Sirui 3T-35R
$110 / £70   www.sirui-photo.com

The Sirui 3T-35R, holding up an equally compact camera.

Sirui tripods are as well-regarded as their ball heads, and so far almost every support product produced by this growing Chinese company offers some of the best value and quality on the market. Beyond these better known items, Sirui also makes humidity control cabinets, bags, and (soon) even interchangeable lenses. We've come to expect a lot from each new product produced in its Zhongshan factories, and the 3T-35R mini tripod kit is up against some stiff (pun intended) competition in this group review.

Specifications

MSRP  $110
Folded length  8.8" (22.5cm)
Maximum height  13.5" (34.4cm)
Minimum height  4.5" (11.5cm)
Weight  0.9 lbs (430g)
Load limit  8.8 lbs (4kg)
# of leg angles  ---
Angle degrees  ---
Warranty  6 years

Size comparison

The packed size of the Sirui 3T-35R, compared to common storage media.

This all-aluminum Sirui packs up into the shortest and smallest package of this mini tripod group. At only 8.8 inches (22.5cm) long, it can fit into almost any bag, or even some pockets, when zipped into the handy case that comes with the 3T-35R. Beyond the case, Sirui supplies a mini-carabiner clip so the whole unit can be attached to anything with a loop, as long as it doesn't mind nearly a pound of aluminum swinging from it.

Available heights*

*With center column extended (highest), or removed (lowest).

13.5" (34.4 cm) 10" (25.5 cm) 4.5" (11.5 cm)

Construction and handling

The red Sirui 3T-35R with the optional, non-extending center column in place.

A choice is offered between the typical satin black finish of most Sirui products, and a brilliant red anodized aluminum. While some might prefer less colorful gear, the brighter choice is made easier by the small size and not-so-serious size of the 3T-35R. Of course, this is a Sirui, so that aluminum is well machined (or cast, in the case of the legs), and put together with very tight tolerances that can be felt in the hand. The serious intention is there, despite the size and color choice.

Looking at the specs, the Sirui is the smallest packed tripod in this review group, and further distinguishes itself with the second lowest weight and second tallest maximum height. All of this is achieved through the use of an extending center column above single-angle, fold out legs. This brings up a question of stand-alone stability very early on, given that the majority of the system weight (the camera) will be well above the most stable crux of those tiny legs.

Sirui thoughtfully includes both a small sack for the extra center column, and a very nice, zippered bag for the whole kit.

Rotating leg lock

The locking system for the Sirui is a large and easy to grasp cylinder. When unlocked, the legs can pivot 180° to fold up over the column, or to become a handle down below. When locked, the metal cylinder blocks the legs from pivoting upward, setting all three at a stable angle.

These legs are quite similar to the even smaller class of pocket tripods, which almost universally offer no height adjustment at all, and only few are able to be extended with a fixed column. This makes the Sirui 3T-35R something of a hybrid between a mini tripod and a pocket pod.

24mm ball head

As we've seen in the past, Sirui knows how to make a very nice ball head. The modest, 24mm ball head that comes with the 3T-35R is no exception, offering smooth control and a dovetail standard quick release (with 30mm plate) in the same anodized color as the rest of the kit.

The controls are reduced to a single knob to control the ball locking and friction, and the panning base lock. However, this main knob, along with the rest of the head, is well made from machined aluminum, and has a confident feel when adjusting the ball.

Field experience

A macro balancing act with the Sirui 3T-35R, given that the angle of the feet is not adjustable.

The Sirui 3T-35R folds up onto itself into a very neat and tidy bundle of aluminum, with only the ball head and top of the center column above the folded legs. This makes it easy to stuff into a bag or hang from an external loop for whenever it's needed. Another option is to simply leave it attached to whatever camera is on the plate.

When the legs are folded up against the center column, a grip pattern on the underside of the legs makes them an explicit handle for the column and ball head. The legs can also be folded backwards, away from the column, adding even more length. This almost makes the 3T-35R into a selfie-stick, but we’ll just say any attached camera can be handheld, at a slight distance, for 'different angles,' in order to take ourselves seriously.

Using the tripod in 'hands-off' mode requires locking the legs outward. The lock itself works well enough, but feels a bit flimsy when setting it up, since the legs are still free to rotate downward. When the legs are pushed upward, they have only one angle they will stop at, which makes uneven terrain a bit of a challenge. This was fine when supporting very light flash units or miniscule cameras, but a challenge with anything with some heft.

Stability at height

In situations where the 3T-35R is placed on a surface, the precarious nature of the center column becomes more obvious. Using a compact DSLR and 70mm lens, the column could not be extended with the camera pointing anywhere but slightly up and forward, in order to keep most of the weight above the splayed leg-flaps. Trying to put a larger DSLR and 180mm F2.8 macro lens (4.4 lbs or 2kg total, well within the max load) onto the Sirui quickly demonstrated just how shaky having a shifting weight on top could be.

Swapping the extending column for the fixed-length 'short column' made little difference, as the problem is the distance between the legs and the top of the ball head, which remained substantial. The final trick of the Sirui is to remove the column(s) completely and just attach the ball head directly to the large leg lock. This solved most of the stability problems, but now the overall height was fixed at just over 4 inches (11 cm), and the legs no longer fold up at all.

Changing the extendable center column out, and replacing it with the included solid center column (at roughly the same packed size), requires unscrewing a few bolts with a hex wrench, and moving the top plate and ball head over. Not something to do in the field!

Summing up

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the 3T-35R is that it physically has little in common with the well-regarded larger tripods from Sirui. The interesting leg locking design, and the very light and compact package point toward a goal of being unobtrusive in the bag, just in case some support is needed. This is where the 3T-35R hits a sweet spot as a mini-tripod for very light cameras, even though the adjustable height indicated by the center column is something of a red (anodized) herring, due to the inherent lack of stability.

Another area that points to a compromise are the single angle, cast aluminum legs that almost require a flat, stable surface to hold up the stated maximum load with adequate stability. The flip-side is that the whole package can do double (or even triple) duty as a selfie-stick and handheld video stabilizer, with a very nice ball head included. Overall, this is a good mini tripod for lighter cameras, but not for mid-sized and larger gear, despite how nicely it will fit into any size bag.

Pros

  • Very compact when folded
  • Smooth, if simple, ball head
  • Choice of center columns, or none
  • Lovely finish in black or red

Cons

  • Not too stable at full height
  • Difficult to swap columns
  • Legs offer only a single angle