A while ago, I converted my elderly 488 Manfrotto ball head from its clunky proprietory clamp to an Arca Swiss clamp. A great improvement as any camera with an Arca base plate or lens foot would now fit, but what remained was the 488 head.
During a trip to Norway, extensive tripod use convinced me change was overdue. Both tripods and ball heads have developed dramatically and whilst top end models: Gitzo, Promediagear, RRS BH55, Markins Q20 looked suitable contenders, their prices were somewhat prohibitive. If I used legs every day as a pro, such prices could be justified – but I’m not.
The search began for a close equivalent, a well engineered, super smooth head with the ability to handle a D750 with 70-200 f2.8 or any other mid sized lens. Whilst lenses such as a 500 f4.0 are into gimbal territory, a suitably large head should hold them steady if mounted via the lens foot. During this research I discovered The Center Column an excellent independant site testing tripods and ball heads for rigidity being a valid metric for comparison. TCC showed the Sirui 30x and larger 40x rigidity similar to the Markins heads. A post on Nikonians confirmed Sirui were highly regarded and in use by several pros.
The Sirui K series ball head range is as follows:
- Mod – Ball dia – Weight – Rating – application
- K10x – 33mm – 350g – 20Kg – for series 0 or 1
- K20x – 38mm – 400g – 25Kg – for series 1 or 2
- K30x – 44mm – 500g – 30Kg – for series 2 or 3
- K40x – 54mm – 700g – 35Kg – for series 3 or 4
I know load ratings don’t reflect rigidity or smoothness in use, but plenty of on-line reviews support very positive comment. I dived in and chose the K30x on the basis it would provide more than adequate, secure support without being too big for my travel tripod. The K40x was considered too large
Look and feel: The ball head was well packaged being supplied with a pouch which fits over the head when not in use. The finish and engineering seem exceptionally good at the price point, being very well made, its beautifully engineered to 0.01mm tollerance for the ball. It features an adjustment to the ball friction via a small screw in the lock ring although initially required no further adjustment – see below for adjusting.
Dimensions and ergonomics: The K30x has a height of 108mm, weighs 500 grammes with a ball head diameter of 44mm, the base diameter to mate your tripod is 60mm and it can support up to 30Kg. This loading must be considered to be acting vertically downwards from a single vertical point, which isn’t the case with camera and lens which applies a degree of force due to the length. it pans 360 degrees which is nice as some ball heads don’t do this with a single slot in the ball for downwards tilt.
Mounting: The ball head base of 60mm matched my tripod – a Manfrotto 190CX3 pro perfectly. The 30x quick plate is Arca Swiss style and grabs the camera by turning a screw as opposed to a lever like some RRS plates. It’s supplied with an excellent camera mount plate having an attachment screw long enough to grab the camera base very securely with an additional slot to attach a shoulder strap. I have found some cheap plates simply don’t have long enough screws, lacking sufficient thread to fit more securely. However, the Sirui clamp and camera plate are very good quality. The ball head Arca Swiss mount also features a security pin preventing camera slide if you omit to clamp adequately! This has saved me once so it’s already paid for itself.
In use: Once mounted the 30x performed admirably, friction controls were very progressive and very silky smooth in use, in fact it performed in away that I focussed less on the ball head and more on what I was doing. My overall perspective is it exceeds the price paid. My 190cx is an old but good carbon fibre tripod which copes with a D750 and standard lens. It’s rated for a 7.0 Kg load whilst I suspect it can handle more, It’s light, rigid and compact size is handy for travelling but a 600mm f4.0 would make it hideously unstable. Tripod load ratings are to be honest, fairly meaningless twaddle. It’s stability and rigidity that provide support for your camera, which the 190 does fairly well and this ball head gave it a new lease of life, a worthwhile upgrade to the 488 it replaced.
Adjustment to set minimum grip: The 30x and other models feature a panning base with friction control which works progressively, not much more I can say really. The ball friction is shown below being a larger control with a silver tension adjustment inset into it. Correct adjustment can be mis-understood to the detriment of its purpose. The silver inset is to achieve the minimum tension as opposed to desired tension or aligning the images on the tension band – blue on the Sirui.
How to set your ball friction control correctly:
- Mount your camera on the ball head
- Adjust the large friction control to achieve the minimum grip before the camera ‘flops’ forward
- Rotate the small inset silver disc clockwise with your thumb until it resistance is felt – it should not be tight!
- Rotate the blue ring so it aligns with 0 – not essential as I seldom look at it in use
Ball friction control showing inset silver tensioner and blue friction scale behind:
In use it’s exceptional, everything is super smooth and locks with near zero discernable movement. The arca plate security pin is great as it prevents accidental slide. In use, it’s a joy to operate, clamping reasonabley easily. The ball clamp grab is fairly progreesive providing a fine degree of control whilst locking droop is minimal. Panning is very smooth with graduations for those who like panoramic stitching and the lock engages quickly. The other really good news is price wise the 30x is just over a third of the cost for a Makins Q20 – is it as good? Well it certainly is very smooth to operate and extremely well engineered, time will tell.
My verdict: Highly reccomended, I can’t really find fault, if you can then please post below.
The image below clearly shows very clear detail
.Please note: I am not sponsored or affiliated to the Sirui company or any other company. The opinions and findings here are my own from first hand experience evaluating the product. Please post any questions you may have and I will be more than happy to answer below.