There’s an old bit of nonsense that states there are two factors that affect price when buying a tripod: stability and weight. Benro has proved there are two more. So, is their Hydra 2 worth their cost?
A few months back, I wrote a review of two Benro tripods. One was the Benro Slim, an affordable lightweight travel model that I find perfect for carrying on my bike or in my rucksack when going hiking. The other was the Benro Tortoise, a columnless tripod I was so impressed with I ended up buying the model I had been loaned to review.
I am often photographing on sandy beaches, standing in the water, and so when I get home, along with my camera and lens that are IP53 weather sealed, I dismantle the Tortoise’s legs and wash them under the shower. Both sand and seawater ingress up the tripod legs. Sand and salt erode and corrode most things and I want my kit to last, so I consider careful maintenance important.
But, recently I saw an advert for the Benro INDURO Hydra 2, which claimed to be a waterproof tripod. So, I got in touch with the staff at Benro and asked if I could put it through its paces. Two days later, the postman delivered it to my home.
Real-World Test of the Benro Hydra 2
As expected from Benro, the tripod is exceedingly well made. It comes in a nice carrying case and is separately wrapped in a drawstring nylon sleeve. Besides the tripod, the carrying case also holds a pouch with spiked feet, an alternative to the rubber ones that it is fitted with, plus a spanner.
The INDURO range of tripods has 8-layer carbon fiber tubing, making them, Benro says, 60% stronger than conventional tripods. The five sections of the legs are secured by coated metal twist locks that are large and easy to grip, even when wearing gloves. A quarter turn allows the sections to slide in and out. Because of the sealing, the twist locks are tighter than other tripods I've used, and the legs give more resistance when pulling out. But it’s reasonable to assume that anyone buying this model for its waterproof features is going to be fit enough to venture into challenging environments. Consequently, that isn’t going to be a problem for them. However, if you have a disability that affects grip or arm strength, then maybe this isn’t the tripod for you.
That sealing seems to do the job. After standing the tripod in the sea for about ten minutes, allowing the waves to wash over the twist locks, I dried it off with a towel and slid the legs back and forth. There was no grittiness in the movement at all, so the sand had not entered the workings, which happens with all other tripods I have ever used. Furthermore, after removing the feet and checking inside the legs there were no signs of water ingress. I also pushed the feet into the soft, wet sand and it withstood that too.
The tripod itself is very stable. That is something the Tortoise impressed me with. Unlike the Tortoise, the Hydra 2 has an invertible center column. I’m not a fan of center columns, but this one when fully extended is rock solid and, when fully extended, the tripod reaches 60.4 inches (1533 mm).
It is locked in place by means of an oversized locking collar with wing lugs that makes it easily manipulated. The base of the column has a ballast hook on which to hang your camera bag. On the spider is a leveling bubble. It also has an accessory mount screw and an eyelet for fitting third-party carrying straps. It should be noted that the center column adjuster does not have any waterproof features.
The top mounting plate has a double-threaded screw, so can take heads with both 3/8” and ¼” sockets. Unlike the Tortoise, this camera is not supplied with a ball head.
The Hydra 2 can be used with the legs folding independently out as far as 90 degrees, which is useful for rugged terrain.
For packing it away, the legs fold over by 180 degrees over the extended center column. This means that in storage the tripod measures only 16.7 inches (424 mm), short enough to fit inside my small rucksack and bike panniers. However, that reduced length means a slight sacrifice in its width while in the storage position.
This tripod is strong and is designed for bigger cameras than mine; it has a maximum payload of 37.5 lb (17 KG) so for my OM System cameras it was overkill. Also, the ball head I used for testing, Benro’s excellent GX25, seemed a bit dwarfed on the top plate.
Environmental and Social Impact
As promised, in all my reviews I am going to mention the environmental and social impact of products, as they are of increasing importance to photographers. All the equipment we buy will have an environmental impact. It is nice to know that companies are taking real action to tackle that.
Benro's website doesn’t include any environmental or carbon footprint performance data, nor do they publish a commitment to tackling modern slavery. This doesn’t mean they are bad, just that they don’t share much information.
BENRO is committed to environmentally friendly products, to reduce the impact on the environment, from the environmental green magnesium alloy material, natural rubber to finished packaging.
Although lacking in detail, I consider that statement is better than the greenwashing shown by some other manufacturers who hide poor performance behind convoluted policies and statements with promises for the future.
Contacting their main distributor here in the UK, they told me that Benro is now taking the environmental impact seriously.
Benro have taken steps recently to improve these aspects of their business. Most recently they installed solar panels on the roof of both their factory and office buildings to provide power and they also recently discontinued several products because of the particular anodising process that was used on them
What I Do and Don’t Like.
This is a specialist tripod aimed at a niche corner of the market. It will appeal to the serious, adventurous outdoor photographer who, like me, wades into the sea or rivers to get their landscape and seascape shots. I can also envision it being bought by wildlife photographers who stand in lakes to get those water level shots of waterfowl. If one combines photography with rock climbing, hillwalking, cycling, sailing, kayaking, or hiking then this is going to be a worthy investment. It will also be a boon to those who want a lightweight tripod strong enough to carry heavy video equipment.
The only drawback for me is that, unlike the Tortoise’s columnless design, you cannot place all legs at 90 degrees without raising the center column. So, taking a worm’s eye view photo is only possible with the column reversed, which means partially dismantling the column to do so. Personally, I would like to see a columnless version as most of my photography is shot at knee level and lower. Alternatively, a short column as they make for other models, or an adaptor to fit a head directly to the spider would be welcome.
Apart from that, this is a high-quality, precision-built, superb tripod that anyone would be pleased to have in their arsenal.
In use, it felt to be exceptional kit. You know when you are handling quality equipment, and this is superbly built.
At the start of this review, I mentioned the three factors that need to be balanced: weight, stability, and price. This tripod is light at just 3.3 lb (1.5 kg), and extremely stable, so one can expect the price to be at the top end. However, Benro has added the two additional features of strength and waterproofing, and that is reflected in the price too. At $450, this is not going to be within the budget of a lot of people. It is aimed at serious professional photographers and videographers who require superior equipment with the extra features the Benro INDURO Hydra 2 has – especially the waterproofing – and for them, it will be an attractive proposition.
Very interested how long the sealing will hold up
That's a great question, Alex. Here in the UK, there is a standard 3-year warranty against manufacturing defects, extended to 5-years if registered with them. I guess that is repeated elsewhere around the world. So, one would expect it to last at least that long if not abused in its usage. Parts are also available for it too, so if the seals do fail, they can be repaired.
Currently on sale at Benro's website for $356...
This has been announced as the Best Tripod in the TIPA World Awards 2022.