So I want to do gear reviews from time to time and although I wanted to eventually do a review on tripods, I felt a need to write one sooner due to this Blog/Podcast post I read/listened to here: http://www.photography.ca/blog/2011/04/26/tripod-photography/
First off let me say that I absolutely love this podcast! It’s very informative, fun to listen to as it’s not too long, and Marko keeps it moving quickly without any rambling, or useless chatter. I always enjoy it when the episodes randomly play on my MP3 player at work. An added bonus is his accent which makes me chuckle everytime I hear him. J/K Marko! The major points of his advice are these: 1-Don’t go cheap, 2- Don’t buy on the internet, try out the tripod at a local store, 3-Buy one with a seperate head-again don’t go cheap. 4-Carbon Fiber to save weight. He really hammers home the advice to not just buy it after reading reviews online but to absolutely go try it!!
I completely agree with him on all these points! That being said I pretty much broke everyone of them! That happens when you’re on a budget, I can hear you now saying “hey dummy you just bought a $1,500 camera and you can’t afford a $800 tripod and $400 Head?” Yeah that’s exactly what I’m saying, it took me 4 years to save up for the camera and honestly I just don’t have the patience to wait 4 years to save up for an expensive tripod and head. Also I’m of the opinion that most Photography related items are highly overpriced and it’s very disheartening to see those prices and know that you really need these things, so anytime I can “stick it to ‘em” I will. Plus I’ve got glass to buy… (don’t get me started on those prices)
So onto the review, even though I live in a decent sized city (Salt Lake City, Utah) and we have a number of really great photo stores, none of them carry off brand tripods and I wasn’t going to waste my time looking at tripods outside of my price range which was $200 or less. I think if you can do that you definitely should try before you buy, or even just to see what options you want, or to find the right height. Since that option wasn’t available to me I had to rely on online reviews and for the Benro tripods there are a few, although I wish there were more available so hopefully this one will be useful to someone who is looking. After reading and watching as many youtube video reviews as I could find and there were plenty of pro’s and cons given I settled on this tripod the Benro A-298 M8 I chose this model due to it’s cost, abilities (covered later) and its height. As Marko says you should get a tripod that fits your height, and even with only two of the three leg sections extended I’m able to use this without much bending.
Benro A298M8 and cheap Vivitar at full height
Here we see the Benro with my old Vivitar VPT-2400 tripod this is one of those el-cheapo tripods you get at Walmart for ~$20 I’ve had this for 10 years and it’s worked great for my little point & shoot camera. But there was no way I was going to trust my D7000 to that! It actually fell over once with my P&S on it during a windy day while I was trying to get a group shot of the family on one of our excursions, this is what happened to the camera:
Thankfully it still worked for the next 3 years, but I will never trust my D7000 on it.
The Benro has these features that helped me to pick it: 1- It collapses to a small size – 22″ without the ballhead, but is still the right height for me when extended (I’m 5’9″). 2- Weight, Even though it’s not Carbon Fiber it’s still pretty light – with the ball head on it weighs 5lbs. (Benro has a Carbon Fiber version) 3- the Flexpod arm which allows you to swing the camera out from the center line using the removable/extendable/reversible center column. Some additional things I’ve found since using it is that it’s sturdy, and everything moves really smoothly. I also found that I like the twist locks ( I haven’t gotten them really dirty yet so we’ll see if I still like them after some more exposure to elements) andI love ball heads but more on that in the next review.
Benro A-298 M8
Benro A298M8 compared to Vivitar VPT-2400
The Flexpod arm holding D7000 with a 18-200mm Legs are opened to the middle angle
The flexpod arm shoing underside of center column and ball head locking screws, the entire flexpod arm pans 360 degrees as well.
Center column inverted - D7000 and 18-200mm
Legs opened at widest angle
Only top 2 leg sections extended - My usual set up.
Leg spreader lock openedLeg spreader lock closedBox, Bag, and accessories: Spike feet, Allen wrench, carry strap, Warranty cardTwist leg locks
Leg spreader lock closed
Twist leg locks
Box, Bag, and accessories: Spike feet, Allen wrench, carry strap, Warranty card
The included bad is very nice but just a bit too small to fit the tripod with ballhead
In conclusion: Nice tripod, but what do I know I’ve used a piece of junk for 10 years?!
I have no buyers remorse whatsoever, and I’m quite pleased with the sturdiness and finish. I really hope that the influx of these lower priced tripods and other accessories will start to drive some pricing competition into the photography marketplace because it really needs it. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Happy -sturdy- Shooting!