If you’re into virtual reality and 360 videography, you’ve probably found that there is a distinct lack of supporting accessories, at least on the consumer end of the market. Manfrotto has quietly been building up a range of sturdy VR and 360 camera accessories, helping you reach new heights and angles with small consumer 360 cameras like the Ricoh Theta V.
The latest addition to its VR range is the Manfrotto VR PIXI EVO Kit, which consists of the PIXI EVO mini tripod and its Aluminium Extension. The four section Extension does at as it says and extends 143cm, and you can either mount this to the PIXI EVO or detach it and use it as a selfie stick.
At its minimum height (52.5cm), the VR Extension pole can withstand a payload of 1kg, and at its full height it can sustain 0.15kg. On either end of Manfrotto’s VR Extension pole is a 1/4-inch screw for mounting onto your 360 camera or screwing into the PIXI EVO.
The PIXI EVO mini tripod is a variation of Manfrotto’s popular PIXI tripod. On top is a 1/4-inch screw thread for mounting the Extension pole. The VR PIXI EVO also offers two leg angles, and each leg boasts a button that allows you to slide an outer casing and adjust its height.
Both the PIXI EVO and Aluminium Extension in Manfrotto’s Virtual Reality Kit are solidly built and super simple to use. The Extension pole has a solid rubber grip at its base, and firm pull locks to open up each section.
The leg sections are made of a thick aluminium, and when you fully extend each section and lock them in place, the pole is very rigid and secure. There’s no wobble or slow drift like you sometimes get with twist-lock system.
The 1/4-inch screws on either end of the Extension are easy enough to screw into the camera or PIXI EVO, particularly when you hold it by the rubber grip. I found I could place it between two open palms and quickly screw it in.
Likewise, the PIXI EVO is equally of solid build. The legs consist of a steel interior with a thick plastic outer layer. Pressing a button on each leg releases that outer layer, enabling you to pull it down and increase the PIXI EVO’s height by about a third. The buttons are large – about as big as your thumb – and quick to use.
The PIXI EVO’s head is made of metal and has the 1/4-inch screw thread on top. On the side is a slider switch that enables you to change the tripod’s leg angles from their normal upright position to lay flat against the ground.
Manfrotto’s VR PIXI EVO Kit has one job, and it does it well. On a recent shoot near a local waterfall I brought the PIXI EVO and Extension to capture some 360 shots of our location in a lagoon around the base.
Mounting my GoPro Fusion to the Extension, and screwing the Extension into the PIXI EVO, I then extended the tripod’s legs and sunk them into the rocky floor of the pool at the bottom of the waterfall. The current was quite strong, but the Manfrotto Virtual Reality Kit held strong.
The dual 1/4-inch screws on either end of the Extension meant I swap mounts very easily. I was using the GoPro and Phone mounts that came bundled with the 3 Legged Thing Iggy (another great mini tripod). And because of the height of the four-section Extension, I was able to capture some really nice shots where I wasn’t looming large in the frame.
The Fusion is one of the bigger 360 cameras around (not as heavy as the Vuze, but certainly heavier than the Ricoh Theta V), and even with the Extension pole at full height there was no swaying or fear that my camera would go plunging into the cold water.
The Extension is very rigid, and the clip locks do a great job of preventing any drift in position. Likewise, the PIXI EVO stands firm and rugged. It’s also very quick to adjust.
Both accessories in the Manfrotto Virtual Reality Kit are also so light and compact I was able to transport them in the pocket of my winter coat (we’re still waiting for spring where I live).
Overall, the Manfrotto PIXI EVO and its Extension really do help you add that extra dynamic element to your 360 footage by allowing you to shoot from creative angle and keep your distance from the camera to allow your scene to be the main focus.
There was a time when photographers laughed at the selfie stick and the vanity of its users, but devices like Aluminium Extension in the Manfrotto Virtual Reality Kit, used in tandem with the PIXI EVO help bring this modern accessory to the mainstream and show just what a creative tool it can be.
If you are passionate about 360 video and photography, the Manfrotto Virtual Reality Kit, at £45, is worth the investment. It’s light and portable, yet solidly built, and you’ll quickly find you can apply it to myriad uses.
As an emerging technology, 360 cameras are still mostly the domain of gadget lovers, rather than serious photographers. But with the PIXI EVO and Aluminium Extension, Manfrotto has created tools that enable you to use your 360 camera for serious photography.