Review: Benro Mammoth TMTH44C Tripod
“Wow, this thing is chonky!”
That was my first thought when I unzipped the case for the Benro Mammoth TMTH44C. Yeah, "Mammoth" is definitely the right word. While only 22.5" fully collapsed, its thick 36.2mm legs, large twist locks, and big systematic (read: modular) spider give the overwhelming impression of beefiness.
|B is for beefy|
The second thing I noticed? It's pretty sharp looking as tripods go. The carbon fiber legs have a cool diamond-patterned finish, and the machined aluminum fittings are anodized and polished very nicely. Instead of the stodgy black that 99% of tripods are clad in, the Mammoth is predominantly dark gray with a very slight blueish tint, and selected metal bits are silver colored, providing contrasting accents. Hardcore traditionalists might not dig it, but I do. It's different, without being garish.
The materials, fit, finish, and construction all seem first class. The leg hinges have nice damped action, and the leg locks rotate smoothly with no wiggle. The leg segments slide easily over each other, with no excess play between the segments. The joints between the leg segments are fit closely enough that you hear the air whooshing out from the top of the legs when you collapse them. There's just nothing shoddy on the Mammoth.
|3/8" accessory mounts seem nice, but there's really not much that fits in them|
Between each leg on the spider is a 3/8” accessory mount. They're a seemingly handy addition except there simply aren’t many 3/8” accessories available. 1/4" mounts would open up a much bigger ecosystem of accessories. On the other hand, a 3/8” mount can be easily and discreetly converted to 1/4” with an inexpensive reducer bushing, but the reverse conversion is more awkward. So I suppose Benro made the better choice.
|The case is pretty spiffy too|
Oh, I should mention the case is very nice as well. It's made of an attractive and rugged gray heather fabric, with plenty of high-density foam padding, high-quality YKK zippers, comfortable duffel-style carry handles, and a padded shoulder strap. The inside is lined with nylon, and there are tie-down straps for the tripod, an adjustable padded "helmet" area for an attached tripod head, and a generously-sized sleeve pocket to hold accessories. The only complaint I have with the case is that it's decidedly bulky, even considering the size of the Mammoth. The roomy size does allow you to carry additional stuff in the case and it's big enough to fit the matching Benro WH15 head (review forthcoming), which is pretty big for a still photography head.
|Your tripod head gets a padded helmet inside the case|
|Passengers wear both a helmet and seatbelts.|
|Super-long sleeve pocket for tools and other accessories|
In addition to the case, the Mammoth also includes a 75mm video bowl and both rubber and spiked feet. The feet are equipped with rubber o-rings to prevent water ingress. That's a nice touch. To support the systematic spider, Benro also offers (at extra cost) a flat platform base, a 75mm to 100mm bowl adapter, and an extendable center column. The center column provides an additional 14.3 inches of height and includes its own leveling base so you don't have to give up that capability by using it. It seems like a great add-on if you need the extra height, but I'm good with the standard setup and prefer it's lower minimum height and greater stability.
|There's an o-ring of the base of the screw to prevent water from getting in the tripod|
From a usability standpoint, when a leg is fulled collapsed, you can grab all of its locks at once and with a single quarter-twist, loosen or tighten all of them, making the tripod pretty fast to set up and tear down. The angle and leg locks work well with positive engagement and zero slippage.
|Grab a handful of knobs and a quarter twist is all it takes to unfurl the legs|
Despite the name, the video bowl is extremely useful for still photography and has quickly become one of my favorite features. It pivots very smoothly up to 15° in any direction and locks solidly in place using a short-handled clamp on the underside of the spider. It's super useful for leveling the tripod without having to painstakingly adjust each leg. With the tripod leveled, the head will pan on a level plane, which is essential for capturing panoramas or video pans. To level the tripod with the video bowl, however, also requires a bubble level on the base of the head. The WH15 head has one, but it's not a common feature on ball heads, which tend to come with levels on the clamp but not on the base. I think Benro should have put a bubble level on the video bowl itself, which would have made the feature usable with any head.
|The video bowl (the half-round thing under the head) provides 15° of rotation in any direction and locks in place by tightening the handle under the spider|
|The bowl levels the head very quickly, but you'll need a bubble level on the head to do it|
The Mammoth's height is pretty much ideal for me. I'm 6'2" and with the Mammoth fully extended to 63 inches, and a proportionally-sized head on top, it puts my camera's viewfinder about 5" or 6” above eye level. That’s the perfect height for shooting upwards without having to contort my body to peer through the viewfinder. It also provides a bit of extra length to accommodate modestly inclined surfaces. But it's not so tall that I feel like I'm carrying a bunch of extra weight all the time to get height that I will only use every once in a while.
|Mr. Chonky at full mast|
The first photos I took using the Mammoth were a pretty good tripod workout: high-magnification macro shots, including some input images for focus stacking. If you've shot 1:1 before, or with very long focal lengths, you know that the magnification amplifies every little movement of the camera, making it a very jittery experience. My initial impression was that the Mammoth is the most stable tripod I’ve used, and many sessions later I haven't changed my mind on that. All that size and girth have to count for something and this is it.
|Rock-steady at high magnification|
|Making easy work of macro|
Benro rates the Mammoth's payload capacity at 55 pounds. That's impressive on the surface, but weight capacity specs are notoriously meaningless. What I will say is this: Short of a large telescope rig, whatever still photography camera and lens you want to put on top, I'd be very surprised if Mr. Chonky couldn't handle it. And it'll probably handle that big telescope rig as well.
|For scale, this is how thick the legs are in my big mitts|
I have gotten to do some airline traveling with the Mammoth. The size makes this less convenient than with a travel tripod of course, but it's completely doable. It will fit in your checked lugged, especially if you remove the tripod head. Alternatively, the case is great for carry-on travel but, as I mentioned, it's bulky. If you put it under the seat in front of you on a plane, the length of it will extend out into the walking area in front of your seat which airlines don't like. That said, I haven't yet been asked yet to move it. And obviously you can put it in the overhead bin if you want to as well.
I did a couple of simple and reversible customizations to my Mammoth. First, I put a reflective slap bracelet on each leg for night visibility. On the beach or near a road, I'm always terrified somebody in a car is not going to see me and run me over. It's also helpful for keeping me from tripping on my tripod's legs. I like slap bracelets more than reflective tape because they don't mar the tripod's finish. I also installed a D-ring in one of the Mammoth's accessory mounts. When I get to a location, I detach the strap from the case, attach one end to the D-ring and the other end to a small nylon dog collar that I loop around the end of the tripod legs. Voilà, a tripod strap without having to carry yet another strap! It works perfectly and nobody's aware that I have a dog collar on my tripod because it looks exactly like something you'd get from a camera strap company (at a fraction of the price)!
|D-ring added. Underneath, there's a 3/8" to 1/4" reducer bushing.|
|Nighttime protection from careless drivers and stumble-prone photographers|
The Mammoth is a good tripod. I mean really good. This thing looks, feels, and operates like a superbly crafted, precision instrument. Because it is. There’s really nothing significant to fault with its design, build, or quality of materials. At $350, the Mammoth is so good it might make you wonder why high-end tripods cost so damn much.
|With the matching WH15 head|