When I bought my first tripod about two years ago, I didn't care so much for quality. I was rather focused on the price and got fairly priced tripod for around $50. My first DSLR was Nikon D60 with kit lens and I was not having problem using that tripod with D60. But when I upgraded my camera to Nikon D90 with bigger lens, 18-200mm VR II, I felt the need of some sturdy and strong tripod to hold my camera without worrying about falling it off the tripod. I have had a bad experience (tripod leg fell apart) with my previous cheap tripod when I was shooting July 4th fireworks in New York city.
After doing lots of research and reading reviews, I bought Manfrotto 055XPROB Pro Tripod with Manfrotto 498RC2 Ball Head. I could go with Manfrotto 190XPROB 3 Section Aluminum Pro Tripod and 498RC2 ball head but I felt like to go one step up just to be safe for future gears. Manfrotto 055XPROB Pro Tripod shares all the features with Manfrotto 190XPROB 3 Section Aluminum Pro Tripod but 055XPROB is little taller than 190XPROB and more heavier and sturdy. When you are not doing photography, you can actually use the 055XPROB for weight lifting purpose as well (little bit of humor doesn't hurt). Let me summarize the basic differences between 055XPROB and 190XPROB.
Manfrotto 055XPROB Vs Manfrotto 190XPROB
055XPROB - Supports up to 15.4 pounds 190XPROB - Supports up to 11 pounds
055XPROB - Leg diameters 29.4, 25, 20 mm 190XPROB - Leg diameters 25, 20, 16 mm
055XPROB - Min/Max. height 3.9"/70.3" 190XPROB - Min/Max. height 3.3"/57.5"
055XPROB - Weighs 5 pounds 190XPROB - Weighs 4 pounds
Both gears are designed with same basic principles and share common features like extending the center column and fold to make horizontal arm and both are made out of solid aluminum material.
Manfrotto 498RC2 Ball Head works great with both tripods and gives extra feature to those photographers who love to shoot panoramic shot using horizontal pan (Manfrotto 496RC2 Ball Head lacks this feature).
This ball head has been totally redesigned for better ease of use. A new design friction control knob allows the photographer to achieve superior control when handling the camera and making micro movements without having to totally lock and unlock the ball head. The knobs have been redesigned to be more ergonomic, easier to handle and more user-friendly. The ergonomic shape allows the user to better lock the ball securely. A re-positionable Locking lever allows the user to place it in a comfortable position in order to use it in the most convenient way; just pull it outwards, put it in the best working position and then release it. This model features a RC2 quick release plate including an additional safety system that prevents the accidental detaching of the camera from the head. The locking lever securely locks the head both in the +90°, -90° ball positioning and in the 360° pan movements for panoramic shot or even getting panning effects. With solid aluminum construction, this head is the ideal support for all traditional or digital small or medium format cameras weighing up to 17 pounds.