August 13, 2012

Benro A-298 EX (A2980F) Versatile Transformer Tripod Review

Benro A-298 EX center column in horizontal position
Choosing a tripod is quite a hard task. I have read numerous posts and discussions with advice for the best selection. Somehow everyone seems to suggest his/her choice is the best, while others try to show off of their expensive equipment.

Well, there is no tripod good enough for all tasks, so you cannot have a combination of a studio tripod sturdiness, a traveler tripod transportability, a versatile tripod functionality, plus longevity and just spend a few dollars or euros.

In my opinion, if one can afford it of course, a photographer should have more than one tripods, making his/her choice(s) according to the equipment he/she wants to support and the tasks the tripod is intended for.
With due respect to the innovation masters of the tripod world, like Gitzo and Manfrotto, I can say that not everybody can afford having many tripods suitable to task from these manufacturers. Especially an amateur photographer who does not make money from photography.

Having used a Manfrotto 190XPROB for quite sometime, I wanted to upgrade to something taller and sturdier in order to support heavier camera/lens combinations, while keeping the horizontal column versatility.
The most obvious choice at that time seemed its bigger brother the Manfrotto 055XPROB. Somehow, I hesitated for a while due to its folded length and substantial weight. Going for a carbon fiber solution, was out of the question at the time.
Then my local photographic equipment supplier, proposed to me an alternative solution from the Benro line they had just started promoting.
After a short hands-on test on leg-hub torsion, leg stability and center column functionality, I was impressed by the tripod height and left the shop with a Benro A-298EX wrapped in a quality carrying bag and steel spikes. While paying about 100 euro less than the equivalent 055XPROB with an extra bag and extra spikes, I had got a tripod that weighted less, was more carryable and more versatile.

That was a little impulsive decision, wasn't it? Let's see further if it were worthy ...

Manufacturer Specification

A-298 EX Al-Mg Versatile Transformer Tripod
Leg Sections:4
Max Leg Diameter:28 mm / 1.10"
Min Leg Diameter:16 mm / 0.63"
Max Height (Center Column Extended):1842 mm / 72.52"
Max Height (Center Column Retracted):1460 mm / 57.48"
Min Height:390 mm / 15,35"
Transport Height:560 mm / 22.05"
Weight:2.26 kg / 4.98 lbs
Max Load capacity:10 kg / 22 lbs

For reference I submit also the specification of the most current model
A2980F  Al-Mg   Versatile Transformer Tripod
Leg Sections:4
Max Leg Diameter:29 mm / 1.14"
Min Leg Diameter:18.5 mm / 0.73"
Max Height (Center Column Extended):1730 mm / 68.11"
Max Height (Center Column Retracted):1365 mm / 53.74"
Min Height:390 mm / 15,35"
Transport Height:560 mm / 22.05"
Weight:2.11 kg / 4.65 lbs
Max Load capacity:10 kg / 22 lbs

Measured Specification: *
Leg Sections:4
Leg Diameters:28, 24, 20, 16 mm /
1.10, 0..94, 0.78, 0.63"
Leg Angles (degrees):22°, 55°, 82° 
Max Height (Center Column Extended, Legs at 22°):1740 - 1780 mm /
68.50 - 70.07" **
Max Height (Center Column Retracted, Legs at 22°):1480 mm / 58.27"
Min Height (Long Center Column at standard vertical position, Legs at 22°):520 mm / 2.05"
Min Height (Long Center Column at standard vertical position, Legs at 55°):390 mm / 15.35"
Min Height (Long Center Column at horizontal position, Legs at 82°):200 mm / 0.79"
Min Height (Optional AC-33 short Center Column, Legs at 82°):165 mm / 6.50"
Min working Height (Long Center Column at inclined position, Legs at 82°):10mm / 0.39"
Transport Height:560 mm / 22.05"
Weight:2.22 kg / 4.89 lb
Max Load capacity:To be verified

* All measurements are without a ball head attached.
**The height of 1780mm is the maximum possible height (without a head) by tightening the center column only to the center hub (spider) by the relevant clamp (explicit photos will follow further down).
The maximum height difference between the one declared by the manufacturer to the one measured, could signify that the manufacturer includes the height of a ball head.


The Package

Benro A-298 EX retail box
The tripod comes in the standard Benro brownish-black hard carton box.

