Is this the Ultimate Budget Travel Tripod combo?


Dec 31, 2005
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PLANET EARTH
#1
It seems that the debate will never be settled as to what constitutes the perfect travel tripod and head. It may even seem to be a pyhsics impossibility to have a rock solid tripod yet light and portable enough for daily use (and wear and tear). Anyone who has tried to research this question online will invariably discover that forums all over will recommend the Gitzo GT1541 traveller with a Markins Q3 ballhead. That combo easily cost over S$1200 (my last recollection). I like the GT1541 for its size and weight but it is not as stable as I want a travel tripod to be.

But because I could not find the illusive alternative, I had all but convinced myself that the Gitzo-Markins was the only combo which had the size and weight issue balanced. Until of course the day I went shopping with a fellow photograher friend of mine. I found by pure coincidence a Photo Clam ballhead at Gin Photo (importer of Photo Clam goods) and discovered SIRUI tripods at TK Photo.

I read about Photo Clam heads about 7 months ago but only had a chance to see it this month. I was since informed that its being sold at several retail outlets. I was shown the 33 which is rated for 30kg (but I suspect its performance envelope is more like 20kg). I tested the head at Gin's invitation and was very much impressed. I have the Markins Q10 and absolutely enjoy using it and recommend it highly to anyone who is looking for a serious pro head. But now having used the Photo Clam 33, the brand clearly is a good alternative to Markins. At least the 33 compared to the Q3.

Having bought the head, I followed my friend over to TK photo as he was looking for a camera bag. I was introduced to the SIRUI tripods by James (the chap running the place). I tested two models from SIRUI and compared it to the GITZO GT1541 and was impressed by several aspects of the Chinese made tripod.

First, the tripod quality of materials and fit and finish is yards better than Benro. I would invite those looking for a tripod to do this test:
Open out the tripod legs to its maximum extension and press down on the top of the tripod with your left hand and at the same time, use your right hand to hold the middle of one leg and try to move it back and forth. Even though the tripod may be carbon fibre (one of the most rigid materials), poor quality tripods tend to have a lot more movement which is amplified by the poor construction of the joints. Clearly such movement is impossible to erradicate completely but the better made tripods control this problem far better. The SIRUI was a complete surprise in how rigid it was - always remembering that its a small travel tripod, the volume of movement is the key. SIRUI had several travel tripod models and I decided for the thickest tubes with 8X Carbon Figre. The T2205X. Its slightly heavier and wider than the T1204 (identical GT1541 copy). I was also compelled by the price being $100 cheaper!

My SIRUI and Photo Clam combination came up to less than $550 with a performance specs of the GITZO+Markins Combo - at more than double the cost.

Over the past week I have used my new set up for a night shoot as well as product macro shots which I have linked below. I will let my images tell the rest of the story in terms of finish and materials of the two products.

The tripod is amazingly short when folded. The only trade off for this model is that its total diameter is 30% more than the T1204. This was a fine trade off for me because the T2205 is a much more stable tripod.





Fully extended without the column its sufficiently tall enough to use.



The T205 comes with built in spikes under the rubber feet.





The ballhead fitted onto the tripod.









Personally I am very pleased with this tripod and ball head combination. A serendipity discovery of two products that married together provided a fantastic but yet affordable alternative to the Gitzo Markins combo.

BTW the SIRUI tripod comes with a nicely made padded case which allowed me to fit and carry the ballhead and tripod without any problems.

POST SCRIPT - Did I mention this tripod comes with a SIX YEAR WARRANTY?

[NOTE - I do not work for nor have been paid by either Photo Clam or SIRUI - or their local retailers to do this very amatuer review!]
 

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Dec 31, 2005
479
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PLANET EARTH
#2
Here are two shots taken with the combo (long expsures).

A midnight shot of the Marina Bay





A product shot of a pair of Patek Philippe cuff links



BTW this is the spec sheet for the SIRUI tripod:

http://www.zssirui.com/EN/frm_ProductInfo_En.aspx?ProductID=64


NOTE - The Gitzo GT1541 max height without the centre column is 113cm. Max weight capacity is 8 kg. Weights 0.97kg.
Has only 6X carbon fibre.
 

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An drew

Senior Member
May 27, 2005
3,920
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#3
You have been looking for a value travel tripod for so long and finally your wait has been fruitful.

I was shown the Sirui tripod by James (TK) last year and was duly impressed. As for the travel ballhead, smoothness is not as critical as for a bigger ballhead, so I think the Photo Clam should be more than adequate.

So thanks for sharing with us what could very well be the best budget travel tripod combo.
 

aspenx

New Member
Aug 10, 2008
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#7
Sorry for the noob question. Is this ballhead compatible with the Arca-Swiss system? (Since you're considering it an alternative to the Q3)
 

SHLEW

New Member
Oct 22, 2009
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Teck Whye
#8
Hi Canonized,
I've just sold my Serui T1204 tripod with Serui G10 head.
I bought this set from TK, initially for my Lumix GF-1 camera.
Later I changed my GF-1 to the G-1 as I find that the G-1 with
an articulated LCD and inbuilt EVF is a better camera to play with.

