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  1. mrjames

    mrjames

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    This post is quite long, and I will punctuate it with some pictures!


    I was looking for a new tripod to replace one that was lost, a very lightweight (1.5kg with head) but quite flimsy giottos vitruvian- i'm a big fan of light weight, i'm a big fan of reverse folding tripods, and i'm a big fan of saving money- so I looked to the chinese tripods to see what was out there- my vitruvian with the head was only around £130. I upgraded to a kirk bh3 head I bought from the forums which I really loved.



    I looked at the benro travel angel series (carbon fiber and aluminum), fotopro mgc and mga, feisol 3441t, sirui, trioppo, and just needed to get physical with something as I was reading way too many reviews and seeing as none of this stuff is stocked anywhere I and to order online and be prepared to return anything I didn't want.



    I obtained a benro 1680 from ebay, second hand but immaculate, it was light, quite sturdy with the 5d and prime lenses, but not tall enough for studio work (smaller than the vitruvian but sturdier), and not strong enough for the 1d and zoom lenses (although the problem was mainly the head)- so I looked into something that was taller and i'd get a better head that wouldn't slip when loaded to the max. I deciding to go with 2 tripods (1 small, one larger- but both still relatively light and reverse folding) as my benro fits in my satchel and is very small when folded up, so keep the small benro and look for a second tripod capable for use with the 1d and 70-200 (but for now no larger than that) for use in the studio, and on location



    I bought a fotopro mga684 aluminum tripod with ball head (£113), and a benro a2682 aluminum tripod with a b1 head (£200) and looked at a few others which I think I will order to try out after xmas







    Below is a quick summary on my thoughts, and then some questions afterwards- to cut to the chase I'm not sure about either tripod- both are great, but both also have set backs, and to fix them I would need to spend a lot more money to get a noticeably different experience, a small amount of money would fix one or two minor issues- the question is do I spend more or live with what I already have.
  2. mrjames

    mrjames

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    Benro a1680 bh1







    the small benro is extremely light, 1.3kg without a head and the included head is only 200g, so very lightweight despite it not being carbon fibre, the Cf version would be incredibly light but I think it's light enough right now, and presents good bang for the buck- go carbon when you have a larger tripod and you’re also carrying extra lenses etc, then saving weight really matters. I only paid £80 for it as new old stock, so it was a good buy and I will keep it as it was a good price, it’s so light and it fits nicely into my satchel for times when I just go out with the 5d and tripod with a standard satchel bag rather than a larger carry-all type bag, really like the tripod for small loads, but with centre column fully extended (still very stable but obviously not as stable) it's just about eye level (i'm 6ft) but raising the centre column looks unprofessional and goofy, the head that came with it was no good (it has a combined knob for pan and ball release, so no independent panning base and no friction control at all, it’s just locked or unlocked) so I swapped it for a spare giottos ball head I had lying around from my old setup and threw an arca clamp onto it. The newer version of the benro 1 series has the b0 head which is much better and has separate pan/lock/friction knobs- that version will cost you £160 shipped with free shipping







    it's a shame the tripod is so small, I really liked this one, just wish it was a little taller. For the price, the weight is really good, even for the aluminum version.







    I put a panning rotator on top of the benro, and some additional clamps as weights and concluded that 1.8kg was a comfortable limit for tripod weight, any more and I could really notice it, but 1.8 was comfortable and I had no problem's to carry that weight- interestingly my old tripod with the kirk bh3 head weighed a total of 1.91kg so I think that under 1.8-2kg is fine, but over 2kg becomes noticeably heavier, 200 grams matter.







