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Thread started 02 Mar 2007 (Friday) 19:45
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Benro KB-2 Ball Mount Tear Down

 
squiress
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Mar 02, 2007 19:45 |  #1

A couple of us have been discussing quality issues of the Benro line of tripods and ball mounts. I currently own a couple of their carbon fiber tripods and a KB-2 ball mount. It has been my contention that Benro is good value for the money. Others have said that the look belies the internal quality of build and words from 'crap' to 'junk' to 'crude, crude, crude' have been used by some obviously frustrated folk when describing their experiences with this line of imaging platform equipment. I certainly am swayed by the outward appearance of the line, and have been very pleased to date with the performance of the pieces that I purchased. The 128 CF tripod and KB-2 ball mount are probably a year old. My 328 CF tripod more like four months. I have used the KB-2 and 128 combination for 20D combined with 17-85 and 20D combined with 70-300DO lenses. I also have used this combination with a Toyo 45AX large format camera with excellent results.

After reading the tear down review of a Benro KS-2 ball mount on Tom Webster's website and commenting on his obvious frustration with the piece and subsequent bashing (in my opinion) in the review, I thought it a good idea to get into my KB-2 and see how things compared. The KB-2 is about $10 less than the KS-2 on Ebay at this time so this ball mount should be maybe of a little less quality than the KS-2, or maybe it's because the KS-2 is finished in black instead of the grey patina on my KB-2. One difference for sure is that the tensioning screw is opposite the tightening screw on the KB-2 versus at a right angle on the KS-2.

If you haven't read the Webster review it's at:

http://www.tomwebsterp​hoto.com/Essays/Benro/​benroks2.htm (external link)

Assuming I can get some pics uploaded, here we go.

The first of these pictures shows the KB-2 ball mount in its assembled state.

The second shows the inner parts of the ball mount disassembled. I did not remove the post from the ball, nor the plate holder from the post, but will comment on those items as we move along.

Stew


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squiress
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Mar 02, 2007 20:05 |  #2

The next picture is of the bottom of the ball. The hole allows for access to the bolt holding the post to the top of the ball. From a fit and finish standpoint it is not possible to tell that the post is not a fixed part of the ball. The interior of the case is quite smooth and coloration patterns seen here are mostly from either the clear lubricant on the panning surfaces or the black grease used with the various tightening knobs. There is some gauling on the interior surface of the case, but nothing that I see affecting the fit of the two cups supporting the bottom of the ball.

The second picture shows more clearly the gauling of the interior at a couple of levels. In addition it shows quite clearly very cleanly drilled and tapped holes for the tightening screws. Nothing of the large aluminum crystal flake-outs described by Webster show here. The gauling is not deep, but is present and is indicative of cutting too fast.


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Mar 02, 2007 20:20 |  #3

The next two pictures are of the tightening screws and the panning base plate. The tightening screws appear to be typical machine threads with tapered ends, except for the panning screw which is flat ended. These are likely steel. In a harsh weather environments I prefer my steel to be stainless. Not the case here for sure. The tapers are important in this tripod for reasons that will become obvious in a few pictures. The panning plates are nicely turned. Again anything you see in the second pic untoward is reflection off of the clear lubricant on the surfaces. These pieces are nicely done and have a tight fit.


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Mar 02, 2007 20:32 |  #4

The next picture shows the panning lock ring. The panning lock screw presses against this ring to lock the mount in azimuth. The black marks are grease. The ring shows no depressions from the panning screw. (And I always overtighten my knobs so this is pretty cool.) It would have been nice to have the screw tipped in nylon. Not a big cost addition, but would have been a better solution.

The next pic is pretty much in agreement with Webster. This is the bottom of the aluminum ball cup. The tapers of the tightening screws have made impressions here. They show that the taper of the screws is off a bit as only the tip is impressing on the cone. As I stated in the other thread, this doesn't affect locking the ball, but over time this is a wear issue that is the most negative thing I've found during the tear down. I do tighten these things down hard, so I think I need to relook at how much I need versus how much I have been doing. Certainly wonder if annodizing might help here.


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Mar 02, 2007 20:37 |  #5

The next two pics show the top of the aluminum cup and the base of the mount. Both are very clean turnings with smooth surfaces, nicely done. The clear lubricant is visible on the base.


