The name is kinda campy and my love for travel tripods is low. I carry heavy gear and demand a solid base. This usually does not describe an average travel tripod. But I realize not everyone is me and that maybe, just maybe, there is a travel tripod that not only packs small and light, but doesn’t fall over when I sneeze.
I took my sexy blue Benro MeFoto Transfunctional Travel Tripod Kit to Utah for five days of shooting in National Parks last week and these are my first, hands-on impressions.
One of the best design ideas with the MeFoto is the way the legs fold for travel. They flip up all the way instead of hanging down, away from the ball head. This can be shown with a photo:
The center column extends up all the way, then the legs are flipped around it. It fit in my bag so much better than the Manfrotto 3001BPRO with 496RC2 head pictured next to it. The stats read that it is 15.4″/39cm tall when folded! Looking at the picture, that’s about three passports tall. 15.4″ is far under the 22″ limit for most carry-on bags. Score one for portability.
The tripod has some tricks up its sleeve I won’t get into in this first impression as I haven’t tested them fully. This includes the ability to invert the center column for close-to-ground shooting and one of the legs comes off to use the ball head as a monopod. This actually sounds useful for wildlife while traveling. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of wildlife in Arches National Park, so no test as of yet. It also uses a quick release plate, has a bubble level and weighs 3.6lbs/1.6kg.
My trepidation with this kit is the use of five leg sections. By the time those small ones on the ends are extended, the unit can wobble. It’s not super solid like a nice steel tripod will be. But it is also not horrible. Also, half the time I found I could use the tripod without extending those bottom sections, if I was okay with stooping (I am 6’1″) and the amount of rigidity was greater.
The tripod feels light and can’t handle high winds without some counter weight. Smartly, Benro placed a spring-loaded hook in the center column to hold a weight or bag. In this image, the wind was a constant 20MPH with larger gusts. I was freighted for a while but then attached my f-stop Satori EXP with about 20lbs of gear in it to the bottom hook. And walked away.
That’s a 500′ cliff edge four feet from the tripod with a very strong wind. The tripod stood with no problem. Later, in a lighter wind, I left a Nikon D800E on the tripod and walked away, confident a call to my insurance company was not imminent. Plus, the legs have two stops to help them spider out for oddball locations, like on the edge of cliffs in Canyonlands National Park.
The ball head had me confused at first until I realized one knob only locks the panning motion (full 360 degrees if you like), one knob locks the entire ball head and the last one decides how much friction is applied when the ball head is moving. I found myself repositioning the unit a number of times because the controls ended up by my right hand which was controlling the camera. I chalk this up to being an old curmudgeon who needs to learn to adapt to a new setup.
Thus far, the Benro MeFoto Transfunctional Travel Tripod Kit has met my expectations and exceeded them a little. I like what I have seen and look forward to trying the monopod feature and pounding on the tripod a little more.
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