    Benro a2682 tb1







    the larger benro is larger in mass/size/diameter- it has thicker legs and a beefier central spider, but isn't really much taller than the 1680, about 5cm taller and 2cm larger when folded up- weight (without head) is 1.74kg vs 1.33, and it comes to eye level when using the centre column about halfway- it's very stable even when using the column, it's a really good tripod, but i'd rather not use the column at all, and it's more expensive at £200 for the tripod and head. The benro bag's are really great though. The head is nice, noticeably better than the fotopro head, but noticeably worse than a high end ballhead- for a £100 head it's fine and will do for most people not putting on large weights, you can’t buy this tripod without a head, so it’s an easy option for those who want both but if you want a different head you’re sinking money into a benro head you’re not going to be using. The carbon version of the tripod is 370g lighter- but costs £120 more, a lot of money for a slight improvement but it puts it under 1.8kg, which for me would be worth the cost, if you're happy to carry extra weight then maybe you wouldn't spring for the carbon model. Initially I didn’t like the benro leg angle locks, but after using the fotopro tripod over the weekend I think I prefer them (more on this later) and I also prefer the hard plastic leg locks on the benro to the squishy rubber of the fotopro, the leg locks feel good though and are east to use requiring only 1/4 turn to lock/unlock- very quick to deploy.











    if this was 10cm taller it would be the perfect tripod, if you can compromise then more power to you.











    fotopro mga 684 with ballhead







    the fotopro is much taller than the benro- around 10cm (which makes a big difference and with the head/camera on it puts the viewfinder at just under eye level without using the centre column), it's a lot bigger than the smaller benro, and when folded up is the largest- although still compact at 47cm (vs 46cm for the benro a2682), weight is a fraction more than the larger benro at 1.79kg without a head. The bag is cheaper than the benro bag, and the whole package feels cheaper compared to the benro- but at only £113 for the tripod, head and an arca plate it's a pretty good deal and is nearly £90 less- most people would be extremely happy with this tripod, for the money it's fantastic.







    the head is ok in terms of quality, but it has no friction control other than a graded locking scale that didn’t seem to hold properly until fully locked up- meaning there was no real ‘friction control’ at all with a big lens. Also the squishy rubber on the knobs aren’t very nice to use compared to the harder metal/plastic on other ball heads. I'm being very OCD here though, I like my equipment to be just so...







    The only real snags on the tripod are that the centre column isn't grooved so it rotates freely, it's hard to get a really tight secure lock on the centre column as it's made of a soft touch squishy rubber that A) feels weird to touch, and B) is hard to get a decent grip on, and as soon as you slacken off the centre column it will immediately fall down, where as the benro has some degree of 'air cushioning' so it will still fall but won't drop like a stone, the benro had more of a gradual shift from locked to unlocked, and would slowly slide down when released, the fotopro was either fully locked or fully unlocked, and 1/4 of a turn was the difference between completely locked and your camera free falling, so make sure you have a tight grip on your camera when adjusting the column otherwise your camera/fingers could have a very bad day, but if you don't use the centre column these points are moot, you can get away without using the centre column often as the tripod is so tall- I really like 1/4 turn adjustments, but the squishy rubber makes you feel like you’re not in full control of the knobs as it’s almost as if there’s a delay between turning the knob and something happening as the squishy rubber has to move first before the force is transferred to the metal knob underneath, and there’s no hard ‘stop’ point to tell you that you’re fully tight (I really don’t like that squishy plastic they use…)







    all of these folding tripods convert into a monopod- personally I have never used that feature and doubt I ever would, but what is so clever about this tripod is central column splits into 2, when the column is lowered you can unscrew the bottom half of the column and then you’re left with a short centre column, which makes macro/low level work very easy, you just unscrew the column and instantly you can drop down to floor level, no need to remove the head or anything- this is a killer feature which the benro and the others I looked at didn't have, the feisol and benro tripods have an optional centre column but it involves buying an accessory (additional expense), removing the ballhead and fitting it when you need it- and chances are it will be at home when you need it. So it's great that it's built in, and the pitch of the screw thread to separate the halves is really fine so I haven't noticed any stability issues, it just feels like one piece.



