For any photographer who needs absolute precision in his or her photography, a geared head for your tripod is an essential piece of kit. Landscape, architectural, even macro photographers will appreciate a geared head’s ability to minutely fine-tune your compositions and frame a shot to perfection.
They are slower to use than a ball head, which is quick and flexible, but precision photographers practice a slower form of photography. And in a way, if precision is what you need, then a geared head can really speed up your workflow.
Enter the new Benro GD3WH geared tripod head…
Priced at £200, the Benro GD3WH three-way geared tripod head can withstand a payload of 6kg (13.2lb) and offers +90/-30 degrees head movement both up and down and for landscape tilt.
On top is an Arca-style quick release plate, and there are three spirit levels at various positions to help you ensure your camera is level.
It measures 145 x 139 x 109mm, with a base diameter of 52mm, and weighs 870g (1.92lb).
In terms of controls, on top you have a gear-driven side tilt knob. Below that is a gear-driven pan rotation knob with a panning scale. And around the corner from the pan knob is a gear-driven front and back tilt knob and another scale.
Each knob is set within a gear disengage wheel that allows you to quickly make big change in position without having to cycle through all the increments.
The Benro GD3WH is made of magnesium alloy and feels like a premium product.
The quick release plate has a handy outer ring you can raise to tighten to your camera, and the rounded locking knob secures it tightly to the GD3WH.
The Benro GD3WH’s gear-driven knobs are all solid and secure in their positions, so no casual brushing against the knobs or bumping the tripod head will change your composition. That said, the knobs are quite easy to turn, even in small increments.
Likewise, the disengage wheels are very secure in their positions. I knocked them with my knuckles and brushed my hands past several times, and they don’t budge.
When you do need to engage them, pull forward slightly and turn and they do the job easily.
Overall, the Benro GD3WH feels like a premium product, designed with a lot of attention to detail.
The Benro GD3WH screws on to a standard 3/8-16 mount tripod and sits securely. I used a set of Benro Mach 3 series carbon fibre legs, and the whole setup was very light to carry. I cinched it to the tripod strap of the HEX DSLR Backpack I’ve been using, and it proved very portable.
Attaching my camera to the quick release plate was quick and easy. I was able to screw it with my thumb and forefinger without the need for a coin or key. The QR plate has a dual locking system in the form of an anti-slip screw as well as a locking knob that tighten the clamp against the plate.
Overall, my camera felt very secure on the quick release plate and I never felt like it was going to slip off, nor did the weight of my Nikon D850 and 24-70mm lens pull and twist the Benro GD3WH from its bearings.
Side Tilt Adjustment
Rotating the side tilt knob clockwise, I could gradually shift the angle of my camera, keeping an eye on the bubble levels to stop when it was perfectly level. Having this level of control was especially useful when shooting images on uneven ground where, in the past, I might resigned myself to levelling the shot in Photoshop.
The easy precision and control the Benro GD3WH affords motivated me to take that extra time to get it right in camera, which is something we should all aspire to do.
Front & Back Tilt Adjustment
The motion is exactly the same as the side tilt – clockwise and counter-clockwise – and the disengage wheel was very handy here, as it was often the front and back tilt where I wanted to make quick, bigger adjustments to my angle.
This was mainly the case with macro shots where I exhausted the one angle of a flower – some local bluebells – and wanted to try a different composition.
The scale wheel here is also very handy. A few times I tried a shot, made note of the angle, then tried something else and went back to that original angle of view.
Rotating the pan adjustment knob clockwise, I was able to change the side angle in small increments to remove unwanted elements from the edges of my frame. This was handy with landscapes in particular when wanting to banish branches from an adjacent tree from randomly entering the side of my composition.
Overall, I was very pleased with the precision of control the Benro GD3WH offers, along with a lightweight build that has a premium feel.
Really, a geared head has one job: to let you make small, incremental changes to your composition with ease. But the Benro GD3WH takes its purpose a step further, offering a lightweight build at just 870g that you can easily carry on your back for hours and miles.
The adjustments it lets you make to your compositions are incredibly precise, and its design keeps these settings secure, with no drift in the position of your camera.
At £200, the Benro GD3WH is one of the more affordable geared tripod heads on the market and offers some of the best value for money for photographers who need total control over their compositions.