Goldilocks Legs - A review of the SIRUI R-3213X

Over the last few years SIRUI have become a manufacturer of force in the photographic industry. Like most photographers I originally viewed their equipment with a healthy dose of scepticism. Like many I believed that being a Chinese manufacturer they were simply a clone of the more established German, Italian and American tripod brands. I was wrong of course. Sirui are not a ‘clone’ manufacturer. They have their own designs, some of which are quite unique. Although some of their designs might look similar to the competition, it’s a tripod, so it’s quite hard not to look like a copy at times. Indeed it’s naive to think that all the tripod manufacturers aren’t looking at each other’s products and figuring out any advances that the competition might have through tear downs of each other’s products. At any rate, Sirui now have a dedicated following of photographers as well a growing list of capable products.

A three image stitch of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula near Hellnar on the west coast of Iceland. Using a SIRUI LE-60 levelling base makes accurate panoramic very easy to create. 

In the first half of the year I was offered the opportunity to try out SIRUI’s R-2214X tripod. This I used while travelling to Madagascar to lead a workshop, and on several commercial and industrial shoots back in South Africa,. Overall I thoroughly enjoyed using the R-2214X, and saw it as a miniaturised version of the quite phenomenal R-5214X which I used and reviewed a few years ago. SIRUI is steadily fleshing out the RX series line, and the R-2214X is the baby in the family with the R-5214X being the behemoth that I affectionally nicknamed, ‘The Beast’. My verdict was essentially that the R-2214X was the best value for money tripod you could get, and a good enough tripod that it was tempting to compare it to tripods that are in a completely different category (to whit; the perennially popular Gitzo GT3543LS). 

Then, just before heading off to Iceland to lead a workshop, I was sent the larger R-3213X tripod to try out. The R-3213X is already the holder of two photographic industry awards; the Red Dot design award and the German Design Award. I was intrigued. I really liked the R-2214X, and would happily recommend it to other photographers looking for a travel tripod, but wouldn’t go so far as to say that I would buy it to replace the tripod I currently use. Could the R-3213X be the Goldilocks tripod between the enormous and cumbersome R-5214X and lighter and packable R-2214X tripods? A landscape workshop in Iceland and a quick stint in the snow and cold of the Drakensberg put the tripod through it’s paces for me. 

Before getting into the meat of this review, I must point out that the review is not based on empirical testing. I don’t have a test-bench where I am able to numerically test a tripod until it breaks. I would love to be able to do that, but don’t have the luxury of multiple copies of a tripods which are given with the blessing that I may destroy them while testing (how else do you really know how much weight a tripod can handle). Like a car review in a magazine, the review is based on my use of the equipment. I can only compare it with equipment that I have used either through ownership or through brief association thanks to workshops that I have led where other photographers have had equipment that I have been able to play with. A decade of teaching photography through workshops has meant that I have had a fair amount of equipment pass through my fingers. The distributers of Sirui in South Africa have come to respect my reviews and often allow me the opportunity to review their tripods that they bring in. Admittedly, they don’t always like what I say as I try to give my honest assessment of the equipment. I use the equipment that is lent to me in the same way as the equipment that I own (which usually means quite roughly). So the review is based on anecdotal evidence and experience rather than test  bench numbers. Take that as you will.

There is a broad similarity between the design and construction of all of the RX series tripods, so if you have read my review of the R-2214X tripod, then you can skip the ‘Build’ and ‘Features’ sections below and get straight to ‘In The field’ and ‘Conclusion’.


Like all of the SIRUI Tripods, there is a quality to the craftsmanship that belies the price tag. It isn’t quite the same as Gitzo and Really Right Stuff admittedly. However, the Sirui tripods tend to come in at just over half the price of the similarly specced Gitzos (and significantly less than half the price of the similarly specced Really Right Stuffs). The leg tubes are constructed from 10x Carbon Fibre while the joints and screws are made from extremely durable forged metal. Sirui have been at the leading edge of carbon fibre tripods, utilising 8x carbon weaves in their other tripod offerings. As a point of comparison, Gitzo, arguably one of the benchmark manufacturers in tripod design, use 6x carbon fibre (although they are upgrading their line to use what they call Carbon eXact, which I think is closer to Carbon 8x or 10x). What this essentially equates to is the number of layers of carbon fibre that were grafted together to form the tube. 6x has 6 layers while 10x obviously has 10 layers. In theory, the more layers you have the stiffer and stronger the material should be. You can also, in theory, make the material lighter and thinner than conventional metals by using very thin layers of carbon fibre with weaves that alternate in different directions. 10 layers is still the most I have come across in a tripod so far. 

