Acratech Ball Heads on Benro Tripods – The perfect combination for my photography. Tripods Part 2

In this Part II of my How to Choose a Tripod
Series – I’m gonna show you which tripods I use and tell you why — and I’ll show you
what I think is the best tripod ball head ever made! Stay tuned! Hey gang! My name is Joe Edelman and my mission is to
help photographers like YOU to develop a solid understanding of the HOWS & WHYS behind great
photography so that you can achieve your goals as a photographer. Hopefully you watched Part 1 of this set and
you are up to speed on all of your tripod terminology. I need to start with an admission. For much of my career I used the WRONG tripod. Actually I avoided tripods as much as possible
and when I did buy tripods I usually went cheap because I didn’t feel that they were
that important. Boy was I wrong. A few months back – I decided that it was
time to grow up and not only get a real tripod but to take a good look at ball heads. I always had the attitude that ballheads sucked
– mainly because I’d only ever tried cheap ones that wouldn’t support the weight of
the heavy Nikon cameras and because Every time I loosened the control knob – my camera
would just flop to the side. I started my search with the tripod. I knew that I wanted something that was reasonably
priced. I knew this was not going to be a hundred
dollar tripod purchase but I still didn’t want to throw away money. I wanted a tripod that was as light as possible
but still very sturdy – so Carbon fiber was the likely choice for the common material. I wanted to use lever locks on the legs and
I prefer three sections over four. Both of these features make for quicker set-up
and teardown. I wanted the tripod to be able to bring my
camera to eye level and I knew that I didn’t need a head on the tripod because I had my
eyes on a very special ball head. Just like cameras, there are a few big players
in the tripod space and a bunch of smaller ones. There are some companies like Manfrotto – who
have a lot of cool options and many that are over priced and then there are companies like
Benro who have a smaller product line with less razzle dazzle and gimmicks at more reasonable
prices. I was looking to purchase a tripod, a new
monopod and a smaller travel tripod. I went with Benro and their Adventure 2 Series
Carbon Fiber Tripod. This is a $250.00 tripod that weighs just
three pounds but can handle up to 26.5lbs of gear. Which means that I can mount my camera and
a Tether Tools Rock Solid cross bar with a Tether Table Aero and my laptop all on top
this tripod. The Benro Adventure Series 2 collapses to
24.2” and extends to 63.8” which with my new ball head is more than enough to bring
the total height to just above eye level. This is a three section leg with lever locks
and the real bonus – Benro provides a three year warranty that you can extend to five
years if you register your warranty online. The tripod does come with a carrying case
and shoulder strap as well as replaceable leg tips to switch from rubber pads to spikes
for outdoor shooting. Oh – and I almost forgot – the Adventure Series
2 does allow you to reverse the center column to get your camera as close to the ground
as possible and it has a hook on the base of the center column that will allow you to
hang a weight or even your camera bag to give the tripod even more stability. I wanted versatility and LOTS of it. For stills, I was looking for a lightweight
monopod that would allow me to attach a high-end ball head. For video use, I wanted to be able to attach
a fluid head with a pan handle and I also wanted feet that would allow the monopod to
be free standing. My solution was the Benro Aluminum 3-Series
Flip-Lock Video Monopod Kit with a detachable base that has three folding feet and it ships
with the Benro S2 Video Head. This monopod collapses to 24.1” and extends
to 64.2”. It is a 4 section monopod with lever locks,
that weighs just 2.89lbs and also comes with a carrying case. This $150.00 monopod gives me the versatility
of using a lightweight video camera and microphone and being able to do pans and tilts with a
fluid head – and then I can remove the fluid head and attach a high end ball head to the
3/8 inch top and have a full featured monopod for still shooting. I wanted a small and lightweight tripod to
travel with that could also double as a monopod. At $119.00, the Benro Slim is a super light
carbon fiber 2.2lb travel tripod that folds to 15.7” which will fit in your carry on
luggage and extends to a full 57.6”. Able to support a camera up to 8.8lbs, the
Benro Slim like the larger Adventure Series 2 also has three leg positions for each of
its four twist lock legs. The shoulder includes a bubble level and the
ball head has an arca swiss type quick release. Also – like the bigger Adventure Series tripod
– you can reverse the center column to get your camera low to the ground. One of the great features to this tripod. If you need to travel light and prefer a monopod
because you don’t always want to use a tripod but you sometimes fear that you’ll need
a tripod – just use this with the legs extended but closed together. It still has a very small footprint and is
