For most photographers, a sturdy and reliable tripod is one of the most important pieces of kit they carry. Anyone who has ever precariously perched their camera on a rock to make a long exposure will attest to this.

In this article, we’ll discuss what to look for in a tripod, before taking a closer look at the tripod that has accompanied me on every trip I’ve taken in the past three years: the Manfrotto Element Traveller Tripod.

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What to look for in a travel tripod

 

A good tripod can significantly broaden your options when it comes to photography. By alleviating camera shake and reducing the need to consider shutter speeds, a decent tripod makes low light photography easier and astro-photography possible.

Negros Occidental using Manfrotto Element Traveller tripod

As travel photographers, or at least photographers that have to occasionally carry their kit around for extended periods of time, there are three main factors in terms of build quality that we have to consider.

 

Stability

 

If you’ve spent a substantial sum of money on your photography set up, you’re going to want a tripod that will keep your kit safe and do what it is meant to do, keeping the camera stable and eliminating motion blur at slower shutter speeds. This is why it’s important to consider the materials the tripod is made of, and if you’re planning on shooting in particularly treacherous conditions, whether it has features such as a hook to add additional weight or replacement feet to suit the terrain you’re using it on.

Spoiler: the Manfrotto Element Traveller tripod has both.

 

Durability

 

A decent travel tripod also needs to be durable so that it can withstand being exposed to the elements, as well as the any bump or graze that the act of travelling might throw at it.

I personally travel with my tripod in the bottle compartment of my hiking bag, meaning that if I get caught in snow or torrential rain, or my bag rolls down the side of a mountain, my tripod most likely will as well. Most tripods will be made of carbon fibre or aluminium, which are both strong and rust-resistant materials that you can generally trust to live through anything you throw at them.

 

Weight

 

While weight is arguably a less important consideration than the previous two, for photographers that frequently travel with their kit, it will be an important consideration nonetheless. If you frequently hike with your camera kit, you’ll understand the importance of saving weight where possible.

Lighter tripods can be less stable and therefore less suitable for heavier systems, so it’s important to strike a balance between stability and weight. If you’re working with a heavy full-frame kit with giant telephoto lenses, for example, you might want to steer clear of the Joby Gorillapod 1k.

 

Why opt for a Manfrotto tripod?

 

For many photographers, a Manfrotto tripod needs no introduction. They are among the most widely used tripods on the market, and with good reason. Travel to any particularly photogenic location and you’ll most likely encounter a few photographers, Manfrotto kit assembled, waiting for the best light.

Acatenango summit with manfrotto tripod

The reason so many choose to place their trust in a Manfrotto tripod is that they are reliably well built and offer some useful features that other manufacturers may omit for products at a a similar price point. Some models, such as the Manfrotto Element Traveller tripod we’re discussing today, also offer much greater value for money than other manufacturers do at similar price points.

The Manfrotto Element Traveller tripod

 

Of Manfrotto’s enormous and ever-expanding selection of tripods, the Manfrotto Element Traveller tripod is arguably amongst the best for the average photographer. It comes in two variations: one made of aluminium and the other made of carbon fibre.

Their payload statistics are the same, with both variations comfortably holding any camera system up to 4kg (8.8lbs). Both the carbon fibre and aluminium versions collapse down to a length of only 32cm (around 1 foot) and can expand to a maximum height of up to 143cm (approximately 4 foot and 7 inches). The only aspect of these two tripods that’s even remotely different is their weight, and even in this sense their differences is negligible. The aluminium version weighs 1.15kg (2.5lbs), while its carbon fibre counterpart weighs just 1.05kg (2.3lbs).

Manfrotto Element Traveller Tripod 1
Manfrotto Element Traveller Tripod collapsed

The Manfrotto Element’s legs can each be lengthened by twisting the rubber grip around each of its legs, expanding them and tightening them with the same grip. The quick release camera plate features a spirit level and sits on top of a ball head mount which offers complete 360 degree flexibility in terms of the camera’s orientation and position.

