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An essential purchase for any keen photographer, the 'which tripod question' is without doubt one of the most important decisions you will have to face. After all you have probably shelled out a considerable amount of money on your all singing and dancing piece of kit, do you really want to mount it on three twiglets held together with blue-tac. Me neither. Personally, I will not take anyone's word for it and nor should you, so for me buying off the net for this is a no-no. By all means take advice, but for peace of mind visit whatever store you can find, be that Jessops or Comet and physically take a look at it. Pick it up, put it through the ringer, otherwise that pile of twisted wires, glass and plastic overlooking the Lake District will be your pride and joy. I visited Jessops and after going through a couple of suggestions came to the Manfrotto 05XV. The first thing that will strike you is that it is sturdy. Fully extended it is 5'10'', which is a good size for most people. Even at its maximum extension, it will not move, twist or shake such is the build quality. The legs can be extended to 90 degrees from the shaft providing a solid base on the trickiest of surfaces. The quick release mechanism is located on the main shaft for easy movement. Constructed from aluminium helps with the weight coming in at just 2.25kgs, meaning you can throw it in a backpack. Collapsed it is only 61cm, so carrying it around will be no problem whatsoever. It can take a maximum weight of 7kg which is more than enough for my camera. Equally, anyone with additional lenses will be able to rest easy that this will do the job. It uses a 3/8'' attachment and has multiple head options which can be purchased separately. The 055XV is designed specifically with outdoor use in mind and that comes through. The four leg settings coupled with toughened leg pads ensure grip and stability on any surface. But there are some nice touches which show that Manfrotto has outdoor photographers in mind. They have placed foam rubber grips on in key places for extreme temperatures. Aluminium in cold mornings or hot climates is no fun to handle, yet with the foam grips, that is not a problem. The aluminium is coated in a non-glare compound, again taking into account that this will be used outdoors. No wildlife is going to be spooked by catching a reflective glint off this. In addition it does come in a green finish, giving it an almost camouflaged look. It costs £128.00 and comes with a 1 year manufacturer's warranty and manual. Usage is simple, but it is the confidence you get from the way it is built that is the main selling point. I have stood in front for group pictures without the worry of the tripod collapsing. I have left it standing on a windy hillside overlooking Coniston Water whilst a RAF C-130 flew overhead. Simply this is the tripod for me, but don't buy it yet. Just go and take a look!!