On the box top flip cover there is a sticker with tripod model and specification.
Benro A-298 EX box contents
By opening the box you find a very well made nylon padded carrying case. Where, within the carrying case are the tripod wrapped in an extra nylon bag, tripod documentation, tools and a folded carrying strap.

Contents and Accessories

Benro A-298 EX folded / unpacked
Benro A-298EX out of its nylon dust bag.
Benro A-298 EX accessories & tools
Among the contents there were a Warranty Card, a product card, an envelop with a fan-fold sheet with the tripod instructions, a 4mm Allen Hex key and a tool kit.
Benro tool kit & steel spikes package
The tool kit contains a specially shaped spanner for 3/8"-16 nuts as the one securing the center column top plate and the steel spikes, three chromed steel spikes and a smaller 3mm Allen hex key for the center column top plate security screws and the leg flip locks (as we shall see later on).
Note: The tool kit is not standard to all countries and depends on the importer/distributor whether it will be provided with the tripod, or charged separately as an accessory kit. Just for the record, the current price for the kit as an extra is around EUR 23,00.
The Product Card, which was originally hung on the leg hub/spider, with tripod specification and Quality Check stamp.

Starting with the Carrying case
I will stay a little on the nylon-fabric padded carrying case, because I find it very well designed to the detail and well fabricated. Considering it is a carrying case included in the price of the tripod it is a nice bonus.
The case dimensions are a little larger than the tripod's, able to contain it with a ball head mounted as we shall see later in the "Packing and/or Carrying the Tripod" section. Its external dimensions are 63cm (~25") long by 10cm (~4") in diameter.

Benro A-298EX carrying case
The case is made of thick nylon, well padded with some semi-soft foam, ca. 1cm thick. Stitching is done very well all around and appears to be strong. In the middle of one side there is handle made of thick fabric band, cross stitched on the carrying case and wrapped with a neoprene sleeve for less carrying fatigue. At both ends of the same side there are two metal D rings for the attachment of Carrying Strap as a shoulder strap.
Benro A-298EX carrying case & shoulder strap
The case zipper is also of strong plastic running from the "base" all the way around the "top". Total weight of carrying bag and strap is 455 gr (1 lb).
Benro A-298EX carrying case interior
The internal lining is of a softer nylon fabric as usual with all cases.
Benro A-298EX carrying case pocket detail
There is also a zipped pocket inside for the tripod accessories.

The Shoulder / Carrying strap
Benro's straps have a dual purpose as they can be used either as a shoulder strap attached on the carrying bag, but also as a shoulder carrying strap attached directly on the tripod.

Benro A-298EX shoulder strap
The carrying strap is made of a thick nylon band 40mm (1.57") wide with good stitching's too. Its max. extended length is 1 m (3,2') from hook to hook. The shoulder pad is not more than 5 mm thick and measures 65 x 200 mm. (2.56 x 7.87").
Benro A-298EX shoulder strap swivel hook detail
At both ends of the strap there exist metal swivel hooks with safety spring clips.
Benro A-298EX shoulder strap extra loop
There is also a 30cm (11.81") long fabric band, moving freely on the main strap, with a metal D ring at the end. Its existence and purpose seem a little awkward in the beginning, since there is no documentation about its use in the instructions. It takes a little experience with Manfrotto accessories as the "Manfrotto 102 Carry Strap" in order to justify its purpose. All it needs is to make a loop by itself!
Benro A-298EX shoulder strap clipped on carrying case
As mentioned above the strap, can either be clipped on the bag's metal D rings or use the smaller strap extension to carry the tripod without a bag. We'll see how, later in "Packing and/or Carrying the tripod"

Unfolding the Tripod

Benro A-298EX folded
Taking the tripod out of its nylon bag gives an instant feeling of quality. The finishing is excellent in all metal and plastic parts without any left overs from casting as with cheep products. The dual coat of anodizing plus powder painting afterwards gives a glossy and very smooth surface to all metal parts.
As shown above one of the legs has a thick foam-grip with the Benro logo. I wish there were more than one, as aluminium is a good heat conductor, is difficult to touch either at very low or very high temperatures.
Benro A-298EX brand/model sticker detail
A large sticker (among the many) on another leg  shows the brand  and model names.
Benro A-298EX material sticker detail
A smaller sticker declares the materials of Aluminium for the legs and Magnesium for the tripod hub /spider.

The Legs Hub
The legs hub (spider) together with the articulating structure is the heart of this tripod versatility.

