June 25, 2012

Benro C3770T Combination Carbon Fiber Tripod Review

Benro C3770T Combination Carbon Fiber Tripod + Benro B-3 + Benro PC-1 - overview
by Jan Kyster
My story...
A little over a year ago I came across a Nikon D70s with the 18-70mm kit lens. Less than $300 for a mint camera with 2000 shots in the bag... couldn’t resist and thought it would be a great training kit before buying my "dream" camera. After all I hadn't touched photography since around 1978...
For night photography I needed a tripod and got a Vanguard Alta+ 263 with a PH-32 pan head. Fine kit for the D70s.
In February this year I was finally able to purchase both the Nikon D300s and the carefully selected Nikkor 16-85mm lens.
Also found a Manfrotto ball head - again for practice - before handing out the $500 I (back then!) thought one would have to pay for a quality ball head.
I then learned you will need a nodal kit for making "perfect" panoramas and besides that, I also found the Vanguard tripod was a bit too small for the new camera.
So I found a Gitzo tripod and a Markins ball head with a RRS pano-kit...at $1900... I was in shock!

Then one day I passed a small, cosy blog on the Internet showing how to make a Single Row Panorama setup and learned about Benro and DC Stuff! And Hejnar Photo!
All had good reviews and especially the panorama clamp looked interesting. I ordered the Benro PC-1 Panorama Clamp and a Benro B-2 Ball Head, from DC Stuff, which arrived a week later. As did the  Hejnar E033 Nodal slide / clamp.
All really good stuff! Unfortunately/luckily I couldn’t remove the clamp from the B2 head and, as I also found it to be a bit small under the PC-1, ordered a Benro B3 head from DC Stuff.
It arrived with the clamp unscrewed (thank you, Mr. Chan!) and immediately I found the B3 head to be the perfect match for the PC-1 clamp.
And now – a month later – money for the tripod was in and it has just arrived, the Benro C3770T.
Compared to my original equipment list, I’ve “saved” almost a whopping $1000 and until the gear breaks down, I’ll consider it a wise, solid and very good choice. Time will tell...
There, that’s the horror story of how I reentered the world of photography!

The Review
I always search for reviews before a purchase. It's always best to hear good and bad from fellow users!
God, I searched and searched again... nothing! As far as I can tell after countless hours of searching the web, I haven't found one single review of this tripod anywhere?!
After Sotiris' -of SCV Photography Ideas - incitement, I decided to write a review about Benro C3770T, so fellow photographers will be happy to finally find a review of it!

Tripod Specification

Manufacturer specifications from C3770T page in Benro Precision Machinery site:

Benro C3770T Combination Carbon Fiber Tripod specification

Measured Specifications:
Sections: 3
Max. Leg Diameter: 32.3 mm
Min. Leg Diameter: 25.2 mm
Max. Height: 1543 mm
Min. Height: 150 mm
Folded Length: 680 mm w/spiked feet
Weight: ??,? kg
Max. Load: Not measured. And will not be... ever.


Package and Carrying case
Here’s what the package contained:

Benro C3770T carton box
Noticed a bit worried, that the cardboard box had collapsed. When pressing down, the legs could be felt through the cardboard...
Benro C3770T carrying bag
Inside the box, this nice bag with a handle came out. Bag outer dimensions are 840 x 130 x 130 mm.
Benro C3770T carrying bag & contents
Emptying the bag: The tripod itself in a plastic bag, a small plastic bag with accessories and the detachable strap.
Benro C3770T carrying bag pocket
The bag is made of thick nylon, well padded with some semi-soft foam, ca. 1cm thick. Stitching is done very well and appears to be strong. Nice job ! Beautiful inner lining too ! There is also a zipped pocket inside for the tripod accessories.
Benro C3770T included accessories
Content of accessory bag: A paper folder with a warranty card and manual inside. 3 steel spikes for feet and a 6 mm hexagonal key for leg adjustment.

