Bird watching is a beloved hobby for many nature enthusiasts, but it can also be a challenging one. One of the most important tools for a successful bird watching experience is a stable tripod head to mount your spotting scope on.
A sturdy and reliable tripod head allows for steady and clear observations of birds in their natural habitats, making it a crucial element in the birding experience.
If you are familiar with the Benro brand, you’re probably already aware of the company’s reputation. It is known for producing functional and effective tripods and tripod heads.
The Benro S series of tripod heads offers a range of options for bird watchers, including the S2, S4, S6, and S8. Each has its own unique features and capabilities.
Whether you’re a beginner bird watcher or a seasoned pro looking for a reliable and high-performance tripod head, the S series has a potential solution. Depending on your priorities, one of Benro’s S Series tripod heads could suit your spotting scope.
In this article, we will compare and contrast the S2, S4, S6 and S8 heads in the Benro S series. We’ll do this by highlighting their advantages and disadvantages for bird watching with a spotting scope.
Key takeaways of this article
- Benro offers a line of video tripods in the S series, including the S2, S4, S6, and S8.
- Each kit comes with a head, half-ball leveling base, bubble level, tilt lock, and center column for height adjustment.
- They all have built-in three positions for the legs. These allow for low-angle shots by removing the center column and flipping it upside down.
- The S4 and S6 models have additional features such as a 501 compatible plate and pan arm rosette on both sides. The S6 and S8 feature tilt-drag adjustment, a counterbalance with three steps, and a built-in illuminated bubble level.
- The heads can be purchased separately. They come with a five-year warranty and a carrying case.
The Benro S Series in detail
We will cover all of the relevant points for each head, based on weight capacity, features, and budget. Let’s take a closer look at each to see which one might match your needs.
Benro S Series: S2 – lightest and most affordable
The S2 is the lightest and most affordable option in the S series, making it easy to carry and transport.
Its weight capacity of 4.4 pounds (2 kilograms) may not be suitable for heavier spotting scopes, but it can handle most standard scopes.
It is also available in both aluminum and carbon fiber, which gives birders the option to choose the material that best suits their needs.
The aluminium weighs more but costs less. This makes the S2 a great option for those who are just starting out with bird watching and don’t want to invest a lot of money into a tripod head.
Pros of the Benro S Series S2
- Lightweight and easy to transport
- Available in aluminum and carbon fiber
- Suitable for most standard spotting scopes
- Half-ball leveling base and bubble level for accurate and stable positioning
- Tilt lock and center column for height adjustment provide additional stability
- Extra screw storage is a convenient feature
Cons of the Benro S Series S2
- Weight capacity of 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) may not be suitable for heavier spotting scopes
- Less advanced features compared to the S4 and S6
- Legs cannot be purchased separately.
Like the Benro S2, the S2P is a small, lightweight tripod head. This S2P version is Arca-Swiss compatible, meaning it has a special plate that makes it ready to be used with other types of equipment.
Benro S Series: S4 – more stability but still relatively light
The S4 tripod head is a step up from the S2, with a weight capacity of 8.8 pounds (4 kilograms). This means it can handle most spotting scopes.
It also includes a 501 compatible plate and extra screw storage, which can be useful for birders. On each side there is a panning arm rosette, which means you can fit the telescoping arm on either for left-hand or right-hand use.
As with all of the S Series, the S4 is available in both aluminum and carbon fiber.
It is a good middle-ground option for those looking for more stability and capability than the S2, but not as heavy duty as the S6.
Benro’s S4P is a lighter option
Additionally, the S4P is a lighter version of the S4, with a weight of 1.5 lb (680 grams). This can work better for larger scopes.
The Benro S4P is a tripod head that is good for bigger scopes and is lightweight. The S4P also has double-sided rosettes to mount the panning handle on either side.
Though it’s not as smooth in its panning motion as another brand, Sirui’s VH-10, it is still a good option. A different version of the Sirui, the VH-10X, is even better but it is heavier.
As well as a locking panning lever the S4 has a large knob for tilt locking on the left side, and a QR lock lever on the right.
