for low-level shots
When shooting macro pictures of flowers recently (see here), I found that the small tripod that I had could not hold the camera steady, and in fact I threw it away, as it was not good enough even to give away. My main tripod for routine use with less demanding lenses has also begun to be unreliable, with one leg slowly sagging under weight and another leg falling out when opening the tripod for use. I dis-assembled parts of it, tightened and reassembled, but the “service” did not last. I realised that after forty years of use, the nylon blocks that were used for locking had worn down.
I do of course have the Berlebach UNI 14, which is reported on in detail here. It is superb for ultra-heavy and ultra-long lenses, such as the 1000mm Carl Zeiss Jena Spiegelobjektiv. However, it is not designed for working with the camera very near to ground level, and is rather bulky for taking on trips and routine use.
So now the search was on for a new tripod.
Ideally, the new tripod would be suitable for multiple purposes:
It should go without saying that a tripod should hold the camera outfit rock-steady, but this is particularly true when using ultra-long lenses or shooting macro shots, because in both of these cases:
I have included here the Arca-Swiss B1-G ball head, as I already have this, so the total weight with that shows the load that a tripod must comfortably be able to bear without risk of movement.
The weight on the previous line shows the load that a tripod head needs to support. Many reviews indicate that ball head manufacturers often make exaggerated claims for the loads that their products will support. However, the real test is not what the ball head will hold still when the weight is carefully and evenly distributed when the centre of gravity is right above the ball head, but what it will hold totally immobile when the outfit is tilted at an extreme angle – for instance, up, to shoot birds in flight or down, to shoot plants, butterflies, etc., all of which inevitably shifts the centre of gravity.
What you get when you buy a tripod
As with the Berlebach, I discovered that the more “serious” tripods do not come with any sort of head, so I would need to find a suitable head, which might be a pan-and-tilt head or a ball head. (Or there is another possibility – see near the bottom of this page, here.) Again, I do still have the superb Arca-Swiss B1-G ball head, which is also reported on here, but I may appreciate having a smaller, lighter head for some situations or trips.
I looked at a friend’s tripod from a major European tripod brand, purchased a year or two ago, and discovered that carbon fibre tripods are a lot lighter than my 1970s aluminium tripod, but just as stable – or even more so. Some current ranges of tripods are available with a choice of carbon fibre or aluminium, with the carbon fibre ones being lighter and the aluminium ones being cheaper.
A tripod that goes really low down
One of the problems in getting near ground level with some tripods is that, no matter how far out the legs are splayed, the centre column eventually touches the ground and one can’t get any lower. Some tripods will take the camera upside-down at the base of the centre column, or by turning the column upside-down (see, for instance, here, near the bottom of the page). That may work fine in the studio, but is not very practical out “in the field”, especially if it is a real field, or a garden or park, or a shore with waves splashing nearby.
After significant research on the internet, in March 2019 I was able to go to the annual Photography Show at the National Exhibition Centre near Birmingham (U.K.). Here I was able to see vast numbers of tripods from brands both famous and unknown.
My on-line research had revealed that some, at least, of the Benro tripods (blue seems to be the company colour) were supplied with both a standard and a short centre column. This might be the solution.
At the Mac Group Europe stand I was able to see a wide range of Benro tripods. Internet research had suggested that a tripod from the light-weight Benro “Travel Angel” range might be suitable, but I had taken a Pentacon Six with me, along with Novoflex bellows and the 150mm Schneider-Kreuznach Xenar lens (see here), and it was clear that something sturdier was required. An extremely helpful Mac Group representative (Mark) recommended a tripod from the sturdier Benro Mach 3 range. As far as I could see, these were available in three sizes, the 28, 38 and 48, with the higher numbers indicating greater maximum height, and obviously an increase in weight and in the minimum folded size. The higher ranges towered above me – fine for a professional photographer with a small stepladder who wanted to set up behind a crowd, but not necessary for my requirements.
I tried my outfit on a Benro TMA28C and it seemed spot-on, so I bought one from a retailer at the show.
My internet research had also revealed a special low-level tripod, the Induro GIHH100CP, although I could only find them for sale in the U.S.A. It turns out that they are no longer distributed in the U.K., but I have been able to buy one and so report on it here.