The reason that I disposed of the Serui is because when I attached
the fully extended Lumix 45-200mm lens to the G-1 camera, I had difficulty
keeping the camera assembly stable. When I use manual focusing,
the electronically magnified image in the EVF will drift down, meaning,
the ball head cannot hold the long cantilevered camera assembly still.
Of course, another way is to have a bracket to mount on the lens body
instead of at the base of the camera such as those long lenses of Canon, Nikon.
But I think presently, there is no bracket available for my lens.

I am searching for another tripod assembly. With your experience with
the combination of the Serui T2205 and Clam 33 ballhead, would you think that
there would be no problem of a cantilevered camera assembly drifting?

Thank you.
 

2evans

New Member
Nov 8, 2007
1,862
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#10
Hi Canonized,
I've just sold my Serui T1204 tripod with Serui G10 head.
I bought this set from TK, initially for my Lumix GF-1 camera.
Later I changed my GF-1 to the G-1 as I find that the G-1 with
an articulated LCD and inbuilt EVF is a better camera to play with.

The reason that I disposed of the Serui is because when I attached
the fully extended Lumix 45-200mm lens to the G-1 camera, I had difficulty
keeping the camera assembly stable. When I use manual focusing,
the electronically magnified image in the EVF will drift down, meaning,
the ball head cannot hold the long cantilevered camera assembly still.
Of course, another way is to have a bracket to mount on the lens body
instead of at the base of the camera such as those long lenses of Canon, Nikon.
But I think presently, there is no bracket available for my lens.

I am searching for another tripod assembly. With your experience with
the combination of the Serui T2205 and Clam 33 ballhead, would you think that
there would be no problem of a cantilevered camera assembly drifting?

Thank you.
Tripod collar on the lens would be certainly help, but since this is a lens designed for compactness, I doubt there is one.

Seems like you need a bigger/stronger ballhead or perhaps you could have been creative and created your own counter-balance. :)
 

Dec 31, 2005
479
0
16
PLANET EARTH
#11
how much is the ballhead itself
I paid a good price for it and it was a package deal with another ballhead so Gin gave me a very good discount. I did promise him that I will not quote the price. In any case, call round to several dealers to get the best price - K13 and Orient carries them.


care to share how much is the tripod itself, w/o the ballhead?
The T2205X was purchased at $290 at TK Photo. Truly a bargain. Get them before they run out or price increases. I also found out when I dropped by Orient that they also carry them but at a higher price.

Sorry for the noob question. Is this ballhead compatible with the Arca-Swiss system? (Since you're considering it an alternative to the Q3)
Yes they are. I would recommend a PhotoClam QR plate as well. Its very well made, small and inexpensive as well. ALso you can attach your leather strap onto it.

Hi Canonized,
I've just sold my Serui T1204 tripod with Serui G10 head.
I bought this set from TK, initially for my Lumix GF-1 camera.
Later I changed my GF-1 to the G-1 as I find that the G-1 with
an articulated LCD and inbuilt EVF is a better camera to play with.

The reason that I disposed of the Serui is because when I attached
the fully extended Lumix 45-200mm lens to the G-1 camera, I had difficulty
keeping the camera assembly stable. When I use manual focusing,
the electronically magnified image in the EVF will drift down, meaning,
the ball head cannot hold the long cantilevered camera assembly still.
Of course, another way is to have a bracket to mount on the lens body
instead of at the base of the camera such as those long lenses of Canon, Nikon.
But I think presently, there is no bracket available for my lens.

I am searching for another tripod assembly. With your experience with
the combination of the Serui T2205 and Clam 33 ballhead, would you think that
there would be no problem of a cantilevered camera assembly drifting?

Thank you.
This is the one reason I NEVER buy tripod branded ballheads. Not even Manfrotto or Gitzo. The problem you described is called ball head creep. This is why if you did a careful search online and reviews by all the pros - none of them that does money shoots will ever use anything but the best types of heads. Arca Swiss, Markins and Really Right Stuff are what most people swear by.

During my early years a friend of mine gave me a brand new Benro tripod & head combo. It looked good .... but.... when I placed my 20D with a 70-200 F2.8 IS on it, the head actually creeped. It was a disaster. Honestly, so far the Chinese cannot match the Koreans in copying the top quality ballheads. Only Kangrinponce somes close but still a shade below Markins (but almost the same price).

Right at this moment - I would recommend Markins and Photoclam as alternative to Arca Swiss. You really must test your combo lens and camera with the tripod and head in the shop for at least 20mins to make sure it can do the job. Put the camera and lens on the head and tripod and shoot at f22 with a polariser and shoot at an object at least 15 feet away at ISO100. The long exposure will show up whether the whole set up is stable and whether there was creep.

