Travel tripods: Comparing 5 aluminum kits
Sirui T-2005x with G20x ball head
$275 / £160 - www.sirui-photo.com
|The Sirui T-2005x aluminum tripod with the G20x ball head.|
Sirui is quickly becoming known for their high-value photography support products, and we were suitably impressed with their largest ball head in our recent review. While most other tripods in this comparison come as a kit with the ball head included, the T-2005x is usually sold without a head. Sirui suggested the G20x ball head would go well with the aluminum leg set, so the MSRP and other specs have been adjusted to include this optional (but necessary for this review) addition.
|MSRP||$275 as tested ($170 legs only)|
|Folded size||15.7" (40cm)|
|Maximum height||61" (157cm)|
|Height w/ column down||52.7" (134cm)|
|Minimum height||9" (23cm) w/ short column|
|Weight||3.5 lbs (1.6kg)|
|Load limit||26.4 lbs (12kg)|
|# of leg sections||5|
|Leg tube diameters||28 /25 / 22 / 19 / 16mm|
|# of leg angles||3|
|Angle degrees||22 / 52 / 84°|
Below is a relative height comparison between the Sirui T-2005 and a 6 foot (1.83m) photographer.
Design and features
The T-2005 is the largest of the Sirui T-series traveler tripods, and the leg thickness and maximum load put it a bit beyond most other aluminum tripods in this group (closer to the next-step-up Benro A2692TV1 and a plethora of mid-sized Manfrottos), however, it still folds down to a compact size, and more critically, it has a retail price in line with the marginally smaller tripods from other manufacturers. That said, the design of this aluminum model is identical to the smaller Sirui tripods in the same series, whether aluminum legged or carbon fiber.
G20x ball head
Although this is not actually a feature of the T-2005 tripod, this head is the suggested compliment to the leg set, even if sold separately. Sirui only bundles their smallest tripods, and a new budget line of flip-lock tripods, with a matched ball head. So, this extra part is a necessary addition.
With a 36mm ball and separate friction and locking knobs, the G20 is the largest ball head in this comparison group, both in terms of its own weight and a maximum load capacity that is nearly double that of the tripod beneath it.
Sirui also offers a smaller G10x in the same series, with a 29mm ball and some additional weight savings.
Automatic leg angle locks
When the tripod legs are folded up 180° around the center column, just pulling them down starts the satisfying click of the spring-loaded angle locks. Each of the three angles can be easily set either by pulling the leg down, or pressing the angle lock button inward and pushing the leg up.
This type of angle lock is used on every Sirui tripod in their catalog, so the convenience is universal to the brand. It also means that the design has been thoroughly tested at a variety of sizes and load ratings.
Short center column
The leg angles on the T-2005x extend as far as 84° outward. With the included short center column, this puts the mounting platform just 5.1" (13cm) off the ground. Add in the G20x ball head, and the bottom of a camera can go as low as 9" (23cm).
Sirui has thoughtfully included an anti-rotation groove in the short column, as well as a bottom thread for installing the weight hook. This means the short column can replace the long column for regular shooting, with less overall weight and better stability.
Going the other way, the short column can also be screwed onto the center column to add a few more inches of height.
Retractable spiked feet
While many manufacturers offer removable feet, and some include accessory spikes, the T-2005x has retractable, permanent ground spikes. Twisting the rubber foot reveals the spike, allowing use on slippery or rough terrain.
The smaller tripods in the T-series (starting with a "1" like the 1004x or 1204x) have a bottom leg section that is too narrow for this kind of retractable foot, so they have permanent rubber feet instead.
Other included features
|Converts to monopod||---|
|Carrying case||Yes, padded, with handles and strap|
|Insulated leg grip||Yes, on two legs|
|Removable feet||Spikes twist out from rubber feet|
|Non-rotating center column||Yes, grooved|
|Short center column||Yes, grooved|
|Weight hook||Yes, retractable, removable|
|Top plate/ head platform||Metal, reversible mount screw, safe-lock|
|Ball head diameter/ max load||36mm ball, 20kg max load|
|QR plate included||Yes, arca-type, 50mm long|
Construction and handling
|Aluminum overdrive: the substantial G20x ball head on top of the T-2005x legs.|
There is a sense of quality with Sirui tripods that comes right from unpacking the box and unzipping the substantial, well-padded bag. When examining the tripod, this impression does not disappear. All of the aluminum surfaces (which is most of the kit) are satin finished and uniformly anodized in a dark black, with only the spongy foam rubber grips to hint at any lower quality components.