The basic idea behind the carbon weave that is used in carbon fibre tripods, is that the thinner the carbon strands, the more weave you can add. The more weaves there are, the lighter the lighter and more rigid the material. An added point to this is that if the tubes walls are thin, then there is smaller change in the diameter of the tubes from the top to the bottom. The smaller the change, the more rigid the leg. So all things equal a tube with a wall thickness of 1mm (which the R-2214x has) made of 10 strands of carbon is going to be more rigid than a 1mm tube made of 6 strands. In theory at least, the R-2214X should be at the pinnacle of weight to rigidity. It’s also evident that Sirui use a different weave on each layer - a cross hatch pattern - on the R series compared to their other other carbon fibre offerings which look like the weave runs in a diagonal pattern. The look of the leg tube is very similar to the pattern on the FLM carbon fibre legs (which also has a wall thickness of 1mm incidentally).

The forged metal of components are all black anodised and seem to be pretty hard-wearing. I don’t treat the equipment I review any different to the gear that I own. This means it gets abused. The black anodised finish of the tripod is still scratch and ding free after the Madagascar workshop, despite rolling about in the back of the vehicle without a bag. The same cannot be said for the blue anodised aluminium (probably duralumin of a softer aluminium copper alloy than the other metal sections of the tripod) angle locks. The edges of these show signs of abrasive wear after only a short period of time. The wear doesn’t impact on usage at all, and is purely aesthetic. 


The RX series all share certain features that set them apart from the other tripod lines that Sirui produce. The most obvious difference between the R-3213x and the other carbon fibre tripods that Sirui produce is the systematic nature of the design. This is something that I have long wanted in the Sirui lineup. A systematic tripod differs from a conventional tripod in that it has a completely removable centre column that can be replaced with a flat plate or other accessory. Currently SIRUI offer the standard plate, a ‘rapid column’ centre column (RX-402C), and a half-bowl for video users (R2X-75A). I can’t really write about the half bowel as I don’t actually have access to any video bowl accessories, suffice to say that it’s a 75mm bowel and locks into place in the same way as the plate and centre column.

All three of the centre sections lock in place by tightening three Allan-key driven worm screws (against a brass friction plate) that are set 120 degrees apart from each other, in between the leg hinges themselves. The flat plate has a slight textured plastic spacer glued to the moulded steel design to assist with gripping the base of the tripod head. To ensure a locked head, there are also  three Allan-key driven worm screws that tighten against the base of the tripod head. What I really liked about the flat plate is the same thing that I loved about the R-5214X’s flat plate: The sturdy hook which can be used for hanging a weight (such as the camera bag) to stabilise the tripod) can be removed to reveal a 4mm Allen key that can be used on all the worm screws as well as the standard lock screw on most tripod mounting plates.

The RX-402C centre column can be added to give the R-3213X an additional 380mm of height. This is a significant boost that can mean the tripod can reach 1,83m in height. Add the height of the ball-head and you get to 1,9m from the ground (admittedly 50mm less than the smaller lighter R2214X). That’s high. I am a relatively tall 1,81m in height, so the camera can be be stabilised at a height above me. For some of the work that I do, this is fantastic. However, a tripod is not always used on a level surface. In fact, if you are using the tripod for landscape photography, there is a good chance that you are sometimes standing on rocks with the legs lowered to a point below where you are standing. This is why height matters. It’s not that you need the tripod to reach above you (although this can be useful), it’s so that you can get the legs to a stable point that is sometimes below you.

At the end of the legs are the removable rubber feet. These are exchangeable for sturdy stainless steel spikes that look like the the screw on arrowheads from ‘Rambo’. Unlike some of SIRUI's other tripods where the spike retracts into the rubber foot, you have to choose either the foot or the spike with the R-series tripods like the enormous R-5214X and the R-3213X. This is easily done by screwing the foot or spike into the bottom of the leg (A relatively fine thread of eight teeth, meaning that the feet can’t accidentally unscrew). 

Both the rubber feet and the stainless steel spikes feature two small holes drilled into them. These holds act as air holes for drainage and possible also air itself. Like with the enormous R-5214X, the suction action created by the large tubes was immediately apparent with a slight ‘whooshing’ sound whenever you extend or compress the legs (it isn’t as obvious as the with the large legs of the R-5214X, but is definitely there - a sign that there are quite tight tolerances in the tubes themselves since hit doesn’t escape through the leg locks). The R-321X has more in common with the R-5214X in this manner than the smaller R2214X. The baby of the bunch, the R-2214X, doesn’t have the tell-tale whoosh of air when you compress the legs.

