Reading
blue-triangle-element

Articles

PFRE is the original online resource for real estate and interior photographers. Since 2006, it has been a community hub where like-minded professionals from around the world gather to share information with a common goal of improving their work and advancing their business. With thousands of articles, covering hundreds of topics, PFRE offers the most robust collection of educational material in our field. The history of real estate photography has been documented within these pages.
All Articles
blue-triangle-element

Latest

SD card reader attached to a computer

With an SD card, you can store gigabytes upon gigabytes of photos in your pocket. The problem arises when transferring the data, especially if your computer doesn't have a built-in reader. However, equipping yourself with the best SD Card Reader will solve any of these problems.

COMMUNITY
blue-triangle-element

Forum

The PFRE Community Forum is an online resource for discussing the art and business of Real Estate and Interior Photography.
Join The Discussion
blue-triangle-element

Latest

View Now
Contest
blue-triangle-element

OVERVIEW

For over a decade, photographers from around the world have participated in PFRE’s monthly photography contests, culminating in the year-end crowning of PFRE’s Photographer of the Year. With a new theme each month and commentary offered by some of the finest real estate & interior photographers anywhere, these contests offer a fun, competitive environment with rich learning opportunities. 

Contest Rules
blue-triangle-element

CURRENT CONTESTS

View / Submit
blue-triangle-element

PAST CONTESTS

View Archive
Resources
blue-triangle-element

Resources

PFRE prides itself on the depth and breadth of the information and professional development resources it makes available to our community. Our goal is to help real estate and interior photographers be successful while bringing the community together and elevating the industry as a whole.
blue-triangle-element

Conference News

No items found

Benro vs Manfrotto: Tripod Heads Compared!

In: 
Published: 03/02/2021

When photographing real estate properties, you must use the right tripod to support your gear and try various shooting settings while eliminating motion shake. One of the most important parts of a tripod is the head, and that's why we're going to compare the ones from Benro vs Manfrotto.

After a long time of shooting, you may have worn out your tripod heads and are looking for a new one. Read on to see comparisons and features to get the best tripod head you can modify for your real estate photography needs.

Introduction to Benro and Manfrotto Tripods

Tripods are tools that enable you to keep cameras steady while using small apertures and slow shutter speeds, giving you a maximum depth of field. While Benro and Manfrotto are both carbon fiber tripods and have quality heads, they still use varying components and differ in some aspects.

Real estate photographers love Benro because of its solid, secure, and smooth-controlled tripods. On the other hand, Manfrotto is a well-trusted brand in the photography industry because of its quality and cost-effective items. In general, both brands provide these benefits:

  • Improved stabilization to reduce image distortion, especially during handheld shoots.
  • Guaranteed vertical lines to capture spaces realistically.
  • Keep heavy and specialty lenses steady.
  • Allow more light to enter the sensor and illuminate low-light interiors.

Benro against Manfrotto Comparison

The wrong head can drain your patience when it limits your creativity and shooting time. However, choosing a tripod head for real estate photography depends on a number of factors.

If you're looking for a really good replacement, here's a glance into the tripod head component comparison of Benro and Manfrotto.

 BenroManfrotto
Weight0.74 kg1.2 to 1.6 kg
Plate Weight0.04 kg0.09 kg
Max Load6 kg5 to 7.5 kg
Front and Lateral Tilt-30 / +90 degrees-30 / +90 degrees
Panoramic Rotation360360
Quick Release YesYes

 Weight and Max Load

Using a lightweight tripod is one of the first things you need to consider, particularly if you have to move around properties for shoots or you have to travel around with it. The right weight can improve your overall shooting experience.

If you're only looking for a tripod head, Manfrotto is lighter than Benro. However, if you love using a whole setup, Benro is more lightweight, although Manfrotto's extra weight allows it to better support heavier cameras and lenses.

As for the max payload, these two can support the average camera setup of 17 pounds. Moreover, the total weight doesn't impact the balance, even if you have to add a battery grip or longer lens.

