As a sturdy base for my scope or camera, I usually use my Vanguard Alta Pro 263AT Tripod, combined with the excellent Vanguard GH-100 Pistol Grip Ball Head that is not only secure, but makes it easier than ever to quickly aim the scope. The problem with this set-up is that it is fairly heavy and even when the tripod is collapsed, it is not very portable. So for using it in my garden and on short walks, it is fine, but is definitely not ideal if I want to go on a long walk, hike or indeed if I want to take my spotting scope with me on holiday.
Tripods for Travel
I am currently planning a trip to the French Pyrenees for this summer, where not only do I need to take my spotting scope and tripod with me travelling, but will also be going on some fairly long hikes over difficult and very hilly terrain. So I am on the lookout for a light and compact tripod that can still take the weight of a full sized spotting scope.
I recently used the excellent Benro GH2 Gimbal Head as the tripod head when I was testing the Kowa Telephoto Lens Scope. The Benro Gimbal head was so good that I wondered if they also produced as good quality travel tripods.
Looking at their range of tripods, the Benro Travel Angel series looked to be the most ideal to carry a scope and take travelling. So I approached Kenro, the UK distributors and I was lucky enough to have the chance to be one of the first to try out one of their new Travel Angel 2 Tripods and so below are my findings as well as the full review of the Benro A1682TB0 Travel Angel 2 Tripod Kit:
Benro Travel Angel 2 Tripods
There are 6 models in the new Travel Angel 2 range with both aluminium and carbon fibre versions. The A1682TB0 Travel Angel 2 is the model that I tested for this review – an aluminium tripod with 4 leg sections and as part of the kit it came with the nro DJ-80 Ball Head.
Size and Weight
Fully collapsed the Benro Travel Angel 2 is just just 44cm (17.32in) long and far more compact than my Vanguard Alta Pro and is much smaller than most other full sized tripods not designed for travel. The 4 section legs that are able to fold backwards on themselves (so up towards the center column at 180°) make the tripod as small as possible when folded and therefore can easily fit inside most full sized camera/scope bags.
With all 4 legs sections extended, but the central column fully retracted the tripod stands at 125cm (49.2in) – excluding the height of the tripod head and measured from the floor to the base of the platform. With the central column fully extended the height extends to 152cm (59.8in). The advertised maximum height is 1.59m (62.6 in) which is achieved by taking the height of the tripod head into account.
Weighing 1.75kg / 3.89 lbs, it is perhaps not the lightest travel tripod out there, but is still light and for me the added stability it has over some super light models is far more important. If you do want a lighter tripod, you could try one of the carbon models in the travel Angel 2 series.
“Anti-Twist” Tripod Legs
This Benro Travel Angel 2 uses twist locks to open and close the 4 sections on each leg, these legs are also designed to prevent the legs from spinning as you turn the twist locks. This helps you to quickly setup and breakdown the tripod, even with one hand and is actually an excellent feature and one that you don’t always find on tripods in this price range. Setting up time is further reduced because you can open all three twist locks on each leg with just one hand at the same time and pull on the bottom section to extend all sections in one quick action. This also works when locking all of the sections after you have collapsed the legs.
The legs themselves open and close with a good amount of resistance, yet still remains nice and smooth. Each leg can move independently of each other and can click stop and lock at 2 positions: at 24° and at 80°. To move the legs from one of these locked positions, you just pull out the plate with the Benro logo on (see image above).
Adjustable Leg Angle Stops
Just like on my Vanguard Alta Pro, I really like the way that the Benro Angel 2 tripod legs can be independently locked into place at two different angles as this added flexibility has really helped me out in the past. A recent example being whilst I was taking some bird shots positioned on the side of a steep embankment. Being able to have diffident legs at different angles, but remaining secure really helped.
The first click stop for the legs is at the traditional position of about 24°. From here and with the 4 leg sections fully extended, the tripod is at it’s least stable, but was still easily able to take the weight (63.5ozs /1.8kg) of the Acuter DS20-60X80A Spotting Scope that I had with me during this test. If you want to add stability you can also add some weight to the spring-loaded hook located at the bottom of the center column.
You can then open the legs and fix them at the wider 80° position, which allows you to get much lower to the ground, which to be honest is mostly usefull if you use the tripod for photography so you can take macro shots or photos from a more unique perspective. I can however imagine that if you wanted to sit on the ground and use your scope then this could also be a very useful feature when using the tripod for observation.
Spiked or Rubber Feet
The rubber feet on the tripod legs can be unscrewed and replace with the included stainless steel spiked feet. This is a nice touch and will help to ensure you have the most stable platform possible, no matter where you are.
Tripod + Monopod + Walking Stick
This is a feature on the Benro travel Angel that I really like – Know as a Transfunctional Tripod, one of the legs can be removed and used as a monopod or a walking stick. To do this you just unscrew the detachable leg that has the foam handle on it and is marked with a blue ring and then screw on a head plate that enables you to attach your scope to the monopod – excellent!
To use this leg as a walking stick, you just screw on the really good looking “walking stick” head attachment that even has it’s own compass – this is ideal for those who also enjoy walking with the aid of a stick. A nice touch is that the tripod also comes with a wrist strap that you can attach and will prevent you from dropping the stick or monopod.
The carry case that comes with the Benro tripod is well padded and has an internal zipped pocket and a shoulder strap. This case will provide your tripod and tripod head with some extra protection during transport when you are travelling.
Benro B0 Ball Head
This tripod kit came with Benro’s B0 Ballhead that can take an advertised maximum load of 17.6 lbs (8 kg) and whist it could easily hold my 80mm spotting scope, I did get some creep. One thing that was missing is that it does not have a safety lock on the PU-50 Quick Release Plate and so the only thing separating your spotting scope from the ground is one knob that you must make sure is tightened before moving it otherwise it could turn out to be a very expensive mistake!
I also find moving a scope into position quickly with a ball head a little tricky and so soon found that I reverted to using my Vanguard Pistol Grip ball head which attached to the tripod with no problems.
The B0 Ballhead itself worked well and would be fine for those using lighter cameras, it has two independent manual drag and locking controls as well as a panning control and use a Universal Arca-Swiss style Quick Release mounting plate system. Also included is a built-in bubble Level that helps in making sure that you don’t get uneven pans and head movements.
I really like the Benro A1682TB0 Travel Angel 2 Tripod, it is well made using good quality materials and whilst it may not be the lightest, most compact travel tripod available, it is nice and sturdy which more than makes up for the few extra grams in weight. It is also very reasonably priced and in my opinion makes an excellent choice for travel and for use on longer walks and hikes and so I will be taking it with me to France later in the year.
Benro A1682TB0 Specifications
Max Height: 1.59m / 62.6 in
Folded size: 44cm / 17.32 in
Weight: 1.75kg / 3.89 lbs
Max load: 8kg / 17.6 lbs
Cost and Where to Buy
Benro Travel Angle Tripods are available on Amazon in both the UK and the USA: