I don’t like to do reviews until I’ve been using a piece of equipment for a while, as it can take some time to get used to it and it doesn’t seem right to review something after only a week. However, some pieces of equipment only take a short time to realise they’re a bit good. My Benro TMA48CXL Mach 3 tripod is definitely in the latter category.
Over the years I’ve been photographing landscapes, clambering over rocks and perching myself on top of tors, balancing on stone walls and standing on steep hillsides, there have been more than a few times I’ve needed an extension on one or more of the legs on the tripod I was using at the time. I’ve had the old reliable Manfrotto 055 XProB, which served me well on moors and coast and is now residing in the loft with quite badly corroded leg clamps. Replacing that was my Vanguard Alta Pro 263 AT, which is still a brilliant tripod, but just lacked the height I was after. Enter the Benro.
I bought my Benro at the Photography Show in March, after having set my mind on one for some time. I had a chat with a friendly crazy woman on the Benro stand and, after not a lot of convincing, headed to the Cameraworld stand where they had them in stock. As you can imagine I couldn’t wait to get home and try it out.
First impressions are of the size. It’s fat. Properly fat. The top leg sections are 35mm in diameter! Despite it’s apparent bulk, it’s very light; just 2.62kg (5.78lb in old money). My Vanguard Alta Pro weighs in at 2.44kg so there’s not much in it. When it’s strapped to the side of my bag I can’t tell the difference. The lowest of the 4 leg sections is about the same thickness as the top section of most ‘normal’ sized tripods. Let’s be honest though, I didn’t buy the Benro for being a size Zero. I want height and if that means girth too, so be it!
At full extension with the centre column extended it’s about 7 feet tall. Why would I need a 7 foot tripod? I don’t. What I need is a 7 foot leg to reach down from the top of rocks to get the composition I’m hankering for. This thing is tall! Tall enough to throw a tarpaulin over and sit under, should that be your desire. That said though, it goes pretty low too. Simply swapping the tall centre column for the short one, which is supplied, you can easily get down to about 100mm. When folded it’s not much taller than the Vanguard so it means it still fits on the side of my bag nicely.
So is it stiff? You betcha! Even at full extension this thing is as solid as Ashford and Simpson. Even with the legs splayed out flat it’s solid. The legs are designed to damp out any vibration, which obviously is a great advantage when trying to get those unusual angles. In windy conditions it still refused to budge which meant my shots were nice and sharp. There’s one of those pull out hook thingies at the bottom of the centre column for hanging bags on to help stabilize it even more. It’s strong enough to take the weight of my Osprey rucksack with all my camera gear, coats and water bottle in. I know, I tried it.
Out in the field (or moors, or mountains, or coast) it’s a joy to use. I must admit it took me a while to get used to the twist lock leg clamps, but I’ve been used to the quick release flappy style clamps for years. After a few times out though it becomes second nature. It sets up quickly as you’d expect and doesn’t move until you pick it up. (Did I say it’s solid?) If you use it on softer ground you have the choice of changing the grippy screw on rubber feet with the spikes that come with it. I prefer the feet as I spend a lot of time on rocks, although when I’ve tried the spikes they still grip surprisingly well. Raising the centre column (which I have done, despite the height) is as easy as a twist of the big blue collar and then pull. To splay the legs there’s a catch at the top of each leg, which slides out to allow the legs to pass over the ridges on the main collar. No springs or buttons to seize up or catch your fingers – simplicity itself.
So what do you get for your money?
A huge, stiff, light, beautifully made 4 leg section carbon fibre tripod with magnesium fittings and lots of nice detail touches.
A short centre column so you can get down nice and low if you wish.
Spikes to replace the rubber feet.
Tools so you can tighten/loosen/maintain your tripod and change the feet for spikes.
A well padded bag to carry it all in (but to be honest, how many of us use those?)
Some images taken using the Benro at it’s best
Having been using the Benro for a few months now I can honestly say I’m still impressed. It’s been used in pretty horrible conditions but I’ve been more than confident that I can turn around and let it go without fear of it falling over with my camera attached. If I had a choice of tripods to grab, (which I do) I would grab the Benro every time, despite the extra weight over my others. I only have one minor gripe with it… The Benro sticker on the leg is peeling off at the top corner. I’m pretty sure it won’t affect performance though so I’ll live with it.
I’m guessing if you’ve read this far you realise I’m more than happy with this tripod. I’m pretty sure I shouldn’t need to get another tripod for a very long time. Too many times I’ve had to compromise and walked away feeling I didn’t get the image I wanted. Now I have more of a chance of getting my camera in the position I want. It does exactly what I want, is not actually that much of a burden to carry on my bag, is a thing of beauty to look at, is rock solid and tall. Very, very tall.