The blue coloured leg angle stops at the top of the leg assembly. Here my fore-finger pushes the leg stop out and locks it into place so that the leg can angle out without any stops.

The R-2214X has leg spread angles of 22, 52 and 82 degrees. This allows the tripod to get as low as 115mm from the ground. Unlike travel tripod designs though, where the legs can flip up over the head, you cannot reverse the head so that it hangs below the shoulder (or ‘apex’ of the tripod). This is a technique that allows the tripod to essentially get the camera right down to ground level.  The conventional technique though is to reverse the centre column so that the tripod head hangs below the shoulder of the tripod. This can still be done if you add the optional RX-402C centre column.

The actual angle stops are controlled by an aluminium slide lock (painted blue) that slips out from the top of the tripod. It is a sturdier design than the spring designs of Sirui’s smaller tripods, but comes with the limitations of all slide stops. This is the fact that they can get jammed when you pull the leg out to its stop. I found I had to give the leg a tap (make that slap) to jiggle the leg back a bit in order to slide the stop out to the next notch. What is a nice touch though, is the spring reload. When you push the legs back to a narrower spread the stop automatically clicks back to the the smaller angle (unlike some other slide angle stops I have used in the past from Gitzo and Velbon). Something else that is easy to miss initially is that the leg lock can be pulled out in two stages. Stage one means that the spring reload is active, stage two locks it out. This is so that you can still spread the legs using just one hand. If you pull the lock all the way out to stage two and then spread the leg to the maximum angle of 82 degrees then the angle lock automatically bounces back down to stage one, meaning that as you bring the legs together again the lock automatically clicks at the 52 and 22 degree marks. This is a nice touch and makes working with the leg angles really easy. I also think that the design is somewhat more rugged than the click switch design of the other Sirui tripods (Traveler, Water series etc.) 

De rigeur for the RX line of tripods are the neoprene leg warmers on all three legs. This makes the tripod easier to handle in the cold and wet, and also protects the tripod legs from bumps and bangs. There are plenty of positives to using carbon fibre in a tripod. The downside, apart from cost, is that carbon fibre can be quite brittle, so is prone to crack if it receives a sharp blow to it. The neoprene leg-warmers just give that added bit of confidence in the durability of the R series (the other Sirui series have two legs wrapped in neoprene while leaving a third bare).

The heavy-duty nature extends to the oversized and bulky twist leg locks themselves. The oversized rubber is fantastic to work with. It’s easy to grip, even when wet, or when wearing gloves. Then there is the lock itself which has a wonderful positive feel to it. Being a 3 section tripod, there are two leg locks. It is easily possible to grab both of these and turn at the same time, meaning setup and strike down are very quick and easy.

A final touch to the feature set is an easily readable circular level on the tripod shoulder. There isn’t much to say about it other than it works.

In Use 

I have now had the opportunity to use three of SIRUI’s RX series tripods, starting with the R-5214X (the Beast), the R-2214X and now the R-3213X. All three tripods have been thoroughly enjoyable to use as well as dependable in use. As I mentioned in my review of the R-2214X, I like large tripods, and the R-3213X can comfortably be positioned in the ‘full-size’ category of tripods. My tripod needs are for a set of legs that don’t necessarily weigh a ton, but are very sturdy and large  enough that I can manipulate the camera into positions over rocks, streams and anything that would require me to stretch the legs into awkward positions while still maintaining a certain height above ground. The larger the tripod the easier this is to do. A full size tripod is one which can reach eye-level without resorting to the use of a centre column. So the R-3213X which gets to 1,5m with  the ball-head attached fits this category.

To create the previous black and white image of Vestrahorn mountain, I had to place the tripod in the surf. Digging the legs into the volcanic sand meant that it didn't sink further with the wave action. Also important is that the rigidity of the legs meant that there was no vibration created by the water washing quite strongly past the legs. This image above was shot before I waded out a bit into the surf. 

Unlike the R-2214X the R-3213X is somewhat more complicated to bring along if you are doing any airline travel. The R-3213X is a full 10 centimetres longer than the R-2214X when folded and packed into a bag as it is a three section tripod compared to the four sections that the R-2214X has. I am used to traveling with an FLM CP30-L3s tripod which has a similar packed length, but some photographers might be taken back by the actual packed length of the tripod. Still, it is small enough to fit into most checked cases with the head removed. The extra length is less of an issue once you are at a destination. Similarly, the legs strap to the side of my F-Stop Tilopa and Sukha bags quite comfortably (the head extends past the top of the bag with the Tilopa - if this is an issue to the user, just remove the head for transport).

