Choosing the right tripod often means balancing portability and durability. How does a tripod without a center column add more flexibility to your setup?
Tripods are a great help in the work of photographers and videographers. For some, they are even essential. However, having the wrong type of tripod can also be counterproductive. For a landscape or outdoor photographer, having a tripod that adds weight or bulk to the equipment you carry with you definitely has effects on your performance when shooting in addition how tired you feel after getting all the images you need.
There are general purpose tripods that have common functions and features such as varying leg angles or number of sections, twist or clip locks, different types of heads and center columns. However, there are also tripods designed for specific uses that will make it easier to use or easier to transport. This particular tripod, the Benro Tortoise TTOR24CGX30, seems to fit both.
Build and design
It is a four-section tripod that is only 21.3 inches long when fully folded and can reach 51.18 inches when fully extended. Having four sections allows this tripod to have a bit more height in the middle of the very short folded length.
This carbon fiber travel tripod weighs only 1.51 kilograms, but can support a load of up to 14 kilograms in camera equipment, which is considerably heavy compared to its weight and can practically carry the usual configuration of landscape camera equipment.
The legs have a twist lock mechanism which generally makes it less bulky when folded and gives it a slimmer width. Depending on the user, this may also be a faster option to unfold and set up compared to clip-lock options. Near the center tripod joint are release buttons that allow you to extend the wider tripod legs with different angles. The three legs can be adjusted to different angles, which adds more flexibility when shooting on uneven ground. Also on the side of each leg are release buttons that help the tripod maintain the set angle, ensuring the leg won’t come loose even with considerable weight on top of the device.
Each of the spaces between each leg on the center joint has a 1/4 inch screw thread, which can be used to mount additional accessories such as friction arms or brackets. Of course, the main feature of this range of tripods is the simple fact that it has no central column. Instead, the ball head connects to a fixed 3/4 inch stud which itself is connected to the center of the tripod. Below is a simple hook for hanging counterweights or accessory loops.
The lack of a center column allows for much lower ground clearance when the legs are at their widest spread angle. This makes the center joint just 2.7 inches from the ground or 7.48 inches (from the ground to the camera) when you factor in the height of the GX30 ball joint.
This particular variant features the GX30 ball head, which has a main friction knob that controls and releases the ball head, a thinner friction knob for finer adjustments, and a smaller knob that releases the lower part that allows the head to do a 360 degree panorama. Connected to the ball is an Arca-Swiss style quick release clamp that can take any Arca-Swiss compatible baseplate or L-bracket. Opposite the QR clamp knob is a lever that unlocks the top platform and allows the quick-release clamp to pivot independently of the head or ball.
The Benro Tortoise range has a number of variants available which differ in height, payload and ball joint options. The TTOR35CGX35 measures 22 inches when folded and 61.4 inches when fully extended, with a payload of 15 kilograms and a larger GX35 head. The TTOR34CGX35 has the same head and folded height, but only has three sections, so its maximum height is only 56.3 inches. The TTOR14CGX25 has much thinner legs, which also makes it less bulky when folded. It has the same size as the one reviewed above when folded (21 inches) and the same maximum height of 51.18 inches, but has a lighter payload of 10 kilograms (4 kg less). The Tortoise range also offers a small tabletop version, the TTOR03CGX25 which measures just 5.9 inches when folded, 12.4 inches at most, but can carry 8 kilograms of gear, which is quite impressive for its size.
While it’s obvious that this tripod can have applications in almost any genre that requires a tripod, it does have features that may be more beneficial for some and less useful for others. The main features of this tripod mainly come from its portability, flexibility and capacity for additional accessories. That said, the Benro Tortoise is definitely beneficial for outdoor photographers, landscape photographers, and travel photographers with standard full-frame gear. An exception might be wildlife photographers who might need more height and more payload for their heavier super telephoto lenses.
The lack of a central column can be beneficial for shooting very low angles without having to fiddle around with the tripod as much. Other options for such a setup are tripods with horizontal center columns. However, in my experience, they can be a bit of a chore to set up for low angle shots.
This tripod may not be the best option for any type of photography that would require a lot of height flexibility, such as architecture or interiors, as well as plan or flat shot shooting. The Benro Tortoise line offers benefits by minimizing your gear, especially when long walks are required.
What I liked
- Sleek carbon fiber design
- Lightweight and portable with heavy payload
- 3 x 1/4″ mounting ports
- Very low minimum height
What can be improved
- Optionally a removable central column accessory with different sizes
The Benro Tortoise TTOR24CGX30 is a compact and surprisingly capable tripod that makes it easy to carry wherever you go. You can buy it here.