    The centre column uses a weird double locking system where you have the traditional knurled ring round the centre column but you also have a thumbscrew off to the side- the thumbscrew is easier to use, just a 1/4 turn to lock but if you tighten only the thumbscrew the column is locked for height but has about 1mm of play from side to side, tightening the knob around the centre column eliminates this play, you don’t need to tighten the second lock to properly lock down the centre column, making the second locking knob superfluous, but I did find it useful as a safety precaution against the centre column falling if the centre knob was accidentally loosened, (but naturally i'd go to loosen the column and wonder why it wouldn't go down, only to realize the second lock was engaged, it actually isn’t a very great design- would prefer just one easy to use knob, the benro is better in this regard). there are lots of things on this tripod that leave me wondering as to their use, it's as if fotopro didn't actually consult photographers when they were making the tripod and they just assumed that we wanted bits hanging off and wrist-straps on your tripod (useless- except in monopod mode), and the head has a bubble level on the side (completely useless)- fotopro are a good engineering company, they just need a good designer too, all these chinese tripod makers have bad ideas (multi-coloured tripods, seriously?)







    The benro has a retractable hook built into the central column, the fotopro has a much more primitive retractable male screw thread where you simply screw the female threaded hook on to use it, and unscrew it when you're done (it won't fit in the bag with the hook ok), i’ve never used the hook feature on any tripod, but if you do then not having it built in would be a drag, personally I prefer the split centre column and wish more tripods would have this, a split centre column with a sprung loaded hook built it, that would be fantastic. The benro also comes with spiked metal feet, the fotopro does not.




    The leg locks feel like a possible point of failure, they are sprung loaded and don't fill me with confidence, it feels like something could get in to the mechanism and cause havoc, or for something could come lose inside the mechanism as there’s a lot of play in the leg locks. Having to hold down the spring while folding back the legs is a bit of an acrobatic maneuver, the legs are tight and need some force to open and close, I thought i'd prefer sprung loaded after not really liking the benro plastic 'pull tabs' but I really think the pull tabs are better, and less breakable, and easier to use as a whole- I still don’t like the pull tabs but they’re better than sprung clips, maybe really high quality easy to press sprung clips would be great, I had no problem with the spring clips on my old tripod. The whole package is really fantastic for the money, the tripod looks extremely solid and professional, but I felt pretty uneasy about the tripod when using it, not knowing whether I should trust it with these bigger loads, would really like to hear some other opinions if anyone has used this tripod before but the fact that no one here has likely used it fills me with suspense, I don't want to be the first to discover the weak points and design flaws of this tripod- I need to put it through it's paces before the 14 day return period is up! I think the head is worse than the tripod but the whole kit for the money it's fantastic, and the fact i'm even thinking of putting a 1d and 70-200 onto a £113 tripod that's under 2kg, is full-sized and folds up to only 47cm is pretty miraculous, i’m really being hyper critical but when you take away budget and think 'if I had all the money in the world, would I still chose this' it made me think about what was out there at the next level- the fotopro would definitely serve me for a few years (it has a 5 year warranty) but i’m already curious about the feisol tripods, and other high quality models.
  3. mrjames

    mrjames

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    markins m10





    it’s a great head, but it’s heavy, big and the friction setting you’ll either love or hate. I also looked at the following heads, amongst many, many others:







    arca swiss p0



    markins q3 travller



    sunwayfoto fb44



    sundayfoto fb36



    rrs bh40





    I figured that the fotopro head was the weak link so I looked into a better head, I set my budget at around £150 and was about to buy the sunwayfoto db44 (my old head was a kirk bh3), I came across a markins q10 for sale well under budget (well under), couldn’t resist so i bought it. it’s a nice head, the load it can take is crazy, no way i’d ever max it out- it’s perhaps overkill considering my largest load would be the 1d and 70-200 so i’d be happy to drop down to the q3 and lose 200g and have a less sturdy head- initially I was stoked to be getting so much capacity at such a low price, but the reality is that not everyone wants such a heavy head. I was planning to remove the clamp and add on a panning base, that adds another 200g so it’s starting to get quite heavy at 690g- for comparison the sunwayfoto fb36 (the lightest head in the list above) with the panning base would still only weigh 504g







