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How Good Is the Benro 3-Way Geared Head Compared to Manfrotto Tripod Heads?

Published: 19/11/2018
By: larry

Andrew in Indiana asks:

I have worn out 3 Manfrotto tripod-heads and was thinking of getting the Manfrotto 410 Junior Geared Head next but the reviews are mixed on the longevity of the product and a consistent report of a little head movement when its all locked-down. Instead, I am curious if any PFRE readers are using the Benro GD3WH 3-Way Geared Heads? Does anyone have any feedback in-comparison to Manfrotto’s 410?

I believe the Benro 3-Way Geared Head has only been on the market for about 6 months. Are there any readers using the Benro head that can compare it to the Manfrotto heads?

12 comments on “How Good Is the Benro 3-Way Geared Head Compared to Manfrotto Tripod Heads?”

  1. Not sure what you are doing to wear out "Three" heads....whatever they are, but if you invested in this or that, you also must consider all the extra's that will need to be replaced along with the head. Think of all the connection plates, etc. that you will have to ditch, sell at a loss, etc.

    We have several of the Manfrotto 410's and just recently one went down. On inspection, this unit has been in service with us for over 20 years.... We have a couple of the 405's, which everyone else claims are better, but we prefer the 410's, rugged, solid and easy to work with.

    This Benro GD3WH 3-Way Geared Head looks great, but it does nothing more. Add to that that is around the same price, but unproven over time.

    Then again, I ask, what is it you are doing to trash three heads?

  2. I have this unsubstantiated theory that a bunch of these got rebuilt by the lowest bidder, and manfrotto sold them back off as new. This may have been around the time many of their tripods went south as well. My dad has manfrotto lightstands and a fluid head from the 60's and they are in great shape.

    Why am i making unsubstantiated claims on the internet? I don't know. I personally love this head. I bought mine from Italy on ebay and I seem to have gotten one of the good ones. Much of manfrotto's gear seems to have taken a turn south though.

  3. Very curious to hear some of the reviews from our community on this geared head. I've been debating on pulling the trigger on it. I've lived with the play in my Manfrotto 410 for months, occasionally opening it up for surgery to tighten the gears. I think I saw February 2017 POTM Jenn Verrier using this Benro head on her Instagram feed. Jenn, how is it? Is it a suitable comparison to the 410? At around $200 USD, if this thing performs well and can withstand being tossed in and out of a car several times a week, it might be an appealing option.

  4. I use the 410 and whenever a bit of play develops on one axis I just turn the larger control knob in the opposite direction and this clears it up.

  5. While I never owned the Manfrotto or any reference geared head for comparison, I can say that I am very happy and satisfied with the Benro GD3WH.

    It sure is worth the $200 for me. I use it with 3 setups on my shoot. A Canon 6D with L plate and 17mm TSE. An Panasonic GX85 and an Olympus PEN-F, both equipped with Spider Holsters that can mound well on the Benro still.

    I appreciate that it natively supports Arca-Swiss. It was ready to use for me right out of the box and gets the job done every time. I hear that the bubble levels on it can be inaccurate, but I use my own bubbles.

  6. The Benro GD3WH is my first geared head and I couldn’t be happier. I’ve had bad luck with Manfrotto in general and 6 years ago I switched to Feisol, and never looked back. I own the tournament tripod it is amazing.

  7. After trying out a friend’s 410, I decided to go with Arca Swiss’s L60 leveler on top of my ball head. At $500 it isn’t cheap, but I love the precision movements...no more having to compensate for slip or slop in my tripod head. I still have my trusty Manfrotto Bogen 3051...the “beast” (it’s like driving a big truck)...but for traveling, I switch out to a vintage Gitzo G126.

  8. Thanks for the responses… its great to know that there a couple of RE photogs out there happy with the Benro GD3WH 3-Way Geared Head! Manfrotto seems to have had a monopoly on geared heads <$500, so its nice to see an alternate manufacturer in this market segment.

    @Jerry — when you use a tripod head to shoot multiple homes a day and do that for 8 years, and then "throw" the tripod & head in-and-out of the car multiple times of day, and hear it rattle around in the trunk by your ladder, I guess it all takes a toll on the gear…
    I am working on a better way to protect the tripod & head in the car. That said, all my other camera gear has lasted a long time, so I think I do a decent job of taking care of it, but they are tools that need to be used and not coddled.

