If you’re into this is probably a kit you want to embrace. I never heard about the Sirui brand until a couple of month ago where a stumbled across it in a thread over at NatureScapes.net – Fast forward a month or two and into my office arrived a well suites kit for the average nature photographer. So if it time to ditch your favorite and brand and spend all your money on Sirui? – Read on and find out.

First a small rant, so let me get this out-of-the-way a soon as possible and focus on the more important stuff. The keyword is load capacity.
Why is it that every other tripod maker (with the exception of a few movie oriented brands) claim whatever equipment they offer is able to sustain tremendous workloads, when in function they would be nowhere near that particular rating. Is Sirui any different? No! Is Manfrotto and Gitzo any different? No! So why not when you already know that in the heat of action, your gear will not support these claims just supply the customer with the real load capacity and not a value calculated out of your free mind.
Ever tried adding 15.7 kg lens and 1.5 kg body on a 3 series Gitzo tripod that’s rated at 18 kg? I have and it’s absolute so fragile it’s of no real use what so ever. So my rule of thumb is : In order to calculate the true load capacity divide whatever the manufacturer claims by 3 or 4 and you’ll have a result that’s close to reality – Rant mode is off again.
Agree or disagree leave a comment and let me and the user base know. We want the right info from get go!! 🙂

With that out the way lets focus on what this wonderful kit offers.

siruiph20gimbalI’m not sure you can refer to any camera accessory part as sexy but you got to admit – The Sirui PH-20 Carbon Fiber gimbal looks pretty darn good with it’s sleek woven carbon fiber and impeccable finish.

Going from bottom to top the PH-20 features a nest degree-marked panning base that sits firmly on top of the tripod. I would liked to have it slightly wider but all in all it looks as good as it functions.

The first blue knob is a beautifully made and of cause rubberized for comfort and control in harsh conditions. The knob is surprisingly well damped and feels very smooth turning. In function in works great as it’s easy to get the right tension if you feel any is needed.  I would liked it easier to lock completely down as I feel it takes just a tad too much force to do. Perhaps a larger knob would’ve done so but then you’ll end up with a more bulky head.

Moving upwards on the gimbal reveals the swing-arm as well as the second tension knob that controls vertical movement. The knob has the same feel as the horizontal knob. But it’s bigger and therefore better. This huge knob is a joy to use and you’ll be locking and unlocking to the right tension within the very same second. The quality is superb and you’ll appreciate the craftsmanship Sirui has put into this gimbal. I mean just look at the carbon-pattern – Looks close to perfect to me.

Moving to the swing-arm you’ll again find a degree marked vertical base on the end of the bearing. Brilliant! The vertical part of the swing-arm is also marked to easy to adjust comfort if you’re switching between lenses within your workflow. Compared to the rest of the head this part is surprisingly small for the size of the head and to keep the weight as low as it is, this part is milled out. This is in fact the very culprit in this system and why the rated work load of is ridicules! I would divide this number by 4 or even 5 to calculate the gimbals true ability to work under ideal conditions. – So I am saying the Sirui PH-20 isn’t suitable for the Sigma 300-800mm F5.6 lens (weighs 5.9kg) – Yes that is what I’m saying, so here´s me hoping that the mark II of this otherwise neat gimbal, features a vertical part twice as beefy as it is, just like any of the competitors.

The horizontal part of the swing-arm is great and it’s, thanks to the markings, extremely easy to move up and down in other to find the right balance point. A neat feature is the built-in quick-release which functions very well. I would have liked the knob that closes the quick-release to be larger, but there’s always room improvement even on a high-end object like this.

A big plus is the ability to remove the swing-arm and mount a quick-release in side-mount style. A second quick-release is included but an odd design choices forces the user to go with the included lens-plate or ditch the side-mount altogether. The funny thing is this could be avoided by including a couple bolt´s with angled head and problem solved.

