November 30, 2010

Benro HD-38 3-Way Head Review

Benro HD-38 QR plate off overview

Although nowadays the trend is for Ball heads, especially the Arca-Swiss® style which by all means are more versatile and convenient to use, there is still a need for the classic 3-Way heads.
And this need may be described by one word "Precision".

When it comes to Macro Photography, Lab Photography or any other work that requires precise placement of the camera a 3-Way Pan and Tilt Head is more convenient.

HD-38 is on the top of Benro's line of 3-Way heads, which makes it the bulkiest and heaviest of three models but also the sturdiest.

The reasons I picked this model are:
a. It was best fit to the Benro A-298 EX Versatile Tripod,
b. its capability for a 12 Kg (26.46 lbs) load and after a short test
c. its rock-solid quick locking in all planes.
My intention was and is, to use it for Macro work, product and still photography.

The Head

Benro HD-38 box contents
The HD-38 comes boxed with a small instruction leaflet.
The main body of the head and the handles are individually wrapped in bubble wrap.
Further the thread portion of the handles is covered with a very small nylon bag containing silicone paste lubricant. 
Benro HD-38 specification card
Product specifications and a QC stamp come are printed on a shop-display card..
Benro HD-38 QR plate off
The overall look inspires quality. There are no harsh points, the finish of metal is excellent and the joining surfaces leave no gaps. Precision engineering at last.
The head has 2 big handles for the control of lateral and tilting movement and one big rubber covered knob for the control of panning.
Movement in all planes is a little stiff in the beginning but after a little running in becomes smooth. Maybe the lubricant needs to spread inside the joining parts as the gap between them is minimal.
All controls need very little force to lock the head in all planes and it locks solid. Maybe some people will not like that and prefer more turns of the handles before complete lock but this is a matter of opinion and intention for use.
For example I would not recommend this head for video panning.

The Quick Release

Benro HD-38 - PH10 QR plate top view
The PH-10 QR plate measures 5.9 cm x 6.6 cm ( 2.32"x 2.6") has two long rubber anti slip pads and an 1/4"-20 captive screw running in a 3.0 cm captive slot.
The screw may be replaced with an optional 3/8"-16 captive screw.
Benro HD-38 - PH10 QR plate bottom view
The captive screw can be tightened easily by the D ring, a flat screwdriver or a wrench.
Next to the screw there is a rubber tap that permits the removal of the screw and/or its replacement with a 3/8" one.
Benro HD-38 - QR plate release lever detail
The double release lever, when opened stays put and automatically locks when the plate is inserted and pressed back in place.
Benro HD-38 - QR plate double release lever & bubble level top view
Top view, shows clearly the Quick Release security twin-lever lock and the horizontal bubble level.

The Functions

Benro HD-38 left side view
Left view, where the lateral movement graduated scale is shown.
Benro HD-38 front side view
Front view showing the tilting and panorama scales.
Here it is clearly obvious that even the edge of the quick release plate is not above the pivoting point of the panning base and that affects the center of gravity. For most uses this off center attachment of the camera, may be a disadvantage with heavy equipment so I point it out.
However, for me that rises no problem but a benefit for Macro work and I will explain why in Fotomate LP-01 Geared Macro Rail Review which is another review that follows.
Benro HD-38 back side view
Driver's sit, or Back view (where we usually stand to operate the head).
Benro HD-38 front lower view
Lower view
Benro HD-38 base lower view
Base view.
Benro HD-38 pan base bottom view
The panning base has a 3/8" thread to be mounted on tripods with similar screw stud.

Small conversion

Benro HD-38 w/ Fotopro QAL-500 QR clamp aside
With the addition of a Fotopro QAL-500 Arca-Swiss® compatible Quick Release clamp...
Benro HD-38 w/ Fotopro QAL-500 QR clamp attached
The head may acquire two more attributes.
1. It accepts Arca compatible camera/lens plates especially for Macro lenses with foot and long lens plates
2. Adds a second bubble level for portrait position.

This review is meant to describe the benefits and shortcomings of the Benro HD-38 head as it is the base for my idea in: Create an Economy 5 Way head which follows.

I hope you found this review useful, thank you for viewing.
All Photos: © 2010 S.C.Vlachos

Price and Availability:
The Benro HD-38 3 Way pan-tilt head had been replaced by HD-3 head available from Amazon, or from eBay.

Referenced Articles:

Benro A-298 EX Versatile Tripod Review

Fotopro QAL-500 5cm Quick Release Clamp

Fotomate LP-01 Geared Macro Rail Review


  1. Try looking up the difference between silicon and silicone

    1. Thank you for commenting even anonymously.
      Silicon is the basis of the synthetic silicon-based polymer called silicone.
      I hope a typo did not deprive you of finding anything useful in the review.