    the knobs are large and easy to use, the friction control works by setting the main locking ball to the desired friction and then you use your thumb to turn the inner wheel to set that as the friction level, if you then put a lighter/heavier load on you can then readjust the friction to suit. My old head had a separate knob for friction, so you just set that where you wanted it and the main knob then just locked/unlocked the ball- both have pro’s and con’s, the markins way is more of a ‘set and forget’ minimum friction point, so I just set it to a point where I can loosen the ball and the head won’t flop over, and i’d never really adjust it unless I really had to, say for example using a much larger lens, the knob is recessed so it doesn’t change accidentally or get knocked. Where as with the kirk head I would re-adjust friction all the time, often as a result of it having been moved- so this method is quicker to change, and you can have it so that you know to set it to 3 with a certain lens/camera, and then set it to 7 with another- you have more control with this method but the markins method has the advantage of not being knocked or adjusted accidentally.







    unfortunately because the panning and locking knob on the head are close to one another it makes it difficult to fit onto a reverse folding tripod, especially the fotopro as it has chunky leg locks that interfere with the knobs of the tripod. The only solution to this is to use the tripod without folding back the legs- or get a tripod with smaller leg locks/use a smaller head/use something with knobs that are at a correct distance apart to fit between the leg locks. I really like the head, but I also really like the tripod- as a combination they’re not working so something has to give, just not sure which it is yet.





    the benro tripod fits the markins head just fine, even the small 1680 benro can take the head and fold up without issue, I imagine the feisol would also work with the head- it’s only the fotopro that doesn’t fit properly with the head.



















    The next level











    I decided to return the benro and maybe i'll also return the fotopro, the extra height of the fotopro was great, not quite eye level but near enough- I had to keep reminding myself that the aluminum version with ball head and arca plate was only £113 shipped, the carbon fibre version is around £200 shipped, or around 230 with the head and plate. The carbon fibre version is 1.45kg vs 1.79kg, so 0.34kg lighter (enough to make a difference but not a deal breaker- an extra £90 for 0.3kg saving and the extra vibration reduction of carbon fibre)- with the included head it would be 1.8kg or 1.94kg with the m10 (a lot lighter, but still doesn’t fit between the legs!)



    As I said in the review the head that came with the fotopro isn't the best, but for £30 it's fine especially with small cameras (wouldn't hold the 70-200 and 1d) but as I wanted a beefier tripod I ended up picking up a better head- a markins m10 but the head is quite heavy at 490g, pushing the whole set up by 150g to 2.28kg- way heavier than I would like.


    I was pretty happy with this set-up for the money (just over £200) but I was concerned the weight was a little higher than i'd like (concluded I wanted to get under 1.8kg), and with the head not fitting it made me go back to the drawing board as I would be happy to spend another £100-£150 for something perfect, considering my max load is the 1d and 70-200 the markins q10 feels like overkill. I liked the extra height of the fotopro and considered the carbon fibre upgrade and a different head (maybe markins q3, or one of the smaller sunwayfoto heads) which should fit between the legs, but also felt like I should hang on to the q10- if the benro was as big as the fotopro I would keep that and be done with it, I really liked that tripod.


