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I added the Benro Mach3 TMA37AL Aluminum Tripod to my photo kit when I realized that I needed a taller and sturdier tripod to handle my largest telephoto lens. For wildlife, big lenses, most of which are too heavy to handhold, are the norm, so tripods are a must. And I do have a limited budget. A quick search came up with very little in the way of reviews for this piece of gear, but at less than half the price of my other tripods ($185.00!), it was worth the gamble. And I’m glad I bought one.
First, here’s the spec. Note that my two main considerations were the max height, and max load ratings.
Max load: 35.3 pounds (16kg)
Max height: 58.86 inches (149.5 cm)
Max height w/center column extended: 70.47 inches (179 cm)
Weight: 5.2 pounds (2.36 kg)
The folded height is 26.8 inches (68 cm), and if you spread the legs out and use the short center column, you can drop the minimum height to 16.14 inches (41 cm), which may be of interest to macro shooters, or those that want to lie prone for shooting sports or wildlife. Not me.
Benro includes a lot with their tripods, making this quite the value. And by value, I mean that you get more than you might expect. A padded case with two zip pockets would be a nice touch by itself. But one of those pockets holds the padded shoulder strap that clips on and off with ease. In the other pocket, I can carry the spikes for the legs (it ships with the rubber feet on) and the wrench to install/remove them, along with the allen wrenches for adjusting the legs and securing a head (not included) to the 3/8-16 stud. All of these items, plus a stubby column for macro work, and a dust cover for the tripod, come standard with this model.
While the legs are aluminum, the castings are magnesium, to help with the weight. One has a foam rubber sleeve for cold days. And though I may not be a fan of twist locks, the Benro Mach3 has large locks with rubber grips that are easy to use. A small decal on each leg reminds you which way to twist, which is handy when you flip it over to adjust the legs. You raise and lower the center column with a twist lock as well, and there is a hook for hanging a weight on the bottom. At the top of each leg is a lock for changing the leg angle. I found the fit and finish, as well as the action of all moving parts, to be better than expected, given the modest price tag.
This tripod was used and tested exclusively with a Sigma 300-800 f5.6 lens atop a custom LensMaster gimbal. The gimbal was made to accommodate this very large and heavy (12.9 pounds) lens. Total load for lens, gimbal, and Canon EOS 6D body with grip and two batteries is about 18 pounds, which exceeds the rating of my much more expensive carbon fiber tripod. The Benro Mach3 provided a solid base for this setup, and gives me a nice margin for weight and height. At one half the max load, I don’t worry about this expensive glass crashing to the ground. And there is no need to extend the center column to have the camera at or above eye level (I’m 5’10”).
I used this combination while taking photos of moose, deer, and elk in the Utah mountains. It’s an easy task to flip over the tripod, extend all three legs, then flip it back over and mount the lens. The standard 24 degree leg angle makes for such a wide base, I found that I did not need the spikes, but it’s good to know I can even change them out in the field in only a few minutes. Thanks to the large cross section of each leg, small vibrations did not present much of an issue, as compared to my smaller tripods. Shooting at high shutter speeds, or lower speeds with the timer and mirror lockup both gave me great results. At the end of the day, the Benro Mach3 has increased my keeper rate, and at very little cost.
One of the reasons I chose to write this review was because there is so little about Benro out there right now. I took a chance on them, and feel I got a great value. If you take the time to look up the cost of the lens/camera body I used, you’ll see that it’s not exactly inexpensive, nor is it what the typical hobby photographer would shoot with. But if I can have confidence in Benro to support that setup, you should be more than okay with choosing them for any consumer or pro-grade camera and lens you have in your kit. Check out their full line of photo and video accessories at BenroUSA.com.