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Old 19th of May 2011 (Thu)   #1
peter_n
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Default Review: Benro C2680T travel tripod

The Benro C2680T is a travel tripod in the same category as the Gitzo 1541T and 1542T with four leg sections that fold back over the center column for easy packing in travel luggage. Itís a Gitzo copy and uses some of the older Gitzo design elements and improves on others. Itís variously called C2680T, C268, and C-268 M8 and can be sourced directly from China on eBay for US $326 with free shipping as of the date of this post. The tripod comes with a three-year warranty. I bought mine nine months ago and have used it extensively here in the US and abroad. Iíve taken it on recent trips to Bermuda and Ireland and used it in cities, the shore and mountains. This review is somewhat limited and reflects my personal experience of the product (Iím 5ft 8in tall) and my particular concerns about its reliability, design, construction, and usability.


Size and weight specs (v.1)
  • Max. leg diameter 29mm
  • Min. leg diameter 18.5mm
  • Max. height to top of Markins Q3T ballhead clamp 1575mm (62.0in)
  • Folded length 424mm (16.7in)
  • Folded length to top of Markins Q3T ballhead clamp 448mm (17.6in)
  • Weight 1.26kg (2.77lbs).

Size and weight specs (v.2)

Edit entered 11/1/2011: Benro have slightly altered the spec of this tripod. I'm listing out the updated spec below having received the data from my dealer in China. The specs listed above are my own measures, and the two specs below that include the Q3T head are calculated from my dealer's measurements. The center column has been shortened very slightly but the max height remains the same, so Benro must have increased leg section lengths slightly as well. The net effects of these small changes from a usability perspective are that the folded length of the v.2 tripod is smaller by 0.4in, and the v.2's shorter center column means the folded legs are no longer as parallel to the center column as the v.1 legs. Here is a view of a folded v.2 of the tripod, and a look at my v.1 also folded so that you can visually compare the two. As of this date the v.1 is no longer manufactured, and the v.2 is the only one you can buy new.

  • Max. leg diameter 29mm - unchanged
  • Min. leg diameter 18.5mm - unchanged
  • Max. height to top of Markins Q3T ballhead clamp 1575mm (62.0in) - unchanged (with Benro B1 head it's 1570mm; same as the original spec)
  • Folded length 425mm (16.7in) - increased by 1mm
  • Folded length to top of Markins Q3T ballhead clamp 438mm (17.2in) - decreased by 10mm (with Benro B1 head it's 440mm; 10mm less than the original spec)
  • Weight 1.25kg (2.75lbs) - decreased by 1gm

Center column
I donít use a center column in my regular tripods, but you canít avoid them with a travel tripod. The rapid center column is grooved/non-rotating and the top base is hard molded rubber on an alloy center. The base is screwed onto the column with the ballhead stud that is secured underneath with a set screw. Thereís a spring-loaded hook at the bottom of the column that is also secured by a set screw. The center column slides smoothly up-and-down, aided by the noticeable side-play in the column when the column twist lock is loose. The side-play disappears when the twist lock is tightened. The lock doesnít have to be fully tightened for the center column to be properly held.




Main casting
The main casting is made of magnesium alloy with what the manufacturer calls a double surface protection. The finish is dull black and the outside dimension of the bridge that connects the center part of the casting to the reverse-folding joints is 17mm (see the yellow lines in the pic below in the leg section). The legs rotate on the lower part of the main casting and this leg joint, along with the leg locks, is one of the most heavily used mechanical components of the tripod.

The joint area is constructed as follows: A leg joint socket has an outer sleeve that is solid with the casting. A threaded cylinder rotates inside the sleeve. Each end of the sleeve is covered with a brass washer and the top fork of the leg is pushed onto this assembly. All the tolerances are tight and a leg requires some force to be pushed on enough so that the leg screws can be inserted. A serrated lock washer is placed on the outside of the fork and the screws once pushed through the socket are turned against each other with standard 5/32 hex keys. See the pic below. The design and construction is identical to Gitzo except for the outside washers and screws; the Gitzo uses flat alloy washers and screws that take a star-shaped key, but the Benro uses serrated lock washers and screws that accept the common 5/32 hex driver. In nine months of use I needed to tighten one of the legs after I received the tripod and none since. This is a well constructed piece with tight tolerances and quality materials and it has been very reliable in use.




