S&S Archery is constantly looking for high quality, lightweight, yet durable backcountry gear. Every once in awhile we strike gold. Finding a product that meets our requirements is rare, but when you throw in a great price, it almost never happens! Recently we found one that delivers performance, is lightweight AND has a great price.For backcountry hunters, the Benro S2 Video head is the perfect balance of weight, performance, durability and cost. When you’re carrying everything you have on your back 4 + miles into the backcountry, weight becomes very important. While there are lighter heads out there, no head that we have found can match the S2 in performance and price. Rated to handle 5.5lbs, the Benro S2 will handle pretty much any spotter or binocular setup that you would dare haul in with you.The $85 Benro S2 claims a weight of less than 1lb. Here at the S&S Archery "lab" however, we found the actual weight to be 18 oz, including the 1.6oz adapter plate, and the 2.4 oz handle. My guess is that they are not including the weight of the handle and adapter plate. Ounce counters can find savings in swapping out the handle for a carbon fiber rod, or a sawed off arrow. But for me, having the longer handle allows more leverage when making those fine tune adjustments.
Very few heads in this price range or even double this price range have what i call a “friction point”. For most the friction point is not important, but I wanted to point out that while it's small on the S2, it IS there. The friction point as defined by me as that point where you can tilt the head and have it stop without having to lock it down. Obviously, this is harder with larger spotting scopes, but for my Vortex Razor 65mm, and my FOR bino adapter mounted Swaro SLC 10x42’s it is there. Higher end heads (read heavier and more expensive) will have a “friction point” that is much easier to find. For you lucky guys who run an 80mm or larger scope, you’re probably not going to find it on the S2. And there is a tipping point at which any scope's weight will break the S2’s friction point going over the top or pointing sharply up. There is a friction point on the pan side of the head as well however, that's not as important as the tilt.
Locking down the S2 is, in my opinion, its strong point. The vertical lock down allows you to glass at low magnification freely. When you find an object that you'd like a closer look at, or when you need to switch to your phone scope, you can center the object in your field of view, lock the head down and zoom in exactly where you left it. No need for correction. Lesser heads force you to lock down the head and do the "freeze your hands" dance as you wait to see where it's going to land, and then repeating until its where you want it. The horizontal lock down on the S2, while not as important as the vertical, is not as perfect. When locking down, there is a bit of travel to the right. However this is a somewhat predictable shift, so with a little bit of practice, you can overcome.
Pan and tilt on the S2 are smooth. Again for this price point, being a fluid head, it's very smooth. I found that by adding just a touch of friction (turning the tilt lock) can increase the smooth feel of the head.
Included on the base is a built-in bubble level. Not super important on the side of a hill unless you're filming. But it's nice to have none the less.
The handle can be twisted to change its angle. This allows the head to fold down nicely against the tripod, and also to adjust out of the way when you're right up close to your spotter. The handle can also be switched to the other side of the head.
The sliding adapter plate locks into place and has a safety lock to keep the plate in place in case you forget to lock it down.
One feature that is frequently overlooked is the sliding adapter plate. The plate can slide forward and back to find the balance point for your spotter. This can keep the spotter from wanting to tilt up or back when not locked down tightly. One disappointing flaw was found when I attached a DSLR camera to the adapter plate and tried to tighten down the lock. It turns out that the lever to lock down the plate will not turn if the device attached to the plate overlaps the lever. HOWEVER, it was recently pointed out to me that the lever can be pulled out, turned and tightened while not interfeering with the device attached to the plate. SWEET!