They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so, maybe zoom straight to the photos to see the Hydra 2 in action and some of the resulting images taken using it.
The new Benro Induro Hydra 2 is described as an “innovative waterproof travel tripod caters to adventurous outdoor photographers needing a rugged all-weather support system for their camera gear. The Hydra 2 waterproof tripod provides maximum stability, in a compact, reverse-folding design, perfect for the traveling photographer.”
Lots of techno jargon, but how does it fair in the real world of adventurous photography, in the mountains and water margins?
Traditionally, reviews seem to take a long time and it’s understandable that those involved want to give it their best effort. However, sometimes something is so clear cut that any further delay in the review process would be needless prevarication.
The fact that I’m writing this review of the Benro Induro Hydra 2 tripod a fortnight after it’s arrival should tell you a couple of things. Firstly, that I’m seriously impressed and secondly that I’ve had plenty of time for photography.
Bridgette, my wife, has been away visiting friends and family so there’s been lots of time for photo opportunities. Being “Home Alone” meant I was able to fit in photography as and when the weather did or didn’t play ball. Being based in Glen Brittle, at the foot of the Cuillin, means lots of mountains within walking distance. Not only did I get into the mountains but also into local rivers (literally) and coastal locations so a diverse range of scenarios that played well to the Hyrda’s strengths.
A fortnight may not seem like long but for twelve of those days, I’ve been out with the new tripod. Some days were just local waterfalls, indeed within an hour of the Hydra’s arrival both it and I were deep in a local river putting theory into practice. Subsequent trips included three 0300 starts to be on 900 meter peaks in the Black Cuillin for sunrise. Ditto for a 700 meter peak in the Red Cuillin. Day two of Hydra ownership saw a well early o’clock start to be on the summit of Sgurr na Stri for sunrise. This involved a round trip of 24 kilometers, 500 metres of ascent. Again, it was another night time ascent by headtorch. Then there was local beach photography and a trip round to Elgol to get a photo of the famous Joe Cornish Boulder being lashed by waves, spray blowing everywhere.
You’re probably getting a good idea of my preferred genres of photography, namely wild mountainscapes and the water margins be they coast, river or loch. All are beautiful environments and much of that beauty makes for a torture test for camera kit and outdoor gear in general. Abrasive rocks like gabbro, endless scree slopes, dust and dirt on land whilst the water margins have the added hazard of salt and fresh water, sand and spray.
My ideal tripod would be lightweight, compact, tough and bombproof and, of course ultra stable. Cheap would be good as well, but that’s not going to happen. To be honest, if gear works, if it helps me get on with my job and is built to last then the price isn’t of too great a concern. I can rationalise costs as a business expense. Also, the amount I use my gear brings the cost per day down to very little, assuming it lasts the course.
First impressions were great. The usual Benro quality product, well packaged and well designed. The tripod comes with a nice padded case and strap and a bunch of accessories including a choice of rubber or spiked feet. The tripod is well thought out for use in the outdoors where things are often cold and/or wet with rain, sleet, hail and snow thrown into the equation. The metal twist locks on the legs are nice and chunky and easy to use when wearing gloves and in adverse conditions. Ditto the lock for the centre column.
What’s the big deal about a waterproof tripod, I hear you ask? After all, this is a big selling point of the Hydra 2. The obvious big plus point is if you operate anywhere where water is prevalent then you don’t have to worry about the tripod getting wet. You can happily place the Hydra in a river or loch safe in the knowledge that the tripod legs won’t get wet internally. Now, this probably doesn’t sound like any big deal but anyone who regularly works near or in the water will know the problems associated with water ingress. With conventional tripod, immersion in water will completely soak the interior of the legs and means a time consuming strip down of the tripod soon afterwards so that things can be dried out. Failure to dry out a tripod will lead to all manner of problems with damp, mold and material damage.
Usually, with my other Benro tripods I’ll strip them completely if they’ve been in water. Then I’ll rinse them off to remove any dust or dirt or (especially) salt water before drying them with a cloth and leaving them to completely dry overnight before reassembling them next day. To be honest, it’s a bit of a pain but, until now, a necessary evil to be overcome if I want to work in water.
The Hydra just stays dry no matter how deep in the water you put it. An impressive series of baffles and seals completely prevents water ingress. Just sliding the legs open or closed, you can feel a bit of resistance from the seals and a whoosh of air as the joints are so tightly sealed. This may sound like a pain but it doesn’t impinge on the usability or speed of set up.
The sealing is extremely comprehensive as I found when I removed the rubber feet to replace them with the supplied metal spikes. The threaded ends that screw into the base of the legs have small rubber rings to prevent any water ingress around the threads. A few simple shoots in local rivers convinced me of the waterproofness of the legs and it was nice to come home and not to have to disassemble and dry the Hydra 2.
Another reason I like the waterproof legs is for general weather proofing. Often in winter I’ll set off at very early o’clock to be on a mountain summit for sunrise. It may well be snowing higher up but I might have to ascend through rain. In the past, rain has soaked tripods, working its way, driven by high winds, into the legs and locking mechanisms. Then, as I’ve ascended, the water has frozen making the tripod virtually impossible to use since the legs would be locked solid in a closed position. No such worries with the Hydra and on two of the early approaches, both me and the tripod were soaked with rain low down but even on the summit with a wind chill factor of perhaps minus 10 degrees, the Hydra operated perfectly. To me, this facility is even more use than the ability to immerse the tripod deep in water. It makes my life easier and is one less thing to worry about in an extreme environment.