All in all the coolest looking gimbal on the planet and superb for lenses up to 500mm F4’s or perhaps the newest lightweight 400mm F2.8. Any larger and I would look for different alternatives.

siruim3204The Sirui M-3204 is made of similar excellent carbon-fiber craftsmanship and fits the Sirui PH-20 very well. The legs are rated at 18 kg which is far beyond what it´s truly capable of, but I wouldn’t have any problems using it with gear weighing around 4 or 5 kg or similar workloads to the Sirui PH-20. Although I would always buy a tripod with a flat base (or a 75mm bowl) the center column functions surprisingly well and with the column extended to full length the tripods meet an amazing height of 180 cm. Add the 20 cm for the gimbal and you’ll be working in a different layer of air only used by Yao Ming and similar sized humans.

Again the attention to detail is superb. From the logo on the leg covers to the small hook to hang whatever heavy stuff you’ll carry. They feel stable at higher work loads as long as you won’t surpass my aforementioned recommendation. There’s a number positions for the legs to be sitting which can get you almost all the way to the ground. Yet I’m surprised how compact the tripod collapses reaching only a total height of 51 cm in reversed position. I love how little it weighs, only 1.7 kg’s and with the Sirui PH-20 gimbal it makes one heck of a travel kit for the nature photographer on the road. You’ll be trekking with these legs for days and never complain about the weight of the tripod nor the gimbal.

siruim3204_1

I would’ve liked the base to be slightly beefier and well as the knobs to be slightly longer to have a firmer grip on the legs. One of the secrets behind the success of the Gitzo tripods and their stability isn’t the carbon-fiber but the length of their knobs, as they grip over a large area making the tripods much more stable, when you’re twisting and turning them in the heat of action. Try and extend whatever tripod you own to the highest length and get a firm hold on two of the legs and try to twist the tripod.. Wobbly right? – Now try this with a similar sized Gitzo and you’ll see the difference. And it’s not that the Sirui M-3204 isn’t bad in any way, in fact it’s way better than most Manfrotto‘s just not in the same league as Gitzo which I believe Sirui is trying to compete against.

All in all great legs for large lenses up to 500mm F4 or similar size.

Conclusion

To be honest I didn’t know what to expect from the Sirui M-3204 tripod and Sirui PH-20 gimbal. In terms of looks they rock especially the gimbal is a contender for the greatest looking tripod-head on the market. There’s a couple of things I would’ve liked different but I’m sure they’ll get it right on the Mark II.

The Sirui M-3204 is a great tripod as long as you don’t use it with the largest lenses on the market. I’m extremely impressed on how compact it folds and how tall it’ll go. One of the most versatile tripod I’ve ever used and it’s suites the Sirui PH-20 gimbal very well.

There’s a couple of buts that makes me wonder most of all the advertised workload that’s far beyond what the kit is capable of´, but to be honest Sirui is just doing whatever every other brand does.
I’ll give my recommendation to this kit and if you need the compactness and lightweight this kit offers, there’s very few alternatives that does it as well at the Sirui M-3204 tripod and Sirui PH-20 gimbal.

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Author

Nature lover turned 34, Avid Nature Photographer and fan of all things living. Every second spend outside with or without a camera is a second for me to grow and learn. Got question, requisitions or just in for a chat shot me an E-mail or connect me on Facebook or Twitter

15 Comments

  1. Tobias Hjorth Reply

    Thanks to Focus Nordic for lending me this kit. If you’re from anywere in Europe and interested in purchasing Sirui gear you can get in contact with them at : http://focusnordic.com/

  2. Bruno Ázera Reply

    Thanks Tobias for this review! The tripod and head looks amazing.

  3. Tobias Hjorth Reply

    Hi Bruno

    Thank you for looking and commenting. I agree if looks were everything this would take the cake 🙂

  4. Not sure the Sirui is competing with Gitzo (most probably with Benro), as they are not even at the same price point. However, regarding the size (both extended and collapsed) and weight of the Sirui, I can’t seem to find one Gitzo model that can match the specs of the M3402. Then if you factor in price (Gitzo is at least twice the price, unless you find an older model still on the shelf) its an easy decision for me to make. Gitzo no longer offers a lifetime warranty, and Sirui has a six year warranty. So in comparing the two, if I was into astrophotog I would get the gitzo, but for normal birding (400mm f5.6), landscape and portrait shots I’ll save my money and gladly take the Sirui.