Benro A-298EX legs hub detail
Benro A-298EX has one of the most complex legs hubs (spiders) among the tripods I have used or tested. The articulated structure is self imposing above the hub, while we can also see a swiveling ring, a spring loaded lever and a large clear bubble level.
Benro A-298EX legs hub w/o center column details
By removing the center column we can see more clearly the articulated structure with the center column constrictor. The spring loaded lever seen on the left above, is used for the panning friction / lock control as the articulated structure can pan 360 degrees. The swiveling ring on the right above is used for transporting the tripod as we can see later more extensively.
Benro A-298EX legs hub panning base & lock lever detail
The panning Friction / Lock control lever is spring loaded as fore mentioned enabling the user to pull it out and relocate it in one of the 12 possible positions that proves more convenient for tightening / loosening the panning base. Panning is very smooth and liquid as the base is greased with a thick silicone-grease. Even completely loose the base does not turn freely.

Leg Angle Locks & Angles

Benro A-298EX leg angle lock detail
The legs can be set at three preset angles of 22, 55 and 82 degrees as measured by an electronic inclinometer, since there is not any information about this from the manufacturer. (Quite peculiar choices I would say, compared to the usual 25, 45 and 85 degrees of some other manufacturers). The angle locks with the engraved Benro logo are of the pull-push type without any spring but with a friction plate underneath. They work fine and the metal parts are quite thick and sturdy to withstand the designated load by the manufacturer.
Benro A-298EX fully extended / center column retracted
With all leg sections extended at the standard upright angle of 22 degrees and center column retracted, the maximum height reaches 1480 mm (without a ball head).
Benro A-298EX fully extended / center column extended
Likewise with center column fully extended the maximum height reaches 1740 mm (68.50") although it can go up to 1780 mm (70.07")). However, at this point vibrations are quite prominent as with almost all fully extended center columns.
Benro A-298EX half extended - legs at 55°
One of the most stable positions of the tripod is illustrated above. Two leg sections extended at the 55 degrees angle  reaching a height of 540 mm (21.25"). 
Benro A-298EX lowest pos - legs at 82°
Benro A-298EX with legs spread at the 82 degrees angle, equipped with the optional short center  column.  Going down to a height of 165 mm (6.49") without ball head and loaded gear of course.

Leg sections Tubing & Flip leg locks
The reason to choose a tripod with Flip locks instead of Twist locks depends on the tripod-school one follows and/or is experienced with. That is Manfrotto (Bogen) vs Gitzo schools. Flip locks have some advantages over twist locks, as fast locking/unlocking, optical verification of locked/unlocked status and the ability to calibrate both the friction of leg sections' in/out movement and the locking strength. On the other hand there are some disadvantages too. They need some re calibration from time to time, are more prone on catching on other gear since they protrude from the legs (although I never had such an incident) and last but not least Flip Locks make a click sound when they lock, which might drive birds away if you are a fan of bird watching or bird photography.
Actually Benro offers a choice of both Flip Locks and Twist locks for their tripods, so it's up to you.

Benro A-298EX flip locks closed
The Flip Locks are quite large made of thick quality plastic that seem to withstand hard use. All corners are rounded and shape of the flips is designed in a way they don't catch easily on any other gear, straps or strings.
Benro A-298EX flip locks openned
The Flip locks can all be opened simultaneously with one hand...
Benro A-298EX partially extended - flip locks openned
...in order to extend and/or adjust the leg sections as desired.
Benro A-298EX partially extended - flip locks closed
The four leg sections have a diameter of 28, 24, 20 and 16 mm respectively. The second and third leg sections have an anti-rotation mechanism, while the last one can rotate freely.
Benro A-298EX flip locks closed side view
The anti-rotation mechanism helps keeping all flip locks aligned for easy handling, therefore it is not necessary for the last section.
Benro A-298EX flip locks loosened w/ hex key
Using the 3mm Allen Hex key the top section of the Flip Locks, which fixes them on each previous leg section,  may be loosened and the Flip Locks removed for maintenance.
Benro A-298EX flip locks removed
By removing the leg Flip Locks we can see more clearly that there exist two rubber rings between the locks. These rings serve as bumpers in order to avoid banging the Locks onto each other when retracting the leg sections. Nice touch!
Benro A-298EX flip locks rubber ring detail
Closer view of the removed leg Lock and rubber ring.
Benro A-298EX leg sections dismantled - lower end
All leg sections dismantled, revealing the rubber rings and foot at their lower ends.
Benro A-298EX leg sections dismantled - upper end details
While at the upper ends we can see the friction/anti-rotation Teflon cylinders revealed.
Benro A-298EX leg sections parts detail
All parts taken apart, aligned for "inspection".
Benro A-298EX leg section anti-twist / friction inserts
The Teflon cylinders are 24mm long. The upper two have a gap that corresponds to the longitudinal anti-rotation track inside the preceding leg section and two bosses that fit tightly into the corresponding and similarly shaped holes on the leg tube keeping it in place.
Benro A-298EX flip lock detail
Each Flip Lock consists of three parts. The Flip, the external constrictor cylinder and a shorter and thinner cylinder inside. The external cylinder inner diameter corresponds to each preceding leg section diameter while the internal cylinder inner diameter corresponds to each subsequent leg section.

