Price paid from ebay: USD$380 + free EXPRESS UPS shipping
I started this review as a frustrated photographer who could not find any single review about the new Benro C-2691 (c2691) which allows one leg to be unscrewed to become a monopod. Coming across other review in POTN about the C-269 (c269) which is exactly the same less the monopod leg uniqueness, I start to wonder if the additional unique feature will be a blessing or a product-failure.
Benro, a Chinese (Made in China) brand often get stereotyped by people for a low quality, rough and poorly constructed product. However, many reviewers including me can assure you otherwise. Even one of the staff from a big local camera store says that Benro is a good product; too bad he only carries the bigger brands.
The additional of the monopod leg adds about 100+ grams which is quite little with only about USD$10 diff in price.
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As you can see, the travel angel series has legs that can be folded 180 degrees to cover the length of the ballhead (with centre tube extended). As you can compare with the Wii remote, the length is quite short. Easily fit into luggage bag. The legs are made using the new M8 technology which uses 8 layers of CF while resulting in strong but thinner thus making it lighter than the previous 6 layers method.
The central column can be reversed for low work which I still can’t imagine a situation that requires that. It also has a spring loaded hook to hang any weight and lower the centre of gravity.
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The B1 ball head is very well constructed with several knobs that can be quite overwhelming to first time user. B1 head can support up to 12kg. The quick release plate (type PU) is the same standard as those Arca-Swiss ones. At each end of the plate, there is two screws that revent the plate to slide out of the ball head. The plate needs to be tightened if you have a very strong fingernail, large Phillip screwdriver or the included allen key. I would prefer the manfrotto’s tightening mechanism which allows you to tighten using your hand with the half-circle ring. The PU-60 has a threaded area at each corner that allows you to take the screw out and move it to the other holes.
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The height of the tripod including the head is taller than me. I am 176cm. If a camera was attached, the height will be way taller than me. Guess having a tripod so tall but not using it all the way to the max should make it even more stable.
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One of the legs that has the foam padding can be unscrewed. The ball head on the other hand can also be unscrewed along with the head mount allowing both to be screwed together to become a monopod. The head mount and the ball head are secured with a small allen key so that they will not come apart accidentally when unscrewing from the tripod. The whole process should take less than 1 min as the length of each thread is quite long; not the often advertised 5 seconds conversion time. The length of the monopod is quite disappointing. The height of the monopod + ball head is just a tad below my jaw. With my camera on it, the viewfinder reached to the height of my mouth (when I’m not wearing shoe). This will ultimately lead to backache if shooting over long period while standing. Shooting while sitting down such as in football matches will be no problem. As the main purpose of the tripod is for travelling, I won’t really complain.
The legs are tightened so strongly that it’s quite hard to open and close the legs. The leg also has a small catch that allows you to adjust how wide you want to open the legs to. Use the provided allen key to tighten or untighten the legs to your desire. However, untightening it too much will make your tripod unstable and the screws to become easily loose after some use. By the way, the screws are nicely stamped with the word Benro on it.
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The quality are pretty top notch. All the parts fit perfectly and the tripod is very stable. The C-2691 comes in EX series which ahs the flip lock legs. My twist legs are fine but can take a little longer to set up. But I find that twist leg has lesser part to go wrong. The rubber on each twist leg have a simple technology that try to keep all the sands, dust and water away from the threads. All the threads come pre-lubricated with some heavy oil that should last for a while. Mounting my 5DII, flash and 70-200 2.8, I do not get any flex. This is always subjective to each user and system they use on the tripod.
The Benro also come with a very nice well made bag with strap, some instruction booklet; amazingly with perfect English grammar and spelling! And two allens. For adjusting the quick release plate, tripod legs and ball head if necessary. The bad also has a small internal pocket that allows you to store these stuff especially the allens.
One competing brand for these series of tripod (excluding Gitzo of course) is the Feisol. However, the Feisol is hard to get through ebay and does not include the bag and Feisol do not have the anti rotation leg technology which makes locking and unlocking the legs so much faster (5 sections tripod!!!). Furthermore, the Benro like Gitzo, features the CF traditional look which I loved as opposed to Feisol’s black painted look.
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The leg tips are made of rubber which are perfect for smooth ground especially indoors. For outdoor, use the spike feet. However unlike the Gitzo, the spike feet is a different set (and ALSO need to be bought separately) while in Gitzo, the spike is the reverse side of the rubber! However the Gitzo are
Coincidentally, my friend also bought a travelling series tripod form Gitzo which competes with Benro C-169 directly. Having only played with it briefly, I can somewhat recall that Gitzo have a better twist leg technology and also smoother operation. Will update if I find any interesting feature different. The Gitzo cost him about double!
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The legs can also be unscrewed all the way to clean any of the threads or legs. Just be careful to pull back the rubber back alittle or you can't screw it back as the rubber will cover the outer thread.
So far so happy with the tripod. Will take the monopod for it’s first ever action tomorrow at a fashion show. No doubt that it’s bang-for-your-bucks compared to the bigger brands. This review also applies to the C-1691, C-169, C-069 as they are similar in built.
The monopod + the head can fit into the bag too.