Call us: 01444 23 70 70 open till late

Search terms

[[{name}]]

Brands

[[{name}]]

Category

[[{name}]]

Products

[[{name}]]
[[{attributes.Price}]]

Cyber Monday deals end in:

Cyber Monday - Free memory card - Ends today!

FREE memory card on purchases over £350

Benro Bat 15A And VX20 Ball Head Kit Review

Benro has been busy lately launching two tripod ranges in kits which include ball heads, along with an accompanying new range of ball heads. We got our hands on a Benro Bat 15A Tripod and VX20 Ball Head kit for this review, a lightweight travel-orientated tripod with a few tricks up it’s sleeve.

Benro Bat 15A And VX20 Ball Head Kit Review Shooting the moon

Introduction to the Benro Bat Tripod Range

There are six flavours of Bat tripod kits in our Benro tripod range, with four being made from aluminium and two from carbon fibre. This line was released in 2021 at the same time as a bigger sibling Tortoise Series. (You can read our Benro Tortoise 35C Tripod And GX35 Ball Head Review here, suffice to say it impressed.)

Macro with the bat tripod and macro lens

The Bat series are aimed at providing photographers with an extremely compact and comparatively lightweight tripod, which compacts down extremely small for travel. They do have centre columns to raise their height and the 15A tripod with VX20 Ball Head have a 14kg payload. This is pretty extraordinary for its compact size, although I would probably be reluctant to load this with a super long and heavy lens. The longest lens I mounted was a Sony 100-400mm G Master, which was reasonably balanced when the lens wasn’t fully extended.

Perfectly sized for a camera bag and as long as a lens

This kit is designed for travel and on the whole I would say sticking with primes, wide angle zooms or a short telephoto and you’ll see very stable results from the Bat tripod. In practice this covers a wide range of focal lengths from 14mm through to a 24-70mm or 24-100mm for example. You can definitely get away with a 70-200mm and even heavier or longer, but this kit is not intended as a landscape photographer’s or similar set-up.

Bat 15A And VX20 Ball Head Kit Features and specs

  • Five leg angle adjustment levels including vertical leg position
  • Reversible aluminium tripod legs for low angle shooting
  • Two centre column sections for extra height up to 165.5cm
  • Dual 360° panning feature
  • Three built-in 1/4”-20 accessory mounts and a removable ballast weight hook
  • Reverse foldable legs for extra compact folded size
  • Convertible monopod from the centre column and one leg
  • Variable rubber feet and metal spikes included
  • Weight 1.61 kg

The Bat party trick with vertical legs

You always get a lot of value with Benro and the latest Bat is no different, packing extras into smart packaging including a tripod carry bag, tools and two types of feet. The ability to mount accessories like lights, arms and video screens is a bonus for those shooting more seriously.

Testing methodology

I had this kit for around two weeks and managed to take it out six or seven times. I mainly shot macro using a Voigtlander 65mm f/2 Macro Apo-Lanthar Aspherical for Sony, as well as some landscape and general shooting. I used an L-bracket on the Sony A7R III rather than the included plate, both fitting the Arca-type mount perfectly. Other lenses I tested were the 100-400mm GM and the Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM. These are not necessarily typical lenses you’d find on this sort of tripod, but they’re all heavier, bright aperture models, so provided good stability and sharpness tests. The results were perfect on the whole.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to travel, but I did get into a stream, to local fields and plenty of close-ups around where I live, which all benefit from a stable platform. I even shot the Strawberry Moon to see if the tripod could handle a super telephoto lens fully extended, which it did with a little help from the Sony time-lapse function. In other words, there was some vibration in the legs for a few seconds, but the camera kept on shooting a sequence, which stabilised after three or four shots when the tripod became rock steady. Using any tripod is not a silver bullet to sharp images, you can still employ best practice to get consistently good results.

Using a Lee Filter system on a travel tripod

Benro Bat 15A Tripod likes

  • I really liked the leg angle adjustment system, which was simple, quick and effective. Drilled holes make it easy to attain one of five pre-set angles and you can get to free style angles in between if you don’t engage into the holes.
  • I liked the Bat’s party trick of being able to have the legs positioned almost vertically. I did use this when shooting in a stream as pictured. Although not an everyday feature I can see this being useful when shooting in tighter spaces, perhaps down an alley or around cities, where you might not have lots of space to fully set-up.
  • The monopod feature is a bonus if you just want a lightweight single leg solution for some sports or similar type of photography, where you don’t need the full rig.
  • Stowed length is pretty incredible at 39cm as shown here where you can see it’s about as long as the 100-400mm lens fully extended. This makes for a very short set of legs when travelling even when mounted on a smaller camera bag.
  • I was pretty amazed to get sharp pictures of the moon using a fully extended telephoto on a tripod this compact. In a pinch and if you slow down a little, you could use this with almost any gear at all.
  • The ballast weight hook is a bonus and was used several times when the legs were fully extended.

