During the course of 2015, I have been seeing and hearing more and more people going on about the tripod systems made by a new Chinese brand called SIRUI. While this brand has been around for close to a decade, it was only recently introduced to South Africa by SunshineCo. and thus most South Africans aren’t familiar with it. I was thus excited when the brand manager for SIRUI South Africa, Willem Foster, recently asked if I wanted test out some new equipment for them. I happily obliged, as I love trying out new gear and I was intrigued to see what SIRUI was all about.
I was given a tripod and a gimbal head, namely the SIRUI PH-20 Carbon Fiber gimbal tripod head and the SIRUI W-2204 Carbon Fiber waterproof tripod. I had a trip planned to the bush to shoot some wildlife when Willem had asked me, and I thought it was a perfect time to try out this new gear. I was particularly interested in the gimbal head, as there aren’t currently any lightweight Carbon Fiber offerings on the market. Carrying a backpack with the usual two pro bodies, a super telephoto lens and all the other toys on a trip is tough enough, so I’m always interested in equipment that can lighten the load.
My initial impression of the gear when I received delivery was fantastic. The build quality seemed excellent and the way the product was packaged and presented was top notch. To put it into short words – my first impression lasted! I am very impressed with the gimbal and tripod I tested out! If I had the money, I would be buying this exact tripod and gimbal right now. Not only is the build quality fantastic, but the vast array of features the tripod and gimbal boast completely blew me away.
Let's break this review down into two sections, and I will talk about the gimbal and tripod separately.
The SIRUI PH-20 gimbal
For those who don’t know, a gimbal tripod head is the most important piece of equipment when shooting with a super-telephoto lens. Due to the size and weight of big such lenses, its impossible to shoot handheld or use with conventional tripod heads. The clever design of gimbal-type heads allow the lens to be suspended at its center of gravity, while allowing free panning and tilting. This makes it virtually effortless to swiftly and accurately track fast-moving subjects through the viewfinder.
The SIRUI PH-20 Gimbal head is packaged beautifully in a carry-bag with padded interior and separate compartments for all the components. The set includes a 120mm lens plate (Arca Swiss compatible) and also an extra bracket to turn the gimbal into a vertical configuration. I love the ability to switch between a full gimbal and the vertical bracket configuration as it allows for many different mounting combinations. This is useful when you need to shoot in portrait with a lens that doesn’t have a collar. It saves the effort of having to take a ball head along on a trip for in case the need may arise.
There are a lot of offerings on the South African market when it comes to Gimbal heads, as wildlife photography is arguably the most popular genre here. That means a lot of people using large lenses and thus a lot of people that need gimbal heads. There are premium international brands, cheap international brands and also several local brands, so the question that needs to be asked, is how is this one any different? The answer is simple – the main arm of the SIRUI PH-20 gimbal head is made from multi-layered carbon fiber, instead of aluminium. This means that it is between 400-1000g lighter than all of it’s competitors. For any person already carrying around 15-25kg of camera gear, that’s a crucial saving.
The rest of the gimbal and it’s components are machined from forged aircraft grade aluminium, which ensures light weight and optimal strength.
- Carbon Fibre / Aluminium design
- Load capacity – 20KG
- 1.1KG in weight
- Arca-Swiss compatibility
- Quick release plate included
- Gimbal tilts from +150 to -60 Degrees
- Horizontal 360 Degrees panning
Using the PH-20
Overall performance was outstanding on the PH-20 Gimbal head. I shot many images using it, and it provided an excellent platform to transform my heavy Nikon 400 f/2.8 & D810 combo into a weightless and easy to manoeuvre setup that allowed me to capture birds in flight, animals in action and every other situation that presented itself to me. The panning and tilting was a breeze with the PH-20, it felt very smooth and when I needed to lock my lens in place the large tension knobs tightened up the combo and it felt very solid. I enjoyed the light-weight feel on the Gimbal thanks to the Carbon Fibre design, which makes it easier to carry around, not adding much weight to an already heavy camera bag. At only 1.1KG in total, the Gimbal is highly recommended for any wildlife photographer, but also makes a wonderful landscape tripod head in the vertical configuration.
As I said before, I highly recommend the PH-20 Gimbal tripod head and if I could afford to buy one at this stage, my order would be in already.
6 Year Warranty
Another great feature worth mentioning is that all SIRUI products are covered by a 6-year manufacturer’s warranty against any defects. This warranty is backed by the local distributor, Sunshine Co, who has a reputation of outstanding service in South Africa.
The conclusion I have from testing out this gear is that the SIRUI PH-20 gimbal head is right on par with the likes of Wimberley. The lightweight carbon fiber design, 6-year warranty and price point offers serious competition.
Thanks again to Willem at SunshineCo. for the chance to test out the equipment!