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Benro C-069M8 Travel Angel and Ballheads
Tripod Benro C-069M8 Travel Angel
Actually, I would consider Gitzo GT-1550T Traveler 6X as an alternative to Benro C-068M8 Travel Angel when selecting a really lightweight tripod for traveling. Perhaps because of Gitzo reputation as a manufacturer of high quality tripods including tripods made of Carbon fiber? As we know such reputation does not come by accident. However, the price tag of $600 certainly made me thinking twice. Then, I decided to make side by side comparison:
|Name||Mater.||Max Height||Min Height||Folded Length||Load||Locks / # of section||Ind. Legs||Column Type||Spiked Feet||Mount Size||Weight||Price|
|Benro C-069M8 Travel Angel||Carbon Fiber||58" (147 cm)||13.4" (34 cm)||13. 4" (34 cm)||13. 2 lb (6 kg)||Twist lock / 5||Yes||Sliding||Yes||1/4"-2 0 & 3/8"||1.7 lb (0.8 kg)||$300|
|Gitzo GT-1550T Traveler 6X||Carbon Fiber||57.5" (146 cm)||8.7 " (22 cm)||14" (35 cm)||9.9 lb (4.5 kg)||Twist lock / 5||Yes||Rapid||No||1/4"-2 0 & 3/8"-16||2.2 lb (1 kg)||$600|
Should I say numbers speak for themselves? The only advantage for GT-1550T I see in the table above is its min height which for the purposes I am considering tripods (lightweight systems for traveling) is not really important. But in three critical characteristics, folded length, weight and load capacity, Benro C-069M8 has an unquestionable lead (particularly, I like 200 grammes shaved off by Benro with more than 3 pounds better load capacity).
Of course, there is always that issue of quality and durability which by the way may very well translate into an important technical aspect as tripod sturdiness. Right. But by the same token, there is always that issue of price - GT-1550T is two times more expensive than C-069M8. So, I can have two C-069M8s and if one fails, I can use the second. Or, even better, I just buy one, and when it fails, I will buy another Benro perhaps newer and more advanced model.
This picture helps
appreciate the size and
design of Benro C-069M8
- one of the smallest fully
functional tripods ever
massed produced. The
second, not so glamorous
tripod is Manfrotto
3001BN (both tripods are
shown with heads attached)
Based on my personal experience, the Benro C-069M8 Travel Angel Carbon Fiber Tripod Legs is a high-quality tripod. It uses 8 layer, 2nd generation carbon fiber technology for its leg construction and amazingly lightweight. When I open the box with the tripod I was struck by how light it is. It was wrapped in heavy plastic and placed in black velvet pouch. It was a nice looking packaging - one minus is that the length of the pouch was just enough for tripod length. With a ballhead attached - any ballhead sticking out of it - it cannot not be used for storage.
Angle setting lock - when
pulled up you can set legs
in one of leg-angle
settings: 24 or 80 degrees
By pressing the bracket
down you set a leg at one
of the angles
Once packaging material is removed, you can examine the quality of the tripod construction and design features. I have to admit that clearly some design elements have been borrowed from other manufactures - from the same Gitzo. But all the elements and the whole assembly of the tripod were impeccable. No loose parts, nice finishing - everything looked liked a very well built accessory.
In addition to its diminutive weight, the tripod is very small - only 13.4 inches. I think it's one the smallest if not the smallest full tripods ever built. If anything else, this makes C-069M8 an ideal choice for most of types of travel photography. Two features make this tripod very small: central column and 180° folding mechanism. As a result, when folded, the head is positioned inside the folded tripod legs. Since my traveling often involves city tours including museums, cityscapes, architecture, restaurants, shows and other entertainment event, etc., it's critical for me to have a tiny tripod this where additional half an inch makes difference.
Benro C-069M8 comes with
3/8" mounting thread
exposed; to change it to
1/4"-20 thread, use the
Reversible stud: to change
3/8" mounting thread to
1/4"-20 you will have to
adjust the nut
I would like to add that in addition to numbers revealing its weight and length, the tripod looks slim. For example, the diameter of the upper section of the leg is only 7/8" (22 mm). It gives the tripod less menace look - for me as traveler photographer, when I take many pictures with people around me, it is a welcome feature. The tripod prevailing color is grey - very attractive and noble. The surface is nice matte - does not reflect any light.
