A good user review of the Manfrotto 055xprob tripod, with lots of detailed pictures. It basically answered every question that I had except for, “how is the center column secured when in the sideways position?” I haven’t yet seen a photo that covers that, and nobody ever mentions it, which I suppose means it maybe isn’t something to be concerned about. I am interested, though, due to wondering how sturdy that center column is while mounted sideways.
That review also covers the Manfrotto 488RC2 ball head, which I hadn’t been considering, but maybe will now, as a cheaper alternative to the Really Right Stuff ballhead/clamp setups I was looking at. Those are very nice (hell, I found one review of a Really Right Stuff ballhead that called it “perfection incarnate” and “so good you want to lick it”), but that level of quality doesn’t come cheap.