An excellent lightweight tripod that balances stability with portability and fantastic build quality, the Manfrotto Element MII would be a great addition to your kit at an affordable price.
Sturdy enough for heavy cameras and long zoom lenses
Twist lock legs provide quick & easy operation
Portable and lightweight
Does tend to dip when fully extended
No 90 degree central column rotation
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The Manfrotto Element MII tripod is a lightweight tripod designed for hobbyist and entry-level photographers who need something stable but budget-friendly.
The search for the 'perfect tripod' seems to be a never-ending quest for photographers, and although the Manfrotto Element MII isn't perfect, it still ticks a lot of our boxes. For the price you pay, it has many great features and would make an ideal addition to any photographer's arsenal, whether you're a beginner or a professional.
Every type of photography has different tripod requirements, making it difficult to find one that fits everyone. The Best travel tripods need to be extremely lightweight and portable, whereas the Best tripods for astrophotography are designed with stability and ease of use at the forefront of their design. But if you want some advice on pairing it with a camera we also have guides to the Best cameras for photos and videos and the Best cameras for astrophotography.
We put the Manfrotto Element MII to the test and it seems to provide a very happy medium thanks to its ability to perform well in all areas. There are only a couple of small disadvantages, so we think this would be an excellent and affordable tripod to add to your kit.
Manfrotto Element MII: Design
- Aluminum or carbon fiber construction
- Rubber twist locks are thick, strong, and comfortable to use
- No 90 degree central column
The Manfrotto Element MII tripod that we tested is built with an aluminum construction and features an eye-catching design on two of the legs, which makes this tripod stand out from the crowd. On the top section of the third leg, there's a rubber grip, making it easy and comfortable to maneuver the tripod around when it's in use or even when carrying it between locations. At full height, it measures 160 cm with four different leg sections, which seems to be tall enough for most situations and taller than many other travel tripods out there, although not too tall for a smaller photographer.
It features easy-to-operate rubber twist lock legs as opposed to clips, which makes this tripod very quick and easy to set up, particularly if you're using it out in the cold and are wearing gloves. It's also very streamlined and compact when folded, so you don't have to fight with any fiddly protruding clips when you're trying to put it back in the padded carry bag or in the side pocket of your camera bag. The fact that they're made from rubber also makes it easier on the hands than if they were plastic, so it really seems that Manfrotto built this tripod with comfortability and ease of use in mind from top to bottom.
This tripod has been so well built and thought through that, honestly, it was hard to find anything we didn't like about it. There is one feature we could find that this tripod doesn't have, however — that being the lack of a 90-degrees rotating central column. It doesn't make the tripod any less pleasant to use, but we think that adding this feature could make this tripod go from great to excellent. For us, it isn't a total dealbreaker, but we think it would just take this tripod to the next level.
Manfrotto Element MII: Performance
- Fast & easy operation
- Sturdy yet lightweight
- Able to hold up to 8kg
When it came to practical use, this tripod performed excellently. It's incredibly easy and quick to setup and operate, largely thanks to the twist locks and the rapid leg opening system this tripod has. It's not the lightest tripod in the bunch, but it seems to strike the perfect balance between sturdy and lightweight, making it ideal for travel and hiking because it's light enough to carry around without breaking your back and stable enough to withstand a variety of conditions (and for you to feel confident putting expensive equipment on it). It weighs 1.55 kg and has a payload of 8 kg, which is more than enough for a heavy DSLR and a long zoom lens.
We tested it out with a light mirrorless camera in very windy UK coastal conditions, and it absolutely held its own and didn't budge... somehow! It does also have a detachable hook that screws into the bottom of the central column to help weigh it down when needed (or even just to keep your bag off the ground). Having this extra weight is beneficial when you're shooting in strong winds or adverse weather, particularly as more photographers are switching to lighter mirrorless cameras now and need all the weight they can get.
