Manfrotto Element Big Tripod Review
Unveil the Manfrotto Element Carbon Big tripod from its box and the first thing you notice is how small the whole package is.
We were a bit underwhelmed by the soft canvas transport bag with drawstring seal that contains the tripod. It doesn’t look so hard wearing, plus it offers moderate protection for the tripod inside, so we wouldn’t thrash this bag around. However, most tripods at this price do not include a bag at all.
Open the bag up and things are different. The Element Carbon Big is a tidy, well-crafted bit of kit. It has the signature carbon fibre look, with gun-metal grey striped leg sections. Our review sample is the black version, though the tripod is available in smart-looking blue, red and grey too.
It may be the large version, but the Element Carbon Big is still a travel tripod. With folded height of 42cm, it will attach snuggly to most camera bags without sticking out.
When not in use, the three legs fold up towards the ball head. The upper disc that supports the attached ball head has a diameter of 46.5mm. As such the tripod can securely hold a wide range of heads or even a camera directly.
However, the upper disc prevents the legs from folding in fully. So while the tripod has a small folded height, it has some girth to it. The disc could have profiles carved into it that the legs would slot into more snuggly when packing them away and it would still support the same variety of heads. That said, the upper disc can be removed through a quick spin to pack the tripod away more tightly.
The tripod is positively lightweight. At 1.4kg including the compact aluminium ball head it barely registers in the hand. The aluminium version is 200g heavier at 1.6kg. We didn’t have both tripods at the same time to make a comparison, but those are fine margins.
The minimum height to maximum height ratio of Element tripods is excellent, thanks to the 5-leg sections. Most other tripods have 3 or 4-leg sections. The tripod extends from 42cm up to 164cm. The flip side to more leg sections is that it can compromise leg strength.
Once the tripod is setup, a firm push down and twist of the legs shows that the tripod is strong. The twist leg locks close off securely. There is a little give when twisting the legs, but nothing untoward - certainly for the sort of camera that would be attached to this support.
You’ll see how tiny the bottom leg section diameter is, at 13mm. The leg diameters are 25mm, 22mm, 19mm 16mm and 13mm respectively. A slightly wider leg diameter could make the tripod a little more sturdy.
A flick of the finger against the legs shows moderate vibrations, but again nothing too untoward.
After some use with the Element Carbon Big tripod, we would expect it to provide a moderate life span. It’s durability is acceptable rather than outstanding. We’ll be sure to make any adjustments to this review with any new findings in the future.
The leg which features a soft foam grip for cold weather conditions can be unscrewed and then attached to the upper disc to create a standalone monopod. The whole process is speedy. (Of course removing one leg then makes the tripod unusable.)
You get three leg angles for a variety of working heights. The leg angle lock feels a tad on the fragile side - it has worked fine to this point but we would question how durable the mechanism is.
Manfrotto claims the Element Carbon Big tripod has a max load capacity of 8kg. It seems optimistic, though there are not many camera/ lens combinations that exceed this weight. We put our heaviest camera lens combination on the tripod which totals around 3kg and the tripod seemed stable enough. We’d be reluctant to use much heavier combinations.
As for extras, you get a set of screw-on foot spikes, that can replace the rubber feet. Manfrotto also chucks in a spare reversible 1/4in and 3/8in thread and some allan keys for adjusting the leg tilt tension and securing the tripod plate to the camera.
Overall, the Element Carbon Big is well crafted but could be refined in one or two areas. Also, as Manfrotto’s budget-level carbon fibre tripod it doesn’t feel the most durable of the range.