Benro has been familiar name in the tripod game for some time now, and recently they’ve been picking up some new fans including Fstoppers’ Lee Morris. Last summer, they launched a new line of travel tripods under the ProAngel moniker. In this review I take a look at the Benro ProAngel #3-Series Tripod with B2 Ball Head kit, the most expensive travel tripod in this line and yet still only $249.
In taking a critical look at any travel tripod, one has to take into consideration that somewhere there’s going to be a compromise. The purpose of any tripod is stability for your camera, and a compact, travel-friendly product just can’t be as physically stable as a full-sized product. Purchasers of these travel tripods are mainly looking at the weight, the size when closed down, the build toughness and quality, and the price, then taking these and evaluating them against the level of stability they get in turn. It’s a time-consuming process to find the right tripod. When the Benro ProAngel travel tripods were announced in mid-2017, I thought that I may have found a well-balanced tripod solution.
The Benro ProAngel series are five-sectioned, aluminum-alloy tripods. Aluminum means they are generally heavier and not as rigid as the more expensive carbon fiber variety. However, I was curious to see how the advancements in aluminum tripods would play out versus my old carbon fiber Gitzo; Would the latest in tripod design, but inferior material, be equal to an old design and style of carbon fiber tubing? To be fair, my Gitzo isn’t a travel tripod in the modern sense (I think it was marketed as such when it was released though) and only has three leg sections versus the Benro’s five, so the comparison was only to myself and shouldn’t be judged too closely by others. Anyway, there was no contest that the Benro was more flexible and unsteady. That was unfortunate, but as I said above, it’s all part of a tradeoff. The Benro does so many more things in a much more compact size, so stability needs to be kept in a reality check.
The total weight of the Benro ProAngel #3-Series Tripod with B2 Ball Head kit is 4.4 pounds. To collapse it down to the “travel” mode, you can fold the legs up 180 degrees so that they invert surrounding the ball head. What kind of bugs me with this is that you have to then adjust the ball head a little to get the knobs out of the way of the legs. In the end, the benefits outweigh the annoyance.
The tripod can support up to 26.4 pounds on top of its aluminum-alloy ball head sporting an Arca-type quick release clamp and bubble level. The heaviest gear I placed on it was a Sony a99 II with 70-400mm G II lens and that was probably hovering the maximum (in weight and price) I’d personally feel comfortable using.
The center column has two telescoping sections with individual twist locks. With the center column fully raised and the legs fully extended, the maximum height of the ProAngel #3 is 63 inches. With the center column collapsed down, the maximum height is 52 inches. The minimum height is 13.1 inches. The legs have a three-position angle lock (24, 55, and 80 degrees) to the camera lower to the ground without slipping from the weight. If this still won’t do, the center column can also be reversed to hold the camera between the tripod legs.
The thing that makes the ProAngel unique is how the legs are designed to function. If you look closer at the product images, there are not locking knobs for every leg extension as you see in other tripods. Instead, there is just one. I honestly didn’t even know how this was even supposed to work when I ordered it. How can you lock a couple legs down at any custom spot if there’s no locking knob for each leg? The answer is part of a hidden trick. The locking knob you see on the ProAngel is just for the first extension, and then to extend the rest of the four sections you use the bottom rubber foot as a locking knob itself. Once extended, you will see that the legs just telescope out of each other with no buffer pieces surrounding the outside. It creates a very clean look in my opinion. The downside is that when the legs aren’t locked and just dangling there, the tripod feels very cheap because it’s all bendy and flopping around like a tent pole. Locking the legs serves a dual purpose in controlling both the tension and rigidity of the extended legs as well as the standard lock mechanism. I think the thought here is that this further reduces the minimum collapsed height of the tripod with no lock knobs at every leg joining, but it was the root of my biggest complaint: collapsing this tripod sucks. The flimsiness when the legs are extended and unlocked creates a lot of friction when trying to close it down because each leg needs to be lined up perfectly to slide into itself. This wastes a lot of time and frankly I felt embarrassed and unprofessional having trouble with such a simple task.
Another modern twist with this tripod is the 3/8"-16 female threads built into the side for attaching accessories such as articulating arms and mounting a smartphone or GoPro, for example.
What I Liked
- Collapses down to a size I can fit inside my bag when I need to, such as bringing it in my carry on.
- Hand grip on one of the legs for carrying comfort.
- The ball head feels durable and ready for SLR camera setups.
- All the knobs from the center column to ball head are grippy and feel well made.
- The tripod looks clean and cool.
- Affordable price.
What Could Be Improved
- Legs are difficult to close.
- Legs are flimsy and feel cheap when unlocked.
The Benro ProAngel tripod line comes in a variety of sizes, some complete with a ball head, and are priced from $99 to $249. The cost really makes it hard not to recommend the ProAngel series because of how sleek and modern they look and feel. The only time I really felt like “I got what I paid for” is when trying to close the stubborn legs. However, overall I think this tripod kit would be worthy of most traveling photographers on a budget.