With the growing popularity of mirrorless cameras due to their more compact size and weight, tripods have also been evolving to be more portable. But it doesn't mean that less weight automatically means better.
A good travel tripod has to be light enough to be easy to carry but heavy and dense enough to not be flimsy. Since travel photography overlaps with so many different fields of photography, a good travel tripod has a pretty crucial job of making sure that you'll be able to take the shots you want when you're far away from all your other gear.
When I was sent the Manfrotto Element Traveller Tripods by MQ Lighting PH, I felt like it's almost a duty of mine to review and talk about this tripod even simply if the series is already a couple of years old because of the fact that people need to know of this option. Almost every tripod manufacturer has released a travel tripod in the past two years to cater to the growing number of traveling photographers but many of them are either good but with a steep price, or cheap but with unreliable quality.
Big and Small
The Manfrotto Element Traveller tripod comes in two sizes. The big version has 5 sections and stands at a maximum of 55.12 inches with the center column down and 64.57 inches with the center column raised. It folds down to just 16.14 inches when the legs are folded upward which is a basic feature of most travel tripods. It weighs just 1.6kg, which is pretty light for an aluminum tripod. Tripods of this size often have very little significant difference in weight compared to carbon fiber tripods of the same size (1.4kg the carbon fiber version.) If you don't anticipate having to shoot over ledges or balconies in your travels, the 5.5 foot comfortable height (with the center column minimally extended for good stability) should be just high enough for you.
The small version also has 5 sections that stand at a maximum of 56.29 inches (50.19 inches with the center column not extended) and folds down to just 14 inches. It weighs just 1.14kg — a pound lighter than the bigger version. It being just 4 feet tall probably lessens its flexibility in situations but photographers who know exactly what they're shooting may be able to anticipate good times to be carrying it around. The most obvious difference with the smaller version is that it has a fixed center column that does not go lower than the hip of the tripod. This can be a limiting factor in stability especially when doing video or long exposures in windy environments.
The Element Traveller series comes in both Aluminum and Carbon fiber versions. Though I personally haven't reviewed the carbon fiber ones, I strongly believe that the half-pound difference between the bigger versions is pretty much negligible in real life. It wouldn't really be bad to have the carbon fiber version but the additional cost (roughly $75) may not be that much worth it. Then again, the relative resistance to corrosion of the carbon fiber material becomes significant if you plan to expose it to water and moisture.
The small version comfortably carries 4 kilograms (Indicated as Safety Payload Weight on the website) which is virtually more than enough for a Canon 5D Mark IV with an EF 70-200mm f/2.8 Lens, however, of course the friction on the head and the center of gravity of the attached lens may come into play but it would be safe to say that it can comfortably carry a full frame DSLR with a standard zoom lens.
The bigger version can carry 8kgs which gives you more room for bigger gear and since these tripods are generally made to carry smaller DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, payload for both size versions should be the least of your worries.
The standard characteristic of a travel tripod is the ability to fold the legs upward to the extended center column to be able to attain a shorter folded height. This feature is, of course, not unique to this make and model but it is the exact reason why these tripods can be folded to as small as 14 and 16 inches respectively.
Both models come with an aluminum compact ball-head with one friction knob and one pan knob. The most basic, as far as ball heads are concerned, but this truly gives simplicity to this travel tripod. The mounting platform accommodates the standard arca-swiss type sliding quick release plate which makes it compatible to most available brands of tripod plates and collars. The head is detachable and replaceable with generally any 1/4" screw-on head.
Both the big and small versions come in four colors. Red, Blue, Grey, and black. The colors only vary on the ball head, the joints and the rims of the twist locks. This series only comes with twist locks and no option for clips.
In conclusion, the Manfrotto Element Traveler Tripod series can pretty much be called the standard of travel tripods. The tripods are built with a good balance of being light and being sturdy, they fold down to very compact sizes and come with a simple yet reliable ball head that can be replaced with a bigger or more advanced one if needed. The tripods suit a good range of photographers from casual travelers to professional travel photographers just as long as they know the limitations of what they have. For more complicated situations, of course, bigger and more complex models of tripods have an irreplaceable role. The tripods generally don't have any added feature on top of what's truly essential for a reliable tripod but it comes in a very sensible price point especially considering that though not as complex as most of their other tripod models, they are still, simply put, Manfrotto tripods.
What I Liked:
- Compact folded height, fits in a backpack
- Detachable ball-head included with arca-swiss type mounting
- Perfect weight for a tripod that you carry around everywhere
- Significant payload for both sizes
- Simple yet attractive design
- Amazing price point for a Manfrotto tripod
What I don't like:
- Fixed center column on the smaller version
- No clip locks option