The Benro Rhino FRHN34CVX30 is the largest model in Benro’s new range of Rhino travel tripods. It has four section carbon fibre legs to offer a good compromise between folded length and speedy setup, a Benro VX30 ball head with a unique secondary pan axis (more on this shortly) and comes with a padded carry bag and screw-on metal spikes for use outdoors.
Leg sections: 4
Max Tube Diameter: 32.4mm
Min Tube Diameter: 21.8mm
Max Height With Column: 1745mm
Max Height No Column: 1448mm
Min Height: 491mm
Folded Height: 494mm
Max payload: 20kg
The FRHN34CVX30 qualifies as a travel tripod through having reverse folding legs which enclose the center column and the ball head to produce a much more compact tripod when folded.
The four-section legs are made with a new ‘braided’ carbon fibre design to improve the weight capacity without sacrificing strength, and with a maximum payload of 20kg, it’s going to be pretty hard to push this tripod anywhere near its theoretical weight limit. There are three screw-in accessory sockets in the tripod ‘spider’ casting, so you can add lights, external monitors or other accessories.
The folded length of 49.4cm is pretty long for a travel tripod. It’s unlikely to fit in a camera bag or backpack, but it should strap pretty neatly to the outside – or you can sling it over your shoulder in its own case.
There is a choice of three leg angles released with a new ‘auto hold trigger’ and the center column is reversible for low angle shots – as long as you can put up with using the camera upside-down.
The VX30 ball head is especially interesting. It has not one but two horizontal panning axes. One is in the conventional place in the base of the ball head, but there is a second just below the camera mounting plate.
This solves a common problem. If you want to be able to pan the camera horizontally, you would normally have to get the base completely level by carefully adjusting the leg lengths. With this second pan axis, though, all you need to do is get the camera plate level by adjusting the ball head – which is much faster. Using the second pan axis, you can now get a perfectly level panning movement without having to level the whole tripod first. Clever!
The Benro does have one more trick that many tripod makers now incorporate – you can remove one of the legs and the center column and fit them together to get a monopod. When you do this with the Benro, the resulting monopod feels very rigid and it’s high enough even without having to extend the lowest leg section.
Build, handling, performance
The Benro Rhino FRHN34CVX30 feels a lot lighter than it looks to set up and use, and with a height of nearly 1.5m without the center column extended, it offers a surprisingly good working height. Extending the column will put it above eye height for all but the tallest photographers.
The height is one surprise; the rigidity is another. The Benro feels absolutely rock solid, and if you do extend the center column, it gives very little ‘wobble’. This would be impressive enough in a full size studio tripod, but in a travel tripod (even if its size does stretch that definition) it’s remarkable.
The VX30 head is similarly solid and just a delight to use. It would be nice if the lower pan axis locking knob was just a little larger, but the second, upper pan axis is just a brilliant idea. The materials feel first class and the Arca Swiss compatible mounting plate doubles up on security with a twist-pull-out-twist locking knob you can’t loosen accidentally, and locating pins either end of the plate to stop it sliding out while unlocked.
There are just two disappointments. One is that the center column has no pivot mechanism. Lots of tripods don’t, and not everyone needs them, but for shooting overhead closeups or working in confined spaces, they are definitely useful.
The second is that there’s no short ‘stub’ center column included. The makes the maximum leg angle relatively unhelpful because you need to set the center column to its maximum height to use it. You can reverse the column for low angle shots, but this arrangement is awkward to set up and shoot with.
The Benro Rhino FRHN34CVX30 is a traditionally designed travel tripod that combines light weight and portability with really rigid support and surprisingly high operating heights. It’s easy to set up and use, and the VX head with its second pan axis is a triumph. With no angled column, though, and no short ‘stub’ column provided, it’s not as flexible as some rivals in tight spaces or for close-ups, so while landscape photographers will be happy, nature or indoor still life photographers might find it more limiting.
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