The Shoulder / Carrying strap

Benro C3770T carrying strap
Everything is metal and thick nylon. Good stitchings too !
Max. length is 1 meter from hook to hook, 40 mm wide. Pad is no more than 5 mm thick and measures 65 x 200 mm.
Benro C3770T carrying strap detail
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 / Carrying the tripod"

Unpacking the Tripod
Free of it’s dust bag... the Benro C3770T tripod:

Benro C3770T CF Tripod - unpacked
Under some 7 stickers, that is. First impression of look and feel was good. And was relieved to see everything in perfect condition.
Benro C3770T CF Tripod - leg foam grip
One leg comes with a foam grip.
DC Stuff, advised against my request for extra grips - and they are indeed very firmly attached. Can’t turn the logo to the inside...

Legs Hub / Mounting base.

Benro C3770T CF Tripod - leg hub / mounting base closeup
The 3/8"-16 UNC stud is protected with a plastic cap. To the right a swivel ring in chromed steel and to the left the handle for removing the mounting plate. The swivel ring can prove useful for attaching a carrying strap or tie the tripod to your bag or backpack.
Benro C3770T CF Tripod - mounting plate closeup - top
The mounting base plate removed with protection cap unscrewed. Outer diameter is Ø 81 mm, total height 22 mm and top plate is 4 mm thick. Anodized aluminium/magnesium. Center padding of hard rubber.
Benro C3770T CF Tripod - mounting plate closeup- bottom
Underside of mounting plate. The center stud is actually a bolt with a hexagonal head. However, what's missing is a hook in case one wants to hang some extra weight for very windy days. Base diameter Ø 70 mm with 6 mm ”wall”.
The white stuff seen in the pic above is dust. The plate is perfectly manufactured !
Benro C3770T CF Tripod - mounting base interior
The inside of the magnesium base is rather crude machined. I like the look, but the top would I like to have seen in black as well - more on this later. The screw for rotating swivel ring is locked with red Loctite.
Would also like the surface to be anodized instead of this powder coating. In my eyes the powder coating gives a plastic look and blurs the edges.
Benro C3770T CF Tripod - mounting base lock handle detail
Inside view of the handle which locks the mounting plate. This plate runs inside a groove in the mounting base.
Plus a spirit bubble level on top side of the base, a very handy tool for initial setup of the tripod in rough terrain.

Leg angle locks

Benro C3770T CF Tripod - leg angle locks closeup
There are 3 steps controlling the angle adjustment of the legs.
Benro C3770T CF Tripod - leg angle lock pulled out
Pull out the lock for rotating legs. The lock is not spring loaded. So it will stay in whatever position.
Benro C3770T CF Tripod - leg angle lock pushed in
Push in to lock leg.
Benro C3770T CF Tripod - leg angle lock contact area detail
Look how the "leg-lock-steps" are curved, while the lock itself is straight. Furthermore, looking from a side, you will see, the steps are curved vertically as well. This leaves a very small, almost point size, area, where the force, you apply when pulling a leg, is transferred through.
In this close-up you can actually see this point size area on the lock (brighter areas):
The top area (1) is when the lock is not pressed completely down, while (2) is the contact area with lock pushed down.
I would like the contact area to be bigger and preferably located at the bottom of the ”steps”. On the Internet you can find images of (non-Benro! but highly esteemed) tripods, where the steps have broken off...
To minimize the risk, make sure the lock is pressed firmly down, when locking the leg in position.
On the possible to-do list is filing the steps to increase the contact area and to move it down towards the steps bases.

Having in mind the above, I’ve analysed how big the contact area is for each leg and all steps on the Benro C3770T... here is how and the results...

Benro C3770T CF Tripod - leg angle lock w/ paint
First applied some white paint to the leg lock surface, then locking the leg at each step to see how much paint was transferred to each step – the leg lock was fully pressed down for all legs.
Benro C3770T CF Tripod - all leg angle locks contact detail
In the above pic, Leg 1 on the left, Leg 2 (with bubble level) top right, Leg 3 bottom right.

It’s very clear just how small the contact areas actually are. I would say two lowest steps are “semi-okay” all around, but when you spread the legs out to maximum, care must be taken.
I’m afraid, that if extra force is applied (like leaning on camera or leg perhaps), you may actually see a broken step...