Camera with tripod placed on the ground

Height

Both tripod legs are pretty much similar. However, Benro has bulkier heads, adding a bit of height to the whole system. Hence, Benro has the overall height advantage.

As for the complete system, most tripods have legs that extend from 50 to 63 inches, with some having three or five legs. The leg is a tripod's main support system, which consequently affects the head's stability.

Both brands offer single-section, as well as collapsible and telescopic legs. Basically, the more leg sections, the shorter you can retract them. On the downside, having more legs tends to make the setup shakier.

Tilt and Rotation

Benro contains a 3-way geared head, which is a traditional type of tripod head. With three arms for control, you can move the Benro head one axis at a time: panning, horizontal, and vertical. You can do this by twisting and loosening the arms, then repositioning and re-tightening the arm.

While Benro's 3-head has a really great rotation system, Manfrotto's head contains a plastic or metal apparatus on top of a tripod that creates a more accurate rotation.

The kind of job is also one of the first things you also need to consider. If you're more into real estate stills, the 3-way head of a Benro tripod is a really good pick. Manfrotto's ball head is more suitable if you think you would eventually venture into videography.

Locking System

Benro incorporates an Arca-Swiss quick-release with bubble level, consisting of a plate connected to the camera or a lens and a clamp or mounting base to secure the plate. 

The advantage is that you can freely swap most Benro head clamps and camera plates with Arca-Swiss, making this the right purchase if you have multiple tripods.

Meanwhile, Manfrotto utilizes a Top Lock system that enhances insertion and stability while still being compatible with various locks. As opposed to Benro's sliding from the side, the clamp mechanism enables you to position cameras from above. It also has safety pins that prevent the plate and camera from slipping.

Stabilization and Maneuverability

The weight, locking system, construction determine stability and flexibility. Both tripods have secure yet quick-release locking systems, keeping your camera and lens stable even during long periods of shooting. However, the 3-way arms of Benro deliver a better locking mechanism than Manfrotto.

While these two tripods have tilting and rotating systems, Manfrotto has better adjustability because the ball head has more wiggle room than Benro.

However, the legs can boost the head's stability. Both tripods can go down to ground perspective without shaking, thanks to their weight and material. When shooting low-light interiors, you must look for the right tripod head to support wide open apertures.

Price

Like when choosing a camera, the cost also plays a role in determining a tripod's value. While these two brands offer reasonable prices for their products, Benro tends to be less expensive than Manfrotto. Whichever you purchase, you can gain back your investment once you have a steady stream of real estate photography clients.

Key Specifications for Choosing Tripod Heads

Choosing between a Manfrotto and Benro tripod head can be an overwhelming experience, given there are many kinds and features. For a fair comparison, we're going to present the factors to consider.

Camera on tripod recording a video

Material: Carbon Fiber Tripod

Weight is a significant factor when choosing between Manfrotto and Benro. When moving around real estate properties, you wouldn't like to drag around something heavy, yet it's also not ideal to bring a flimsy one.

It would be best to purchase a carbon fiber tripod, which is a lightweight yet solid buy, in comparison to cheap, heavy aluminum tripods.

While you may love the rust-free material, it also comes with a high price tag. Stainless steel tripods are also durable, although they are too heavy for regular use.

Tripod Head Type

The tripod head is the most vital part of a tripod setup because it's responsible for securing equipment. Since the head usually controls movement, it's also the most used part. These are the common available types.