Adjusting the Flip Locks

Benro A-298EX flip lock adjustment key
As mentioned in the beginning, there is a hard plastic ring clamped on the larger tube of one of the legs (without foam grip), that serves as a spanner for the flip lock adjustment.
Benro A-298EX flip lock adjustment key aside leg locks
Closer inspection of the plastic ring/clamp, shows the spanner as well as an Allen hex key repository.
This is an idea coming from Manfrotto/Bogen tripods but although the plastic spanner proves very handy, I would never advice anyone to keep the hex key in that hole. It's holding the key very loosely and you might lose it right away.
Benro A-298EX flip lock adjustment key on leg lock
The plastic spanner can be fit on the regulating bolt, and adjust the locking strength as well as the minimum friction for extending or retracting the leg tubes.

Leg Rubber Feet & Spikes

Benro A-298EX rubber foot removed
The rubber feet are of good quality rubber, hard enough to withstand hard outside use but soft enough to keep the legs from slipping on glossy wooden or tiled floors. They can be unscrewed very easily, as the external rubber surface has a metal 3/8"-16 threaded stem. The last leg section ends to a metal disk with a 3/8"-16 threaded nut inside.
Benro A-298EX rubber foot lubrication
A small detail is that all rubber feet screws are lubricated with a thick coat of sticky silicone-grease serving not only for ease of screwing/unscrewing the feet but also for weather and water insulation of the last leg section.
Benro A-298EX steel spikes & spanner
After replacing the rubber feet with the steel spikes...
Benro A-298EX spanner tightening steel spike
You can use the spanner supplied with the tool-kit in order to tighten them firmly.

Articulated Center Column Stem

Benro A-298EX articulated center column details
The center column stem has a large rubber-covered knob that opens or closes the large caliper in order to move the center column at the desired height. The caliper constricts the center column very well without permitting any twisting whatsoever. In the caliper slit exists a rubber insert that stops the caliper from deformation under severe locking but also helps the opening of the caliper, acting as a spring, when unscrewing the knob in order to release the center column.
Benro A-298EX articulated center column lock knob
The articulated center column stem is regulated by an identical large rubber-covered knob that  acts as a nut on the stainless steel bolt/shaft.
Benro A-298EX articulated center column lock knob components
A fine touch of quality is exposed when detaching the articulated part of the center column stem.  The dented  surfaces permit a secure locking of the stem every 10 degrees without the possibility of  twisting. Between the two parts and around the stainless steel shaft exists a quite hard spring facilitating the uncoupling of the dents when unscrewing the lock knob. Between the lock knob and the moving part of the stem exist a small bearing that sit between two grooved washers eliminating the friction between the knob and the stem. All parts are well greased with thick silicone-grease.
Benro A-298EX articulated center column positioning
The abilities of the center column to swivel vertically and to pan makes Benro A-298EX worthy of its "Versatile" characterization. It is very difficult to find a position that can not be attained.
Benro A-298EX articulated center column arc drawing
The articulated center column may turn from vertical (0) to 130 degrees in 10 degree increments, while it may also pan a full circle of 360 degrees.



Long Center Column (Standard)
The tripod comes with a long aluminium alloy center column, 28 mm  (1.10") in diameter, as the top of the tripod leg tubes, with a quite large top mounting plate and a hook at the bottom.