Underneath the extendable centre column, there is also a hook to which you can attach a weight to keep the tripod even more stable in particularly treacherous conditions. I’ve even hung my bag from this as an additional weight when shooting on the summit of Pidurangala in Sigiriya, Sri Lanka on a particularly windy day.

Sigiriya, Sri Lanka

I have been using the aluminium version of the Manfrotto Element Traveller tripod for the past three years, and in that time, it has convinced me that it is the best travel tripod for most photographers, particularly those shooting with mirrorless systems.

 

Why the Manfrotto Element Traveller tripod may be the perfect tripod for many

 

As mentioned, the Manfrotto Element Traveller tripod is a very light and compact piece of kit. It fits perfectly into the bottle holder on the side of my hiking bag, and it’s easily durable enough to put up with any bumps and grazes it might be subjected to by my clumsy handling of my bag.

While the process of extending its legs isn’t as quick or easy as it is with some other tripods, such as the Manfrotto BeFree range which feature levers to lock the legs in place. That being said, I’ve never found it to be a problem and once it’s fully set up, its stability is truly confidence inspiring. For mirrorless shooters like me, there isn’t a single body + lens combination that I can think of that would phase it in the slightest.

The Manfrotto Element Traveller tripod also comes with a lightly padded storage bag, as well as some Allen keys and a set of spiked replacement feet for added stability on the ground.

Manfrotto Element Traveller tripod carry bag
Manfrotto Element Traveller tripod feet

Finally, one of my favourite things about this tripod is its unintentional, but extremely useful compatibility with another one of my favourite camera accessories: the Peak Design Capture Clip V3. It slots perfectly into the quick release mechanism on the tripod, meaning that attaching and detaching my camera from my tripod never takes longer than a couple of seconds.

 

Pros and cons: summary

Pros

Very light considering its size

Durable and stable

Features including weight hook and ball head

Comes with carry bag and spiked replacement feet

Compatible with Peak Design Capture Clip V3

Cons

Process of extending legs could be quicker

Stability is compromised at full stretch

Possible alternatives

 

While I do think that the Manfrotto Element Traveller tripod will suit the needs of many photographers, its undeniable that it may not be the perfect solution for everyone. No piece of photography equipment ever is. So here are some alternatives.

 

For ultra-lightweight photographers

 

If you’re using a compact camera like the 340 gram Fujifilm X70, the Manfrotto Element Traveller tripod is undeniably overkill. The same goes if you’re looking for a tripod for your phone so you can take photos on a timer, or a tripod for your action camera so you can record timelapse videos.

If you fall into one of these categories, the best alternative is arguably one of the smaller Joby tripods, such as the Joby Gorillapod 1k or the Joby GripTight Action kit.

Joby Gorillapod 1K tripod
Joby GripTight tripod

Joby are known for creating very well built and versatile tripods that can wrap around virtually anything, making them a very lightweight and compact option for those whose needs don’t quite match the Manfrotto Element Traveller’s features.

 

For less budget-conscious photographers with heavier kits

 

If you have a slightly larger budget to play with and you shoot with kit that weighs more than the 4kg load capacity of the Manfrotto Element Traveller tripod, it’s worth taking a look at the Peak Design Travel Tripod. Like the Manfrotto Element Traveller, it’s compatible with the Peak Design Capture Clip plate, it comes in both aluminium and carbon fibre versions, and it even weighs roughly the same.

Peak Design Travel Tripod

Where it really stands out, however, is it’s load capacity. It can handle camera systems up to 9kg, or around 20lbs. It’s a great travel tripod in its own right, but it does come with a far heftier price tag. While, admittedly, I did get my Manfrotto Tripod second hand, I paid less than a 1/6th of the price of a new Peak Design Travel Tripod.

That being said, if your kit is heavy enough to need a tripod with a load capacity of more than 4kg, it’s definitely a worthy investment. In any case, it’ll be cheaper than repairing or replacing your camera.

 

Wrap up

 

So there we have it, my review of my personal favourite travel tripod: the Manfrotto Element Traveller tripod. If you’re a photographer with similar needs and priorities, why not check out the current prices for this tripod?

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