Video tripods have never been known to be particularly light or particularly portable due to their need to provide stability for heavy, delicate camera equipment. Big beefy legs, a large center column and a heavy video head are the hallmarks of most models. This poses a bit of a problem for the traveling videographer, the person who’s looking to take their gear on the road—or in a plane. Most tripods designed to accommodate the weight and space needs of checked baggage or carry-ons shave weight by reducing stability and/or features, making them less than ideal for heavy video gear.
The Benro Aero 7 Travel Video Tripod, introduced earlier this year, is a great option for the video professional on the go, thanks to the clever reverse folding legs and a few intelligent design features. While most tripods fold the legs together in the same direction as they’re extended normally, the Benro Aero 7 has legs that flip back on themselves, surrounding the center column and the video head. The result is a small package that’s incredibly compact, considering it’s able to hold 15 pounds of camera gear.
The fully featured video head is removable from the center column, and the center column can be shortened by unscrewing a metal lock ring at the bottom of that column, which doubles as a hook for hanging extra weight to stabilize the tripod against wind or motion. With the column broken down into two pieces and the video head removed, it’s easy to fit the whole tripod into even the smallest carry-on bags, and at just under eight pounds (for the carbon-fiber model we tested), the Benro Aero 7 in checked luggage won’t result in over-weight charges.
The carbon-fiber legs of the tripod have oversized, easy-to-grip rubber twist locks, and when extended, the tripod reaches to a pretty staggering 72.3 inches (including column extended and video head). The oversized carbon tubes provide plenty of stability for cameras, even when we tested the tripod in wind and when shooting in New York City near vehicle traffic. A locking tab on each leg clicks into place at a 24º angle and holds the legs securely. I do wish, though, that the tab would lock into place at a variety of angles—when shooting in tight spaces it’s not always possible to extend each leg out the full angle to engage the locking tab. It’s still possible to use the tripod without it locked into a position, but I had a lot more fear that the system would slip when the locking tab wasn’t engaged.
One thoughtful touch that shows the attention to detail in this Benro tripod is that the center column and a leg can be combined to create a video monopod. It takes a few moments to convert the tripod, Transformer-style, but it’s certainly easier and less cumbersome than taking a second monopod along on a trip.
The video head is one of the most versatile I’ve seen in a travel-oriented model. There’s an adjustable fluid-drag control for the horizontal movement as well as vertical movement and separate locking mechanisms so that the fluid-dampened controls don’t have to be adjusted in order to prevent movement on either plane.
A built-in counterbalance system provides four “click” stops of counterbalance to the movement of the head, and a pivoting leveling system and spirit level allow the head to be leveled even if the ground isn’t flat. In another nice touch, there’s a built-in backlight behind the spirit level powered by a common CR2032 battery, so the head can be leveled quickly, even in the dark.
The positioning arm can switch from the right to left side, and the arm can be extended with the twist of a locking dial, while the orientation of the arm’s angle can be adjusted with yet another locking dial.
Finally, there’s a built-in storage place for different-sized camera mount screws under the quick-release plate mounting area, which helps prevent the loss of the screws when changing from a video- to a still camera-style connection.
Only one issue cropped up during testing, which was minor. The Posi-Step Counterbalance dial has a circular disc on the user-facing front imprinted with the name of what it controls, and this half-dollar-sized metal faceplate fell off during testing. I was able to glue it back on, but only because I found it when it fell off.
The unit I tested was the $600 carbon-fiber version (model C3883TS7), though the line includes a $400 aluminum model at the same build-level weight support rating, and two less expensive models designed for loads of around eight pounds. Aside from the very minor issue with the glue on my unit’s knob cover, the tripod performed flawlessly and has quickly become one of my favorite travel video tripods. Information on all the Benro video tripods and other camera supports is available at benrousa.com.