I'm not normally the kind of person who reviews gear. Yes, I love gear. I love knowing about it and using that knowledge to help people solve problems. With that knowledge, comes a curiosity for new gear.
Benro is a name recognized in stills, known for their ultra-portable, ultra-flexible tripod leg sets. They've jumped into the motion game with a series of fluid heads and leveling tripods. Leveling on a half-ball design (75-mm, 100mm, 150mm) is pretty standard, but tripods with a half-ball are typically (A) more expensive and/or (B) larger and more cumbersome.
Enter Benro. A few of their S-series video tripods were graciously added to the equipment cage at school, for us to use. A HUGE thanks to Benro, their U.S. distributor, Mac Group, and Mac-on-Campus for making them, in addition to a large array of quality lighting, support, and accessories available to us.
The "A2573FS4" kit is made up of the S4 video head and A2573 legs. Also available in carbon fiber (the CF2573), the aluminum alloy 2573 legs feature a built-in level unit, on the center column.
With 15 degrees of leveling, all you do is flip a little lever and balance out the S4 head. Neat right!?
The legs are a great "flip-lock" design, much preferred than the twist-locks on my Gitzo. They're either locked or not, no slipping if you keep the locks maintained. There's very little play in the legs, and with the S4 head, a 5D Mark II, 24-70, and on-camera mic, everything felt very solid.
I compared the S4 head to my Manfrotto 701 fluid head, the current go-to in my personal bag. The S4 features fluid drag control for the tilt, as well as a variable counterbalance spring, in 3 settings from, maxing out at 8.8 pounds. For a head that can be purchased separately for under $150, this is a massive feature not found on equally priced competitors.
The 701 features a similar specs, but lacks control over fluid drag, and the counterbalance is fixed. Where the S4 lets you dial in your tilt settings, the 701 is more ON or OFF.
Even cooler, the S4 has an LED-illuminated leveling bubble, and is completely compatible with the Manfrotto 501PL quick release system. The same plates off the popular (discontinued) 500-series, and Manfrotto's new Bridging Technology heads, are fully compatible with the Benro. Very cool. The 501 is what I've been seeing most in DSLR and small camera use.
Both are lightweight, great for a DSLR body and 24-70 lens, though definitely pushing it with a large 70-200. Despite the features and competitive price, I'd still stick with the 701.
Why? Panning. A video head is pan and tilt, and whereas you can fine tune the tilt on the S4, the pan fluidity is fixed - on or off. You can't increas fluidity in any way, as the locking screw "tooths" in and locks, as opposed to increasing friction. For my personal tastes, there isn't quite enough fluid resistance, and my resulting footage was a bit jittery. This is made worse as you load down the head more and more, and by the time I had a 5D, 70-200, shotgun mic, and LED light, it was almost free spinning.
The legs are great and this kit is an AMAZING value. If you can work around the pan control, the Benro video tripod kit would make an amazing addition to most any kit.