Reviewed by Mark and Leslie Degner
Recently we received the new Benro Mach3 TMA38C tripod and Benro V1E ballhead from Vistek (www.vistek.ca) to try out. The tripod and ballhead are both sold individually so that photographers can mix and match different tripods with different sized ballheads (or other styles of heads) from the new Benro Mach3 tripods and V series ballheads.
The Benro Mach3 TMA38C is part of Vistek’s new Mach3 series of tripods. The Mach3 series consists of a number of different sized tripods with both aluminum or carbon fibre legs and varying numbers of leg sections (three or four) and leg sizes. The TMA38C model that we tested had Benro’s 9x carbon fibre legs (constructed from nine layers of carbon fibre). The carbon fibre legs maximize the strength-to-weight ratio of the tripod legs, which provides significant sturdiness while keeping its weight down to a reasonable 1.9 kg (4.19 lb). Despite its light weight it’s still capable of supporting a respectable load up to 16 kg (35.3 lb).
With four leg sections, the TMA38C has a compact 54 cm (21.3”) folded length, but when the legs are fully extended it reaches a height of 135 cm (53.1”). With the standard centre column (31.8 cm/12.5”) fully extended it has a maximum height of 156.2 cm (61.6”). The standard centre column is reversible and comes with a retractable hook that can be used to hang a weight from for increased stability. The down side of the standard centre column is that it prevents the tripod from going as low to the ground as it’s capable of doing, only down to 33.5 cm (13.2”). However, Benro has included a short column (8.9 cm/3.5”) that, when attached, allows the tripod to go significantly lower down to 17.8 cm (7”). We are really pleased that Benro included the short column and it wasn’t something that had to be purchased separately. Being able to go so low opens up a whole range of photographic possibilities and we keep the short column attached all the time.
There’s a foam rubber covering on one of the outer leg sections, which allows you to carry it comfortably and keep your hands from getting cold when the temperature drops. The rubber twist-style leg-lock collars are large (45 cm/1.75” long) and easy to operate, allowing the legs to extend and retract smoothly and lock firmly in place. The tripod also comes with interchangeable rubber feet and spikes so that you can get maximum stability regardless of the ground surface. The instruction sheet that came with the TMA38C tripod implies that the TMA38C and the other Mach3 tripods have a removable leg that can be converted into a monopod. However, it’s only the smaller, lighter weight models that can be converted, but not the TMA38C and the other medium and heavy weight models.
Also included with the tripod are both a cloth dust bag and nice nylon carrying case that has two exterior pockets for storing the various accessories. We were pleased that both the dust bag and the carrying case are long enough to hold the tripod with a ballhead attached.
The V1E ballhead is the third largest of four in Benro’s new V Series of ballheads. We would consider it to be a light to mid-weight ballhead, with a manufacturer’s maximum loading rating of 10 kg (22 lb). It’s large enough to easily hold a lightweight DSLR body and shorter lenses, and is well suited for most mirrorless cameras and lens systems.
The V1E is made of precision-machined alloy and has a rugged, durable build that should stand up to many years of use. It’s relatively tall (9.5 cm/3.75”), but it isn’t overly heavy, weighing in at 0.41 kg (0.9 lb). The ball in the V1E has a diameter of about 32 mm (1.25”) and it rotates smoothly. The V1E has two knobs set about 90 degrees apart from each other; the larger, six-sided main locking knob and a smaller pan lock knob. Integrated into the main locking knob (referred to by Benro as the Integrated Lock Limiter knob) is the friction control for the ball. In our tests we found that the V1E ball does not creep when tightened properly and can be quickly loosened for making adjustments.
There’s a single drop notch so the camera can be tilted 90 degrees to the side for vertical images or forward to shoot downward. The ballhead can rotate 360 degrees on the panning base that has a printed scale to help with alignment of panoramic images. Unfortunately the base obscures most of the scale and there’s only one spot with an indentation where the scale numbers can be seen; this is a bit of an inconvenience. The separate pan lock knob tightens securely so that the body doesn’t rotate on the panning base accidently.
We were really pleased to see that the V series ballheads, including the V1E, incorporated the universal Arca-Swiss style quick-release system in the design as it allows for a lot of different options when mounting your camera and lenses onto the ballhead while still holding them securely. The V1E came with a 60 mm (2.4”) quick release plate to attach to your camera. There’s also a bubble level built into the top plate of the ballhead to aid with keeping your camera level.
Although sold separately, when combined the Benro Mach3 TMA38C tripod ($559.99) and the V1E ($239.99) ballhead make a nicely matched unit that performs well with a lightweight DLSR system or a mirrorless camera system. If you have the larger and heavier pro-sized DSLR camera and lenses it would probably be better to upgrade to the larger V2E ballhead with its 12 kg (26.5 lb) load capacity. Both the TMA38C tripod and the V1E ballhead are well made, rugged, stable, and lightweight and would make a great combination for nature and outdoor photographers.
To read more great reviews by Mark and Leslie Degner pick up the Fall/Winter 2015 issue of OPC. To never miss an issue please subscribe today!