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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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
By Nick Dautlich on 15/07/2021
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