super light and portable. I love the simple and easy to use design of
all three of these pieces. The Benro gear is really well built and honestly
looks as elegant as a tripod or monopod can possibly look. The Benro gear is very reasonably priced. Not the cheapest on the market – and definitely
not the most expensive. You get quality gear with useable features
for a fair price. Benro has been in the tripod business for
over 20 years and they are a major player in the tripod market internationally. I chose two ballheads made by Acratech. Who is Acratech? Acratech is a California based, family run
maker of Ball Heads and other tripod accessories. Now these are not your run of the mill ball
heads. In 1999 Acratech was machining company that
did work for customers in the aerospace, automotive and medical industries. Acratechs founder and CEO – Scott Dordick
is also an avid photographer. He fabricated the prototype for his own use
because no one else was making a ball head specifically for outdoor use. His ideal ball head needed to be light enough
for backpacking, strong enough to hold a large format camera and rugged enough to work smoothly
regardless of the elements in the Mountains, deserts or ocean. Scott’s mechanical abilities fueled by his
passion for photography; led to the Acratech products that in my opinion are top of the
line in quality, form and functionality. My first choice was the Acratech GP Ball head. This is one sexy ball head mainly because
of its unconventional design that combines functions like a ball head, panoramic head
and a gimbal head. The Acratech GP Ball Head has a super smooth
ball motion at all load levels and it’s equally capable as an upside-down head for
shooting level panoramas. The machining on this is impeccable. It weighs just .95lbs yet it supports a camera
up to 25lbs and it’s available with an Arca Swiss style knob like you see here or a locking
lever quick release clamp. This ball head comes in at about 4.1 inches
tall and has an adjustable pan control and tension control and also a built in spirit
level. To top it all, it is ideal for inclement weather
and rough travel, because the open structure lets moisture, dirt and debris fall through
instead of getting trapped inside a socket like most ball heads. I find this to be a truly innovative and incredibly
well-designed precision product that is awesome for professional and advanced amateur photographers. It has a very real price tag of $399.95 but
in my opinion when you factor in the quality build and all of the features I have mentioned
and the fact that it is backed by a 10 year warranty – it is worth every penny. For my monopod head I went with Acratechs
Nomad ball head. Machined from aircraft quality aluminum and
stainless steel. The Nomad Ball head, can also function as
a gimbal head just like the GP Ball head. But unlike the GP, the Nomad Ball head requires
a separate leveling base if you want to do stitched panoramic images. So if panorama’s are not in your future
– this is the ball head for you. The Nomad weighs just .9lbs and sits 3.74in
tall while being able to support 25lbs of gear. The Nomad sells for $199.95 and also comes
with a full ten year warranty. I wanted to point out one of my favorite features
of these Acratech ball heads. Most ball heads have one knob. If you loosen the knob – your camera flops. The Acratech heads have a tension control
that prevents this from happening. To set it up – you simply loosen your main
knob all the way. Then adjust the tension knob to your desired
amount and leave it. Now your camera and lens aren’t going to
flop if you’re not holding them carefully when you loosen the main knob. All of which gives you more control and a
smoother ball head experience. I know that a lot of you are thinking – “Hey,
I could buy a new lens for the cost of the tripod and ball head that Joe just described”
You’re right you could. But let me tell you from experience that was
learned the hard way and from wasting money on cheap gear… a quality tripod and ball
head should be part of the foundation of every photographers gear. And if you go with well quality gear it will
last MUCH longer than the camera and lens you are putting on it. It doesn’t matter if you are a street shooter,
a portrait shooter, a wedding shooter, a travel photographer or if you photograph children
– tripods make your work better when used properly. They slow you down in all the right ways,
they provide support that free’s your hands and support that allows you to do things from
a technique standpoint that you couldn’t do hand held and if you listen to the teenage
version of me that I talked about in the first video – they make you look cool. So there you have it gang – My choices of
tripod and tripod heads and a lot of info about tripod features to help you make better
buying decisions and hopefully to convince you that you should be using tripods more
often than you probably are. Please hit that thumbs up and subscribe so
that you don’t miss any videos and until next time go pick up that camera and shoot
something because your BEST shot – it’s your NEXT shot, so keep learning, keep thinking,
keep shooting. Adios!

