October 16, 2012

Assemble a Compact Benro Multi Row Panorama Head

Compact Benro Multi Row Panorama Head overview - on beach Sometimes none can tell how things are meant to happen. Circumstances act in peculiar ways, deviating us from our original course, but most of the times this deviation lead us to new acquaintances, friendships and learning. Well this is not an article about life or philosophy, but this is what comes to my mind thinking about Benro's Multi purpose brackets...

When I first acquired the Benro PC-0 Panorama Clamp about two years ago, just upon its release in the market then, I had also asked for the original MPB L brackets Benro had in their catalogs. Receiving an answer that Benro MPB line was not in production yet, I had to suffice with an alternative low cost solution like the Giottos MH-680 VR Sliding Plate for my Single Row Panorama head.

That was not bad for starters but what I had in mind to do, led to its limitations very soon.

In my quest for a sturdier structure in order to Create a Multi Row Panorama Head, I met Krzysztof (Chris) Hejnar. I 'm very thankful now of the opportunity for this acquaintance. This acquaintance of a very friendly man, with a creative mind, led me back to my books and long discussions about improving structures and designs of rails and clamps. That has turned into Multi Row Panorama Head Ver. II and as Chris' eagerness for new ideas and improvement never stops, there are more things to come soon.

Meanwhile, Benro had released their line of MPB L brackets in the market. My curiosity of what I might have missed, with a little motivation from some readers, made me purchase a set of Benro MPB150T Multi Purpose L Bracket and Benro MPB10 Multi Purpose Nodal Rail for review.
So, back to where I have started? ...

Gathering the Components
Since I already have both Benro PC-0 and PC-1 Panorama Clamps for a long time now, with the acquisition of Benro MPB150T and Benro MPB10 it became very easy to assemble and present a total Benro solution for a multi-row panorama head.
Its a nice solution for smaller cameras, more compact than the structures I had presented in the past.
What you will actually need are the following components plus a sturdy tripod / head or tripod / leveling base combination to hold and level your panorama head.

Benro MPB150T Multipurpose L Bracket box contents
Benro MPB150T is the smallest of the three Multi Purpose L Brackets currently available in Benro's line of Multi Purpose Brackets. As a Multi Row Panorama head L bracket, is most suitable for entry level DSLRs (without a Grip) or the increasingly popular M4/3ds mirrorless cameras.
Benro MPB10 Multipurpose Nodal rail box contents
Benro MPB10 is also the smallest of the two Multi Purpose rails intended for a Nodal Rail in the Benro line. The small size of this rail suits nicely for the role of a nodal rail for the MPB150T L bracket dimensions when both used constructing a multi-row Panorama head.
Benro PC-0 Panning Clamp box contents
Benro PC-0 is the smallest of the two Panoramic clamps in the Benro line, most suitable for a vertical rotator in a compact Panorma Head, keeping volume and weight low. It comes together with a pair of Allen hex keys, a long M6 bolt and a dovetail base plate which attaches with two flat M6 screws. The larger in diameter but shorter in length hex key fits the M6 bolt and is the one that will be needed further.
Benro PC-1 Panning Clamp box contents
A second Benro PC-1 would be suitable also as a horizontal rotator for this compact Panorama head saving you some money and weight. Somehow, Benro PC-1 although larger and heavier is more sturdy and most suitable for the role. In this case the choice is yours.
PC-1 also comes together with a pair of Allen hex keys, a long M6 bolt and a dovetail base plate which attaches with two flat M6 screws. Some of these may be needed further, depending on the way you would like to attach PC-1 on your ball head.

Starting with the Vertical Structure...
Adding the PC-0 Panorama Clamp

Benro MPB150T w/ PC-0 Panning Clamp & accessories
There are two optional positions for attaching a Benro PC-0 or PC-1 Panorama Clamp on the MPB150T L vertical bracket. Either at the top of the vertical rail or in the middle. For both positions the appropriate holes and screws are provided.

However, positioning the Panorama clamp at the top of the vertical rail seems the most logical act, as it permits more freedom of movement. A small to medium sized camera body with a short lens may be turned all the way up, for shooting a Zenith point.

For this positioning you need the M6 bolt provided with the Bracket or the one provided with the Panorama Clamp as they are identical and one M6 screw provided with the L bracket.

For more detailed step by step instructions you may refer to the Benro MPB150T Multi Purpose L Bracket Review.

