I wanted to blog about my new tripod (exciting stuff I know) as I’m very happy with it and having spent hours, days trawling the Internet, researching which one to buy I would like to share my thoughts and experience. This post is really for anyone who doesn’t quite know which tripod to buy, and is after some ideas on what they need to consider or for those already considering the brand Benro, the tripod I went for.
For many years I have used an aluminium Manfrotto 190 series tripod, with a large three handle tripod head. It did a great job but has now been relegated to use as a spare for participants taking my photography course. I don’t treat my gear too well (it’s there to be used after all), and the tripod took a bit of a beating, with regular dunks in both salt water and sand, without being cleaned. It is now rusty, almost unusable and too heavy to travel with.
In comes my new travel angle Benro carbon fibre tripod and ball head (Benro C2681 + B-1 ball head). For a cheap carbon fibre tripod I had my doubts but thankfully I’m very happy with it and willing to give them a free plug. At a ‘reasonable’ $400 AUD from eBay this is cheap by carbon fibre standards.
The Benro tripod exceeded my requirements, which were as follows:
1. It must be light in weight. I have strict weight allowances for luggage on some airlines. Including the head the tripod weighs about 3kg.
2. It must support at worst my 5D Mark II, with a battery grip, batteries, Canon 70-200mm L Series lens, Really Right stuff pano head, filters and allow a bit extra for additional loading due to forces imposed when carrying it, wind etc. The total weight rated for this tripod is 12kg well above the 5-7kg camera gear I have.
3. It must be compact and portable but still able to extend to a comfortable operating height. I’m 6ft2″ so at a height of 137cm and 164cm with the centre column extended it was perfect.
4. Long term it should replace my existing tripod and not be a ‘travel only’ tripod.
5. The price must be reasonable, who can justify the cost of a Gitzo? Not me.
The type of tripod head wasn’t so much of a concern to me. I had quite happily been using a clunky three handle Manfrotto head for years. The great thing about the Manfrotto head was that it could be perfectly horizontally panned. This is great for taking panoramic photos where horizons need to stay flat when panning. After buying a Really Right Stuff panning base I could pan to my hearts content on any head so I decided to conform and go with the ball head and must say haven’t looked back since.
In addition to the above requirements the Benro also had some great extras which swayed me:
1. It can be used as a monopod. This was something I had not even considered but it has already been a great addition. One of the legs can be unscrewed, the ball head attached and the rig used as a monopod. I used this to great effect at the 2010 Edinburgh Military Tattoo in Scotland, where space was limited, I was using telephoto length’s and exposure times were up due to limited light. The monopod helped keep my images sharp.
2. Interchangeable feet. The tripod comes with both spiked and rubber feet. This isn’t something my previous tripod had but would have come in handy as the rubber feet needed replacing.
3. Tripod bag, great for transportation.
4. Three extension sections. Not that I really know but four section tripods seem flimsy. The bottom section gets pretty skinny and you don’t really save much space when compacted. This one is chunky so at least gives the perception of reliability and stability.
5. Hook on centre column for additional weight giving extra stability. The instructions advise not to attach too much weight or it will have the adverse effect, strange!
6. Water and sand proof extension grips. I guess at least it will delay the inevitable death of this tripod.
Overall this tripod is easy to use, quick to erect, great build quality and suits me down to the ground. Depending on how you plan to use your tripod your requirements may differ. This tripod was an ideal choice for my landscape work and I´m sure it will be great at everything else I throw at it.
UPDATE: I’ve had this tripod for sometime now and it is still going strong, you can even take it apart and give it a good clean: Benro Tripod Maintenance manual