All of the machined aluminum parts have nicely finished edges and fit together very tightly. For example, the gap between the leg rotation joint and the first tube section is so small and tight that they look like a single piece of aluminum. Similarly, it's hard to tell that the center hub (or spider) is made up of four large pieces, since the joints are so small and well-hidden.
These tight tolerances contribute to a very solid feeling in most of the parts of the whole tripod. Every angle lock clicks in and out with ease, and while the leg sections may wobble on extension, they lock tightly together. Perhaps the only part that doesn't fit in with this quality feel is the center column lock. This big plastic and rubber ring always felt a little loose and sometimes took quite a few turns to adequately lock the column in place.
Short-throw leg locks
The leg locks are plastic cylinders with rubber grips, and have a helpful (and ubiquitous) sticker indicating the lock and unlock directions. The little "1/2" graphic indicates the locks should take only a half revolution to unlock or lock. This is usually true, but sometimes a bit more is required to fully lock things down.
The leg tube sections themselves tend to wobble at the joints until the locks are tightly twisted in, so the locks should be twisted until they stop, no matter how far that is.
G20x head and platform
Although an optional extra with these legs, the G-series ball head is quite a substantial addition that completes the kit for these reviews. This series of head has separate friction and locking knobs, along with the usual panning base lock knob. Despite these three, metal control knobs sticking out from the aluminum case, there is still room for the legs of the T-2005 to fold around this head when packed away. The quick release platform tends to get in the way of the tripod feet when packed, but otherwise the head is well-suited to the legs.
The 36mm ball of the G20x makes it the largest head in this group of aluminum tripods, but it fits well with the very thick leg sections and greater maximum load of the leg set. Of course, the T-2005 legs can only take 12kg, while the head is rated to 20kg. This disparity (with the legs supporting less load) is almost universal among tripods and heads. Given that the maximum load of the tripod legs should not be exceeded or even approached, this should leave any suitable head comfortably below its own limits.
Beneath the head is a platform that is finely machined from thick aluminum, while many other tripods use thinner cast platforms or even plastic. This platform includes a plastic non-slip pad and small screw that can be turned from below to press on the bottom of the ball head as a safety-lock. This prevents the head from coming unscrewed off the platform, and is a detail usually only found on higher-end tripods.
In the field, the combination of the T-2005 tripod and G20 head fit nicely together in the tripod bag, and though they are the second heaviest combination in this review group, the short packed size and the very nice strap on the bag made it less of a trial to carry. To really get the weight down, the more expensive T-2205, with its carbon fiber leg tubes, would shave 0.7 lbs (0.3kg) off of the combination, and a smaller ball head would also help.
Setting up the legs was quite quick with the spring-loaded leg angle locks and the very short twist needed to release the leg sections. There were occasions where one or two leg locks held on and had to be twisted a second time to drop their section, but locking them all into the extended position comes with a reassuring stop, and the rubber leg lock covers are easy to grip.
Holding up the heavy stuff
Compared to the other tripods in the group, the T-2005x is something of a brute. Although it fits within the general specifications for a travel tripod in terms of packed size, the 28mm top leg tubes and thick construction makes it more suited to holding up equipment that some might not consider "travel" gear.
The G20 ball head is good even for longer lenses and heavier camera bodies, and performs admirably with this larger gear in the field. With a 5 lb (2.3kg) combination of a 180mm macro lens and larger DSLR body, the friction on the head (via a separate knob) could be set to hold them in position quite easily, while still allowing easy movement and framing. The legs remained very stable with this combination, although the center column was left down for stability.
Truly, this might be more than the usual amount of gear to take hiking or touring about town with, so outside of this instance, the Sirui head and leg combination felt a bit excessive. Any mirrorless or more compact camera and lens combination would do equally well with the Sirui T-1005 tripod and a smaller head, but it was nice to see just how big a travel combination could go.
Spikes in the field
The retractable foot spikes on this large Sirui came in handy in some outdoor situations where the rubber might slip. Unfortunately, the spikes also tended to extend when they weren't needed, due to the easy rotation of the surrounding foot. If there was a firmer lock to either the in or out position, this could be avoided.