    Ideal setup= 1.8kg-2kg max. 46cm folded, over 160 cm without using the centre column, grooved centre column, split centre column, retractable hanging hook, a nice bag included, fits the m10 ballhead with no trouble











    I then read about the feisol and sirui carbon fibre tripods- feisol do a model called the 3441t- it's even taller than the fotopro without using the centre column, and astonishingly it's only 1.1kg- 700g lighter than my current tripod, and 350g lighter than the carbon fotopro model. I am yet to order the feisol and am slightly concerned to as they don’t take kindly to returns it seems, and nowhere stocks them on the highstreet (of course!) but from what i've read it's a great tripod, hopefully this would give me the stability of the benro, the quality of the benro, the nice bag, the height of the fotopro, the incredible weight saving, and hopefully it will take the m10 head with no problem- and it looks quite good, but it's pretty expensive at £282 with shipping, and i’m concerned it will be top heavy with the heavy head and camera







    With the m10 it would only weigh 1.55kg (the same as my small benro kit), I have no issues with that weight, well under my target weight so i’d be happy to carry that all day- but with a smaller head it would be astonishingly light, but I only have the funds to either swap the head, or the tripod- so not sure which is the better way to go







    1) (keep head and return tripod) buy feisol 3441t and use with m10 head or sell m10 head and get sunwayfoto fb36 (costs me £282, total weight 1.59kg or 1.4kg [total cost now=£412- way over budget])


    2) (return/sell both) buy fotopro carbon with sunwayfoto fb36 (costs me £196 for the tripod, £130 head=£326, total weight 1.75kg)


    3) (keep tripod and sell head) buy sunwayfoto fb36 for £130, use it on the aluminum fotopro I already have [total spend=£243 and I have a spare fotopro ballhead, total weight= 2.09kg]


    4) (keep current tripod, keep current head) use money saved for gym membership :D or a new lens [total spent=£243 and I still have a spare fotopro ballhead, total weight=2.28kg]






    option 4 is the simplest but heaviest, option 3 largely resolves around the quality of the sunwayfoto head being equivalent to the markins and the sunwayfoto head fitting properly between the tripod legs. option 2 means i’d buy the tripod without head, meaning I wouldn’t have a spare ballhead (not that I need a spare anyway) but could be the best bang for my buck? carbon, light, and a small light ballhead. Option 1 might be too light (no stability), top heavy? but I could actually sell the markins head and get the sunwayfoto for a super lightweight setup- I might consider selling my small benro set-up to contribute to buying this set up, and then get a bigger satchel or just carry the tripod in it's own bag- but will I seriously regret having got such a light tripod, is there such a thing as too light?
  4. Nod

    Nod Ethel Prescott

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    As long as it's stable enough, light is good. You can always hook/hang a bag under the centre column to weigh it down if necessary. Surprised you found the Vitruvian flimsy, I have the carbon one and find it's man enough even with a D800 and 70-200 f/2.8 on top of it. Shame a Manfrotto head makes it a little bulky but I have a couple of plates for the Giottos head which reduces plate changes.
  5. tijuana taxi

    tijuana taxi

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    Gitzo 1142T with Markins Q3T, job done

    For travelling very light I use an older Gitzo G1158 with a Photoclam PC-33NS and if necessary use a small guy rope and screw thread tent peg to anchor it down, not keen on the bag/hook and associated pendulum effect.

    No substitute for a Series 3 systematic and Markins M10 when its a bit windy, if you detach the head its still fine to carry strapped on a rucksack only measures 55cm when closed down
  6. mrjames

    mrjames

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    maybe it wasn't 'flimsy', and tbh I had no issues with it except wanting it to be a little taller- i used it with the kirk head and the 1d/70-200, but the legs would splay out and bend under that wight with it being 5 sections- so I decided to stick to 4 section tripods

    would like the 1542t if it was taller, if they made a reverse folding gitzo that was 160cm tall without the centre column i'd have it tomorrow- unfortunately they don't. I suppose I could use a normal tripod and remove the head for travel, but would rather stick with the reverse folding idea
    would love a bigger (but still very light) gitzo but they're far out of my price range- suppose I could stick with what I have for now and go the gitzo route further down the line?
    the tent peg idea is brilliant!
  7. tijuana taxi

    tijuana taxi

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    Last edited: Dec 25, 2013

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