Legs
The carbon fiber used in the legs has eight quasi-isotropic layers that are oriented in several different directions for strength. At least thatís the theory. All I know is that I havenít broken a leg section yet. Iíve had no issues with the CF. The top leg section is fixed into a very deep collar (see the red lines in the pic below) and securely screwed in at the top (left side of pic).




There are two leg extension angles and a very usable sliding angle stop that is modeled after the Gitzo stops. The leg section locks are dust and moisture resistant, and are extremely smooth to unlock and lock. The ALR feature on this and most other modern tripods is a definite usability advance. Some manufacturers still make the old designs and charge extra for ALR; itís worth the money Ė thereís just no comparison in terms of ease of use. A lot of my work with this tripod has been in urban areas and I set up and break down constantly in the course of a day. The combination of these twist locks with their great grip and silky smooth action together with ALR makes this tripod a real pleasure to use.




The internal design of the Benro leg locks is the same as a Gitzo. There are differences in terms of length but the bushings and the ALR sleeve provide the same functions. Modern bushings are all plastic and the Benro bushings are no exception. Iíve used the C2680T on beaches and in salt water and there have been no problems yet with sand or water. One interesting thing about them is that when youíre collapsing the legs, they make a swooshing sound that indicates that some air inside is being forced out, so maybe there is something to the Benro claim about the ďresistanceĒ of the locks.




The leg diameters are large on the C2680T yet the legs will fold back parallel to the center column on any ballhead that has a max outside diameter of 50mm for the panning base or ball housing. This is because the Benro has a relatively large main casting. Iíve used Markins Q3T and Photo Clam PC-33NS heads on the tripod and both work well on it.




Removable feet
The diameter of the fourth leg section is 18.5mm and the C2680T has removable feet as a result. Iíve used the standard Benro spikes which are threaded 3/8Ē-16 so the tripod also takes spikes from Gitzo and RRS. Iíve added inexpensive thick washers from my local hardware store because the spikes are thin and they concentrate a load in the central portion of the cap on the end of the fourth section. The washer spreads that load around the entire surface to better support the spike and also maybe protects the threaded socket inside the leg section a bit more. The Benro spikes come with a wrench. Being able to change the feet is a major usability plus for this tripod.




In general, the C2680T has been very reliable in my nine months of ownership and Iíve enjoyed using it. Itís relatively tall and so I donít need to use the center column very much; about 6in of it is the most I use. The pic below, taken in the foothills of the Sugarloaf Mountain in Ireland is an illustration of my typical use outdoors. The spikes are great when the ground is thick grass, stones and gorse. At higher elevations there is just rock and the spikes donít work; you need the RRS claw feet. I use a carabiner with a 2in gate to hang my old Domke F-2 bag as an anchor. When flying I remove the ballhead and throw it into the F-2 and pack the tripod in my checked luggage. With a folded length of 16.7in the tripod fits easily in a small suitcase.




The review continues in post #2 below with a comparison to the equivalent GitzoÖ

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Last edited by peter_n : 6th of November 2011 (Sun) at 12:30. Reason: Corrected and updated the specs.
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Old 19th of May 2011 (Thu)   #2
peter_n
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Default Re: Review: Benro C2680T travel tripod

Continued from post #1

Quick comparison with the Gitzo 1541T
I bought the C2680T as a backup to my Gitzo 1541T. The 1541T has been discontinued and replaced with the 1542T, but since many on this board use the 1541T I thought it might be useful to draw a few quick comparisons.


The C2680T is taller than the 1541T
Using a shorter center column means more stability.




Closest apex to ball
Theyíre pretty close, the C2680T being marginally closer than the 1541T. The longer leg distance of the Benro reflects the wider lower main casting.




Center column top
The C2680T uses a set screw so the top base doesnít become loose screwing the ballhead on and off.




Leg top collar and angle lock design
The collar length is a wash, C2680T, 1228 and 1541T in the pic below. Benro has improved the Gitzo slide lock by extending the grip to the outside of the collar so you can easily use the angle lock wearing gloves. I prefer this older design to the spring-loaded lock on the 1541T.