The Benro Mach3 TMA28C Carbon Fibre tripod
The Benro Mach3 TMA28C comes well equipped with accessories.
Not very obvious in the above pictures is the removable shoulder strap for the Benro tripod case. For the detailed specifications, see the table lower down on this page.
The Induro GIHH100CP Carbon Fibre tripod
Like the Benro Mach3 tripod, the Induro comes well equipped with accessories.
The similarities of style and design detail for these two tripods are quite remarkable, and the USA distributor of both of these brands of tripods states that they are manufactured in the same factory. (See the YouTube video on servicing the leg assemblies for these tripods here – last accessed on 31.3.19.) We also note that the box in which the Induro outfit was supplied bore the Benro name, logo and slogan on four sides. For the user of these two tripods, this does make usage quite intuitive when switching from one tripod to the other: for instance, the legs open, extend and tighten in exactly the same way with both models. For the detailed specifications, see the table below.
Yes, that really is a minimum working height of just seven point seven centimetres (77mm) for the Induro, not a typing error by me. I have measured it several times, as I thought that it couldn’t be that low, and that I must have made a measuring or transcribing error. The different sorts of feet should not make a significant difference to the working height, so I have not measured with them in place.
The Benro B3 Ball head
The Arca-Swiss B1-G Monoball head
For more pictures of the Arca-Swiss B1-G Monoball head and information on it, see here.
An Arca-Swiss brochure from 2005 states, “The B1g features the largest aspherical ball of the series B1 models. providing for the best camera work and positioning of even the heaviest cameras.”
Ball Head Specifications
Maximum heights achieved
For non-low-down shots, the maximum height should be noted.
The Benro Mach3 TMA28C
When using the Benro Mach3 TMA28C with the Pentacon Six on the Benro B3 ball head, with the Novoflex Cross-Castell Q and the Novoflex bellows with their integrated focussing slide, the pentaprism eyepiece is way above eye height for me. (I am of reasonably common adult male height). However, if I extend one less leg section I can achieve perfect height, and further adjustment is possible by using the long centre column or slightly extending the legs further.
For a comparison of this tripod with the Berlebach UNI 14, see here (scroll down).
The Induro GIHH100C
The manufacturer’s specification states that the maximum height of the platform of the Induro is just 28.0 cm / 11", and one is likely to be on the lookout for exceptionally wide walls, steps, a convenient table, etc. for use at a normal, standing height. However, this is not the real purpose of this tripod, so it cannot be viewed as a limitation. What we are more interested in for this context is the minimum height.
Minimum heights achieved
Both tripods have been photographed with each of the two heads, keeping the camera used for these pictures in exactly the same position for all of these four shots. I have not cropped out the surplus white space round the Induro, to make the relative sizes of the two tripods at their minimum height settings easy to see. Each ball head is fitted with a standard plate from the ball head manufacturer, the PU60 plate for the Benro and the 3/8" plate for the Arca-Swiss Monoball.
Either ball head can be safely used with either tripod. However, it is clear that B3 with its base diameter of approximately 58mm goes better than the large Arca-Swiss Monoball on the short centre column of the Benro tripod, with its platform diameter of 49mm. The B3 also goes well on the Benro long centre column, which has a platform diameter of 56mm.
Likewise, the Arca-Swiss B1-G, with its 100mm base diameter, goes better than the Benro B3 ball head on the Induro, with its platform diameter of 100mm. The Arca-Swiss B1-G with its standard 3/8" plate is about 40mm taller than the Benro B3 with its standard PU60 plate. However, in spite of the greater height of the Monoball, the combined height with the Induro GIHH100CP is still significantly lower than the Benro TMA28C with the much smaller Benro B3 head. It is clear that when minimum height is required, the Induro is the tripod to use, even with the large Arca-Swiss monoball, and if we need to get a further 40mm nearer to the ground, then the Benro B3 ball head can be used on the Induro tripod.