The R-3213X attaches to the side of my F-stop Tilopa bag. The larger Sukha handles the tripod even better. 

Despite the fact that the R-3213X is longer than the R-2214X when folded and packed, it is actually marginally shorter when fully extended - coming in 5 centimetres shorter in height. This is again due to the fact that the R-3213X is a three section tripod compared to the four section R-2214X. Admittedly, on paper this does not look good. Not only is the R-3213X heavier than the R-2214X, but it is harder to pack and when extended is actually shorter! Reading this, inexperienced photographers can be forgiven for exclaiming; “what gives?” In a word, stability.

Towards the end of my review of the R-2214X I pointed out that there was a certain amount of whippiness or flex to the legs. It certainly wasn’t anything that one would need to worry about, but it was there. The cause of this is the four sections that lead to a fairly narrow last leg section of the leg. The thicker the leg sections, the more rigid the tripod leg. Fewer leg locks and sections coupled to a thicker leg tube means that there would be increased rigidity and strength. This is  why the flex is simply not there with the R-3213X. This is probably evident in the fact that the R-3213X has a advertised load bearing that is 4 kilograms greater than that of the R-2214X. Where it really shows is when you extend the legs to get into position in awkward angles. The R-2214X had to be more carefully placed because of the leg flex. There are no such qualms when placing the legs of the R-3213X. The increased rigidity of the larger leg tubes, and having two leg locks as opposed to three, means that the R-3213X is significantly more rigid than the R-2214X. In general use, this doesn’t necessarily make much of a difference. When you are balanced on a wet rock photographing long exposure seascapes, or when there is actually flowing river or sea water rushing around the tripod legs themselves, then the rigidity can make a difference. For example strong flowing water can cause the slightly less rigid legs of the R-2214X to vibrate ever so slightly. This translates into potential vibration of the image sensor. Using the R-3213X in streams and on the shoreline in Iceland, I found this was less of an issue. To be clear, a great big wave crashing into the tripod is going to cause vibration (if not considerably more movement…and damage) regardless of the size and rigidity of the tripod. The noticeable and more realistic difference is when you place the bottom-most leg sections of a tripod into a stream. In this instance the R-3213X proved, at least in my use of the tripod, to be more stable and vibration free than that of the R-2214X.

As with all of the RX series tripods, setup was a breeze. The oversized leg locks are something that I particularly like. Working height for me when standing up on level ground is to have all of the legs fully extended (please note when I say ‘working height’ I don’t suggest that all images be shot at the tripod’s working height - composition comes first and should be  established before you set the tripod up). The tripod is also large enough that you can do the whole ‘balance on a rock’ thing while having one or two of the legs extended out to different and sometimes lower positions.


Once again, I found little use of the screw on spikes that SIRUI provide with the R-3213X tripod. I really like the retractible spikes of the other tripods that Sirui produce. All the other Sirui tripod lines have a rubber foot with a retractable spike (one of the best designs I have used incidentally). This means of course that you always have the option of rubber foot or spike on hand. The RX series requires manually changing between rubber foot or spike. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but the fact that the spikes are loose little bits of metal means that they either get forgotten, or just as easily lost. That said, I never found myself wanting or needing the spikes on the R-3213X. Due the inherent rigidity of the legs, I found that even in slippery positions, the tripod held in place. This was different to the R-2214X where the slight flex in the leg meant that the use of the spikes was beneficial to handling.

During my time with the R-3213X I was able to try out the tripod in ‘uncomfortable’ weather. Iceland, being just south of the Artic circle, has extremely variable weather patterns. This gave plenty of opportunity to try out the tripod in wet and cold conditions while wearing gloves. To top this off I went off chasing snow in the Drakensberg towards the end of August as well, where it was even colder and wetter than the weather I’d had in Iceland. This is really where the R-3213X shines. The oversized rubber leg locks are fantastic to work with when wearing gloves. They are nice and grippy and easy to turn even when your fingers are frozen numb. Importantly, this means that they are glove friendly. Similarly, the thick neoprene padding is a massive boon when the ambient temperature is below zero centigrade. The only issue I came across was the K-30X ball-head getting a little stiff in the sub-zero cold of the Drakensberg (it performed without a hitch in the wet of Iceland).


Quite possibly SIRUI have brought out a Goldilocks tripod - at least for my type of use - in the R-3213X. By this I mean that it manages to be ‘just right’ in a number of critical ways. I’ll elaborate on this below. The decision factor on a tripod tends to come down between weight, size, rigidity, and cost. A useful comparison is with the perennially popular Gitzo GT3543 tripod since it such a well known and lauded tripod.