Naturally, removable feet would not have this issue, but then they require more unpacking and unscrewing. Retractable is still pretty nice.
Stress test results
Leg lock strength
To evaluate the overall strength of the leg locks, a single leg was extended and its twist locks were hand-tightened twice (once to lock, and a second twist to insure they were set). Weights were then placed directly above the extended leg (or monopod, for convertible tripods) until either a leg lock began to slip, or the stated load capacity for all three legs was reached.
The T-2005 twist locks remained locked until the weight was very close to the limit of the entire tripod (26 lbs, or 12kg). At that point, there was a slight amount of slippage from multiple leg locks, but nothing dramatic or sudden. This indicates that the locks on all three legs will certainly support the maximum load that is stated.
Vibrations can make even the sharpest lens turn out mushy, blurred photos, and can ruin long exposures. Camera vibration can be mechanically minimized with mirror lockup, electronic shutters, and a remote shutter release, while adding weight to the bottom of the tripod (with the weight hook or a tripod stone bag) can help with environmental vibrations like wind, water, and passing trucks. However, not all vibration can be eliminated, so we tested whether the tripod will dampen them or transmit and reflect them to the camera.
The tripod legs were fully extended with the center column lowered, and our high-tech vibration analyzer (an iPad on a 3 lb (1.36kg) aluminum block) was mounted to the ball head with a long lens plate. An industrial solenoid valve with a plastic hammer was used as a source of vibration (a knock to the bottom of one leg). The resulting graph of all three accelerometers shows both the resistance of the tripod and ball head to the initial shock, as well as the rate of decay for residual vibration within the tripod.
|Sirui T-2005x tripod and G-20x vibration resistance test results - click the image for a larger graph
For comparison, see the reference graph from the 6.4 lb, ash wood Berlebach 2032
The large aluminum Sirui tripod legs, with substantial ball head added on top, have a combined mass that reduced the initial shock being transmitted to the camera mount, while residual vibrations were gradually dispersed. With a smaller or lighter ball head on the tripod, the results could vary, but the aluminum legs themselves do a very good job of controlling vibration.
Cold weather use
All of the travel tripods in this group were used extensively in one of the harshest and coldest Canadian winters in recent memory. In fact, the initial group photos were taken on a sunny day at -13° F (-25° C)! While this extreme temperature doesn't affect the function of the tripod legs as much as the ball head, there were still things to note.
The T-2005 leg locks remained easy to grab and turn with thick mittens on, and the automatic leg angle locks were a godsend when unpacking the tripod (no need to push or pull anything). This was reversed when it was time to pack the tripod away or change the angle of a leg, as the Sirui angle lock is essentially a small, square clip that wants to grab glove fabric when pressed. With foam covers on two of the legs, it was easy to transport the tripod even with thinner gloves or bare hands, with only a cursory glance to be sure the uncovered leg wasn't grabbed.
The G20 ball head functioned very well in the extreme cold, with no sign of stickiness to the ball action, or even increased resistance in the panning base grease. However, the small metal knobs were slippery and difficult to turn with gloves on, and pulling off the gloves to grab the bare aluminum was ill-advised at such low temperatures. Some rubber covers would go a long way toward easing this.
With the Sirui T-2005 legs and G20x ball head, we have a bit of a conundrum. The combination is compact enough to fit in most luggage and some camera bags, and is quite well built from aluminum. The tripod also extends admirably tall and has larger, 28mm top leg tubes to support a heavier load, with the tradeoff being an substantial amount of weight. So, is this a travel tripod, or some mid-sized hybrid?
The best answer is that combination we reviewed is intended for larger cameras and lenses, while taking up minimal room, while Sirui's smaller T-1005 is the true traveler's aluminum legset. The price and features of the T-2005 allow it to fit in with this group, and while the size will make it an attractive full-time tripod. There is also the option to go up in price and opt for the carbon fiber version (the T-2205 legs), but the weight savings is rather minimal. All in all, Sirui has produced a very nice aluminum tripod in the T-2005x, and offers many other options in the same series for differing priorities.
What we like:
- Tall, strong, yet still compact
- Good vibration resistance
- Excellent included accessories
- Very nice overall fit and finish
What we don't like:
- Fairly heavy with (optional) ball head
- Loose feet surrounding the spikes
- Column lock not very solid