    My first head was the Manfrotto 391RC2 Junior 3-Way Head. It worked well, until it started to droop on me (no good when shooting brackets!), and the tightening screws couldn’t tighten it enough to keep it still.

    Second, when I was dabbling with Video, I bought the Manfrotto MH055m8-Q5 Photo-Movie Tripod Head. This head did get dropped a couple of times, and eventually the mechanism completely locked-up and became unusable.

    My current head is the Manfrotto 460MG 3D Magnesium Head. After 2 months with this one, The Pan Screw wouldn’t grip onto anything, so I had to return it for repair. Its been much better since… but I am about to replace some camera gear and I just don’t trust this head enough to support a more valuable rig, because I have had a few near misses with it.

    My first set of Manfrotto legs wore-out too (190XPRPOB) — an internal plastic piece cracked, causing some leg sag. The cost of replacing the broken piece, + the other pieces that should also have been replaced with it, didn’t justify the fix (nor the time), so I bought a new tripod legs (delivered in 2 days), of which one of the leg pieces kept falling all-the-way-out after a week or so with it (not great for camera security!), presumably because it wasn’t tightened right in the factory…

    I guess overall, I just haven’t had a great experience with Manfrotto quality, so I am at the point of trying something different… enter the Benro.

  9. Great to hear others' experiences of the Manfrotto 410 head : wonderful bit of kit when it works but I have three now because it look several weeks to get a repair carried out by Manfrotto on one which had become slack: and I like to carry two of everything... call me a pessimist but now the second one has gone! The repair cost about 40 per cent of replacement cost : interesting Andrew's theory re: these perhaps being poorly assembled by the "lowest bidder": I also have a theory (or hope at least!) that if you send one off to Manfrotto's own repair department that they will do a decent job, and therefore a better bet than simply swapping it out for a new one. I too wonder whether there was an inherent flaw in the ratchet/ gearing materials which gets "discreetly updated" on repair. The repaired one is rock solid and has been in use a year now. When shooting brackets for blending or any kind of composite work it is essential to know that one has got perfect registration between shots, and it is a shame that these heads, while fantastic for accurate levelling of the camera in each axis, seem to give up. Moving parts I suppose... I don't know whether the Benro would be any better. My policy now is to keep three and send off for repair as necessary: I regard it as a running cost. In a similar way I replace brake pads/ shock absorbers/ timing belts on my car at regular-ish intervals (and at considerably greater expense) and I don't think I own a bad car! Just hope my knees keep going for a few more years yet: now that is going to be big bill!

  10. Went with the number two "Really Right Stuff" ball head when I started out and it's a good as the day I bought it.
    Not AS impressed with my Induro Carbon legs though! Should have gone with Gitzo 🙂

  11. I opted for the Benro geared head to go with my Benro carbon fibre tripod ( I had a very reliable Siriu ball and socket head on it before ) and used it for about six months commercially with a Nikon D850 mounted ( nothing longer than an 85mm P-CE attached ) and a Fuji GFX with a range of lenses up to the 120mm ( the 100- 200mm using the tripod collar ). All was good until the whole head became slack and unuseable. I'm now using the Siriu which isn't ideal but it is at least stable. It's a shame as it was great to use initially and made levelling a joy. I've looked into the Manfrotto Junior geared head but am put off by the lack of Arca Swiss plate - I use Three Legged Thing L brackets on all my cameras and regularly shoot both horizontally and vertically.

  12. @Jonty, how many jobs would you say you got from the Benro head before it wasn't usable? Any path to getting one repaired or getting replacement parts? The price is great, but I've been waiting to see how they hold up on average.

    There are conversion kits to solidly mount an Arca Swiss clamp on Manfrotto geared heads. Lots of used ones on eBay come with that. Everything I have is compatible with that standard. I have Kirk and Really Right Stuff L brackets and plates on the cameras and a mish mash of RRS and import clamps. The imports show how nice the RRS product is. I always stop by their booth at trade shows to say thank you for making great products.

    I'm shooting more vertically since Tony did an article on Diptychs. My customers are digging them and I'm the only one in the area that does it. They work great for open stair cases and lofted ceilings. Having a L bracket is much better than trying to flop a geared head over.

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