S4’s mounting options
It comes with both 1/4 inch (at the rear) and 3/8 inch (front) screws. When the ⅜” screw is in place, the head’s tilt range limited to between 85 degrees forward and 75 degrees back. When tilted forward, there is a tendency for the head and screw to make contact.
That said, the S4 has the advantage of a counterbalance spring which adds to the stability of the head, especially when you are not holding it in place.
Overall, the S4 is a great option for birders who are looking for a stable and versatile tripod head that can handle most spotting scopes.
Pros of the Benro S Series S4
- More stability
- Weight capacity of 8.8 pounds (4 kilograms)
- Includes a 501 compatible plate and extra screw storage
- Double-sided rosettes to mount the panning handle on either side
- Available in both aluminum and carbon fiber
- Good middle-ground option for those looking for more stability and capability than the S2, but not as heavy duty as the S6
- Has a counterbalance spring which adds to the stability of the head
- Good option for birders who are looking for a stable and versatile tripod head that can handle most spotting scopes.
Cons of the Benro S Series S4
- Not as smooth in its panning motion as another brand (Sirui VH-10)
- Tilt range limited when using the 3/8-inch screw
- Tendency for the head and screw to make contact when tilted forward.
Benro S Series: S6 – heavy duty with extra features
The S6 is the most advanced option in the S series, with a weight capacity of 12 plus pounds. With this bulk it can handle the heaviest spotting scopes.
The Benro S6 is very user friendly. As well as its ease of use, its performance matches or even betters other comparable heads in the same price range.
Its additional features include tilt drag adjustment, counterbalance, pan arm rosette on both sides, telescoping arm, built-in compass, and illuminated bubble level, which can be very helpful for birders.
Both of the locking levers for the pan and tilt are on the left side. In contrast to the S2 and S4, which have one control for the tilt lock, the S6 has a separate knob each for the tilt lock and the fluid drag.
Independent drag adjustment
This means that the drag can be adjusted independently and with more control. While the separation is a good step up, the drag knob itself can be tricky to get a good grasp on. So to turn it requires an awkwardly tight grip because it’s also a little stiff.
Drag on the tilt is strong at the upper end, which is good if you like to work with lots of resistance. The range of tilt is forwards about 80 degrees and backwards about 60 degrees.
The other upgrade from the S2 and S4 is the adjustable counterbalance. This has four settings, one being no counterbalance.
Includes a built-in bubble level
Another nice additional feature is the illuminated bubble level, ready to use and complete with a spare battery. Having an in-built bubble level is ideal for setting up quickly for digiscoping.
The QR release plate for the S6 is the same as the S4, as well as the 1/4 inch and 3/8 inch screw options. In contrast to the S4, storage for the screws on the S6 are both at the rear.
It is available in both aluminum and carbon fiber. The S6 also has a five-year warranty, which gives birders peace of mind.
Pros of the Benro S Series S6
- Weight capacity of more than 12 pounds
- Able to handle the heaviest spotting scopes
- User-friendly with a performance to match competition in the same price range
- Features: tilt drag adjustment, counterbalance, pan arm rosette on both sides, telescoping arm, built-in compass, and illuminated bubble level
- Adjustable counterbalance with four settings (including none at all)
- Illuminated bubble level for easy set up for digiscoping
- Available in both aluminum and carbon fiber
- Five-year warranty
Cons of the Benro S Series S6
- Drag knob requires a firm grip
- Drag on the tilt is strong at the upper end – may not be ideal for all birders
Benro S Series: S8 – high poundage but lower load
The Benro S8 Video Head is more of a heavy-duty option, weighing in at 5.29 pounds (2.4 kg). The added weight provides improved stability compared to the S6. This makes it ideal for local birding, or where you don’t need to carry your kit over a long distance.
However, despite its significant weight, it has a lower maximum payload capacity of 8.8 pounds (4 kg). This may not be suitable for those looking to use it with larger, heavier spotting scopes.
It’s important to consider the trade-off between stability and portability when choosing between the S6 and S8. It may not be the best choice for those who are looking for a more portable and lightweight option.
Similar features to S6
The Benro S8 Video Head shares many similar features with the S6, such as the sliding quick release plate.
