tripod

30 January 2014

Benro Travel Angel Tripod Review (Carbon Fibre version)

Posted in: review, tripod|

Introduction

There are two pieces of photography equipment that I’m never really happy with – tripods and bags. I have quite a few of each and my collection growths every few months.

The main problem with tripods is that majority of them is either steady or light. There aren’t that many that have both features. Another thing is that most of the tripods are relatively large. Both things make them difficult to use during long hikes. It’s not a problem for me if I have to walk with a heavy and huge tripod for an hour or two, but after ten hours every piece of equipment becomes heavier.

So I was looking for a solution for that and quite recently found Travel Angel tripod series from Benro. Name caused some interest because it implied it was perfect for travel photographers and I decided to look into it more carefully. It turned out that Benro offers tripods targeted for travel/landscape photographers that are both small (very small, take a look at the image below), light and steady (they are made of carbon fibres) and that are very easy to set up.

Benro Travel Agent Tripod
Travel Angel’s legs can be inverted and folded back 180° making it very small in size what’s really great when travelling.

I decided to get one without much thinking 🙂 especially as I needed one to shoot in the mountains. There are many versions of Benro Travel Angel available and I decided to get 4-section Carbon Fibre one with a maximum height of ~150 cm.

Using Benro Travel Angel

It is indeed very small. You can easily hold it in your hands (in case you don’t want to use a tripod case… BTW one comes with this tripod) as the legs can be inverted and folded back 180° making it even smaller in size.

And it is also very light – together with a ball head it weights around 1.5 kg! Wow – it’s less than my 5D MK III with an L-series lens 🙂

Despite the fact it’s so light, it’s very steady at the same time and there are a few things that help in achieving that:

  • Carbon fibers are usually less prone to vibrations than aluminum,
  • There is a hook situated at the bottom of center column that makes it possible to hang additional weight to stabilize the tripod,
  • Rubber feet of tripod legs can be replaced with steel spikes (included in the set) which sounds like a great solution for softer ground.

Setting up a tripod is really easy and can be done very quickly. Based on promotional materials it should take up to 15 – 18 seconds. Although for me it usually takes a bit longer, I was still able to do that in something around 25 seconds (even when wearing thick gloves) what’s quite impressive because it limits the chances of loosing the shot significantly.

However, when setting up a tripod you need to make sure all rubber bands (locks) are properly locked. I sometimes thought they were but apparently it wasn’t true as when I was just about to take the shot, out of a sudden some of the legs changed their height…

I noticed one more issue with rubber bands – sometimes I couldn’t properly fold the tripod. Despite locking the rubber bands the legs were still moving and extending themselves. I once lost more than 10 minutes trying to fix that. I can only imagine that it gets much harder in winter when using thick gloves…

And one more problem I came across. Some of the screws are loosening themselves quite often. Although there are keys included in the set I cannot imagine fixing that in the field, especially in winter.

And last but not least center column, when extended, isn’t very steady. Note, however, that many tripods share this issue – extending center column should be the last thing you do.

Summary

Time for a short summary. Although this tripod isn’t perfect and there are some issues with rubber locks and locking the legs, it’s still the best tripod I have bought up to now. Its weight and dimensions combined with very good stability make it a perfect companion during long hikes. And that is very important for me. So if you’re a travel or landscape photographer like me, I can really recommend this series of tripods to you. You won’t be disappointed.

Pros:

  • It’s very light and small,
  • It’s steady despite it’s small weight,
  • There is a hook on which you can hang some weight to make the tripod even more steady,
  • Setting up tripod takes just a few seconds,
  • Tripod case is included in the set (as well as some keys),
  • Rubber locks are a great solution that make it easy to use them even in thick gloves… unfortunately there are some issues with them – see Cons just below.

Cons:

  • Rubber locks are not always working correctly what can be frustrating when shooting in the field,
  • You need to have tools with you… just in case screws become loose,
  • Center column isn’t very steady when extended.