A carbon fibre tripod for £120?! Writing this in advance of the launch of the Benro Slim range, I’m certain this will be the headline plastered across the photographic press, including our own.
There are a number of carbon fibre tripod options at this price point, even in the sub-£100 / $100 range, but they are either brands you’ve never heard of or Amazon’s own brand. Certainly not a brand with a reputation like Benro’s.
For this modest sum you get a carbon fibre tripod that weighs just a hair over a kilo at 1.01kg and can balance a payload of 4kg. The Benro Slim is aimed at photographers using both DSLR and mirrorless cameras.
The Benro Slim stretches to a maximum height of 146cm, and 122cm without the centre column. Its minimum height is just 40cm, and when folded up in its bag – included in the kit – it measures just 51cm.
The Benro Slim kit includes a removable ball head, with a ratchet-style locking knob and a panoramic scale.
The kit also includes an Arca-style quick release plate that features a 1/4in D-Ring camera attachment screw.
The Slim’s three leg sections feature anodised aluminium twist locking mechanisms, and its leg positions are adjustable allowing you to use it on uneven ground.
The Benro Slim carbon fibre tripod is aimed at travel photographers, in particular.
Benro Slim carbon fibre tripod review: Build & Handling
As its name suggests, the Benro Slim is very compact, yet also very robust. Even with all three leg sections extended I tried my best to bend the legs, but there’s little give.
And as you’d expect from a compact carbon fibre tripod, the Benro Slim is very light. So light I was able to lift it with a single finger wrapped around its leg.
The twist locks on the legs feel secure and have a textured surface, which makes them quite easy to loosen or tighten. I found a few times, though, that I loosened them too far and the twist lock ring comes off entirely. So that’s something to watch out for.
In practice, you only need to give the locks a single turn or two just to loosen them enough to extend the leg. This makes setting up the Benro Slim – and taking it down – quite quick and easy.
The Benro Slim’s feet are not removable. As a representative of Benro has told us, the bottom tube diameter is actually too small to allow this. The feet are made of a thick rubber with a pointed end that helps stabilise the Slim in soft ground.
The ball head and quick release plate are also both lightweight, yet robust. The ball head can be adjusted with a simple twist of a locking mechanism around the centre column.
Likewise, loosening a bolt on the top releases the grip and allows you to slide it out to fit it to your camera.
Adjusting the leg angles is very easy. At the top joints where the three legs coalesce, simply pull forward the tabs with the Benro logo at the top of each leg. When this is extended, you are free to adjust the angle of that leg up to the point where it is perpendicular to the ground. This allows you to set up the Benro Slim on very uneven ground.
Next to these tabs – rather, on top of one of them – you will find a handy spirit level to help you know when the Benro Slim is set up straight. There’s another spirit level housed in the tripod head underneath the quick release plate.
Finally, the hook at the base of the centre column isn’t the largest, but it’s solid and taut and could quite capably support the weight of the Benro Incognito bag I’ve also been testing, which was full of two mirrorless cameras, a GoPro with Karma Grip and an assortment of 360 cameras.
Benro Slim review: Performance
The Benro Slim is remarkably easy to use. I was able to have it set up with all three legs extended and my camera on the quick release plate in under 30 seconds.
And my camera felt stable and secure, even setting up the Benro Slim in a creek bed. As light as it is, the joints at the top of the three legs are solid and built to last.
I was able to get the Benro Slim into any angle I wanted and never felt like there wasn’t a shot I couldn’t take. In fact, it’s quite the opposite feeling for me using the Benro Slim. It’s opened up images I wouldn’t normally be able to take.
I hate carrying tripods with me. I will quite happily increase my ISO setting or support my camera against trees or rocks or benches if it means not having to lug a tripod on my back.
But the Benro Slim is light enough and compact enough to carry with my everywhere. If you have a backpack or a camera bag deep enough, you can even fit it inside. I have a big parka that I wear in winter. I braved putting it on during the recent heatwave and I can quite easily stash the Benro Slim in one of the coat’s deep front pockets if need be.
The Benro’s size and weight really create its versatility.
Benro Slim review: Verdict
If you’re averse to using tripods because you don’t like being weighed down, the Benro Slim carbon fibre tripod is for you. Priced at just £120, it’s not much more money than the cheapest models on the market but it offers impeccable build quality from a trusted brand.
I took the Benro Slim to a neighbourhood barbecue the other week to photograph my neighbour’s architectural models for his website. I ended up shooting some group portraits of everyone as the light fell. I was able to plop the Slim into a grocery carrier sack that I slung around my wrist as I carried a plate of burgers on the walk over.
You just always have room for it. There’s always a way. And it’s got me taking a tripod with me when I normally eschewed one. As a result, I’m taking more photos I normally wouldn’t have attempted.
I reckon the Benro Slim carbon fibre tripod is going to prove very popular, and for good reason. It’s small and lightweight with a build quality that’s designed to last.
Benro Slim aluminium version: is this the better tripod option?
It’s worth noting that Benro has launched an aluminium version of the Slim at the same time as the carbon fibre model (both were announced today). I tested both, but I’ve written the longer write-up here about the carbon fibre version because a Benro carbon fibre tripod at £120 is what everyone is going to be interested in.
But also, the carbon fibre and aluminium versions of the Benro Slim are very nearly identical in spec. All specifications between the two are identical, save for the weight. As you’d expect, the aluminium version weighs slightly more at 1.2kg, versus 1.01kg for the carbon fibre Slim.
However, the aluminium Benro Slim is also priced at £80, compared to £120 for the carbon fibre.
I gave the aluminium version a thorough use like I did the carbon fibre Benro Slim, and it’s build quality is equally solid. So what you’re paying for here is really the weight. And the question we’re all wondering: is 0.19kg really worth £40 more.
I think the answer to this really comes down to your own personal use of tripods. If you’re the sort of person who always takes a tripod with you, then the difference in weight between the carbon fibre and aluminium isn’t likely one you will notice all that much. If you’re used to carrying tripods around you’ll probably find, in fact, that the Benro Slim aluminium is a nice reprieve from your current option, as it too folds down compactly.
But if you don’t use tripods all that often and like the freedom of slipping a camera into a pocket or a small bag and going off to explore, I would say you should definitely spend the extra money on the carbon fibre Benro Slim. It’s not that much more money in the grand scheme of things, and it’s a tripod you’ll have for quite some time, if not forever. And it just opens up so many more options for images you wouldn’t normally be able to shoot handheld. It’s expanded my photography, and I hardly notice it’s there.