Sirui M3204X Review with K40X ballhead

Started Aug 22, 2013 | User reviews thread
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RichyjV
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Sirui M3204X Review with K40X ballhead
Aug 22, 2013

I'd like this review to be useful rather than just opinionated so lets start with facts and move onto opinion later.

This is a 1.7kg carbon fibre tripod which packs down to 51cm (without ballhead) and extends to 177cm (without ballhead). It is rated for 18kg load (although as this is not a standardised system it is hard to compare on this basis alone).

The K40X is a 54mm diameter ball head weighing 0.7kg and rated for 35kg load (see above). It is the largest Sirui head that will fit on the M3204X other than a 1.1kg gimbal head. It has an arca-compatible system which has an additional safety lock built in when used with Sirui plates. For this review I am using a TY-D800 plate which fits perfectly on my D800E, rather than one of the generic plates.

Total weight: 2.45kg

Total height: the top of the ball head when fitted on extended tripod is at 189cm, which is too high for me at 1.96cm/6ft5 to see into the viewfinder on top. However, the viewfinder is just a couple of cm below my eye level when the center column is not at all extended, maximising stability.

Ordering directly from the manufacturer via e-bay equivalent in China cost 2930RMB = 478USD. I ordered an upgraded package, the non upgraded includes the smaller lighter K30X ballhead (44mm ball, 0.5kg rated to 30kg load) and aTY-70 Sirui arca-style camera plate and cost 2580RMB = 421USD.

It comes with a 6 year warranty, as you would expect from something claiming to be high-end.

So, on to the review.

Here is the tripod folded up, note that it is folded backwards with the center column extended to minimise size. The legs rotate almost 180 degrees and would face to the right when standing.

The feet have extendable spikes which emerge when rotated.

There is a hook to hang a camera bag from at the bottom of the center column. Note that the legs have been moved from a previously upwards position.

The legs hold firmly in place, there is an easy-to-use mechanism to lock them into two positions, and alan keys are supplied to adjust the firmness of the legs. They take a half turn to loosen and a half turn to really tighten, with no slip whatsoever even when I put a lot of weight on them. A good mechanism.

Max leg diameter is 32mm, minimum is 20mm. Sirui talk a lot about the quality of their carbon fibre, and it appears to be of excellent quality. The K40X is a large ball head with easy to use operation. A simple twist changes the ball from loose to absolutely locked in place, with little effort from the user. Very impressive. When mounted on this with a Nikon 70-200f4, it doesn't move in the slightest. I have absolute confidence that this can mount a much heavier system with ease, hence my purchase looking to the future.

There is a separate control to smoothly rotate the ball head which again requires very little strength to use, and again locks down the system with ease. On top of the head is the arca-style release system, the red button prevents the plate slipping out when tension is released, and is a nice touch, it doesn't get in the way and provides that extra security. With a non-Sirui plate it functions as normal, the red button feature will not be active.

The ball head is 125mm tall. Various functions can be adjusted with alan key tools supplied.

The height of this system with legs in standard position and extended but the center column down is an impressive 159cm approx.

There are a number of additional features on top of this 'just' being an excellent tripod, besides the extendable spike feet. One of the legs can quickly be unscrewed and used as a monopod, extending to 161cm with the ball head on top, useful for tripod-restricted areas.

The TY-D800 plate fits snugly onto a D800 body and works well in conjunction with the already mentioned safety button on the release system (next 2 photos from Ipad, apologies for quality!).

This system holds my kit still with the utmost ease, it is build to take far heavier loads, and yet it is not heavy and fits well into airport carry-on luggage.

There are a couple more extras. Part of the center column can detach and be added to the monopod leg I understand, or just allow the tripod to get even lower to the ground. It comes in a surprisingly useful carry bag with a high quality finish and strap that makes very easy and comfortable to carry, and I can fit the ball head in there too. The finishing and details are very good all round, I did my research and knew that they really pay attention to details, systematically making every section as functional and mechanically sound as they can.

From fully up with camera attached, I just timed myself, it took 45 seconds to take everything down and fold up the tripod into its minimum size, not bad at all.

So for me there was a gap in the market for a tripod system that can be both portable and take a good load with real stability, and even then extend well for us tall folks. In some ways this has the portability of a Gitzo 2 series with the strength of a 3 series. The height of a 2542L, packs down smaller than a regular 2541, the strength nearer (in theory equivalent but hard to test) that of a 3541, at a weight in between them all.

I didn't buy this for the price, it was the functionality and strength I wanted, but having been convinced by reviews and research before that I was going to get that, it is refreshing to not have to pay the massive brand name markup. However I was after the best product for me, and I would have paid for a more expensive one if it had suited what I was after better, so I am not at all advocating this as the cheap product, in this case for me it is the better product and cheaper is incidental.

I saw a review video of a guy hanging from a M3204X to show off its strength, and I though that he must be a really skinny guy. After shooting with one, I have to say I suspect I could do the same, and I weigh well over 100kg, I've certainly put most of my body weight on it and it took it fine. There are also very technical German reviews of it winning various tests for stability, both the tripod and the ball head apparently.

Oddly enough I was shooting with it the other night at a great spot for city lights, and a group of about 15 people all descended with tripods on the same spot as one, all crowding around me to get the best spot. They all proceeded to take their generally very good cameras and put them on absolute trash tripods. Some weren't tall enough to get over the fairly normal height iron railings. Most wobbled with the slightest bit of wind. People were pinning their tripod against the fence to try and steady it, or holding it in place with their bodies, it was just amazing and I wish I had a wider lens on mine at the time as they would have made a great photo themselves. Clearly they were happy to spend big money on camera and lenses and very little on support to get sharp shots! Meanwhile with this beauty, I shoot, little twist one control, rotate 20 degrees, little twist, shoot, rinse and repeat a few times with absolute minimum effort, and at the end I have 6 x 3 second exposures which later merge perfectly into a 20,000 pixel wide completely sharp panorama. The right tool makes it so easy.

Oh, 5 star, but most reviews get that so not really meaningful. Maybe I should deduct half a star for not being well advertised so I could have grabbed one earlier.

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Regards
Rich

RichyjV's score
5.0
Nikon D800E
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