Benbo Trekker MK3 Tripod Kit Review

by on October 12, 2009

in Reviews

Benbo Trekker MK3

Everyone needs a good tripod and head combo.  I’ve spent some time lately with the Benbo Trekker MK3 tripod.  In this review you’ll find my impressions of this kit, what it can do for you, and what kind of photographer that I think the Trekker MK3 is built for.

The Benbo Trekker MK3 tripod I tested here was a kit that comes with the Benbo compact ball head for immediate use right out of the box.  Additionally, you get a vinyl carry case that features a carry handle/shoulder sling and is secured by a zipper.

Benbo Trekker MK3 Key Specs

  • 61″ max height
  • 33″ retracted
  • 4.4 lb weight (includes head)

There’s no max capacity provided in the specs; however, this tripod is pretty sturdy when completely upright.  I hung my camera bag, which I figure is around 15 lbs, without any concern.  Unfortunately, there were a few problems with getting it locked down tight enough when I needed to use different angles – particularly with low angles.  I’ll talk a little more about this later.

Right out of the box you’ll notice that the Trekker MK3 is a different kind of tripod.  It doesn’t have the traditional joints on the tripod legs with a standard shaft extending up the middle.  Instead, the Trekker MK3 utilizes a central pivot point, on which all legs and the supporting arm rotate.

Benbo Trekker MK3

This pivot point allows for some unique setups. When I started working with the Trekker MK3, I immediately recognized the usefulness of the this pivot point in getting shots from a very low point of view.  Some tripods out there allow you to remove the center support post for mounting your camera and position it on the tripod in a horizontal manner, which helps you to get a low point of view.  With the Trekker MK3, all you have to do is rotate the camera support post on the pivot point and you can be at ground level.

If you shoot a lot of macro things, you have probably already figured out that this would be a good tripod for getting the right angles on your low-level macro.  For the most part, I was pleased the flexibility of adjustments using the horizontal arm for macro work.

Benbo Trekker MK3

Atop the Trekker MK3 is a Canon 5D Mark II with a stack of Kenko extension tubes and EF 50mm f/1.4 lens attached.

The biggest weakness of the Trekker MK3 for me was the head.  The MK3 includes a small ball head, which is nice that it’s included, and certainly better than what you get out of a el-cheapo tripod; however, it’s just not up to snuff for fine tuning your composition.  Since I saw the MK3 as a potentially great little macro tripod, I was disappointed with such a weak head which really doesn’t offer the fine tuning that I expected from it.

Benbo Trekker MK3

While this tripod is a decent performer, it took some time getting used to the set up.  It is not a tripod for the impatient.

While extending the legs is a breeze with just one knob to twist, the angles of the legs can be a bit tricky to adjust sometimes because the Trekker MK3 is so different from other standard tripods.

Additionally, getting the pivot point tight enough can be deceptive at times.  You are generally going to be fine with a snug turn of the handle while shooting upright.  However, when you need to hit odd angles that really leverage the pivot point, you have to be ready to crank down on the pivot handle.  I was a little disappointed that this wasn’t as smooth of an operation as it should have been.

Benbo Trekker MK3

At 4.4 lbs, the Trekker MK3 is not what I would call lightweight, but the included carry case is helpful for extended treks with the tripod.  Still yet, with pricier carbon fiber models available in the 2 lbs range, the Trekker MK3 may not be the right fit for those looking for portability as a key feature.

The big advantage for the Benbo Trekker MK3 is the ability to get different angles and move into unique shooting positions that may not be available with other tripods.  If you just need to stabilize your camera, the Trekker MK3 may be a bit overkill on its features and functionality.

Conclusion

For what it does, the Trekker MK3 is a decent tripod, but not a great one.  This tripod is probably best for photographers looking to get low on their landscapes or other subjects that necessitate a lower point of view.  Likewise, macro shooters will appreciate the flexibility of positioning their camera in just the right angle for a shot that would otherwise be difficult with a standard tripod.  Although, you might want to bring your own tripod head or macro rail to the party, as the head included in the kit is a little lackluster.

Just make sure that the Trekker MK3′s functionality suits your photographic style before you pick one up.  Otherwise, you will likely grow frustrated with the pivoting legs and arm.  If you decide to go with the Trekker MK3, I would recommend purchasing the tripod only and find a better tripod head to go with it.

You can find the Trekker MK3, tripod heads and other accessories at B&H Photo.

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