If you are new to Tripod language let me go over the basics to allow you to make a better choice when deciding on your three-legged friend.
Many Tripod companies use terms such a Series 1, 2, 3, 4, etc. The Series number basically equates to the diameter of the tripod legs thus a Series 3 is larger than a series 2 which also results in greater carrying capacitance and stability. Benro's Series 3 tripods can support upwards of 35 pounds or 15.8 kg, which is a good choice for a larger DSLR and Telephoto setup, or as we will discover as a general purpose Tripod.
Additionally, some Tripod companies use the term 5X, 6X, 9X, etc. the X rating generally relates to Carbon Fiber Tripods which means the number of interwoven carbon fiber layers, and you guessed it the higher the number the stiffer the legs are.
Carbon Fiber VS Metal Tripods (aluminum): This choice is mostly driven by cost and personal choice, some people simply like the aluminum versions over the carbon fiber ones but, sometimes the choice is driven by cost savings when choosing an aluminum tripod. Quite frankly it does not matter as long as the basics are taken care of, more on the basics in a moment. Me personally I prefer Carbon Fiber models for their lighter weight.
The basics questions you need to ask yourself.
- What is your photographic objective for the tripod - landscapes, birding, general purpose?
- Do you plan on doing commercial traveling with your tripod?
- What is the maximum weight you will place on the tripod?
- Are you needing a Tripod Head or will use one you already have?
- What is your budget?
- How tall are you?
If you are a commercial traveler I suggest you consider a tripod that folds down to allow it to fit inside your carry on bags, otherwise it will need to go into your luggage in the cargo hold. Something to keep in mind.
Obviously, your budget will drive what you ultimately choose and purchase - My recommendation is to buy a tripod that has headroom to support more weight than what your current requirements are. The reason is, I have always found that if I purchase a tripod that supports say 20lbs today, thinking that is all I need, then in two years I run across that super telephoto lens I had to have, that would stress out the smaller tripod and make for an unstable support for larger lenses.
Fold down and Stand Up Height: I have errored many times and thought I would never need a "tall" tripod, wrong! I suggest you get one with a standing height that comes to your chin or even higher. Trust me on this, If you are an outdoor nature photographer you will need the extra height. Shooting on a hill, shooting on the very uneven ground, or shooting from a creek bank - One leg will need to be fully extended to position the tripod to a useable level and the longer the tripod the easier it is for you and less frustration. Fold down height is less of an issue unless you travel commercially so, find one that folds down to a height you can live with. I try to stay under 24".
The Tripod Head: Getting this right is just as important as the tripod legs, Financially painful but just remember a good purchase should last you a lifetime. The heads are also rated on weight capacity so, like the tripod, I suggest you buy one with some room to grow. Top vendors for very good tripod heads are Acratech GP Ball Heads or a Really Right Stuff (BH 40/30) size. If you need something more specialized like a Gimbal head than I highly recommend the Wimberly WH-200 Gimbal Head.
Now The Review:
Who is the Benro TMA38CL Series 3 Mach 3 Tripod suited for? I consider this tripod a general purpose tripod that can cover general photography needs as well as supporting larger telephoto lens such as a Nikon 500mm f/4. I use my Benro TMA28CL with my small Nikon Z7 for landscape and nature shooting. So, it suits many of my shooting needs from small to large.
Things I do not like about the Benro TMA38CL first. My only real complaint is the tripod feet, these are screw-in rubber feet and when my tripod arrived one foot had worked it's way loose and fell off in the bag. Easy fix just screw it back in. However, if you do a lot of hiking and carry your tripod over your shoulder as I do, I can guarantee your gonna lose a foot at some point. I recommend if you are sticking with the rubber feed place some blue thread lock on the threads. On the plus side, Benro includes a set of metal Spike feet.
What do you get with the Tripod:
You get a very nice padded carry case with enough room to store the tripod with a BH-40 Ball head attached. The case has a side compartment that stores the included metal spiked feet and a Short Center Column along with a tool. Additionally, you get a soft carry bag for the tripod.
Specs of the Tripod: Full Standing Height is 69.7 inches with all 4 leg extensions fully entended, and can be lowered to a mere 14 inches, weighs in at only 4.5 pounds, and folds down to 23.2 inches. 9 layers of carbon fiber, supporting a whopping 35 pounds. For those who shoot low to the ground the center column is replaceable with a short version that is included for free - just to note the short center column is made of aluminum, not carbon fiber.
Fit and Finish: I would say the fit and finish of the Benro TMA38CL Carbon Fiber Tripod is top notch, well built with solid no slop fittings. The large rubber leg tensioners are well built and easy to turn to require only a slight turn to loosen or tighten. They also allow the owner to disassemble the legs for cleaning when the time comes.
Firmness/Stiffness: I rate he Benro TMA38CL Carbon Fiber Tripod as equal to my GITZO Series 3 tripod I use. The Benro is as every bit as stable as the Gitzo and costs half what the Gitzo cost. When using this with my Really Right Stuff BH-55 Ballhead, Nikon D850 with Battery Grip and a Nikkor 70-200mm assigned I found the Benro stood strong and steady and was a very stable platform for the setup.
If you are looking at the Series 3 but plan on getting a Super Telephoto such as a Nikkor 600mm I would recommend you go with a Series 4 or even a Series 5.
Some optional Accessories I recommend for your Benro TMA38CL Carbon Fiber Tripod if you so happen to buy one - accessories at the bottom of the review.