A few weeks ago I was casually asked by Lightroom Corp., the Philippine distributor of Benro tripods, if I was interested in giving one of the new Benro models a try. Of course, I was very much interested and I was glad to have been asked. Besides, starting out in 2009, Benro was my first brand of choice.
Before my November 2015 U.S. photo trip, I was loaned the Benro Go Travel 2 GC269T for a few weeks. I used it side by side with my now old Manfrotto 055CXPro3 in snow, sand, soil, mud, lake and sea.
FROM THE BOX
The Benro SystemGo Travel 2 GC269T comes with the following:
1 pc. Arca Swiss type ball head
1 pc. quick release plate
1 pc. carrying case (bag)
1 pc. Allen wrench
1 pc. hook
1 set metal spike feet
I think the inclusion of the Acra Swiss type ball head and spike feet are great, especially for beginners. Spike feet are a must for landscape photography because they give the tripod extra stability on slippery rock, ice and mud surfaces. Considering these inclusions, it is safe to say that the Benro SystemGo Travel 2 GC269T at its SRP of PHP 19,450.00 is reasonably priced.
I had to spend another USD 390.00 for my ball head + USD 35.00 to get spike feet for my current setup.
I thought the Benro Go Travel 2 GC269T was impressive at first glance. Aesthetically, I liked the classy-looking, machine embossed blue Benro logo. The body in its carbon fibre material is well-built. It looks (and definitely feels) sturdy as a whole. The aluminium screws and heavy duty plastic knobs looked tough enough to last prolonged use. A bonus is the nice black foam wrap on the upper part of one of the legs. This allows for a comfortable grip while carrying it around.
Before going any further, let me give you a brief history of my relationship with Benro tripods.
The first tripod I owned was the Benro A 500 EX a.k.a. the Travel Angel Aluminium Tripod. It did the job, basically, but there was an important reason why I decided to let it (and the brand) go. I personally prefer shooting seascapes, so this translates to my tripod always being soaked in sea water. The screws and clips gave up on me after a while and the sad thing was that the local distributor at that time did not have spare parts available for me to be able to replace them. The Benro A 500 EX can even be considered as inexpensive at around USD 80.00 (ball head included), but I did not want to keep replacing my tripod with a new one every time some parts gave up.
In search of a new tripod, a friend recommended Manfrotto. I bought the Manfrotto 055CXPro3 (3-Section Carbon Fibre) in 2011 and I have been using it since. This tripod can be disassembled literally down to the smallest parts thus, it can be completely taken apart and thoroughly cleaned at home. The brand also has an online store where you can buy any spare part you need for replacement. This was pretty much the selling point for me.
Now let's get down to business.
Benro Go Travel 2 GC269T vs. Manfrotto 055CXPro3
(TOP) Loaned Benro Tripod
Model: Benro SystemGo Travel 2 GC269T
Body Material: Carbon Fibre
Made in: China
Head: Arca Swiss Clamp B2 Ball head (included in package)
Leg Sections: 5
Leg Lock System: Twist lock
Actual Max Height: 64.5”
Actual Max Height: 55.5” (center column NOT extended)
Actual Minimum Height: 21.5”
Actual Net Weight: 1.81 kg. (ball head included)
Max Load: 14.0 kg.
Price: SRP PHP 19,450.00 (Lightroom Corp.)
(BOTTOM) Old Manfrotto Tripod
Model: Manfrotto 055CXPro3
Body Material: Carbon Fibre
Made in: Italy
Head: RRS BH-40 LR II (USD 390.00 - not included in package)
In terms of functionality, the Benro SystemGo Travel 2 GC269T performed beyond my expectations.
It was actually sturdy enough to be able to carry my heavy gear: a Canon 5D Mark III attached to an L-plate + Canon 16-35 mm F/2.8L II USM lens with a filter and holder attached.
When the legs are fully extended, the height of the Benro SystemGo Travel 2 GC269T is only slightly shorter as compared to my old Manfrotto. But there is a considerable height difference in favor of the new Benro when its center column is fully extended upward. I had my old Manfrotto's center column replaced with the shortest one available because I am more fond of shooting low angles (as seen in most of my landscape shots).
Among the common features of a tripod, one of the more important ones for low angle shooters like myself is the capacity of the legs to spread as flat to the ground as possible.
This leaves me with the question: How low can you go?
The Benro SystemGo Travel 2 GC269T allows you to go from high to low (in a matter of seconds) with an easy pull of the 3 separate angle adjustment mechanisms atop each leg. After that, with the Quick Flip 90°Center Column feature, you can quickly change the position of the center column from vertical to horizontal without the use of any tools.
The Quick Flip 90° Center Column feature is by far my favourite. When flipped to 90°, the center column can be extended forward and in full (if need be). This allowed me to shoot over a bulky handrail - as shown in the next photo. With my old Manfrotto, it bothers me that I usually get handrails or edges like this in a maximized frame.
Another cool feature is that with the easy twist leg detachment system, you get to transform the Benro SystemGo Travel 2 GC269T to a MONOPOD.
“Each Go Travel tripod can be easily converted into a monopod without the use of any tools. Simply combine the removable leg and the center column to create a full-size monopod.” - Benro website.
TIME AND ADJUSTMENTS
Just for fun, I timed the setting up and closing of both tripods:
Benro SystemGo Travel 2 GC269T
Open: 33.20 seconds
Close: 24.04 seconds
Open: 12.85 seconds
Close: 10.05 seconds
I have to be honest here. My old Manfrotto 055CXPro3 takes the cake on this one. It takes less than half the time setting up and closing as compared to the Benro SystemGo Travel 2 GC269T.
It gets quite critical and a bit tense when you are pressed for time and setting up your gear during fading light, or when you need to make quick and minor adjustments in between shots. The Manfrotto's flip lock system makes it extremely easy for these situations.
I see that more people are using twist lock systems all over the world. But being a flip lock user for quite a while now, I am having a hard time adapting to the twist lock system of tripods. I find twisting the locks a bit stressful (especially during the winter where my hands are cold and dry).
Packability and Mobility
An issue when travelling abroad is the 23 kg. weight limit for luggages. This is when the Benro SystemGo Travel 2 GC269T proved handy. I placed both tripods inside a 28" luggage for comparison. The photo below shows my old Manfrotto on top and the new Benro tripod below (inside the carrying case).
The Benro tripod's legs can be folded back 180°, ball head still attached, making it small enough to carry just about anywhere. Lugging it inside your check-in bag in any orientation is not a problem. When collapsed to its minimum folded length of 16.7" it would easily fit inside your 7 kg. hand-carry bag as well - if your flight would allow.
Being light-weight at 1.80 kg. and with the minimum unfolded length of 22.76" the Benro allowed me to carry it around, attached to my camera bag during most of my U.S. photo trip.
Travelling from one location to another, it was also notably convenient to shove under the seats and in various small spaces inside the vehicle.
Cleaning and Repairs
I thought of disassembling the Benro SystemGo Travel 2 GC269T to see if it was even possible to clean at home. But then why should I go through all that trouble when Lightroom Corp. - https://www.facebook.com/lightroom.ph/?fref=ts now has a Service Center department that can do the cleaning and repairs for me?
But wait, there's more! REPLACEMENT PARTS ARE NOW AVAILABLE!
Would I recommend the Benro SystemGo Travel 2 GC269T?
A definite YES to twist lock system users, but not to flip lock users.