  • 3-Way: Also called a pan-tilt head, this one uses handles to make vertical and horizontal movements well, as well as secure the plate's grip. It is common for low-cost tripods, like Benro.
  • Ball head: Compared to pan-tilt, ball heads literally use a ball mechanism for a flexible and smooth operation. This is popular for 360-degree panning. While the small construction makes the tripod more compact, you only get one control knob for tightening or loosening the grip.
  • Gimbal: Compared to the ball and 3-way mechanisms, gimbals are good for fast-action shots since they have excellent balance for heavy equipment. A gimbal head's tracking and panning are quite similar to Benro and Manfrotto tripods, although it's a bit heavy for bringing from one property to another.
  • Fluid: In some cases, a fluid head is much better than 3-way and ball systems because it has a fluid cartridge that resists unbalanced load to minimize vibrations and jitters. The longer the lens, the more support you require, which a fluid tripod can provide.
  • Geared: This kind uses three engineered knobs to control the tilt and pan. Precise positioning can sometimes be challenging with other head types, yet geared ones are quick to adjust.
  • Pistol grip: This is quite similar to a ball head's movement, although you need to squeeze the handle to rotate and lock the head. While fairly easy to adjust, it can sometimes be a hassle when you need to simultaneously use the grip and shutter button.
  • Panoramic: Other head types can achieve panoramic movements, although this means more tilting. A panoramic head is ideal for real estate photography that also requires some landscape shots. The head follows a predetermined angle to rotate your camera in a flawless panoramic motion, which is helpful if you're photographing neighborhoods.

Plate and Thread

Most modern cameras come with a thread on the bottom for easy attaching on a tripod. You need to look for a good tripod head that secures the thread without limiting the camera's movements. 

If you think a threaded system would not make an efficient shooting experience, you can get the plated mechanisms of Benro and Manfrotto. These removable plates also have threads, although this means you won't have to attach your shooting gear on the tripod directly.

These plates use a quick-release system that you can permanently place on a camera's bottom, then slide it freely. 

Locking Style

Almost all tripod manufacturers now feature multiple locking systems. Although the locking style is more of a personal preference, it's crucial that you also understand the differences between the most common styles.

  • Flip locks: A flip lock is a better first purchase for beginners and amateur real estate photographers because it only involves flipping the lock open to extend the leg and flip the lock close. The leg joints of flip locks generally never suffer from jamming or twisting issues, which is a plus point.
  • Twist Locks: Twist locks are trickier because they require a partial turn to open and close the locking mechanism. The downside is that twist locks are more prone to losing grip, especially under heavy load or pressure.

A Benro tripod that has a 3-way gear usually contains a twist lock, whereas a Manfrotto ball-head typically uses a flip lock.

Height

Regardless of the niche, it would be best to get a tripod that matches your height. With that said, you can ensure that you have an eye level view of a space. Whenever you look at the viewfinder, you should never stoop down to the wrong height.

While you can always adjust the legs to be shorter, it can sometimes consume much of your time when you constantly change height levels during a shoot.

Weight

One of the mistakes you can make as a real estate photographer is buying a tripod that can only support a few pounds. Make sure to think about the accessories, lenses, battery pack, and flash you must use.

Aside from that, there might also be unconscious moments where you would rest your hands on the setup and apply pressure on the tripod. For these reasons, try to keep the tripod head weight under 4 pounds. Fortunately, carbon fiber systems from Manfrotto or Benro are typically light.

Camera during night time

Stability and Flexibility

A heavy weight doesn't automatically mean it's stable, especially when a tripod lacks the mechanism to stabilize. It's important that your cameras and lenses balance on the tripod head, not lean towards one direction. Otherwise, you would damage the equipment, or everything will fall on the ground.

Tripods come with a support system that boosts stability and flexibility.

  • Feet: Tripods like Benro and Manfrotto allow you to replace tripod feet for various situations and conditions. These two use rubber feet, which are suitable for interior shoots, whereas metal spikes improve balance in outdoor and exterior shoots. 
  • Center column: Both brands also come with a center column, which is a single leg in the middle of a tripod. Moving the center column upward increases height while moving it downward decreases height.
  • Chassis: Also known as the spider, the chassis is a tripod's axis, where the legs connect. The chassis surrounds the tripod's center column to form a platform when mounting heads. 

Price

While the price is a major deciding factor, it's essential that you weigh in if the cost can give you the expected working quality for at least three years of use before the thread and locks wear out. Meanwhile, there's a chance that cheap tripods might only last for months. 

The good thing is that many tripods nowadays have a solid construction that is worth the purchase. You can also get used or secondhand tripods if it's not possible to buy a brand new tripod at this time.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where to Try and Purchase the Best Tripods?

