Equipment Review - Benro A350F Tripod and N0 Ball Head

02nd July 2015
After a break from photography I needed to get my hands on a decent budget tripod that was still going to be capable of handling my kit and helping me produce the images I wanted. In the past I have used tripods from Manfrotto and Giottos. Both performed well but as my budget was limited I decided to try the Benro A350F which came with its own ball head, another saving.

Whats In The Box?

For the £84 I paid you do get a lot for your money. You get a wrench to make any adjustments necessary and also a carry bag, which as an added extra with a lot of tripod manufacturers.

The Tripod

The tripod itself has magnesium alloy castings and aluminium legs, these are three section and can handle weights up to 4kg. The tripod will extend to just over 140cm.

The tripod is amazingly light and weighs in at an impressive 1.6kg. It also folds down to the compact size of 40.5cm and is easily carried on the back of my Lowe Pro Flipside 400AW with no problems. Again the Benro seems to be feature packed at this price and has a level located in the top of the tripod as well as a small compass.

The tripod legs can be angled out in three positions. A tab is pulled at the top of each leg that butts up against a ridge, the further out the tab is pulled decides which ridge is selected. This allows the tripod to get very low, ideal for macro photography, although this is tempered by the fact that the centre column gets in the way. This issue can be overcome by unscrewing the hook (for adding weight, another feature!) at the bottom of the column and then removing it and inverting the column. This leaves the ball head between the legs, its a bit fiddly to do but does work. I think this issue would have been addressed much more satisfactorily by issuing the tripod with a stubby centre column. Some manufacturers do this and it does work well. I have to say however this is one of my few gripes with the tripod overall.

The height of the tripod can be a little bit short, especially for dedicated landscape photographers. I currently use a camera with an angled screen so this poses me few problems. I tend to use this feature rather than extending the centre column too much as I always think this impacts on stability. As mentioned earlier there is also a hook at the base of the centre column allowing weight to be added to anchor the tripod if shooting in severe weather. It has foam grips on the legs for ease of handling and rubber feet to aid with grip.

The Ball Head

To say this came with the tripod I am very pleased with its performance. It is rated at 6kg and I have recently used it with no problems with my Canon 700d and Tamron 150-600. It also has a spirit level for precise leveling and and controls for accurate adjustments. It uses the Arco Swiss type quick release plate.

Who's it aimed at?

As at the time I was on a budget this tripod has been invaluable too me. It packs loads of features associated with higher end tripod manufacturers into a really well priced package. It has the lightness of a travel tripod which also lends itself to my style of photography. I am predominantly a wildlife photographer and most of my images rely on early starts and stalking techniques. My tripod needs to be light and unobtrusive. In point of fact, probably only one in a hundred of my images is shot using a tripod, but when I need to use it, it has to perform, especially as in wildlife that shot may not represent itself again.

If I do use it I am more than likely doing some macro work. As already mentioned my only niggle would be the fact that the inclusion of a second stubby centre column would have made it perfect.

In conclusion I would say that if you shoot from a tripod all the time you may want to consider other options, simply because you may want it to extend further or carry more weight. If like me you need to have a tripod with you as you stalk wildlife or do a lot of travel photography then this tripod could be just the ticket. I'm really impressed with it, and even when I upgrade this little gem will stay with me for those days when I want to carry a tripod but also want to forget i'm carrying one!

Happy Shooting!

(Note) I thought I better update this review as I have now been using the tripod for an extended period of time. My opinion hasn't changed in the fact that this is a great value jack of all trades tripod. However, now the Fungi season is upon us I have had real issues getting the shots I want with this tripod. The long central column just doesn't allow you to get low enough. You can of course invert the central column leaving the camera suspended between the legs, however, this is a bit of a hassle to do and leaves the controls on the camera in a strange position. What this tripod needs if it is not going to have a mechanism like some of the manfrotto tripods which allows the central column to twist to 90 degrees is an additional stubby central column that can replace the long one. It may be that the tripod is switched shortly as at this time of year fungi photography takes up a lot of my time.

Happy shooting!

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