Benro PC-0 panorama clamp on MPB150T vertical rail top
The bolt should be inserted in the center hole of the Panorama Clamp and screwed in the top M6 threaded hole of the side rail. The Allen key required for the bolt is not provided with the Bracket, but it is one of the Panorama clamp's accessories. The bolt should not be tightened fully yet.
Benro PC-0 on MPB150T vertical rail back aligning screw detail
Next step is to pass the M6 screw through the brace hole, in order to align and secure the Panorama Clamp by one of its M6 threaded holes at its bottom (or better back side in this case that it will be standing vertical).

Adding the MPB10 Nodal Rail / Slide

Benro MPB10 top view
A Nodal slide is necessary for determining the lens' entrance pupil (nodal point) at which it should be pivoted in order to avoid parallax error. MPB10 is suitable for most entry level DSLRs kit lenses or M4/3ds mirrorless cameras, as well as short focal length wide angle lenses.
Compact Benro Multi Row Panorama Head assembly overview
The vertical structure with PC-0 used as vertical rotator is clamped on the PC-1 used in turn as the base Panoramic Rotator/Clamp. Then insert your MPB10 Nodal Rail at the appropriate position and you are ready.

Alternative PC-0 positioning in the middle
Although the purpose of a mid placement of a Panoramic clamp is not documented by Benro, I can speculate that Benro designers have provided a lower mounting position for better stability when someone does not need to shoot a full 360 degree spherical panorama. As in the case of a very wide or fish-eye lens, where a zenith or a nadir shot are not needed.

MPB150T L bracket + Benro PC-0 - middle set - screw positioning
For this positioning, you need the two M6 screws provided with the bracket, in order to fix the clamp on the two braces of the side rail, by the M6 threaded holes on its back. The screw openings on the braces, have an oval shape in order to be able to accommodate both Benro PC-0 and PC-1 Panorama clamps, that their bottom holes have different distances.
MPB150T L bracket + Benro PC-0 - middle set assembly
When mounting the Panorama Clamp in the middle position, both its knobs have to be oriented facing upwards as there is not enough space between the clamp and the base rail.
Compact Benro Multi Row Panorama Head middle-set assembly overview
Once again clamp the structure on the PC-1 base Panoramic Rotator/Clamp, insert your MPB10 Nodal Rail at the appropriate position and you are ready.

Camera mounting and positioning
The choices of mounting the base Panoramic clamp on your tripod, ball head, pan head are extensively described in the Benro PC-0 and PC-1 Panorama Clamps Review. In the pictures bellow the PC-1 Panorama Clamp is mounted (clamped) on Benro B-2 Ball Head via its dovetail adapter plate just for the demonstration.
It is supposed that you already know where exactly is the entrance pupil (nodal point) of your lens for the specific focal length that is going to be used, and that your camera is already equipped with an Arca-Swiss® compatible camera plate.

Camera positioning on Benro Multi Row Panorama Head - rear view
By mounting the camera on the nodal rail clamp, we have to ensure that it is centered on the nodal rail according to the lens central axis.
Camera positioning on Benro Multi Row Panorama Head - side camera view
While at the same time the lens central axis is located exactly on top of the PC-0 or PC-1 horizontal clamp rotation axis. This can be effected by adjusting the horizontal rail position right or left in reference to the Φ center marks on the clamp jaws.
Camera positioning on Benro Multi Row Panorama Head - side rail view
Then the nodal rail should be adjusted back - forth in the PC-0 vertical rotator so as the lens nodal point is exactly on PC-0's rotation axis defined by the Φ center marks on its jaws.
Camera positioning on Benro Multi Row Panorama Head - front camera view
After any movement and alignment of the camera on the Panorama head that might cause any displacement, we need to ensure that the whole structure is level via the bubble levels available on the horizontal rail and/or the base panorama clamp. Next mark the positions on all the scales for future use, pan your head to the starting point and off you go.

Using with a smaller DSLR
The following illustrations were shot during the tests of this Benro solution last summer. The PC-1 panorama clamp was used as a horizontal (base) rotator, directly mount on the Benro B-2 ball head in order to save some bulk and weight. B-2 in turn was mount on Benro A-298 EX Versatile Tripod.

Canon EOS400D+18-55IS on Benro Multi Row Panorama Head - horizontal
At this time of the year, the North / North-East winds blow with a force of 6-7 on the Beaufort scale (or speed of 39-61 km/h - 25-38m/h). The thick rail structure of the panorama head proved very sturdy and vibration free...
Canon EOS400D+18-55IS on Benro Multi Row Panorama Head - tilted -45 deg
Canon EOS400D+18-55IS on Benro Multi Row Panorama Head - tilted +45 deg
In any position, even on unstable ground as sand.
Canon EOS400D+18-55IS on Benro Multi Row Panorama Head - zenith
A smaller DSLR with a kit or wide angle lens can turn into a Zenith shooting point unobtrusively.