Benro A-298EX long center column assembly
Total tube length is 350 mm (13.78"). Effective length 344 mm (13.54"). Total weight with top plate attached 229 gr (0.50 lb). Total length (height) with top plate and hook 390 mm (15.35").
Benro A-298EX long center column top plate
The top mounting plate is made also from Alu-Mg alloy with a diameter of 56mm (2.20"). It is covered by a hard rubber compound with concentric grooves, that protects the base of any head attached. The top plate is mounted on the center column via a 3/8"-16 stud and a hexagonal nut. There are also 3 hex screws in the perimeter, intended to secure any head on the plate preventing it from twisting and unscrewing under load.
Benro A-298EX long center column top plate screw w/ spanner
The center nut may be tightened or loosened using the included spanner. Best way to tighten firmly and in turn loosen the center nut is by putting the column on a flat surface and turn it while the spanner contacts the flat surface as pictured above.

Benro A-298EX long center column top plate security screw w/ Allen key
The headless hex screws intended for securing any ball/pan head on the top plate can be screwed / unscrewed with the aid of the smaller Allen hex key also included in the tool-kit.
Benro A-298EX long center column top plate components
By taking apart the top plate we can see the plastic ring that sits bellow it and the dual 1/4"-20 and 3/8"-16 stainless steel stud with the hex nut. As obvious the stud may be reversed at any time in order to attach a head or other gear either by the 1/4"-20 or by the 3/8"-16 screw.
Benro A-298EX long center column top plate bottom detail
The bottom of the top mounting plate shows clearly its structure and the headless stainless-steel hex screws.
Benro A-298EX long center column hook
On the other end (bottom) of the center column there is a permanently fixed, yet swiveling stainless-steel hook. The permanent fixing avoids any protruding parts so the center column may be quickly inserted or extracted to/from the articulated center column stem and be positioned at any angle. The hook serves for hanging a ballast like a camera bag in order to stabilize the tripod in windy conditions, but also for counter-balancing the center column when extended in an off-set position and avoid the tripod to trip over. (More on this later in Working with the tripod section).
Benro A-298EX long center column at horizontal position
Long center column mounted at a horizontal position.

Short Center Column (optional)
Since Benro A-298EX tripod has an articulated center column that can reach very low for macro shooting, there is no reference for a short center column from Benro. However, there are circumstances that a short center column proves more convenient, mostly in balancing equipment over the center of the tripod, rather than hanging them off-set.
Therefore, Benro AC-33 short center column which has the same 28 mm (1.10") diameter as the long center column is applicable.

Benro A-298EX short center column assembly
AC-33's total tube length is 120 mm (4.72"). Effective length is 114 mm (4.49"). Total weight with top plate attached 159 gr (0.35 lb). Total length (height) with top plate and hook 140 mm (5.51").
More information can be found in Benro AC-33 Short Center Column Review
Benro A-298EX w/ short center column installed
With the short center column the tripod can go as low as 165 mm (6.50") with the legs spread at 82 degrees.
Benro A-298EX w/ short center column angled -1
Given the benefits of the articulated center column stem as well as its panning ability, a short center column may expand the tripod's versatility by reaching points an angles where the long center column proves bulky.
Benro A-298EX w/ short center column angled -2
As reaching very low, being able to look from top, without the long center column piercing your chest.
Benro A-298EX w/ short center column vertical out
This is another positioning with the center column set vertical but being able to make a circular movement by utilizing the panning ability of the center hub. Something impossible with a long column. (More on this in "More ideas in working with the tripod" section).

Attaching a ball head
The task of choosing an appropriate ball head for your tripod is also hard. There are many parameters involved, however it is most important to find a head that will complement or even enhance the tripod characteristics while staying within the budget. At the time, Benro B-2 seemed to me a good choice, since its weight and maximum load capacity were in par with my gear to be used and within the tripod limits. Further, its locking ability both on the ball and the panning base suited fine the versatile character of the tripod, enabling me to use it sideways when the center column would be set in awkward angles.

Benro A-298EX w/ Benro B-2 ball head closeup
Benro B-2 Ball Head reviewed and tested quite sometime ago, complements Benro A-298EX well in many aspects. The size fits nicely on the tripod top plate, adding an extra height of 10 cm and only 460 gr on the total weight of the tripod.
Benro A-298EX w/ Benro B-2 ball head overview
Benro A-298 EX with Benro B-2 ball head.