The setup of tripod is easy thanks to anti-twist leg design (similar to Gitzo ARL system) and a grooved center column. The legs when folding are tight and smooth and are easily locked with a simple mechanism. I am a bit disappointed with only two locking positions - I would prefer to have three. Adjusting the length of individual legs is easy - essentially, it's done the same way as with Gitzo tripods. The movement of twist locking mechanism is short and precise. It remains to be seen how the test of time will affect the leg setup process and tightness of legs.
Thanks to its clever design, despite the teensy-weense folded size, the tripod unfolds and extends to 58 inches. Not bad at all if you take into account that the head will add about four more inches and three or four inches will come from the size of camera body. That give 65 or more inches. This is quite adequate for average tall men. For example, with the height of 5' 7", my eyeballs are the level of 64 inches (which includes shoes).
The tripod comes with head attachment thread set to 3/8". To change it to 1/4"-20 you will have to use a tool (included) to unscrew the reversible stud.
When in ready for shooting position Benro C-069M8 is sturdy enough to support professional SLR cameras (like Canon 1D/1Ds series) with mid-size zoom lens. I do not think the tripod can withstand strong winds - shaking and vibration in such conditions will certainly affect your shooting. But in this respect, C-069M8 is not different from any other tripod with load capacity of around 10 - 15 lbs.
All in all I really like the Benro C-069M8 and can recommend it to anybody in need of a very lightweight tripod. I understand that there may be some scepticism regarding "Made in China." However, do yourself a favor and consider first Benro - it may happen that you will be able save a few bucks.
Ballhead Options for Benro C-069M8
Very often Benro C-069M8 is sold with the Benro B-00 ballhead. I do not recommend to buy the latter. Despite the fact that B-00 is the second generation of "B" series ball heads with quality and feature improvements, it's not a match to C-069M8. In fact, with C-069M8 technical specifications, the selection of a ball head becomes a challenge.
For example, most likely, you will want to find a compact ballhead with load capacity at least matching the one that C-069M8 has (and preferably more). Moreover, with one of the top of the line tripods like Benro C-069M8, you will want a feature rich ballhead with things like tension control and independent panning. With ballheads, you better be wary of many potential problems with head designs. And if you look at what's available, you will find that many of these devices are heavy and bulky.
A good ballhead can be about five inch tall with the weight of one pound and more. If you start using such ballhead with a ultra compact tripods you may become disappointed and frustrated with how your otherwise perfect head chews away everything you've been striving to achieve with Benro C-069M8. I went through this process and was very much surprised by the fact that high quality compact ballheads do not exist. Well, I actually know one - just one, and it is Markins Q-Ball Q3. This is only ballhead I can recommend for using with Benro C-069M8.
|Ballhead||Weight||Height||Panning||Spirit Level||Max Load||Tension Control||Ball Size||Price||Comments|
|Markins Q-Ball Q3 Traveler/Emille||0.84 lbs (385 g)||3.6" (91 mm)||Yes||Yes||65 lbs (30 kg)||Yes||38 mm||$290||
- Quick shoe QR-48 included
- The difference between Traveler and Emille is in panning base size: 1.97" (Custom designed for Gitzo traveler tripods with smaller panning base and shaftless quickshoe knob) vs. 2.2" respectively
- Plate is not included: for Canon 1D series you need PG-50 plate for $50
|RRS BH-40 PCL||1.5 lbs (660 g)||3.7" (94 cm)||Yes||Yes||18 lbs (8 kg)||Yes||40 mm||$515||Includes PCL-1: Panning Clamp. Other configurations possible|
|Benro B-1||0.81 lbs (365 g)||3.7" (94 cm)||Yes||No||26.4 lbs (12 kg)||Yes||36 mm||$165||Comes with quick release plate PU-50|
|Slik SBH-280 DQ||0.55 lbs (250 g)||3.7" (94 cm)||No||Yes||8 lbs (3.6 kg)||No||20 mm||$150||Comes with DQ quick release plate|
High-end: Markins Q-Ball Q3 and RRS BH-40 PCL
Markins Q-Ball Q3 exists in two incarnations: "Emille" and "Traveler." One of the differences between the two is the size of the panning base. It is slightly smaller to fit Gitzo Traveler tripods for which Q3 Traveler was custom designed. Another difference is in the design of quick shoe knob which is shorter in Traveler. Both changes were made to make Traveler more suitable for Gitzo Traveler to allow these tripods for more compact folding. Finally, someone has thought about designing a ballhead to make the whole system more suitable for needs of travelers!
