As ever the new year heralds the show season and with it comes a flurry of new cameras and accessories, including the new range of Element tripods from Manfrotto.
This new range is aimed at the entry market and provides budding photographers with a decent support at a decent price.
If we’re to be cynical, then it’s clear to see that the Element range has been launched in direct competition to all those cheap mass-produced tripods that have flooded the market.
Or alternatively, we could say it one savvy move from a trusted tripod manufacturer.
Essentially, basic is precisely what the Element range is, but what makes these tripods different from the swath of other cheap offerings is that the Element range comes from the Manfrotto stable.
Therefore unlike the bargain tripods, the Element comes with a real five-year manufacturers warranty, and that makes a big difference.
The Manfrotto Elements large has some impressive specifications; first of all, it packs down to just 41.5cm, and once the legs are folded down from around the centre column and everything is extended you have a maximum height of 164cm.
This is a good working height for most situations. I’m 5″ 10-inches, and this brings the column to just below eye level, once the camera is mounted then that all works out at a perfect working height.
Being carbon, it is slightly lighter than the aluminium equivalent weighing in at 1.4kg and is able to support a maximum load of 8kg.
The ball head features an Arca Swiss style plate, has a single release knob for the ball head and a 360° panoramic rotation, again lockable with a screw knob.
The four section legs are secured by twist locks, and at the base, you have removable rubber feet that can be replaced for others if needed.
Build Quality and Handling
Just a year or so ago to find a carbon fibre tripod for less than £300 was rare, but now a quick search on the internet and you’ll quickly find a whole cacophony of products for less than £150.
Manfrotto Element carbon large doesn’t cut costs that far, but it’s still cheap at £179, that’s still a bargain when you compare the cost against other Manfrotto carbon tripods.
Once taken out of the box and you can instantly see the departure from the usual Manfrotto design, this tripod is function over the usual high-quality Manfrotto design concepts and components.
This is by no means bad; it just simply gives you the basics of what you need from a camera support.
As is now the norm for many travel tripods the Element’s legs fold down from around the centre column. This design enables the tripod to pack down nice and tight.
The size and weight means that it balances well on a side mounting backpack.
At the top, there’s a simple yet robust ball head that can hold the weight of up to 8 kilograms. During the test, I alternated between a Canon EOS 5D MKII with 24-70mm and a Sony Alpha 7R again with a 24-70mm attached.
With a camera attached to the Arca Swiss plate, the head can be locked or released using the decently sized screw knob which works perfectly well.
As with the Element small that I’ve previously looked at the quality of this ball head is basic, but it is perfectly functional and will do the job for the majority of users, especially those just getting into photography.
The head also features panoramic rotation, and the pano lock design once again shows the departure from the usual Manfrotto style.
Rather than covering the mechanism that enables the lock or release, when it comes to the Elements range the screw is left on show.
This departure culminates in that Arca Swiss style plate rather than the Manfrotto or dual compatible plates that we started to see on the new Beefree Advanced.
Working down from the head and we have the centre column, unlike that of the smaller Element we can drop this through the tripod crown.
This is a major advantage over the Element small.
At the base of the column is a bag hook that can be unscrewed so that the centre column can be rotated for macro work.
The crown is solid metal, and it all feels of a good quality and should last for some years. Again as with the Element small, it has the same style of leg angle adjusters with three angle options.
Each leg section and the centre column are secured by twist locks, again these don’t match the usual Manfrotto quality but are as good as anything else in this price range.
Moving down to the rubber feet at the base and these are again pretty standard, but it’s nice to see that they do un-screw and can be replaced if needed. You can also put third-party feet on depending on the situations you’re shooting
Despite being a carbon tripod Manfrotto have added a foam grip around one of the legs to make it comfortable for carrying, a nice touch but I’m not sure that it’s needed here.
Although there is a bag hook at the base of the centre column, there are no mounts for attaching a tripod strap although they do provide a slightly padded bag with the kit.
In use the tripod functions well. The legs extend smoothly and those twist locks do the job of locking the legs into position.
There is a spirit level on the base plate clamp, but one on the crown of the tripod would have been a good addition.
I did find a little additional care needed to be taken to ensure that the twist locks were good and tight but no more of a check than I would usually do.
The Arca Swiss base plate is a decent size, I’ve recently seen many manufacturers reduce the size of these, and underneath the plate, there is a small loop that makes it easy to tighten to the base of a camera.
The head is all perfectly functional when it comes to adjustment, and you can be sure that this tripod will provide you with a decent amount of flexibility.
The only area that I did feel let the tripod down was the leg angle adjusters. As with the Element small, these didn’t feel as precise a fit as they should have been and could be a little fiddly to use.
The Entire Element range is something new for Manfrotto, and no doubt launched to combat the stream of cheap tripods.
The Manfrotto Element large may be cheap compared with the usual Manfrotto offering, but it still comes in at more than it’s cheap rivals.
Saying that the quality is consistent and although basic, you can be assured of the quality control. If anything does go wrong, then you have the five years Manfrotto guarantee.
There is no doubt That there are some great bargains to be had out there and it is possible to buy a cheap quality tripod. But even if your friend gets a good one, there is no guarantee that same company will provide another model at the same quality.
If you’re looking for a tripod for occasional use, a keen enthusiast or just getting into photography then the Element is a great choice.
It’s relatively lightweight, it provides a good solid base, it’s basic, it does the job, and best of all it does it with the big five year guarentee.