Benro GD3WH Geared Head Review
Updated: May 22
So it's review time again and this time its the turn of the Benro GD3WH geared head.
So why have I bought yet another tripod head I hear you ask, especially after I gave the Benro B4 such a glowing review ?
Well its mainly down to my new love of shooting panoramas, at least that was the catalyst for buying it was anyway.
The B4 was and still is a suburb head for 90% of what I shoot, its great quality, its super easy and fast to use so where's the problem ? Precision, it simply doesn't have the level of precision that I required.
When I started shooting panoramas it quickly became apparent that now matter how careful I was with getting the ball head straight I would still never have it bang on and the picture would suffer for it so I started looking at ways to overcome the problem, Thats when I saw geared heads and started to read more.
There are several different companies who make these but I make no secret of my love for Benro products that I have purchased so it was only really them who I was willing to get one from as I trusted their products 100%.
The point of a geared head is that you can adjust precisely on three different axis to make sure everything is 100% level so when you pan you don't get any situations where your shot goes a bit wonky, panorama photographers will know exactly what I mean here.
The head in question needed to have an area style plate in order to fit my L bracket, and the fact that I really like that way of mounting as well as it gave me far more scope to fit other items to it rather than with a plate that only works with one companies equipment.
Benro uses the Arca out system, so after a bit more research it was purchased.
The Benro GD3WH has an RRP of £179.99 so its not a cheap item but If you shop around you can find them a bit cheaper, but its a really well made head and you can appreciate why its this price.
The design is a familiar one as all geared three way heads seem to follow it for good reason but the body is a robust and durable magnesium alloy construction designed to be a real work horse but to maintain light weight and corrosion free qualities.
The weight of this head is 740 grams with a load capacity of up to 6 kilos so it will easily cope with most camera and lens set ups, whilst this is the manufactures limit I felt it could easily cope with me
The Benro GD3WH geared head has three individual spirit levels on each axis too so you can be absolutely sure that you are level no matter what.
The head comes with a Arca style plate in the box so if you don't have one it won't matter as you will be ready to go and if you do have one then its great to have a spare maybe for a lens mount ring instead.
Benro offer a 2 year warranty with a direct purchase from any shop but they will give you a 5 year warranty with themselves if you register the product with them which takes mere seconds to do, 5 years peace of mind is pretty dam good.
If you have a flat base on your tripod (ie no centre column) with a combination platform then you will need to get a Benro GDHAD1 Geared Head Adaptor which will cost you around £20 RRP and this enables the head to be seated higher up so the controls aren't blocked by the tripod head on models like Gitzo tripods (I needed one of these myself) worth bearing in mind as it will add an extra cost to your geared head albeit a small one.
Ive been using the Benro GD3WH for roughly a year now so I think I've got a pretty good measure of its performance, here are my findings on it.
First thing I noticed is its a little bit heavier than a ball head, stands to reason really as its bigger and much more to it but not so heavy that its a problem.
If you are used to a ball head and the speed of which you can recompose then its a bit of a shock when you use the geared head and its so much slower, even with the quick releases as you're adjusting three axis individually rather than with the ball head where its one lever and done, but that's not the point of a geared head so its something you accept as the trade off of precision is worth more than speed.
The operation is very simple, 3 twist geared knobs allow you to adjust panning (left to right), level (Side to side) & up and down.
These knobs are geared so absolute micro adjustment can be made to each axis so your composition is absolutely spot on or completely level for a panorama.
The knobs can have the gearing disengaged by twisting the front end geared thumb wheel so you can have complete freedom of movement on any one axis at one time so this does make it really quite fast to adjust, but remember you would need to do adjust all three to get your desired composition unless of course you were just adjusting to pan for example.
The spirit levels really do come in handy on each axis and I constantly find myself checking them, chances are if you have purchased a geared head them you will be a precision monster anyway so this really was useful.
The Benro GD3WH feels like a really well made beast of a head and it looks and feels like it could take a real beating (Not that we ever intend to treat our gear badly) but knocks and accidents do happen and Im no exception and I so far haven't even made a scratch on this head despite slipping over several times while its been on my back pack and letting it rattle around in my boot it still looks brand new.
So the main reason for using it, the precision. I could bang on for ages padding this review out about it but there's simply no need, getting straight to the point the Benro GD3WH is the most precise tripod head I have ever used and the micro adjustment makes it able to perform in ways that no other style head can match.
It has made my compositions that much sharper in terms of the attention I can put into them and the level of control I have over them and being a geared head it will never suffer from lens creep like some ball heads, and you never get the nightmare situation of carefully composing and then tightening up the ball head only to find your composition has changed by a fraction and from that point the geared head is an absolute joy and tops a ball head my miles.
The quick release plate is an Arca style so its quick and simple to use and the twist knob feels exceptionally secure and I never ever felt it could give me any problems, it grips like a vice.
I have seen no signs of corrosion on the GD3WH at all despite using it at the coast often and not always giving it a clean after, it really does seem bullet proof.
Im not really sure what else I can say about this head other than I absolutely love it and it has now taken over as my tripod head of choice for pretty much every element of my landscape photography, the precision is unrivalled and the quality is superb.
Should you buy one ?
Well if you're in the market for a geared head then absolutely yes, its a fantastic product and represents really good value for money.
If you're a ball head user and you have no problem with it then no its not going to improve your photography as such other than bringing more precision to it.
The customer this is aimed at is the photographer who wants and indeed needs absolute precision and micro adjustment such as the panorama photographer or just someone who who wants complete absolute control of their composition, and again if this is you then yes its an absolute must in my opinion.
I simply couldn't be happier with mine and can't see myself ever needing to change it other than if it were to break and being built like a tank and a five year warranty I can't see that happening either.
Value For Money 09/10
Ease of Use 08/10
TOTAL 45/50 90%
As usual all of my reviews are on items I have paid my own hard earned cash for.
I am in no way connected or influenced by Benro, Just my honest review.
You can read my review of the Benro B4 Ball head HERE