Benro makes a series of tripods in its Travelling Angel carbon fibre line. The smallest are the four-section TRCB068 and five-section TRCB069. These weigh just a kilogram (2 lb) including B-00 tripod head and fold down to less than 37 cm (15 inches).
I was looking for the lightest usable tripod for a couple of overseas trips I’m planning in 2011 and bumped into the Benro line in my research. Benro is a Chinese tripod maker, not widely distributed or well known in Canada. On the web Benro is often derided as merely producing knockoffs of more prestigious brands like Gitzo, and in fact the Travelling Angel is similar in specifications to Gitzo’s GT 1541 Traveler. What attracted me initially was the price — about 40 percent less than a Traveler/head package.
My out of the box experience with the four-section 068 has been very good. All the moving parts seem solid and tight — maybe even a bit stiff (which may be simply a function of it not being broken in). According to Benro, the leg tubes are made of the company’s second-generation 8x carbon fibre material. The central spider that holds the legs and centre column tube is magnesium alloy. Included is a small ball head, the B-00. It has a quick-change plate and separate knobs for ball lock and panorama drag. The tripod comes with rubber feet, but the mount is threaded and removable. You can fit the tripod with optional stainless steel spikes. The product also comes with its own nylon carrying bag.
The signature feature of the Travelling Angel line (which also includes aluminium models) are the 180-degree leg hinges. To minimize the folded length, you can pivot the legs upward so the legs surround the head. This reduces the height of the tripod by the length of the column tube. Thus folded, the TRCB068 is just 36.5 cm (14.3 inches) — incredible.
The Angel uses twist locks that have a pleasant silky feel, and positive resistance once they approach maximum lock. With the leg sections fully extended, the tripod head is 115 cm from the floor, which is on the short side. However, the tripod is surprisingly sturdy. I chose the TRCB068 over the five-section TRCB069 (the fifth section tubes looked kind of spindly to me) and I’m happy with the decision. The tripod would easily handle a smaller SLR with kit lens or a Micro Four Thirds camera. I had no problems with a larger SLR and lens combo (Olympus E-30 and 12-60 mm zoom). The tripod has a weight rating of 6 kg (13 lb). That seems a bit optimistic, but I’m so far impressed with the unit’s rigidity. Even the tiny B-00 ball head is impressive for its size. With the centre column fully raised, the head is 135 mm from the floor but it flexes a bit. For a smaller camera, this may not be a problem, and I’d feel okay using it half extended even with a larger SLR. Column-down position is definitely the most stable, however.
Keep in mind this is a traveller’s tripod. It’s not for everyone. It trades ultimate rigidity for portability. On two important portability fronts — weight and size — the TRCB068 is a winner in my opinion. Time will tell whether this gets a pass or fail on the most important factor — keeping your camera steady in the field. However, I have a good feeling about it.
Specifications: Benro Carbon Fibre Travelling Angel TRCB068
- Material: Carbon fibre, (2nd gen, 8x)
- Rated holding capacity: 6 kg (13.2 lbs)
- Maximum height, centre column fully extended: 135 cm (53 in)
- Maximum height, centre column down: 115 cm (45 in)
- Minimum height: 40 cm (15.8 in)
- Folded length: 36 cm (14.2 in)
- Leg sections: 4
- Leg spread: 2 positions
- Centre column: Rapid
- Weight, with B-00 ball head: 1 kg (2lb 3oz)
- Price: $449.95 (srp)