, fixing it with a bicycle chain and sprocket was both cheaper and more effective than a manfrotto replacement.
The plastic Manfrotto sprocket broke due to the fact that the chain links don’t fit it exactly, it constantly slips which eventually cracks the plastic. Almost every photographer who has rented our photo studio has been surprised that our manfrotto expans are still functioning as in most photo studios for hire in London they are broken. The constant slippage of the chain also causes the chain to bend and buckle.
To replace the chain with a new Manfrotto Expan one costs £27.50
To repair the entire ancient system with advanced components: £14 for a bicycle chain (2 joined together), £4 for a sprocket which I picked up from my local bicycle man, £0.50 for some nuts and bolts.
Here is what the badly designed, overpriced and doomed to break itself Manfrotto expan looks like:
Here is what I did to fix it for £18.50
It’s smooth and silent, never slips. It’s jumped off the sprocket a few times when I’ve yanked it pretty fast, but nothing near as bad as what the original Manfrotto did.
The bolts fit nicely attaching the bicycle sprocket to the Manfrotto one.
Manfrotto could not possibly have thought thier newly designed drivechain and sprocket was in any way superior than a standard bicycle chain (especially not at their outrageously inflated cost). It’s fairly obvious to me that the unique design is intended to create a situation where only Manfrotto can fix your broken widget, and at whatever ridiculous price they choose. We live in an era where sourcing all kinds of components is easier than ever before, and where the means of production is quickly falling back into the hands of the general populace. I can’t wait to swap my countless bits of overpriced manfrotto plastic things with cheaper + superior 3d printed replacements.
Manfrotto and friends beware – the days of this kind of deliberate inefficiency are over. It’s products like the 50 dollar follow focus that constantly remind me, your once captive market is free!