Removable feet
The C2680T fourth section is 18.5mm in diameter, the Gitzoís is 12mm, so the C2680T takes them and the 1541T doesnít.




Lower main casting
The C2680T lower main casting is deeper and wider than the 1541T; makes me feel betterÖ




Bag
The C2680T comes with one, the 1541T doesnít. Not important to me but the Gitzo GE10P bag (in back in the pic below) costs a lot and is really uncomfortable to use. Horrible bag. The Benro bag is much softer and easier on your back, and takes the tripod and a Markins Q3T ballhead (just).




Wrapping up
The C2680T was bought as a backup to the 1541T but after a few weeks in the field I stopped using the 1541T and itís now the backup. I still have it and will keep it for a while just in case the C2680T breaks although I donít expect it to. My sense of the C2680T is that itís well made, sturdy, and easy to use. I particularly like the fact that itís taller than the Gitzo, it has removable feet, and the leg twist-locks are really smooth. At US $326 I think itís an excellent value and well worth consideration if youíre looking for a travel tripod.


Edit entered 11/6/2011: Calvin (member v35skyline) has compared the new and slightly changed v.2 of the Benro C2680T to the new and slightly changed Gitzo 1542T. These are the two currently available versions of these tripods. His thread is well worth reading if you are considering buying either of them. My decision would not be altered by these changes in spec; I would still get the Benro over the Gitzo as Calvin has done.

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Last edited by peter_n : 6th of November 2011 (Sun) at 12:52.
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Old 19th of May 2011 (Thu)   #3
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Default Re: Review: Benro C2680T travel tripod

Hereís a few snaps taken with the C2680T and a Fuji S5 dSLR. I needed the tripod either for DOF or exposure duration reasons or because I had too much to drink at the timeÖ

















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Old 19th of May 2011 (Thu)   #4
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Default Re: Review: Benro C2680T travel tripod

Wow. Now that's a review, Peter! Thanks for such a detailed breakdown of the tripod itself and your impressions of usage. So, will the legs not fold parallel with ballheads with a panning base any larger than 50mm? I only ask because the standard leg/head kit comes with the B1, which has a 54mm base.
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Old 19th of May 2011 (Thu)   #5
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Default Re: Review: Benro C2680T travel tripod

Awesome review! If I didn't have the benro already (based on your recommendation awhile ago) this would have made me pull the trigger for sure. I love my benro c2680. Super light weight and compact size, I practically bring it everywhere I go.

Great job comparing this to gitzo.
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Old 19th of May 2011 (Thu)   #6
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Default Re: Review: Benro C2680T travel tripod

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nightdiver13 View Post
So, will the legs not fold parallel with ballheads with a panning base any larger than 50mm? I only ask because the standard leg/head kit comes with the B1, which has a 54mm base.
You can buy the tripod with or without the B1, but if you get the kit I don't think that 4mm is going to make a big difference. 2mm on either side means the legs will be so slightly away from true parallel you may not even notice it. Lots of people use the RRS BH-40 with the Gitzo 1541T and you don't hear them moaning about its 53mm base diameter.

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Old 23rd of June 2011 (Thu)   #7
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Default Re: Review: Benro C2680T travel tripod

Excellent reivew. Something to think about.
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Old 23rd of June 2011 (Thu)   #8
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Default Re: Review: Benro C2680T travel tripod

Benro CSC2 short center column
I got this Benro short center column a couple weeks ago. Just 130mm (5.1") in length it's a useful little accessory. There's a tapped hole at the bottom end that takes the hook and rubberized washer from the regular column. The top base is hard molded rubber on an alloy center just like the regular column but is larger in diameter, as it works on Benro C-269 M8, C-2681 M8, C-2691 M8, C-2681 EX, C-2691 EX, C2680T, C2690T, C2681T, C2691T, C2681F, C2691F, C-257 M8, C-258 M8, C-257 EX, C-258 EX, C2570T, C2580T, C2570F, C2580F, C-297 M8, C-298 M8, C-297 EX, C-298 EX, C2970T, C2980T, C2970F, and C2980F tripods in addition to my C-268 M8.