If you buy Markins Q-Ball Q3 for Benro C-069M8, I recommend the Traveler (Q3T) version even if it costs $20 more: as with Gitzo, you can fold it to a slightly smaller size with Q3T. The price for Q3T is $290; but you will also need a quick release plate which is another $50. Good news is that plates are custom made for specific cameras (or lens) and have anti-twist flanges.
In all other respects, both versions of Markins Q-Ball Q3 are identical. The manufacturer calls it "a triumph of compact design and precision engineering," and I wholeheartedly agree with this statement. Below, there is table with some technical data regarding Markins Q-Ball Q3 and two other ballheads (which I do not recommend but selected to illustrate some issues with other heads). But I want to highlight features that I especially like: small total height of 3.58 in (91 mm), amazingly low weight of 0.84 lbs (385 g) for the head that supports 65 lbs (30 kg) of load, panning control, tension control (combined conveniently with main locking knob) as well as smooth operation and durability.
I have heard from some photographers complaints about the panning lock - it requires considerable tightening to stop the head completely from rotating. The way I use panning, it does not bother me as soon as some considerable effort is required to pan.
Finally, I have to mention one more name Really Right Stuff, a Californian manufacture of ballheads and some other accessories, and in particular its BH series of ballheads: BH-25, BH-40 and BH-55. No doubt these heads are of a very high quality; one of their features is low profile - small height. For example, BH-25 is only 3.2" (82 mm) and weighs about 0.45 lb (200 g). Unfortunately, because of lack of many features and insignificant supported load (8.8 lbs or 4 kg), I cannot consider it as a serious contender. Another one, BH-40 PLC, seems like a more viable option (see table below for technical data) for matching Benro C-069M8 tripod. However, its price tag ($515 !) with rather significant weight of 1.5 lbs (660 g) make it less attractive to me.
In-between: Benro B-1
The fact that I am talking here about Benro B-1 ballhead does not mean that I recommend it. I brought it here as another example of what's available in the market. On the other hand, since the price for B-1 ($165) is significantly less than for Markins Q-Ball Q3, and you are looking at a lower cost solution, this ballhead may be appealing to you. After all, the "B" series of ballheads was developed with Benro's carbon fiber tripods like C-069M8 and others.
Anyway, if you examine technical data regarding Benro B-1, you will be pleasantly surprise that this "Made in China" is not bad at all. But with its less impressive features It just cannot surpass Q3T. I should also stress that this is the second generation of Benro's "B" series of ballheads, and the company showed that it can listen to its customers and innovate. What it also means that we should keep an eye on future ballhead designs from Benro. And who knows, maybe one day they will be as attractive as Benro carbon fiber tripods.
Another advice - if you are considering "B" series of ballheads, keep in mind that it includes four models: B-0, B-1, B-2, B-3. All of them offer 360-degree panning, locking and drag control as well as quick release system similar to Arca-Swiss system (ballheads do not have spirit level). The difference in sizes: B-0 is the smallest supporting 17.6 lbs (8 kg) of load and the weight of 0.6 lbs (0.3 kg) and B-3 is the biggest supporting 66 lbs (30 kg) with the weight of 1.3 lbs (0.6 kg). Of all four though, B-1 seems to be the most suitable for C-069M8 tripod.
I am a bit confused about model B-00 that seems to be sold only bundled with Benro tripods. I have never seen B-00 in real life (on pictures all "B" ballheads look the same albeit having different sizes). But based on technical data, I would never consider it as a good match for Benro C-069M8.
Low-end: Slik SBH-280
Unpacked Slik SBH-280 DQ
Professional Ballhead with
Slik SBH-280 DQ - close-up
on quick release
Quick release plate - very
convenient in use when you
do not keep quick release
plate attached to camera.
Slik SBH-280 DQ Professional Ballhead with Quick Release has a price tag of $149.95 (ball head itself is $129.95). So, it's not cheap, but I can only qualify it as low-end ballhead. Its plus is its weight - only 8.8 oz (250 g) and has two bubble levels. But it has a ball size of only 0.8" (20 mm) in diameter and supports only 8 lb (3.6 kg). It means that it will creep inevitably with professional equipment even if it has a well-textured surface knob which allows for a sure grip.
Do not be deceived by its base with degree markings - there is no separate panning lock. Although bubble levels are welcome, it can be frustrating to level the camera with two of them when there is no tension control. You really need to master this skill to do it quickly.
Perhaps the only reason to consider this particular version of ballhead for some applications is that it includes the DQ quick release system featuring a low-profile camera plate that will not interfere when mounted on vertical grips. In addition, the plate has a wide wheel-lock (2" in diameter) which makes mounting and removing the plate a very easy operation.