The reverse folding design makes for a small packed size which is great especially in the mountains where I might be climbing and scrambling in the dark. The neatly packed size is less likely to snag on things and also enables it to be easily stowed so as to keep the packs centre of gravity as close in to my back as possible, an important point when teetering up ice on crampons or scrambling up ridges.
The small packed size is pretty incredible and when folded away is only 42.4 cm long yet it opens up to a maximum height of 153 cm with the centre column extended. As I initially looked at the tripod I did wonder how stable it would be and I could see myself maybe not extending the lowest leg section which looked rather small in diameter. However, I’ve been amazed at how sturdy the tripod has been and have used it with fully extended legs. The results have been great; really sharp exposures even at long exposures of 30 seconds. Similarly sharp photos have been taken on the mountain tops with a short telephoto lens (85mm).
Out of interest, and because of contact with salt water, I did take the Hydra apart. After a day shooting at Elgol when waves battered the famous Joe Cornish Boulder, both me an dmy camera gear were soaked by salt water. Just to be on the safe side, I decided to disassemble it and rinse everything off, salt water being a real no no to both carbon fibre and the metallic components. If it had been fresh water then I wouldn’t have bothered, safe in the knowledge that no water would have got inside. With the salt water, I wasn’t sure how the salt crystals might have formed on the legs then bene introduced to the interior. Note the complex design and amount of separate parts so if you do this then take care and keep a note of what goes where.
There’s a few novel touches that I really like. Most tripods come with a bunch of different allen keys and spanners to tighten/loosen various bits and pieces. The Hydra comes with three built in allen keys so you always have them with you. Most useful is the hook for hanging a bag on below the centre column which doubles up as two different sized allen keys, one of which can tighten the fixings where the legs join the main body. Ideas such as this might seem insignificant but they are really practical and a nice touch.
The Hydra is carbon fibre so has a great strength to weight ratio and has taken all the bad weather and conditions thrown at it the last couple of weeks. It has performed faultlessly and is a welcome addition to my camera gear and I can see it being a companion on many future adventures yet to come.
1. Totally water and weather proof. Not just this but also by default dust and dirt proof which is an added bonus for mountain and seascape photography where sand and grit abound.
2. Stable and sturdy, in fact more so than appearances would initially suggest. Even in the highest winds, it proved stable and the shots were nice and sharp with no hint of the tripod moving. I like the easily adjusted leg angles so it’s simple to brace the tripod against the prevailing wind and weather.
3. Compact size when packed. It’s reverse design means it’s small enough to put in my pack in really bad weather (although I’d swap the spiked feet for the rubber ones).
4. Well thought out design with some nice extras like the built in allen keys.
5. A simple and honest design with no unnecessary gimmicks. A pet hate of mine is the idea of a removable tripod leg that doubles as a monopod. Nothing like this on the Hydra which is pared to the bone, a minimalist machine designed for outdoor adventures in any weather.
1.The only real down side is the cost of £450 but if you want a waterproof tripod then there aren’t many competitors. Think of it as a top of the range tripod with the addition of waterproofing.
2. It’s a shame it doesn’t come in a kit with a head. It worked really well with the Benro VX30 from my Benro Rhino tripod.
Not really a minus point but just be careful when tightening up the leg locks. Due to all the seals etc they really need doing up tightly. Once you realise this, it’s not a problem but the first time I put it up (indoors) one of the legs slowly collapsed. Just tighten them a bit more than your usual tripod and all’s good.
Despite only using the Hydra for a fortnight, I feel it’s really been put through it’s paces and helped me get some shots I really like. The photos should give an idea of the environment the Hydra has proved it’s worth in from sea level to mountain summit, from river to rocky peaks. The jury’s obviously out on long term durability and such like but if it’s anything like my other Benro gear then it should last for years even if worked hard. One of my Benro tripods (TMA28C) must be approaching five years of hard graft and still performs faultlessly.
It was tempting to hold off on writing a review but the Hydra has lived up to my expectations. Any delay would be pointless since I’ve already put it through the scenarios I envisioned it being used for. Conditions on Skye have been dire but the arrival of the Hydra motivated me to get out in some poor weather and luckily enough I was in the right place at the right time to get quite a few photos that I’m pleased with. Feeling really happy not just with the Hydra but the fact it helped motivated me to get out quite intensively over the last couple of weeks.
Many thanks to all the team at Benro UK for supplying such quality gear and especially to the main man, Mark Hoskins.
The Hydra 2 on top of the Red Cuillin for sunrise
The resulting photo
The Hydra 2
The Hydra 2, packaging and padded case
Wet work...the natural environment for the Hydra 2
Me and the Hydra 2 in a local river
The Hydra 2 in a local river
The Hydra 2 on top of Sgurr na Stri for sunrise.
The "Joe Cornish Boulder" at Elgol. High winds, spray everywhere and breaking waves; all in all, a bit of a torture test for the tripod and camera gea
Pre sunrise colour in the skies over Sgurr nan Gillian. View from Sgurr na Stri.
The Hydra 2 on Sgurr na Stri
Sunrise view looking to Am Bastier and the Bhastier Tooth. Photo taken after a night time ascent by head torch light.
Waterfall in a river flowing into Loch Coruisk.
Sunrise light hitting parts of the Red Cuillin
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