Pros:Small and light enough for travel with high quality and stability.
Cons:Not small or light enough for serious wanderers.
The Bottom Line: For the price, this is an outsanding tripod. Large enough for serious shoots, light enough to take with you.
A tripod is one of those pieces of equipment that studio photographers love, travel photographers hate, and most amateur photographers (sadly) don't even own. It is also perhaps the one piece of equipment that will improve image quality more than any other, but only if you have it with you.
Recommend this product?
Tripods come in many sizes, are made from many different material types and range in cost from under $30 to $3,000 or more. So which tripod is right for you? Why is it worth spending more when you can get a cheap one that will extend as high? Read on.
The Benro model reviewed here (and which I own) is the Travel Angel A-2691 tripod with the B-1 ballhead. Benro makes similar models in slightly smaller or larger sizes, and makes similar ballheads with slightly smaller and larger sizes as well. You can also buy the tripod without the head and select a head from any of a number of manufacturers, or buy a completely different type of head, such as a tilt/pan head that people who shoot mostly video may prefer.
The A-2691 is a medium size tripod, made from aluminum. Benro sells the exact same tripod made from carbon fiber (about 1 pound lighter) for roughly twice the price. The ballhead B-1 is also medium, and is rated to support 24lbs worth of camera and lens. The smaller (and lighter) B-0 is only rated for 14 lbs worth of camera and lens. The A-2691 with the B-1 ballhead weighs 4.6 lbs and folds down to 17.7" in length. The tripod extends to a maximum height with the collumn extended of 64.4", which corresponds to the height of the bottom plate of the camera. Obviously, the higher you extend the collumn, the less stability you will have.
You can get similar stability, working height and maximum camera weight in a much lighter tripod, but you will spend a lot more money. You can also get a tripod that while equally tall and sturdy, will cost much less, but at the cost of a few extra pounds of carry weight. You can also get a smaller and slightly lighter tripod for the same price, but with slightly less stability and limited to a lighter camera/lens combination. Its all about finding the sweet-spot for you.
When I travel for pleasure (meaning not a photographic expedition), I usually don't bring any tripod at all, or even any lenses other than my 16-50mm f2.8 zoom. Thats my particular balance of not wanting to bother my family while I stop and play with my camera equipment.
Because I won't be carrying the tripod with me as I trek across Tokyo or on the trails of Yosemite, I was willing to get a tripod that weighed a pound or two more to have increased working height and a reasonable price tag. At just under 5lbs in its carry case (Benro gives you a very nice cordura case with sling strap) the tripod is small and light enough for me to take when I go out specifically for photography, such as a portrait session, and also straps down nicely to the small luggage rack on my motorcycle. Simply put, I prefer a tripod that isn't quite as light, but whcih gives me maximum versatility and working height.
The A2691 is the ideal size for me. Without extending the collumn much, I can position the camera just slightly below my eye-level which makes for comfortable shooting without a compromise to stability. The 24lb weight rating of the ballhead means that even with my heavy 85mm f1.4 mounted to my Sony A77 camera that I am barely pushing 1/4 of the weight rating, again adding considerably to stability and even more importantly, allowing very smooth panning action of the ballhead that would not be possible closer to the weight limit.
Finally, a unique feature of the Travel Angel series is that one of the legs can be easily removed and converted to a monopod, whcih I am likely to take with me on some non-photographic trips. While a tripod is far better than a monopod for stability, a monopod is still worth at least a stop or two, which combined with a fast lens and the built-in image stabilization on the A77 allows me to take handheld portraits down to perhaps 1/8 of a second without camera shake.
For the price, this was the ideal compromise of size, weight and stability for me. My advise is to visit a large camera store and talk about tripods with someone in their pro department, but tell them your price range right up front. The price limit I gave at my local shop was $500, and I walked out with this gem for $250.