Working with the tripod
The purpose of buying a Versatile tripod is to be able to use it in places and spaces not reachable by a standard tripod. Therefore, I tried to illustrate the tripod's versatility with a few photos in a place that would be very difficult or even impossible for another tripod to perform this task.

Benro A-298EX on steps w/ center column angled + balance weight
Each leg individually extended at a different height and set in a different angle in order to climb the short wall standing on the small staircase steps. The center column in set in an almost horizontal position, while the column stem pivoting ability helps positioning the lens above the subject.
Benro A-298EX on steps w/ center column angled + balance weight - head detail
In this case the ball head drop notch is used in order to tilt the camera a little  upwards.
Benro A-298EX on steps w/ center column angled - balance weight detail
As you may see in the photo above, using a counter balance weight on the other end of the center column is most advisable to enhance the stability of the tripod as well as to minimize vibrations of the center column. In this case I use a well stitched accessory bag filled with 5kg of sand, while each kg is individually wrapped in nylon bags. The bag is hang by a carabiner on the permanent center column hook, which proves well designed and strong enough for the task.
Hairy leaf macro shot
The outcome... Not much of a macro photo but I doubt I could focus on the tiny hair on the leaf without the steady support of the tripod.

More ideas in Working with the tripod
Nevertheless, a versatile tripod may be used as an ordinary upright standing tripod as well, but an articulated but also swiveling center column stem, can also give food to your imagination in exploiting the possibilities.

Benro A-298EX w/ short center column vertical out - as Gimbal
Benro A-298 EX with Benro AC-33 Short Center Column, Benro B-2 ball head and PC-1 Panorama clamp used as Gimbal in Create an Alternative Economy Gimbal Head.
Benro A-298EX + Benro B-2 + Benro PC-1 as panorama head base
Benro A-298 EX with Benro B-2 ball head and Benro PC-1 Panorama Clamp as a base for a Panorama head in Using a Multi Row Panorama Head.
Benro A-298EX + Benro HD-3 + Benro PC-1 as 5-way precision head base
Benro A-298 EX with Benro HD-38 3-way head and PC-1 Panorama clamp. This proves to be a very precise solution, in positioning the camera/lens for macro shooting. However, if you intend to shoot extending the center column in any angle sideways, then the heavy HD-38/PC-1 combination, absolutely requires a counter balance weight hanging from the relevant hook at the other end of the center column.
Benro A-298EX + Benro HD-3 + Benro PC-1 + Nodal rail as 5-way precision head base
Benro A-298 EX with Benro HD-38 3way-head, PC-1 Panorama clamp and Nodal rail in Create an Economy 5 Way head.
Benro A-298EX + Benro B-2 + Manfrotto SC35 in Torque test
Benro A-298 EX with Benro B-2 ball head and Manfrotto Super clamp 35, measuring B-2's Torque at 45 degrees in Benro B-2 ball head Torque Test.
Benro A-298EX + Benro PC-1 directly mounted
Benro A-298 EX with Benro PC-1 Panorama clamp mounted directly on the top plate of the AC-33 short center column.
In this case the articulated / swiveling stem will let you operate the tripod without a ball head, something impossible for a standard tripod.

Packing and/or Carrying the Tripod
As fore mentioned, the tripod can be carried either packed in the supplied carrying case, or directly strapped with the shoulder strap. In the later case you can save about 0,5kg (~1 Lb) of weight.

Benro A-298EX + Benro B-2 aside carrying case
The carrying case is large (long) enough to contain the tripod with a ball head mounted as in this case the Benro B-2.
With the B-2 quick release clamp parked in the drop notch, the tripod...
Benro A-298EX + Benro B-2 inside carrying case
...fits in the carrying case with no problem.
Benro A-298EX + Benro B-2 inside carrying case closeup
Somehow, as it is obvious from the photo above, it fits marginally and better when the QR clamp faces inwards.
Benro A-298EX w/ shoulder strap clipped on leg hub
Alternatively, if we clip one end of the Shoulder Strap on the free swivel ring that exists on the tripod leg hub (spider)...
Benro A-298EX w/ shoulder strap loop aside legs
...then make a loop with the extra narrower strap that exists at the other end of the Shoulder strap.
Benro A-298EX w/ shoulder strap loop over legs
...and insert the legs into the loop.
Benro A-298EX w/ shoulder strap attached overview
We can carry the tripod easily and safely as the loop tightens automatically around the legs just by lifting it up.
Benro A-298EX + Benro B-2 w/ shoulder strap attached overview
When a ball head is mounted on the tripod...
Benro A-298EX + Benro B-2 w/ protective bag detail

...it is most advisable to protect it with a small bag, like the Matin M-size neoprene bag pictured above. (Matin Neoprene Lens Pouch Set Review).
This will protect the ball head from any accidental banging onto trees or bushes during a hike. Or Even from an accidental drop.