Using a long telephoto zoom on this compact tripod

Gripes

  • The tripod weighs in at 1.6kg which is light enough, but there are lighter travel tripods around. I guess this is the tradeoff of having a higher payload, so it’s swings and roundabouts.
  • With the dual centre column lowered this is a fairly short system. Raising the column means you get to a very decent 165.5cm, but you lose some stability with a column extended. Obviously this is intended for travel so we want it to be compact, and for that its bang on. I wouldn’t get too hung up on this.
  • There was some settling of the head with a heavy lens mounted, so as mentioned earlier it’s best to stick with sensible length and weight lenses.

The Bat legs are as short as a lens extended!

VX20 Dual Panoramic Ball Head Review

The VX20 ball head (which you can also get separately) has Benro’s dual panoramic mode. This enables panning from the base as well as from the quick release platform. This makes it easier and quicker to fine-tune your composition, which was very useful in my testing for macro in particular. The head itself is the smallest in the range and arrives with the PU50N camera plate, which is Arca-Swiss compatible.

The main locking knob offers built-in friction adjustment and the head controls are simple and effective. The VX20 features Benro’s safety conscious ‘pull and twist’ safety lock, which I found to be a secure and worthwhile addition for extra peace of mind. The head doesn’t even weigh as much as 300g making the 14kg weight tolerance something of a marvel. Mount anything like a 24-70mm or other useful travel range and you’ll be good to go.

100 percent crop showing macro detail fully sharp

VX20 Ball Head Likes

  • Just like on the Tortoise range, the dual panning function was really useful, particularly when shooting macro. It allows you to 360° pan from beneath the quick release plate with a locking knob. If you like to get your composition right it really helps with fine-tuning.
  • The extra low weight head contributes to a lighter system and makes for a versatile head, which you could use on heavier tripods as well as this one.
  • Benro’s safety lock system is quick to get used to and very effective. You feel reassured mounting your gear on this head.
  • Overall I found it smooth to make adjustments and easy to compose your shots overall.

100 percent crop of grass with droplets and insect

Gripes

  • The only thing I didn’t like about this head was some minor slipping with the long lens attached. It’s not really intended for super telephoto’s, but when you do use one you need to compensate or make sure it’s properly tightened.

Conclusion

Without actually doing any travelling with this kit I could see how it would be a solid choice if you will be going away. It packs down incredibly small and is reasonably lightweight too. The raised height with the legs fully extended is fine for shorter people or for lower shots and you have an almighty 165cm available when you need extra height from the dual centre column.

Insect macro shot 100 percent crop

A 14kg payload is impressive and it will handle just about anything you mount, although it’s not really intended for long telephoto lenses. As you’ll be away on the whole when you use this, the lenses in your bag will tend to be all-in-one’s or perhaps primes, which is where the tripod excels.

The legs are smooth and quick to open and close, with nice leg angle adjustments. Some nice features on the ball head round off a very useable and nicely crafted piece of kit, making a good choice for travel, cityscapes and general shooting.

Bee macro at 100 percent crop for sharp details

All of the photos were made with the Sony a7R III and show 100% crops, which has 42 megapixels so you can scrutinise sharpness from this travel tripod. Everything was shot in RAW and if you’re interested in starting to shoot in RAW why not take a look at our blog Why Shoot Photos in RAW with some great tips. We also posted Learn Manual Photography in 10 minutes, which is well worth a look if you’re ready to make the leap to the M dial, useful to fine-tune control of your photos. We also have some tips for shooting nature macro if you like that kind of photography.

Flower close-up at 100 percent to show sharpness

Share:

By Nick Dautlich on 15/07/2021

Trade in your old equipment

Fast and easy trade in service ensures your old gear is collected efficiently and you are paid quickly! It's very simple to trade in your unwanted photography gear. Just head over to our dedicated Sell or Part Exchange page, fill out the details, and we'll get back to you with an offer for your old gear. Take the cash, or put it towards the cost of your new gear. It's up to you! Find out more