Benro C3770T CF Tripod - leg angle lock steps wished contact detail
This is, what I would have liked to see in the above test, preferable all the smudges at the bottom of the steps - and the longer a smudge, the better.
Somehow, it’s annoying to have to spend time worrying about, whether or not there really is an issue here!
Could totally have been avoided by putting a bit of thought into it in the design phase... but there’s no way I’m gonna test to see, if it actually means anything. The only way to find out is for Benro to do a stress test. Break it beyond limits and see the effect.
Or hand over a test-tripod to “us”! :-)
Decision on whether to file the steps or not, remains to be taken... but as I’m now aware of the potential "problem", I’ll of course take care when rotating the legs and be extremely careful, when they are fully opened.



Leg / Base mount
Removing screws and locking washers, allows removing the legs:

Benro C3770T CF Tripod - leg mount hardware
Removed one of the greased brass washers from the base to see the...
Benro C3770T CF Tripod - leg mount thread detail
...base mount thread.
Nice detail to see a steel thread insert in the magnesium base.
The washer has been removed in this picture. The red-brown substance you see is grease.
And a high quality one as far as I can get from feel, nice, fat and sticky.
Benro C3770T CF Tripod - leg mount interior detail
Inside the leg fork set screw for the leg lock.

The top legs are glued into sockets and a close inspection found a flawless, even surface. Good job!

Leg sections tubing & Twist leg locks

Benro C3770T CF Tripod - leg sections
Legs sections were measured to Ø32.3 mm, Ø28.6 mm and Ø25.2 mm. All legs were measured at several places and tolerances were found to be extremely small, less than 0.05 mm !!!
Benro C3770T CF Tripod - twist leg lock thread
Unscrewing the magnesium alloy lock grip, reveals a well-greased and fine-coursed thread. A very close-up examination of the thread found it to be flawless. The color differences you may see, comes from the grease. Feels like silicone grease, btw. Good quality  
Benro C3770T CF Tripod - leg section Teflon disks
Pulling out the leg completely frees the centering anti-rotation disks, and some dry lubricating graphite dust.
The disks look to be made of Teflon. Held in place by a small rectangular piece of Teflon.
Benro C3770T CF Tripod - leg section breakes
The brake is held in place in a deep groove inside the grip. The brake will have to be bent a lot to get it out, so I won’t do that until really needed...

Leg Rubber Feet & Spikes

Benro C3770T CF Tripod - leg rubber feet
Medium-hard rubber with threaded steel bolt. Feels good !
Benro C3770T CF Tripod - leg rubber foot vs steel spike
The rubber feet are easy to unscrew and replace with spikes for outdoor use. Spikes measure 28 x 10 mm without thread, made of steel and chromed. Looks good !

Benro C3770T CF Tripod - leg steel spike w/ steel washer However, by removing the rubber feet, you expose a thin piece of plastic at the end of the legs... can’t see that piece survive for very long in the rough.

To protect this fragile Ø 30 x 1.5 mm plastic disc, I’ve used a steel washer Ø 30/10 x 3 mm between spike and leg.


Benro C3770T CF Tripod - all legs w/ steel spikes & washers
All legs fit with washers and spikes, armored ready for rough terrain.


Benro C3770T CF Tripod standing w/ steel spikes fitted
Tripod standing up with legs retracted and steel spikes fit.
The color of the legs changes a lot depending of light and shade. They change from light brown to deep black - initially I had an idea to spray them matt black, but the color is growing on me. Will probably end up liking them...
(By the way all stickers were easily removed and left no residues on the legs).

Attaching a ball head

Benro C3770T CF Tripod mounting plate w/ Benro B-3 ball head
Mounting a Benro B3 ball head to the mounting plate, a perfect combo.
Benro C3770T CF Tripod mounting plate groove detail
Closer look at the groove and locking plate. This groove allows the mounting plate to be rotated without fearing of it to "fall out"...
Benro C3770T CF Tripod mounting plate lock handle detail
The screw that secures the mounting plate on the base has a spring loaded handle. Pulling out the handle, it can be re-positioned in 12 different positions.
Benro C3770T CF Tripod w/ Benro B-3 ballhead + Benro PC-1 panning clamp
The finished assembly, a visually well-balanced combination.

Some issues...
however, are revealed in the images bellow:

Benro C3770T CF Tripod mounting base ring detail
First, the top base ring isn't level! When putting the mounting plate in place, I noticed how it could rock from side to side, and a closer inspection revealed the top of base ring was off by as much as 0.6 mm!
Second, a tiny bit of paint has flaked off on the top edge of the base. No big deal as...
On the to-do list is polishing the top ring to be level and then paint it black. At certain angles, you can see the "white" top - as in the above pic.
Benro C3770T CF Tripod finish detail
Another issue is the tiny bit of flaked off paint on the corner of the lowest step. Repaired from Benro with a drop of ink?