BTW I am not familiar with the Lumix zoom you mentioned or how big/heavy it is. So you need to buy the head for the size of your gear.
 

kino2

New Member
Apr 16, 2008
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0
#12
Where can I find the photo clam ballheads in singapore?
 

SHLEW

New Member
Oct 22, 2009
965
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Teck Whye
#13
Thank you for the excellent tips on tripod and ballhead and how to carry out tests.
Regards.
LEW
 

Daoyin

Senior Member
Nov 25, 2008
2,808
6
38
West
#14
Originally Posted by LifeInMacro
care to share how much is the tripod itself, w/o the ballhead?​
The T2205X was purchased at $290 at TK Photo. Truly a bargain. Get them before they run out or price increases. I also found out when I dropped by Orient that they also carry them but at a higher price.
==================================================================

I called TK Photo today and was informed a 2205 standalone is $430/=. When inclusive of G20, it is $510/=.
 

Dec 31, 2005
479
0
16
PLANET EARTH
#15
Originally Posted by LifeInMacro
care to share how much is the tripod itself, w/o the ballhead?​
The T2205X was purchased at $290 at TK Photo. Truly a bargain. Get them before they run out or price increases. I also found out when I dropped by Orient that they also carry them but at a higher price.
==================================================================

I called TK Photo today and was informed a 2205 standalone is $430/=. When inclusive of G20, it is $510/=.
$140 price jump? If this is true, its most unfortunate.
I did not realise that they would raise their prices so quickly. If I had known, I would not have written this review giving others false hope of getting it at a bargain price. I can imagine the disappointment for some looking to buy this tripod.

In that case, I would seriously reconsider the combo as the price is now at a premium and out of budget for many. Its still could possibly be described as a cheaper alternative to the Gitzo-Markins combo but at this price, it not a cheap alternative (the differential is narrowed a fair bit). Nonetheless, its still a great combo for the price I paid.


Having said that - this is yet another reason why I resist publishing prices for reviews. I do wish I kept to my personal rule and not mentioned it at all. That's the absolute last time I will make the price public.
 

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Raptor1

New Member
Sep 29, 2003
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kr.sg
#16
Didn't realised that the GT2205EX increased the price by quite a bit. I am using it with a Markins Q3. Good travel setup i believe.
 

ManWearPants

Senior Member
Jul 14, 2008
4,198
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0
Singapore
#17
The reason that I disposed of the Serui is because when I attached
the fully extended Lumix 45-200mm lens to the G-1 camera, I had difficulty
keeping the camera assembly stable. When I use manual focusing,
the electronically magnified image in the EVF will drift down, meaning,
the ball head cannot hold the long cantilevered camera assembly still.
Hi, it is just the ballhead creep. I don't think it has anything to do with the tripod. BTW, I am also using the 1204 but with Q3T. No creep whatsoever.

The 1204 is lightweight and hence ideal for travel. However, being lightweight, it may not be stable enough in harsh weather conditions. So there is trade-off between portability and stability.
 

Raptor1

New Member
Sep 29, 2003
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#18
I believe it has to do with the G10 ballhead, as commented in previous SIRUI thread. The general consensus is to get the G20 ballhead, which is much better.
 

Dec 31, 2005
479
0
16
PLANET EARTH
#19
Didn't realised that the GT2205EX increased the price by quite a bit. I am using it with a Markins Q3. Good travel setup i believe.
Hi Raptor
Could you let us know how much you paid for your tripod and when you bought yours? Thanks!

It looks like the early adopters got a great deal. On the other hand, there could have been a mistake on the price quote as the T1204/T1205 is actually costlier than the T2205.

Cheers
 

Daoyin

Senior Member
Nov 25, 2008
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#20
$140 price jump? If this is true, its most unfortunate.
I did not realise that they would raise their prices so quickly. If I had known, I would not have written this review giving others false hope of getting it at a bargain price. I can imagine the disappointment for some looking to buy this tripod.

In that case, I would seriously reconsider the combo as the price is now at a premium and out of budget for many. Its still could possibly be described as a cheaper alternative to the Gitzo-Markins combo but at this price, it not a cheap alternative (the differential is narrowed a fair bit). Nonetheless, its still a great combo for the price I paid.


Having said that - this is yet another reason why I resist publishing prices for reviews. I do wish I kept to my personal rule and not mentioned it at all. That's the absolute last time I will make the price public.
To start off, I must thank you for writing the review. I, too, have been struggling with the same problem of getting a suitable travel triopod and I wouldn't have known about the ballhead otherwise. A review without pricing indications will be incomplete as the intended readers would be better off having sufficient data to do their own cost/benefit sums.

What has happened is not a reflection on you. There is nothing in this world to say that whatever price one gets, someone else will also be entitled. Perhaps you are a very good bargainer.
 

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