After investing initially in my Sigma 150-600mm Sport lens, it became quickly apparent that a general tripod and head were not going to cut it when it came to challenging wildlife photography. I needed that confidence in my equipment that it wouldn’t hold me back when I needed it most. When I then purchased the Canon 500mm F4 from Wilkinson Cameras, there was no longer any room for compromise. I needed a Gimbal head and tripod legs sturdy and smooth enough to deliver results. You can be forgiven for assuming that your only real option is a Wimberley Head, but Benro are really starting to make waves in the market, proving to be a key player when it comes to tripods!
With a significant amount of time invested from a friendly and knowledgable Benro representative, I decided that a GH2C, combined with the Combination 37C legs was the best option for me. I was looking for a compact, lightweight but very resilient and sturdy tripod, with smooth operation and a perfectly balanced head. The ability to leave my tripod and camera freestanding but fully ready to get to work if needed was important for me and something that a ball head could never offer. I also suffer from Arthritis in my hands, meaning that firm handling of a camera all day can be quite painful and challenging. Having a fully balanced set up on my camera makes it feel weightless, meaning there is a lot less strain on my hands throughout the day, leaving me to just worry about capturing the images.
With the legs supporting up to 18kg and the tripod only weighing 1.9kg, this tripod covers all the bases I require. A lightweight tripod may be easier to transport but the compromise is that the tripod will not support as much weight or be able to tolerate shake as well as a heavier counterpart. This kind of set up is most suited to hides or locations where you may be located at the same spot for a lengthy period of time. Paired with the Gimbal head, it can become a bit cumbersome if hiking long distances.
The GH2C can support up to 23kg of weight, weighing 1.3kg itself. This makes this setup weigh 3.2kg in total, again emphasising its suitability for short distances & hides.
These legs & head work really well together in terms of performance. The head has consistently smooth movement, hugely aided by ensuring you balance your equipment on your initial set up. I have full confidence in leaving my tripod and camera with all levers loose with the knowledge that the tripod will not tip or fall, along with keeping my kit primed and ready even if I’m not! When balanced, the movement feels weightless, meaning I have no stress on my hands whilst using, even for prolonged periods of time.
With no central column to get in the way, I have the ability to get the tripod right to the ground which is fantastic when perhaps shooting from a camouflage net or a low hide. Sometimes, even with a short central column is manages to get in the way and becomes detrimental, so I am happy without one. The legs are strong and shake or judder is minimal even when fully extended. Although I went for lever locks, I would probably choose the easier twist locks in the future, as I have on my smaller landscape tripod. I find they are very easy to adjust, easily unlocking them all at once. The difference between the lever locks and twist locks are all down to personal preference usually.
As standard, the tripod legs come with a removable sleeve on one leg. This is designed to ensure you will not suffer from any extreme temperatures transferring from the tripod legs to your hands when carrying of handling. This is very beneficial in cold conditions. You also get a very well designed bag for the tripod, with interior pockets for the included spare rubber feet or anything else you may feel the need to carry along with you.
In The Field
Unless I have a long walk or scramble ahead of me, you will usually find me with this tripod when heading out for wildlife. It is ideal for hide work and I will always use it if I’m shooting at just one location for the day, such as when out doing my Coastal Bird shoots. The smooth operation is fantastic and really helps with any moving subjects, such as flying birds. You’re not having to battle against the weight of the lens & the potential shake that comes from this. Personally, I am more than comfortable handholding my setup, which is just under 5kg, but as the day goes on or when shooting in awkward positions the weight becomes a real issue, often causing me to miss shots or cut off key features of the subject.