Using with a larger DSLR
Although my intention is to evaluate this panorama setup as a compact one, mostly as a quick and easy solution for entry level DSLR's, it can still be utilized with heavier camera / lens combinations but with some limitations.

Canon EOS 50D+17-85IS-USM on Benro Multi Row Panorama Head - horizontal
The structure is sturdy enough and can still cope very well with heavier camera / lens combinations without any vibrations.
Canon EOS 50D+17-85IS-USM on Benro Multi Row Panorama Head - zenith issue
However, there is a limitation imposed from the vertical side height, which will not permit a larger camera to be tilted in a vertical position. This of course depends on the lens and the position of its entry pupil (nodal point) position. A short wide angle lens would not have a problem even with a larger camera, while a zoom lens like the one used in the photo above does.

Excellent machining, finishing, fitting and build quality.
Sturdy construction with no vibrations.
Simple structure and assembly process.
Good value for money ratio.

A little heavy for the size.
Very difficult to unscrew hex screws even safety stop screws.
Not so easy to pack with other gear in your bag.

Finally, to the original question: Am I back to where I've started?
Well, no. I've learned so much on the way, while experimenting with and testing many solutions, that Benro's total solution although very good, is not enough for my updated requirements. Maybe if I had acquired Benro L bracket instead of Giottos back then, would have kept me from searching a little longer. By being the owner of  a restless mind, I always like to experiment more and learn (sometimes the hard way by spending quite a lot), but I'm content since this satisfies my creative self as well.
Although Benro's solution lacks some versatility for my taste, for those that would like a simple, easy to assemble and economic total Benro solution, I would recommend it gladly. Due to the MPB150T dimensions this panorama head is most suitable for entry level DSLRs (without a Grip) or for the increasingly popular M4/3ds mirrorless cameras.
Nevertheless, there are larger L brackets from Benro like MPB180T and recently MPB250T, that may be utilized for larger cameras without any change in the concept. Somehow, I'm reluctant to do any recommendation unless I have tested and evaluated them first, stressing the structure with different loads.

I hope you found the article and ideas useful, thank you for viewing.
All Photos & Photosynths: © 2012 S.C.Vlachos

Current prices at the date of publishing:

Benro PC-0 is US$ 95.00 (Shipped) from eBay

Benro PC-1> is US$ 110.00 (Shipped) from eBay

Benro MPB150T is US$ 100.00 (Shipped) from eBay

Benro MPB10 is US$ ~70.00 (Shipped) from eBay

Referenced Articles:

Benro MPB10 Multi Purpose Nodal Rail Review

Benro MPB150T Multi Purpose L Bracket Review

Benro PC-0 and PC-1 Panorama Clamps Review

Benro B-2 Ball Head Review

Benro A-298 EX Versatile Tripod

Relevant Articles:

Create a Mini MR Panorama Head for Mirrorless Cameras

Create a Multi Row Panorama Head Ver. II

Create a Multi Row Panorama Head


  1. I can problem with this system, because i shoot with an fisheye, (Zenitar 16), and i put a Benro MPB20, on the picture shows the end of support (MPB20), do you think that with the MPB10 is ok?..i can send you photographs..
    or dou you know another kind of nodal rail wiht the camera supoort can be moved?
    thanks, you are a interesting articles, thanks from Basque Country !
    sorry for my bad english,

    Peio Romatet


    1. Hello Peio,
      MPB20 is too long for ultra-wide or fisheye lenses. Especially with fishey lenses that have a 180° coverage the Nodal rail length should not extend beyond the front element of the lens otherwise it will show in the photos. Since I'm not in a position to know the distance of the Zenitar 16 front element to your camera tripod socket, I cannot confirm if MPB10 is ok.
      You can filter the blog articles with Nodal
      tag for more nodal rails with removable clamp.
      Thanks for the kind comments,

  2. I've found a solution, I have attached the camera directly to the rail at a site closer to the end, ... thank you!

    1. This is a clever solution as long as your camera is correctly centered laterally on the rail.
      However you lose some of the versatility of the QR clamp.

  3. mmmm.... !, you are right !!..
    Thanks for everything,
    I'm finding interesting things in your articles,