Working with the tripod

Nikon 300s w/ RRS L bracket + Phottix remote on Benro C3770T CF Tripod w/ Benro B-3 + Benro PC-1
Self-portrait, of a panorama setup. Nikon D300s / RRS L bracket / Phottix Remote trigger / Hejnar E33 Nodal slide / Benro PC-1 Panorama clamp / Benro B-3 ball head / Benro C3770T tripod...
Benro C3770T CF Tripod fully extended
All leg sections fully extended.
Total height from the floor to the top of the  mounting plate is 154,70cm.
Benro C3770T CF Tripod 2 sections extended
With only only one leg section extended the total height is 106,40cm 
Benro C3770T CF Tripod legs spread lowest
Legs spread at the widest angle. A very low position for macro or nature shooting.

Using the Tripod

Benro C3770T CF Tripod fully extended in woods
Benro C3770T in "mission possible" !

Packing and Carrying the Tripod

Benro C3770T CF Tripod + B-3 + PC-1 folded alongside carrying bag
Panorama head parked in travel-position.
Benro C3770T CF Tripod + B-3 + PC-1 folded inside carrying bag
Lots of space inside the bag. Even without parking the pano-head, it easily fits inside the bag.
Benro C3770T CF Tripod + B-3 + PC-1 folded w/ carrying strap
The tripod can also be carried using only the shoulder/carrying strap. The strap is clipped on the swivel ring on the mounting base. Then a loop is made with the smaller strap extension around the legs. Less weight for hiking on foot.

The bag was - not with my good will - exposed to more than one hour of heavy rain. Found no water or moisture inside the bag or on the gear and the bag dried very quickly.

Pros
Very nice to work with.
Feels very "tough" and sturdy.
Well dampened, vibrations quickly stop after knocking on it. (Will do some measurements later).
Rock solid with all gear mounted, will be able to carry long lenses and heavy bodies with no troubles.
Relatively cheap, compared to same capacity tripods from other brands but still $500 !

Cons
Small issues with mounting base details, see above.
I wish Benro would skip the powder coating.
Would prefer more precisely machined base/lock detail.
Benro should look again at the design of the leg locks.

Conclusion
I have no hesitation in recommending this Benro trio of B3 ball-head, PC-1 panorama clamp and C3770T tripod to a friend.
Despite spending this much time on some details and small issues it does not detract from the overall sense of having bought a tripod of great value. My conclusion has not changed from highly recommended. I like it a lot.
A beautiful and very solid combination and a true pleasure to work with. As is DC Stuff - these guys must hold the world record in replying to questions!
Jan Kyster

*******
This review was written and kindly contributed to the site by a reader and friend from Denmark, Mr. Jan Kyster, for which I express my sincere thanks.
Jan, apart from being an enthusiast photographer and devoted Nikon lover, :-) has a long professional experience in metal alloy formation and finishing processes, a fact that makes his opinion valuable especially for the design and structure of a tripod.

I hope you found the article and ideas useful, thank you for viewing.
All Photos: © 2012 Jan Kyster

Update June 2014:
Benro Updated Combination Series Carbon Fiber Tripods






Price & Availability:
Prices for the Benro Combination Tripod vary according to source. You may find the C3770T as low as US$ 485.00 (+ Free Express Shipping) DC Photo Stuff on eBay as well as between GBP 302.05 and 382.05 from Amazon.co.uk or between EUR 363.09 and 431.24 from Amazon.de
Please consider using above link(s) to make a purchase at eBay and help support this site.

Referenced Articles:
Benro PC-0 and PC-1 Panorama Clamps Review
Benro B-2 Ball Head Review
Create and Use a Single Row Panorama head
Hejnar Photo E033 Nodal / Macro Rail
Recommended Sellers Page

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

3 comments :

  1. Amazing review. This is what I call a review.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This looks very close to the Induro Grand Series sold in the USA, any ideas if coming out same factory or something?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Induro and Benro are brand names of the same company and manufacturing facility in China. Induro products are designed especially for the US market.

      Delete

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