Sirui R-2214X

Sirui R-R3213X

Gitzo GT3543

Sirui R-5214X

















Very Good



BEST of 4

Looking at the table above, the SIRUI R-2214X is the best priced and the lightest of this group. The enormous R-5214X is the most rigid and the largest, but this comes at the expense of weight and price. The two in the middle are the Gitzo and the Sirui R-3213X. The SIRUI is significantly cheaper and lighter than the Gitzo, yet is on par in terms of stability and usage. Yes, there is a difference in feel between the Gitzo and the Sirui, with the Gitzo feeling more ‘upmarket’. The Gitzo, being a four section tripod also packs away smaller, but weighs over 400g more.

One of the advantages of a tripod without a centre column is the ease at which you can get down to ground level without having to fiddle with ground level kits, such as was the case photographing Skogafoss Falls in Iceland in the rain.

Having worked with the SIRUI I can attest that it is dependable. It was easy to work with and I trusted that the equipment I used on it would be stable for long exposures, despite working in water or wind. Working in the cold and wet, this has to have been the best tripod experience I have had, save for that of the R-5214X (and that comes with the caveat of being an enormous tripod that you are unlikely to fly internationally with). Selecting between the Sirui R-2214X and the R-3213X is where most people are going to find themselves. I still maintain that the R-2214X is the best tripod  available at it’s price-point. The price-point and the fact that it is lighter and easier to travel with are the the important distinctions though. Faced with the choice between the R-2214X and the R-3213X, I would personally go for the larger of the two. For me, the rigidity and strength of the R-3213X trumps the packable size and lower weight of the R-2214X.

The choice could more accurately be between the Gitzo and the Sirui R-3213X. Holding the two next each other (which unfortunately I couldn’t do, but discussed this with Hougaard Malan of and from previous use of a carbon fibre Gitzo tripod), the Gitzo appears better made with a nicer finish. The newer Gitzo tripods also all have water resistant seals on the leg locks. Only the Sirui W series have these in the Sirui tripods. This means you have to wash and service a Sirui RX series tripod more regularly than the Gitzos (in reality if you are going to be shooting in or near sea-water you should regularly clean your tripod regardless of whether it has water resistant locks).  However, the longevity of a tripod is based more on use than on manufacture. If you don’t look after a tripod it will break regardless of it’s brand. 

Which brings me to after-sales support. SIRUI is backed by the Sunshine Company in Cape Town, and the support they give is truly excellent. From experience I know that if there is an issue they will try and solve it (although please be realistic…throwing your tripod from the top of a cliff and then expecting it to be repaired based on a ‘manufacture’s warranty’ is pushing it). Gitzo on the other hand lacks the level of service support that Sirui has - at least here in South Africa. An old Gitzo Reporter series tripod of mine needed new fibre bushing shims. The tripod had to be sent back to Italy and I ended up waiting almost 5 months and being charged almost as much as I had paid when I bought the tripod originally (to be fair it was old, hence having to go back to Italy) by the time I got it back. If readily available service support is important to you, then the Sirui actually has the upper hand on the Gitzo (at least here in South Africa). 

I am often taken with the equipment that I get sent to try out. I loved the R-5214X which I still contend is one of the best tripods I have ever used. It’s enormous though, and heavy, so is therefore hard to recommend to the average landscape photographer (or anyone who has to travel or carry a tripod for any extended period of time). The R-2214X - the baby in the RX family - is superb when you compare it to other tripods, and is quite possibly one of the best ‘travel’ tripods around when you consider that it is actually billed as a ‘studio’ tripod (on SIRUI’s own marketing). The R-3213X manages to be the in-betweener, the Goldilocks. It is definitely more stable and rigid than the R-2214X, and significantly lighter than the R-5214X. Price point is aggressively better than the Italian Gitzo plus there is the superb after sales support that is available to Sirui. It is is hard not to sound like a ‘fanboy’ finishing off this review. SIRUI have really produced a superb tripod that deserves the awards that it has already received. Coming back to my usual test of whether a tripod is worth it; would I buy it? Yes!    


Carbon Fibre and Forged Metal

Leg Sections


Tripod Weight


Maximum Carrying weight 


Maximum tube diameter -


Minimum tube diameter


Maximum extension


Maximum Extension with centre column


Minimum Height


Packed length




Emil von Maltitz is a professional landscape and commercial photographer who spends most of his time photographing industry and agriculture for clients like Tongaat Huletts. You can find his incredible body of work here.