You can rent used tripods from studios or other photographers, which is a great choice if you like to try and see many tripods before settling on one. After that, you can buy your preferred tripod from shops. Another option is to swap used tripods at photography fairs.

Is Gitzo Better Than Benro and Manfrotto?

Gitzo comes from the same group as Manfrotto, which means it almost has the same quality. Gitzo is a really great buy if you like to enhance your current setup. However, Benro is a much more affordable option.

Do Induro Tripods Work Well?

Induro tripods have nearly the same features as Gitzo, yet at a more affordable price. They do work well, although not in comparison to the convenience of Manfrotto or Gitzo. Also, Induro tripods never fit their carrying cases.

Are Monopods and Gorillapods Great for Real Estate Photography?

Monopods and Gorillapods aren't particularly designed for shooting real estate. Unlike tripods, monopods only come with one leg, whereas Gorillapods have bendable arms. While these are really good and quality options for traveling and compact cameras, they aren't suitable for photoshoots where you require a movable tripod head.

The Verdict

A tripod is a long-term investment for working, as this accessory supports creative endeavors and gets the job done every time. You may like Benro heads best if you're after height, stability, and affordability. Meanwhile, Manfrotto tripod heads are better options if you value head weight, rotation, and flexibility.

Does anyone have any feedback or comments? Are there any readers using the Benro head that can compare it to Manfrotto?

16 comments on “Benro vs Manfrotto: Tripod Heads Compared!”

  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.

  13. Sunway Photo GH-Pro II.
    I’ve been using it for about one year and it’s still doing great.
    Light, smooth, dual panning mechanisms, relatively compact and highly adjustable. It uses a swiss standard clamp. Much better than the clunky Manfrotto plates which make switching to vertical on a L-bracket a joke (get a swiss clamp for the Manfrotto Plate). No knob for panning but it’s easy to clamp in place.
    $225 on Amazon.

  14. I finally got sick of my Manfrotto 410 jr & 405 heads. Am using Arca Swiss Cube's now.
    I love them! Worth every penny if you are a full time RE shooter...

  15. I had two of the Manfrotto 410 heads fail on me in their first two years of service. I got one repaired, but never liked how turning the knobs felt. I also did not like how the 410PL required plate for the Manfrotto is not an industry standard, and prevents interoperability with most other gear. I decided to splurge and got an Arca-Swiss C1 Cube, and it is so perfect and nice to use. I know that it is not for those just starting out, but as one of my primary tools I really love it, and it has been fantastic to use it these last two years. My only regret is that I wasted all of those years being frustrated and annoyed with the Manfrotto 410s, and I that I did not buy the C1 sooner.

    I do like my Manfrotto 057 Carbon Fiber Tripod with Geared Column, which I have been relying on for several years. I really like the geared column and the weight of this tripod. I had started out with a lighter Manfrotto model, but found that it would jiggle a bit during multiple exposures for real estate photography.

  16. I currently use the Benro geared head and would not buy it again. It feels cheap and mine has more play in it than I'd like, resulting in lots of mis-aligned shots whenever I have to touch the camera between composite frames. I also wouldn't get one of the manfrotto geared heads. I had a 405 and it was just too big and heavy, and they use their own plate—at least the Benro uses arca-swiss that my L-bracket uses. My 405 was stolen, but prior to that I had to have it serviced after less than a year of service after I dropped it ONCE (did I mention it was heavy?). Not acceptable for a $500 tripod head IMHO. My next geared head will almost certainly be something from Arca-swiss.

    In terms of legs, I'm pretty happy with my Benro sticks. The model I have can get pretty dang high, which comes in handy. The ability to go to ~8ft does come at a weight cost, however. I ended up splurging on a Gitzo travel tripod for a trip I took and you can really tell the difference in quality. I would happily spend the premium on a full size set of Gitzo legs if I had to replace the Benro legs I currently use.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

magnifiercrossmenucross-circle