Useful long term usage Tips
As noticed previously the center columns of Benro's versatile tripods are designed with a permanently fixed hook at the lower end with no protruding parts, as do the screw in hooks of their other center columns (see AC-33 Short Center column above), in order to facilitate quick removal and re-orientation of the center column on the articulated column stem.
However, all screw in hooks have a rubber ring on their perimeter protecting the legs from banging on the center column when folded.

Benro A-298EX center column hook w/ rubber gasket detail
Therefore, I found that using a rubber gasket for 1" pipes wrapped around the lower end of the center column, can do the same job, while it's very fast to remove when one needs to remove the center column quickly.
1 inch pipe rubber gaskets
The rubber gaskets for 1 inch pipes with internal diameter of 23mm, are very cheap and easy to find at any hardware store. So you can store 1-2 spares in the tripod carrying case pocket.

Pros
Excellent design up to the last detail.
Very good quality material and finishing.
Excellent versatility.
Low weight compared to competition.
Excellent value for money.

Cons
Long center column prone to vibration when extended sideways and loaded with heavy equipment.
Last leg section not so stable and prone to flex under heavy load. (Something, I suppose that must have been improved in the latest versions, since according to the manufacturer specification the last section diameter has been increased to 18,5mm / 0.73").

Conclusion
Having used the Benro A-298EX for two years now, permits me to have a clear aspect about its strengths and weaknesses.
During this period it had some dips in the mud, some dust, some sprays of salt water, a little exposure to direct sun at 45 oC and a few bumps with other fellow photo equipment in the trunk of my car although bagged.
I have only noticed a little loss of locking force of the Flip Locks when exposed at high summer temperatures, which is probably due to expansion of the plastic, but is easily compensated by adjusting the Flip Lock nuts.
Nevertheless, the tripod still operates smoothly and does not seem to have lost its functionality, I would recommend a periodical check and tightening of all leg joints and flip locks though.
Considering all the above, I can say that it has proven to be a very good choice after all.

I hope you find this review useful, thank you for viewing.
All Photos: © 2011-2012 S.C.Vlachos

Availability:
Benro A2980F Al-Versatile Tripod  from/bei Amazon.de or from eBay
Benro C2980F CF-Versatile Tripod  from/bei Amazon.de
Matin Neoprene Pouches are available from Amazon.com.

If you are interested in buying the product, please consider using above link(s) to make a purchase and help support this site.

Referenced Articles:
Benro AC-33 Short Center Column Review
Benro B-2 Ball Head Review
Benro B-2 Ball Head Torque Test
Benro PC-1 Panorama Clamp Review
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6 comments :

  1. Thank you for your thorough walk through of this tripod! The clip thing on the leg and the dangling extra band thing on the strap was keeping me up at night trying to figure out what the heck it was for! I am definitely bookmarking this page for future reference!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are welcome. I'm glad you found the review useful.

      Delete
  2. i just bought this but with a manfrotto ball head. unscrewed, they barely fit into the bag so i'll probably carry it without the bag in most cases.
    i really like its versatility and preferred it over the 190XPRO3.

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    Replies
    1. It's true that the bag can marginally fit a large ball head on top of the tripod. Most of the times l too use tripod bags for storage or transport in the car.
      Thanks for the feedback and enjoy shooting with your new pod.

      Delete
  3. thanks a lot for this review! i remember a couple of year visiting this entry and taking the desicion to buy it right after that, now im seeking for info about tripod legs getting too flimsy with another camera (5D MKIII) even when i adjusted the bolts at their max.

    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you too for your comment and feedback. I can't justify the the weight of the 5D MKIII is causing a problem, since as you can see in my Hejnar PHOTO MS-3_8 Linear Motion Macro Focusing Stage Review the tripod is loaded by far more weight plus a 5 kg sand bag for balance.
      The lower bolts should be tightened with the flips open. Further, I would suggest that you tighten also a little the upper bolt on each flip lock.

      Delete

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