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Mar 02, 2007 20:44 |  #6

Screws are screws. Torx black steel for the base to panning collar, Phillips nickel plated steel for the panning ring to the casing. Black grease on the black screws.


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Mar 02, 2007 20:53 |  #7

Resting in the lower aluminum cup is the plastic/nylon ball cup. Here you can see a little blackening in the bottom that might be paint or ???. No scratching from the ball or wear is seen. The second picture is of the casing with the ball dropped. Here you can see in the gap the upper plastic/nylon ring around the upper inner surface. As well on the plate holder you can see the release button which keeps the camera from sliding out of the holder until the button is pressed. I've worked with a lot of these types of mountings on a much larger scale for telescopes. Fit and finish here is very nice, although you can just see some wear at the corners of the interior edges. I would call this brassing if it were brass, but obviously paint is wearing or annodization is wanting. Still, nice fit and finish.


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Mar 02, 2007 21:11 |  #8

Now stuff goes back together. The cups are a tight fit in the casing. They require a bit of ketchup bottle action to get them out. The first picture shows the casing from the bottom. The hole in the ball is straight on and the nut holding the post in place is visible. The second picture is all back together but the base. The spring presses against the base and the bottom of the aluminum cup. Pretty straight forward assembly.

I would like to have had another well known and accepted as high quality ball mount to tear down and compare for this effort, but this is the only ball mount I have. I see some similarities to the Webster review, and a whole bunch of dissimilarities. I see nothing here that indicates that all the effort went to making it look good and not perform well. The only criticism I would have is that the tightening screws need to have their tapers adjusted so that they don't make impressions in the bottom of the cup. That and a nylon tip on the panning screw and this all works for me. After tearing it apart I fully expect it to take everything I will throw at it for a number of years.

I didn't address the load issue and really would never load something like this with the tortional loads that Webster shows on his review no matter what the specs say for load capability. That's why his lens has a tripod mount. It is meant to me used. I also haven't seen any of those problems myself. Whether the post in the KB is mechanically constrained as was not the case in his KS I didn't care to go to that level so don't know. I am pleased to have torn this apart because I am quite confident that that if something does go wrong that I can fix it myself for the most part. (I even have a small lathe for stuff like this; that or a good friend I could ask to rebuild a part on his much larger lathe:)

Anyway, I hope this has been informative. I remain pleased and will forward my findings back to Benro so that they can continue to improve the line. I bought this mount from Bonnie Yi in Montreal. Wonderful support from Canada. Couldn't be more pleased with her efforts in getting this to me. Current Ebay price is $91 plus shipping. In my opinion a darn good value.

Stew


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Mar 05, 2007 08:10 |  #9

Oh, and the Arca-Swis B-2 (currently in a three-way model and whose earlier version I believe the KB-2 was modeled after) is selling at B&H for $649 plus shipping. The difference is the cost of a nice lens. :-)

Stew


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Mar 05, 2007 09:33 |  #10

Thanks for doing this teardown. Always very useful to see what's inside and multiple perspectives are good.

There are some material differences between Webster's tear down and this (IIRC) later version/newer unit.

I think there is improvement, but the overall manufacturing is still not what I would call "high quality" and the defects and some of the design pieces are still indicative of pretty primitive design. Noted too your comments on the material selection and anodizing which I think will have significant impacts on long term reliability.

That all being said, I'd consider this as an indoor/fair weather device. I don't think I'd be taking it out in the field in situations where environmentally it might not do so well. Specifically, areas with salt air (beach) or humidity might be an issue for both the painted ball (or whatever that is) or the steel parts.

The locking mechanism where it shows scars from the screw head is troubling. That is just poor/primitive design. I'd be much happier had it been some sort of brake arrangement instead of a screw that scars the rotating part.

The gauling you noted is again a workmanship issue although I'm not sure it if matters from functional perspective.

It is clear there is an evolution here and that there has been improvement. It is also clear that there is a (considerably) more attention paid to the outside fit and finish as opposed to the inside materials and operation. Personally, I'd prefer it were the other way around.

J.


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Mar 05, 2007 10:17 |  #11

Thanks for this very informative piece. I suspect many 'better' heads would show a lack of finish internally where this does not affect performance.

