Alternatives to the Manfrotto Element MII tripod; $190, carbon, 63", 4 section legs, 3lbs


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Nov 4, 2011
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Hoping for someone who has also recently waded through the world of tripods. I'm open to buying a ball head and legs separately but I presume for my amateur needs the combos are plenty good enough.

I've been searching for a decent tripod for a 2-3lb mirrorless camera setup. Hiking and landscapes, I'm 6' tall. It feels like I should be able to find something good enough in the ~$200 range but I can spend more. I came across the Element MII which seems extremely close but it sounds like the ball head is a little cheap (plastic QR plate).

Things I like about the Element MII:

* twist locks
* 63" max height
* 17" packed (really anything under 20" is fine)
* 4 leg sections (not 5)
* carbon fiber/weight (3lbs)
* price

Manfrotto also has the befree GT Travel carbon which seems to just be a better version all round of roughly the same tripod but thats $424. Manufacturers websites are surprisingly unhelpful in trying to sort through all the options and differences.

Looking for specific models, not just brands, I've been combing through so many.
I don't have a model to suggest but I do have a brand you can look at - Benro. When I looked at tripods I had Manfrotto in mind as I own one of their table tripods, and one of their monopods is strapped to my bicycle frame. For the features in a tripod and head that I wanted, though, the Manfrotto price was more than I wanted to pay. I wanted a fluid damped head because I used them on television studio tripods for years, and I occasionally shoot video with my K-70. I bought my Benro A1573FS2PRO at my local camera shop two years ago for $240. It is an A1573F tripod with an S2PRO head, which has very smooth fluid damped action and a bubble level. Since the tripod has a leveling system for the head leveling the camera is easy. The three-section telescoping aluminum legs have flip locks. The maximum working height is specified as 62" - I am 6' 3" and it works fine for me. Maximum camera weight for that head is 5.5 lbs., closed length is 27.5", and weight with head is just under 5 lbs. It may not meet all your needs, but Benro may have something that will satisfy you. I buy the majority of my photographic equipment at my local camera shop. I prefer to try lenses in person on my camera. Have a look online at the Benro line. B&H and Adorama are my favorites for comparing specs between brands and models.
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Bang for the buck? I'd look into the basic Manfrotto190 series. The befree and Element series seem a bit flimsy and lack the modularity of the 190 and 055 tripods. I'm not a fan of twist-lock legs.
Found a couple really good options, both have 4 sections, ~64" max height, ~18" folded, ~3lbs

* Benro Rhino Carbon Fiber One series with VX20 head ($310)
* Leofoto Urban series LX-254CT+XB-32 ($350)

Leaning more toward the Leofoto but it looks like the urban series is new so theres not much for reviews on it. It was priced at $315 on their website with free shipping yesterday, although now its $350. I think i like the XB-32 ball head more, but in general that Urban series seems like nice quality.
Think repair parts/heads/QR compatibility. Why I pass on off-brands...
You asked. Remember? Buy what you like. It's your $$$.
I will add that it really depends on what you're trying to shoot. If you just need a stable platform to hold your lightweight mirrorless camera, then most travel tripods will work great. If you're looking for something solid for long exposures, you'll find that most lightweight travel tripods will wobble and you'll want something heavier.

You also mentioned an interesting criterion, which is a taller height. Travel tripods tend to either be a little shorter in order to fold down and be more compact, or have more leg sections which will decrease stability. On that note, carbon fiber can save on some weight but also tends to be a little bouncier, which can be an issue at times.

Someone else mentioned not liking twist lock legs, and I will second that. Twist locks tend to be more compact and are included on most travel tripods, however I much prefer lever locks when available. I find them easier to deploy, more reliable, and unlike some of the twist locks I have used, don't seem to break. However twist locks seem to be the standard on travel tripods, and you expressed a preference for them, so this may be a moot point.

Lastly, I always have a preference for known brands with standard quick release plates. My favorite have always been Manfrotto's RC2 quick release plates, which are easy to find and lock in solid. However I switched all my tripods over to Arca type plates for compatibility with my L-bracket and consistency across brands of tripods.

Here is what I have and would recommend:
  • Full sized tripod: I use a Manfrotto 055XProB tripod with a Manfrotto 054 magnesium ball head, converted to Arca using this Really Right Stuff Arca clamp. If I recall, I also needed something called a "boss adapter" to attach the RRS clamp to the Manfrotto head. It comes in at about 6.5lbs, has a fully extended height of 74", and folds down to 30". It's big, heavy, and not fun to travel with, but it is very stable and my go-to tripod for the last 10 years. While some of these specific products have been discontinued, there have been newer versions that look to be very similar, although at a higher price point these days.
  • Ultra-compact travel tripod: I came across the Sirui T-25SK T-0S when looking for something I didn't think existed - a full-sized tripod that could hold a heavy SLR with a fast lens that folded down small enough to fit INSIDE my camera bag. It can hold 13lbs, has a max height of 54", and folds down to an unbelievable 12.5". I wouldn't use this for long exposures and it greatly benefits from hanging a water bottle or other weight from it for stability, but is overall very usable. It has twist lock legs, an Arca ball head, and tends to be very bouncy due to its thin carbon fiber legs. This one has been discontinued as well, but there appears to be a new version with identical specs. Again, I cannot stress enough how convenient it is having a 2lb travel tripod that fits inside my bag.
  • Mid-sized travel tripod: I realize this was really what you were asking about, and this is the one area I never quite decided on. I've only heard good things about the Manfrotto Befree line, and my recommendation would be to go with the more affordable Manfrotto Befree GT Travel Aluminum Tripod, unless you have a specific need for carbon fiber. It comes in at about 0.6lb heavier, but also gives you an extra inch of height and costs $180 less.

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