One thing we did notice is that when the legs were fully extended at their widest, they did bend ever so slightly in the middle when weight was applied, even when the legs were locked. You can overcome this by pulling the legs back in a bit or shortening the tripod so that the thinner bottom section of legs aren't in use. But realistically, you aren't going to have the tripod low to the ground with the legs fully extended anyway, so we can't see this as a major issue, more something to be mindful of to extend the life of your tripod.
Manfrotto Element MII: Functionality
- Ergonomic twist locks to keep legs in place
- Ball head mechanism for landscape and portrait orientation
- 360-degree independent panning
Another handy feature of this tripod is the ergonomic twist locks to keep the legs in place, with three separate lock settings to choose from. There are two locked leg positions: a fairly standard width and a wider position, plus an all-flexible legs-in-the-air position that enables you to have the legs in whatever position you'd like. This setting would also be good for flipping the tripod upside down so the center column is underneath, with the camera super low to the ground. This feature is great for versatility, as you may not want to spend time fighting with the legs to try and get them even, so having a setting that does this for you is really handy. Not to mention, it makes the setup even quicker if you've spotted a great shot but don't have the time to level the legs by eye.
The ball head mechanism is also surprisingly easy to navigate due to the spirit levels for both landscape and portrait orientations, which eliminates the need for any faffing. However, you do need to make sure you level the tripod with the spirit level first, as once the camera is on the tripod you can't actually see the spirit level because it's covered by the camera.
Another really cool feature of this tripod is its 360-degree panning ability. This is a super useful feature to have because it's great for both photographers and videographers alike. This makes video footage look silky smooth, as it just spins around on itself without you having to pan the camera around in your hands and risking camera shake. This feature can also benefit photographers, as not only could it be good for an easy change of composition, but it would also lend itself to taking accurate shots for a panoramic image. Not to mention that it allows tripods to be used in situations where they would not normally be used, such as sports action or wildlife photography. You can now effortlessly pan the tripod head around to track a subject while it's moving, eliminating the need to hold the weight of the camera in your hands for an extended period of time.
Should I buy the Manfrotto Element MII?
Whatever your style of photography, we think the Manfrotto Element MII would be a great, stable base for the majority of camera and lens combinations. It's sturdy, lightweight, and has a bunch of very useful features that make it a really solid tripod, both practically and metaphorically.
With the ability to shoot 360-degree panning, it would also be a great tripod if you're getting into videography, which is something that not many tripods can offer. We tested the aluminum model; however, there's also a carbon fiber model, which weighs around 1.35 kg, so if you're looking for something even lighter then this would definitely be a great option. There's also a version that comes with a mobile phone clamp and a Bluetooth remote control, making this an excellent tripod for content creators who aren't necessarily photographers.
Also, for everything this tripod is capable of, it's actually really affordable. If not having the ability to shoot at 90 degrees isn't a dealbreaker for you, then we think this tripod would be a great choice and would last you a long time. With proper care, you wouldn't need another tripod until you were ready to invest more money in one of the more expensive brands.
If the Manfrotto Element MII tripod isn't for you
If you have the budget to go big and your biggest priority is portability and small size, then you can't go wrong with the Peak Design Travel Tripod. It's pretty much the same weight as the Manfrotto Element MII, yet it is smaller in folded length. Peak Design tripods are among the best out there, so if you want to invest some cash into a tripod that's going to last you a very long time, this is definitely one to consider.
If the Manfrotto Element MII isn't quite tall enough for your photography needs, check out the 3 Legged Thing Punks Brian Tripod. It extends to around 188 cm, which is 28 cm taller than the Manfrotto, and it can fold down to just over 40 cm, so it's not any less portable either. It can also bear up to around 14 kg, making it better for heavier setups. Although pricey, it's a tripod you'd keep for a very long time.
For another more affordable tripod, take a look at the Manfrotto BeFree Advanced Travel Tripod. It's not quite as tall as the Element MII, but that does mean it's also slightly smaller when folded, so it could possibly be a better option for travel.
Kimberley Lane is a landscape & seascape photographer living in South Wales. Originally using photography as a way to cope with health issues, she aims to portray a feeling of calm and peace through her images. Her work has been featured in a number of national photography magazines.
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