44 Replies to “Acratech Ball Heads on Benro Tripods – The perfect combination for my photography. Tripods Part 2”

  1. Those Acratech heads are the coolest heads I have ever seen!  Great find Joe!  As always – thank you for sharing and for the effort you put into your videos.

  2. I have a Benro CF tripod with a B1 ball head, 3 section TMA48CL, it's a big tripod, and I needed it cause I'm 6'4". I don't know why more people don't look into Benro as it is one heck of a nice piece of equipment beautiful CF 9X, but this one has twist locks.

  3. The ball head is the most important part of the tripod setup IMO. Been looking for a new ball head for a while. I got sand in mine and the construction doesn't allow for a proper disassembly and cleaning. Acratech looks more and more compelling. A nice thing about Benro tripods is that they are easy to completely disassemble when you need to clean them.

  4. Great tips! I personally prefer twistlocks and a 3-way had. But that's something everyone should find out for themselves. I have had lever locks and ball heads in the past, but twist locks are way faster to set up and a normal ball head is a pain in the ass if you want to keep your camera levelled while tilting forward or backward.

  5. The Benro's look like a great deal. The monopod especially interests me. The only feature I loathe on Tripods is twist locks, I personally prefer the click lock style, having tried a twist lock type I found you have to double check your twist lock is secure or you'll have the leg collapse in on itself. Not good when you have an expensive camera/lens combination lol 😃

  6. I have a Benro Aluminum tripod – love it – have you guys found the half pound weight difference to be worth the extra cost for the carbon fiber? Are there any other advantages to carbon fiber in a tripod? I am a cyclist and in a bike there are a number of other benefits (like vibration damping) but they wouldn't seem to be germane here.

  7. As well as a main camera, I’m in the market for a proper tripod too, so this is a very useful video! My Benro monopod has been very reliable.

  8. Nice vid, as always! Do you use a tripod when photographing kids so that you can interact with them and trigger the camera when they make a good face? TIA

  9. I need a secure tripod head that switches the body orientation from portrait to landscape quickly while keeping the center point fairly close to the same spot. This will be used mainly for composite shooting. Do you have any recommendations?

  10. Glad to see a noted photographer such as yourself promoting the acratech line. Last year I decided to stop throwing money away on cheaper tripods and ball heads and upgraded my tripod legs to carbon fiber and purchased an Acratech GPs ballhead as well I started using an L-Bracket out in the field. I haven't looked back and have no need to even look at another set-up. It wasn't cheap, but ultimately I know in the long run it will save me money and I am sorry I didn't heed early advice and just spend the money on a quality tripod and ball-head.

  11. Hey, that was great, Joe! I have been debating getting a new tripod and ball head for some time now, but have been put off by the $1000.00 and $1500.00 price tags. My normal tripod is a Tilt-All, which I totally love in the studio. It is very stable but it weighs as much as a truck. Your recommendations seems like a reasonable solution to my problem.

  12. Joe, do you have any recommendations for lighting kits. Is it something you think beginners should invest in? There are several inexpensive kits on Amazon that are tempting to buy. I am not a professional photographer nor am I trying to be. I am a makeup artist that is trying to put together a home studio in my garage so that I can photograph models and friends with my own creative ideas at any time of day or night. I am a big fan of beauty dish style lighting. Any help is much appreciated.

  13. Benro TAD27C: what is the diameter of the top plate? I would like to check as the head I am using is close to 3". Thank you for the impressive presentation and response.

  14. Curious to check out their offerings but I don't see the Adventure series of tripods on Benro website. Have they been renamed/rebranded? Or does it depend on your country of origin? (Canada, for me)

  15. very good advice. I am using a 30 year old Bogen/Manfrotto with a new ball head and although it is old, not carbon fiber, heavy-ish, it has served me reliably all along and will for the next hopefully 30 years as well!

  16. I bought the Acratech GP used last night off of a guy on Craigslist!  Great price looks new!  Looking forward to using it!

  17. Thank you again for such a great video worth watching, I had the pleasure of meeting the CEO of Acratech at the Los Angeles Convention Center Camera Show a few years ago and he showed me in detail the GP ball head and a few months latter I purchased this awesome head and I love it! But I still have a very old Bogen aluminum tripod, I will look into the Benro Carbon one thanks again.

  18. Well said I totally agree with Joe …. Benro makes one of the best and reasonable priced tripod legs, but there ball heads are rubbish specially for landscape photographers that is why I bought Acratech ultimate and it had survived for almost 4 years until the Lever Clamp refused to lock securely in it position, so save your self the trouble and order the Standard Clamp with Knob

  19. Great video, Joe! I've always admired the engineering and design of Acratech products! I hope to test the GP-SS model with my Fujifilm X-Pro2 system, though I haven't yet used Benro tripods.

  20. I don't really get ball heads. To me, the ideal head is a combination of a video head and a pan and tilt head. That is, I don't need to tilt a camera right or left, but only up and down, and I want the camera to be level. As a result, I settled on the leveling base and the panoramic head. This way, I can get (and keep) the camera level, have up and down motion, and panning (at an infinite number of angles; not just one as with an upside down GP and other heads which put panning above the ball). Light and elegant. Of course, it comes at a price!

  21. Hello Joe, I am about to purchase Benro Tripod TMA 38 CL would you kindly recommend the correct Acratech Ball head for this tripod. I thank you, in advance…

  22. Thanks Joe, This video sold me on this Benro tripod/Acratech GP ball head combination. I just got the tripod and ball head yesterday. What a great set up! What was even sweeter is the fact that the tripod with the GP ball head attached, fits in the carrying case that is included with this tripod. NICE!

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