The larger diameter means the hard rubber is riveted into the alloy center. You can see the rivets top left in the pic below and the difference in length and top base diameter at the bottom of the pic below. Top right shows the top and bottom set screws that are also on the regular column. I should clarify that these set screws aren't set against the stud/bolt at the top/bottom, they are set against the tapped cylinder that the stud/bolts screw into. The use of a set screw on the top base means that the whole top base assembly won't unscrew if you've over-tightened the ballhead as has happened with Gitzo tripods.





The pic below shows the CSC2 on the tripod. The top shows the tripod set at the last stop for the widest leg angle, the bottom shows the sliding angle stops fully pulled out and the tripod pushed down until the bottom of the center column rests on the floor. I've already used this short column in the field a couple times and found it to be a useful addition that improves the flexibility of the tripod.






Main casting spider - new Gitzo 1542T is now similar to the Benro C2680T
The pic below is a top view of the bridge that connects the center part of the casting to the reverse-folding joint; Gitzo 1542T above, Benro C2680T below.





Gitzo has completely redesigned the main casting and the spring-loaded lock on the 1542T. The bridge connecting the center to the joint now looks like the Benro. The only difference in the designs is that the bottom of the Benro bridge is solid whereas the Gitzo is open. Nice to see Gitzo taking note of a good design...

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Old 24th of June 2011 (Fri)   #9
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Default Re: Review: Benro C2680T travel tripod

^^ The "rivets" are actually set screws as well. After you mount the head to the base plate, you're supposed to tighten the set screws to lock the head in place.
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Old 24th of June 2011 (Fri)   #10
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Default Re: Review: Benro C2680T travel tripod

Quote:
Originally Posted by klr.b View Post
^^ The "rivets" are actually set screws as well.
You are correct! I totally missed that and thanks for pointing it out, the screws have hex sockets on the bottom. Actually I like the idea of three set screws as that puts more even pressure on the bottom plate of the ballhead. My Gitzo 3541LS has just one set screw, and when I used it first with the Arca-Swiss Z1 ballhead it made the panning action uneven. So I backed off the screw until panning was normal. I think you have to be a bit careful using set screws against the panning base of any ballhead as they're not all created equal.

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Old 24th of June 2011 (Fri)   #11
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Default Re: Review: Benro C2680T travel tripod

Thanks for the wonderful review. I know it's been a long time since you ordered it, but do you recall who on ebay you ordered it from? Thanks.
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Old 24th of June 2011 (Fri)   #12
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Default Re: Review: Benro C2680T travel tripod

Thanks for the kind words. I do remember the dealer I bought the tripod from as I also recently bought the short center column from the same place; it was dc-stuffs. However that dealer is currently only selling the tripod in kit form with the B-1 ballhead and as much as I like the Benro tripods you can do better in the ballhead department. The only dealer currently currently offering the tripod at the $326 price is kghobbie.

I've not bought from kghobbie but I've been in email contact with the dealer and they are responsive and polite. I know of other people who have bought from kghobbie and had a good experience, and if you check out the number of transactions and feedback score for this dealer I think you'll be OK if you purchase the tripod there. Depending on where you live shipping will take 2-3 weeks.

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Old 26th of June 2011 (Sun)   #13
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Default Re: Review: Benro C2680T travel tripod

Thanks for the information. I just placed an order for the Benro C2680T kit from dc-stuffs. I plan on using the B-1 ballhead until I save enough to pick up something better, like the PC-33NS. Thanks again for the help, can't wait till it gets here!
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Old 27th of June 2011 (Mon)   #14
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Default Re: Review: Benro C2680T travel tripod

Sounds good! Tell us what you think when it arrives; I'm interested to hear about the B-1 ballhead.

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Old 28th of June 2011 (Tue)   #15
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Default Re: Review: Benro C2680T travel tripod

Looks like I'm a day late to help out Qrx, but for others who might be in the market for this tripod, I recently purchased the leg/head combo from holgacamera.net. I was a bit suspicious of the website, but decided to give it a chance. They have the combo for $351 with free shipping. I sold off the head for $95, for a total price of $256 for the legs. The shipping was plenty quick, and these legs are really amazing.

From the ten minutes I spent messing with the B-1, it seemed really smooth and solid. I wouldn't hesitate to use it, but I'm partial to quick lever releases (as opposed to screw releases).
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