  5. John Smith Reply

    I was thinking about purchasing this Sirui 3204 legs together with a K-20X ball head for my D7000 + 70-200 2.8 lens. I know it will hold but…how steady will it be…i need to eliminate vibrations altogether due to me taking infrared shots and having to screw on the filter after a refocus, also doing exposures in the length of 5 to 15 seconds. Also i will be traveling a lot so that is also a factor. Would you recommend this combination? I was looking at Benro before this and i like them…apart from the crappy ball heads and plates.

    • Tobias Hjorth Reply

      HI John

      Excellent question!
      The Sirui M-3204 will be stable for your needs easily. Unfortunately I’m not familiar with the ballhead but you need to be sure it’s as stable as possible. For the ultimate ballhead I would look for the RRS probably the top of the line version. But other than that I say go for it! 🙂

      Let me know what you’ll end up with.

      Tobias

      • John Smith Reply

        After careful consideration and a lot of search on the internet i’ve decided to go with the M-3204 + K-20X. Ordered them today and they will arive tomorrow. I do have high expectations because of the crappy tripod i’ve been using up until now. My current tripod is a DIGIPOD with a pan-tilt head, it was so crappy that even when half extended… and with no camera attached, it wiggled all over the place, just as i was trying to level the head… So yeah… i have high expectations!

        • Tobias Hjorth Reply

          If the 3204 isn’t adequate you should really look into a flat-base version without the center column for maximum stability. But I recon the tripod will fulfill your needs.

  6. Thanks for the review. I just copied the image above with the tripod extended with the lens into Photoshop and ran a line parallel to the leg on the left (which is close to 90degree viewing angle). Apart from very little sagging you will get with no load there is quite a bit of sag in that legs with that camera/lens combination. What is your estimate on weight of the head, camera and lens?

    • Tobias Hjorth Reply

      Hi Jack

      My pleasure and thank you for looking!
      The combined weight would roughly be 9kg´s or 20 pounds.

      Tobias

  7. Kep Vandeberg Reply

    I bought the Sirui M-3204 tripod together with the K-20X ballhead. I say:”steady as a rock.”

    • Tobias Hjorth Reply

      Hi Kep

      Well there you have it! Thanks for letting us know 🙂

      Tobias

  8. Robert Zabukovec Reply

    Hi, found this review – great.
    Question I’m about to buy the Sirui M-3204 (since the 4204 is out of the stock) and the Triopo dg-3 gimbal head.
    Will be enough (your opinion) to hold D3s, 400mm f/2.8 af-s (first version) and 2x tc for normal work?
    Looking forward for your help.
    Regards
    Robert

    • Tobias Hjorth Reply

      Hi Robert

      Thank you for looking and commenting.
      I do believe the Sirui M-3204 is just a tad too small considering the lens you use. I would definitely go for the bigger model or even better a version without the center column.
      I’m not familiar with the Triopo DG-3 gimbal so I can’t comment on it but I suggest you to try it at first if possible.
      Let me know how it goes 🙂

      Tobias

  9. I bought this head based a lot upon this review. I tried it with my Nikon 500mm F4 as well as my Sigma 800mm F5.6, and found it to be absolutely TERRIBLE when it came to vibration transmission. With nothing mounted on it just tap the horizontal QR mount plate with any lightweight metal object and it sounds exactly like a tuning fork! I could not get a sharp image with either lens. After returning it I went back to my old gimbal until I found the Nest NT-530H carbon fiber gimbal at about half the price of the Sirui PH-20. For the price I had to give it a try, and it was AMAZING! Operation was much smoother than the Sirui, no tuning-fork vibration in the mount, and tack sharp images even with the big Sigma 800mm mounted! It also features a really cool security pin lock system for the QR plate that assures you will never accidentally have your lens slide out of the mount should you forget to tighten the clamp (which only requires 1/2 turn from loose to tight and back). The Nest is rated at 25KG, and that is probably generous by any scale, but with 10KG on it I have a rock solid setup with no vibration at all, and still the “cool” factor of the carbon fiber and only a couple of ounces heavier than the Sirui.

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