Next I show these two tripods with the Novoflex Castel-Cross-Q focussing and composition slides. I am here showing the Benro tripod only with the Benro B3 ball head, not the Arca-Swiss B1-G Monoball. I show the Induro tripod with both ball heads. Again, all three images were taken from exactly the same position and I reproduce all of them at exactly the same size for the items shown, although with the Induro pictures I have this time cut out some of the surplus white area. Height measurements were taken with the Arca-Swiss 3/8" plate on top of the Castel-Cross-Q (even although it was not in place at the time that the photograph of the Benro tripod was taken). Every endeavour was made to keep the top plate horizontal, and measurements are accurate to within approximately + 1mm.
Finally, here is what we set out to achieve:
|Here we can compare the
heights of the three heads that we are examining on this
page. The height of the GD3WH from its base
that mounts on the tripod platform to the top of the
supplied Benro PU70 camera-mounting plate is
11 cm, by my measurement. However, it is important
to note that the lowest control knob of the GD3WH extends
below the base of the head, and for this
reason I have placed all three heads on filter boxes of
equivalent thickness in some of these pictures. This
low control knob may result in problems mounting the GD3WH
on some tripods, and indeed Benro offer a spacer, to
enable it to be mounted on such tripods.
|Here are two further views of
the GD3WH, along with the two ball heads, from a little
In most circumstances, this is likely to be the “photographer’s eye” view of the GD3WH. We can also here see another of the bubble levels.
|Mounting the geared head onto
the Benro Mach 3 TMA28 tripod with the long column, we can
see that it fits perfectly, without any need for the
spacer. It also fits perfectly with the short
However, we might need the spacer anyway, at the top of the head ...
As we can see in the left-hand and middle photograph of the three pictures below, one of the Geared Head control knobs prevents me from sliding the Pentacon Six on the standard Benro PU70 “Quick Release” plate by more than a few millimeters into the QR holder, as the knob hits the left-hand spool knob at the bottom of the camera. The middle photograph below shows the same problem from a different angle. The QR plate is hardly engaged with the top of the Geared Head, the camera is unstable and is probably in danger of falling off the tripod. We have met this problem before, with the Manfrotto Telephoto Lens Support (Model No 293). That problem, and the solution that we found then, can be seen here.
|However, that particular solution wasn’t an option on this occasion. A spacer on top of the Head, below the camera, would solve the problem, or a Novoflex focussing slide (see above), but this time we rotated the QR plate through 90º, and then rotated the head through 90º, too. We were able to engage the whole of the QR plate by loosening completely the holder for the QR plate and lowering one side of the QR plate into it at an angle, then lowering the other side and tightening up the holder. The result can be seen in the right-hand photograph, above. The control knobs of the head are now in different (and slightly less convenient) positions in relation to the photographer, but this solution does work.|
|Here we can see the Benro
PU70 “QR” plate
attached in a left-to-right orientation onto the bottom of
the Pentacon Six.
As an alternative, we could have used one of our very long “QR” plates. One of them can be seen here.
|For a wide
range of photographic requirements, including many
low-level shots, the Benro is clearly the one to
take. If one seeks the lowest-possible viewpoints
and is prepared to do without a tripod of normal height,
the Induro is the one to use. If one is travelling
by car, one will probably pack both.
Of the Benro heads tested here, both the B3 ball head and the GD3WH geared head are excellent. Taking close-up shots in a studio situation, the geared head is a delight to use, combined with focussing slides if this does not result in the camera being too high. Inevitably, the geared head will not fit into the Benro tripod bag, but this would not be desirable anyway, as the head could sustain damage in transit. It is best transported in its sturdy protective container, in the original box.
In the picture to the right, by using the Novoflex Castel-Cross Q, I have raised the Pentacon Six up and it is no longer near the top controls of the Benro Geared Head. For this picture I have also added the Novoflex Fine Adjustment Handle for Castel-Q. It is the long straight tube that projects horizontally from the Castel-Q, on the left in this photograph. It makes precise adjustments of distance from the subject easier to achieve.
have been very favourably impressed by the support of the
UK office of Mac Group Europe Ltd, who distribute Benro
products (see them for instance here).
The results of tests, once taken and processed, will appear at the bottom of this page.
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© TRA April 2019