It also has a smooth 360-degree pan rotation. The drag on pan and tilt is also excellent, providing ample control for precise movement on the S8.
The large size of the head makes it an ideal fit for large and heavy spotting scope, or digiscoping setups with multiple accessories.
The S6 is great for outdoor shoots, however, the S8 is more specifically designed for photography work in a studio. While it could be used for birding, its heavier weight and sturdier construction make it ideal for more controlled environments where precision and stability are essential.
Perhaps at a pinch it would work for backyard birding or viewing from a location close to parking. In summary, the S8 is an excellent choice for those who need a heavy-duty video head that doesn’t need to be lugged very far.
The Benro S8 Video Head offers a great value for its price point. While it hasn’t got the advanced features and high-end performance of more expensive fluid heads, it still provides a lot of useful features and capabilities.
However, for professional videographers who demand the highest level of precision and performance, it may not meet their expectations. The S8 is an excellent option for those on a budget or those just starting out in digiscoping or videography, but the S6 is more well-suited for general birding.
Pros of the Benro S Series S8
- Improved stability compared to the S6
- Good for local birding where you don’t need to carry kit over a long distance
- Sliding quick release plate
- Smooth 360-degree pan rotation
- Excellent drag on pan and tilt, providing ample control for precise movement
- Bigger head size makes it an ideal fit for large and heavy spotting scope or digiscoping setups with multiple accessories
- Offers great value for its price point
Cons of the Benro S Series S8
- Lower maximum payload capacity of 8.8 pounds (4 kg) – may not be suitable for larger, heavier spotting scopes
- Heavier weight and sturdier construction make it less portable
- Less suited for general birding
- May not meet the expectations of professional birders who demand the highest level of precision and performance
What do the S Series all have in common?
All the Benro S series tripod heads have similar features that make them suitable for birding and bird watching.
They all use quick release plates with a slot for the mounting screw. This allows you to adjust the balance of your spotting scope by altering its position on the plate.
The plates also include an anti-rotation pin. But this can be pushed down if not needed. All the heads also have pan and tilt locks for added stability.
For panning, the S2 and S4 heads have a thin, one-piece handle. On the S6 and S8 this is upgraded to a two-piece extendable handle. Each pan handle has a foam-rubber coating which is comfortable and easier to grip in damp weather.
All the heads have locks on the pan and tilt mechanisms. There is also adjustable drag, which means the friction on the movement can be adjusted to make it harder or easier to move the head.
The drag has a minimal range, though. And, even with the locks completely off, it’s noticeably tricky to move the head smoothly without corresponding movement in the tripod.
This is especially true when the head is empty or has a light optics like a smaller scope on it. Even with a heavier spotting scope, you might need to hold the tripod still while moving the head. This is not ideal if you are trying to focus the scope at the same time.
Carry bags are included
The Benro S series tripods come with carrying bags that have a zipper, handles and detachable shoulder straps. Inside the bag, there are pockets to hold the pointed feet and tools, instructions, and the warranty card.
For the models with the illuminated bubble level, the S6 and S8, the pack also includes a spare battery and a little hex key to open the battery compartment.
Each of the heads in the S series has its own advantages and disadvantages, so it is important to consider your specific needs and budget before making a decision. While the heads can be purchased separately, the legs cannot.
In conclusion, the S2 is the most affordable and lightweight option, making it suitable for beginners or those on a tight budget.
The S4 is a great middle-ground option for those looking for more stability and capability than the S2, but not as heavy duty as the S6.
The S6 is the most advanced option and is suitable for professional birders or those who want the most advanced features and capability.
While the S-series Benro tripods and heads are lightweight and affordable, they may not be as sturdy or smooth as more expensive options of tripod heads. The ideal solution is to find a balance between stability, smoothness and cost that is not a compromise in portability and still works for you.
- 1 Key takeaways of this article
- 2 The Benro S Series in detail
- 3 Benro S Series: S2 – lightest and most affordable
- 4 Benro S Series: S4 – more stability but still relatively light
- 5 Benro S Series: S6 – heavy duty with extra features
- 6 Benro S Series: S8 – high poundage but lower load
- 7 What do the S Series all have in common?
- 8 Conclusion