Review of the Benro S2 and S4 Video Monopods
Monopods, once really only useful in a handful of situations, have evolved into irreplaceable members of our creative arsenals due to the advent of high quality video being produced in DSLRs. The idea of a “video monopod” might frighten video purists, but there are those such as Patrick Hall and myself who swear by them. However, some versions on the current market now are slightly pricey. Benro released their more affordable versions at the 2013 China P&E in Beijing , and I was more than ready to see if they were able to hold their own.
Benro offers their version of a video monopod with a couple options: You can get them in two different sizes with two different styles of leg locks (clip locks or twist locks). Though it probably wasn’t wholly necessary to give us the ability to choose these kinds of options, I do appreciate the personal customization slant. I myself like twist locks in many situations, but Mike Kelley actually hates them and would much rather have clip locks. Whatever you prefer, you can get on your Benro monopod.
Benro sent me two sizes to review: the S2 and the S4. The S4 is more what you are probably expecting and what I classify as “standard” size. The S2 is what I would call “mini,” though it is only a little shorter than the S4 (65.5” inches max, 25.8 inches compacted). That doesn’t seem like that much of a reduction in size from the S4, but side-by-side you can certainly tell one is considerably smaller (not necessarily in height, but in overall girth). Mainly, the pan head has been significantly reduced in size.
The S2 has some issues, and I think they are mainly due to the miniscule stature of the monopod. Though the pan head works just fine as far as panning and tilting goes, the size of the plate is difficult to use with a DSLR. Though the new tiny Canon Rebel SL1 might be the only exception, the tightening lever that holds the plate in place on the head is located in a very awkward position (honestly the Manfrotto haS the same issue). It can be a little pain to lock and unlock the plate, especially if you have large hands or fingers.
The size of the S2 might work for smaller cameras but for DSLRs and pro-level camcorders it’s just a bit too small. The size of the pan head itself makes everything feel small. If you’re looking to go really small and keep your video project fitting inside of a backpack, this might be a good option. Otherwise, I can’t say I was a fan of the size.
The S4 is a different version. Though a few inches shorter than the Manfrotto version when fully compacted, it works just about as well as it. It’s made of aluminum and plastic parts and feels sturdy and reliable. The pan head works exactly like you would expect and is sized well for DSLRs and camcorders. The pan head is also bigger and feels sturdier, culminating in a product that just feels more complete. It’s extremely light at only 3.7 pounds (that includes the heavy pan head). I was expecting it to weigh less with fewer metal parts in the build.
My tester unit of the S4 was the twist lock one, and I really liked this build. I found it easier to extend and compact the monopod as I moved around than with a standard clip lock. The piston-like monopod leg has three stages, all of which were smooth and easy to operate.
Looping back around to the size for a moment, the squat stature (folded length of 27.6 inches) of the fully compact S4 makes it fit into the included carrying bag, which is hugely useful for travel. I was very grateful for it while moving around Los Angeles. It’s size does not take away from the fully extended length of the monopod, however, which at its max is far more telescoped than 95% of the intended users will ever find issue with. I have difficulty imagining a situation where I would use the monopod at its maximum extension of 73.2 inches.
I think the most loveable part of the Benro S4 monpod is the price: $200. That’s a raging deal for what you get with a video monopod.
What I liked:
Smooth panning head (Both S2 & S4)
Stable and smooth three-footed base (S4 Only)
Choice of twist or clip lock telescoping shaft (Both S2 & S4)
Packs down into easy-to-carry shoulder bag (Both S2 & S4)
Price (Both S2 & S4)
What could use improvement:
Tiny and difficult to handle pan head and plate (S2 only)
In conclusion, Benro was largely successful in producing the popular video camera stabilization option for a lower price and more customizable options. Looking past my issues with the smaller S2, the S4 is a solid monopod that is lightweight, inexpensive and highly useful for the DSLR videographer.
For more information, head over the page: http://www.benro.com/default.aspx