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. It’s a Gitzo copy and uses some of the older Gitzo design elements and improves on others. It’s 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. I’ve 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 (I’m 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
I don’t use a center column in my regular tripods, but you can’t 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. There’s 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 doesn’t have to be fully tightened for the center column to be properly held.
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.
The carbon fiber used in the legs has eight quasi-isotropic layers that are oriented in several different directions for strength. At least that’s the theory. All I know is that I haven’t broken a leg section yet. I’ve 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; it’s worth the money – there’s 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. I’ve 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 you’re 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 “resistance” 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. I’ve used Markins Q3T and Photo Clam PC-33NS heads on the tripod and both work well on it.
The diameter of the fourth leg section is 18.5mm and the C2680T has removable feet as a result. I’ve used the standard Benro spikes which are threaded 3/8”-16 so the tripod also takes spikes from Gitzo and RRS. I’ve 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 I’ve enjoyed using it. It’s relatively tall and so I don’t 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 don’t 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 Gitzo…