I have a Benro KS-0 ($100) on very expensive Gitzo 1157 CF legs and I can't fault the combo. I trust the Benro well enough to have spread the legs to the max and hung my 400D, 70-300 DO IS USM lens & a 500D closeup lens vertically 50cm above a pond for more than an hour while taking photos of water lilies. It performed flawlessly in the dirty, humid conditions of Vietnam and I have no reason to believe it won't continue to do so.

I was going to buy a Markins Q3 head but now I can't find a reason to. Perhaps just to tear it down and do a comparison ......?


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Mar 05, 2007 10:30 |  #12

As long as you're using light plastic lenses like 17-85 and 75-300, the ballhead is good.

The design is primitive. It's not meant to last. Those impressions will accumulate and will eventually lead to deterioration and shift of the ball when being tightened.

Any other decent ballhead is made of metal with metal clamping it.

But I can't afford markins. :D


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Mar 05, 2007 10:55 |  #13

JohnJ80 wrote in post #2818468 (external link)
Thanks for doing this teardown. Always very useful to see what's inside and multiple perspectives are good.

There are some material differences between Webster's tear down and this (IIRC) later version/newer unit.

I think there is improvement, but the overall manufacturing is still not what I would call "high quality" and the defects and some of the design pieces are still indicative of pretty primitive design. Noted too your comments on the material selection and anodizing which I think will have significant impacts on long term reliability.

That all being said, I'd consider this as an indoor/fair weather device. I don't think I'd be taking it out in the field in situations where environmentally it might not do so well. Specifically, areas with salt air (beach) or humidity might be an issue for both the painted ball (or whatever that is) or the steel parts.

The locking mechanism where it shows scars from the screw head is troubling. That is just poor/primitive design. I'd be much happier had it been some sort of brake arrangement instead of a screw that scars the rotating part.

The gauling you noted is again a workmanship issue although I'm not sure it if matters from functional perspective.

It is clear there is an evolution here and that there has been improvement. It is also clear that there is a (considerably) more attention paid to the outside fit and finish as opposed to the inside materials and operation. Personally, I'd prefer it were the other way around.

J.

I agree with all that you have said with the caveat that I would still like to see perhaps an Arca B2 disassembled as well to truly see the difference. It is unlikely that they would use a steel cup because of weight issues, but the new B2 is rated at 150# I believe and designed to handle an 8x10 camera, so maybe they do.

It's important to remember that the rotation is not a part of the cup's function. That is to transfer lateral pressure from the tightening screws to vertical pressure on the base of the cup. Rotation has occurred as indicated by the even distribution of markings on the cup base, but the cup would have to undergo much more severe damage before any degradation in the ball compression function would occur. I may try to mitigate this at my local ACE hardware with nylon screws to provide lateral compression. If I get even a rounded end to the screw I should see no wear at all and still get the performance I want. While I am there I will pick up stainless counterparts for the seven screws that are not, although I have used this in many outdoor efforts with high humidity, misting, and rain with no apparent affect to date, as you can see.

And I have to say that the economic function trade-off at 6 to 1 and about equal put me ever more firmly in this Benro camp. :)

Stew


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Mar 05, 2007 11:01 |  #14

DocFrankenstein wrote in post #2818660 (external link)
As long as you're using light plastic lenses like 17-85 and 75-300, the ballhead is good.

The design is primitive. It's not meant to last. Those impressions will accumulate and will eventually lead to deterioration and shift of the ball when being tightened.

Any other decent ballhead is made of metal with metal clamping it.

But I can't afford markins. :D

As I said before, I have used this quite nicely with a Toyo 45AX. Not only heavier with its all metal body, but bulkier as well with large profile in wind. Very stable, although not 39#. I'll be adding weight in a variety of ways to further evaluate.

I respectfully disagree with the design being primative and that it's not meant to last. I have seen no other supporting information that shows anything being made any better by anybody. What other tear downs support your statement or what website can you direct me to that will show or demonstrate your comment?

I'll visit Markins as this appears to be the epitome of ball mounts.

Stew


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Mar 05, 2007 11:31 |  #15

Well, Markins has a titanium ball and casing that's only $925. Wow! They also go out of their way to insist that they are the only company to make use of hard surface annodization, at least on the exterior of their mounts. Nothing on the site that I could find about their internal hardware, except for the titanium model and that only mentioned case and base. (and something like the KB-1 is only $305)

Stew


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Benro KB-2 Ball Mount Tear Down
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