The Manfrotto Mini Tripod, or the Pixi as it’s formally known, might be the most used accessory in my meager arsenal. It’s a slickly designed piece of (mostly)  plastic that lacks any extraneous parts or pieces. Instead it relies on the simplicity of three stout and sturdy legs to keep it, and whatever is attached to it, stable. With the legs unfolded, it’s only a couple of inches high so you’ll find yourself crouching and bending over quite a bit. But what it sacrifices in height, it makes up in versatility. I’ve been able to use the Pixi in countless situations- from places where tripods were forbidden (security guards always looked puzzled when confronted with it and I have yet to be turned away using it) to tight areas where a full tripod simply would never fit.

The mighty Pixi

The legs, when collapsed, also turn the pixi into a comfortable pistol grip – perfect for those who like to shoot a little video with it.  Expanded, it’s a supremely stable tripod for its size. Borrowing the hefty 24-70mm GM lens from a friend, I hesitated in attaching the Pixi to my camera and the massive piece of glass. But once I carefully mounted it, I slowly let the full weight of the camera and lens to rest on the tripod’s stubby three legs (results may vary!!). Lo and behold, it not only seemed to defy the laws of physics and held, but I was able to pitch the camera several degrees up and down without any wobbling. Granted, I freely admit that my hands were placed underneath juuuuust in case a rogue breeze decided to tip it over.

Because the A7Rii body is so dense and heavy, the center of gravity of the setup might have factored in the Pixi’s stability. In any case, it was still impressive. The ball head mount, the only part I had doubts about, is as simple as they come. Depressing a single button with the Manfrotto logo loosens the ball head to move it around and letting go of the button tightens it to that position. No knobs, no levers. Just a quick and easy mechanism to change the position of the camera. Despite my initial doubts of how much abuse the ball head can take, after many, many uses it hasn’t shown any signs of wear. It does lack a groove for extra vertical pitch so photographing the sky or anything directly above is tricky or near impossible. And while other portable tripods, especially the ones with flexible legs, can be more useful in some situations the Pixi is my go-to when stability is priority. If I’m taking long exposure shots and I don’t have my full sized tripods, I always go with the Pixi.

But while it might be a near perfect accessory, the Pixi’s few negatives comes from its portability. As mentioned before, since it’s a short little fella, you’ll have to get creative with where you set the Pixi up. Otherwise, you’ll have no choice but to crouch and shoot from a low perspective. More annoyingly, and most likely a result of my chronic brain farts, I am constantly losing the damn thing. It might be TOO portable- if such a thing exists. I’ve bought so many replacements but thankfully at 25 bucks a pop, it’s not a catastrophic hit to the wallet. Eventually I found most of the ones I thought I had lost. There were so many I could fashion a bandolier of mini-tripods. But finding other faults in the Pixi is a fruitless endeavor. If you’re looking for an inexpensive, portable tripod, it’s hard to do better than the Pixi.