So, I’ve purchased another new ball head, a Sirui K-30X. This is a follow up to my review of the Manfrotto XPRO ball head which after some light use, I had some issues with. If you want to know about the specific issues, you can read the article linked above.
When I start looking around for new kit, I normally start by looking at the professional photographers I follow on various social media platforms and the gear they use. They will spend much more time with the gear than I do and will highlight any issues or gripes that they have with it.
The second consideration is the cost. The professional photographers I follow, by their very nature, make their living from photography. This means expensive gear can be classed as a business expense and the cost offset against tax. I do not make (much) money from my images, so it’s harder for me to justify expensive purchases. Not that I haven’t done this when I’ve really wanted something.
This was the case when I started shopping for a new ball head. Most of the professionals I follow use the Really Right Stuff ball heads. While I don’t doubt they’re one of the best out there, they also come with a premium price tag. Another popular brand among the professionals is 3-Legged Thing. I have several of their products, both tripods and tripod heads and I love them. I checked out their range, but unfortunately, they don’t do a ball head with a base diameter to match my Manfrotto tripod. This isn’t a major issue, but I tried a ball head with a smaller base diameter and operating the lock and pan/tilt control was difficult as the tripod top plate stopped me getting a good grip on the controls.
I also listen to a few podcasts and had heard good things about a couple of other tripod heads that interested me. The first was by a company called Colorado Tripod Company, the second was by a company called Sirui. I am based in the UK and I could not find an authorised dealer in the UK for the Colorado Tripod Company. This left me to investigate the options from Sirui who have several dealers in the UK including Amazon.
I started by checking the prices and they were within the budget I had decided on. There were four options available, the K-10X, K-20X, K-30X and, no surprises, the K-40X. They range in size from smallest to largest with the K-40X having a 54mm ball and being able to support a 35Kg load.
Finding the base diameter of each of the models proved more difficult than it should have. For whatever reason, manufacturers don’t see this as an important spec but having struggled with mismatched tripod top plates and ball head diameters in the past, it happens to be important to me. I eventually found that the Sirui K-30X had the correct base diameter of 60mm and would support a load of 30Kg. More than enough for my needs.
Having decided on the K-30X, that just left me searching for the best price. The Sirui range is available from several UK retailers, the cheapest price for the Sirui K-30X at the time of writing was Photo Specialist at £130.97. Anyone that knows me knows that patience isn’t one of my strengths and Photo Specialist estimated delivery in 2-3 working days. The price on Amazon was £139.99 at the time of writing and having paid Amazon a chunk of cash for free next day delivery you can guess where I chose to order it from.
As you would expect from Amazon (at least now they’ve stopped using Yodel for deliveries) my package arrived the next day. The packaging is nothing to write home about, certainly not to Apple standards of over-engineering anyway. In the box is the tripod head (obviously), a protective pouch made from what feels like neoprene, an Arca Swiss compatible tripod plate, an Allen key and the instruction leaflet. You can discard the instruction leaflet, the translation to English isn’t great and will probably confuse you more than help you. I also discarded the tripod plate, as I’ve said before, I use Black Rapid straps and prefer to use their own brand camera plates or my 3-Legged Thing L-Bracket.
The controls of the Sirui K-30X are remarkably simple and straightforward. There is the main locking lever that has an inset friction control screw, a separate panning lock, and a knob to tighten tripod clamp to secure the top plate. There is also a safety lock in the top plate to stop a camera sliding from the head accidentally if the clamp is not tightened sufficiently. The safety lock is released using a small red push button on the side of the top plate.
Anyone that has used a tripod ball head before should have no issues operating this tripod. The only thing that may confuse you is the friction control screw. I struggled with it when I first tried using it. I’ll try and explain how it works to save you some time.
Put your camera on the tripod and secure the top plate using the clamp. Tighten the main locking knob to the point where the friction on the ball is at the amount you require when adjusting the camera position. Now tighten the friction control screw and fully tighten the main locking knob to secure the camera in place. If you’ve done everything correctly, when you loosen the main locking knob to reposition the camera, it should loosen no further than the point it was when you set the friction control screw and the friction on the ball head should be set at the point you require. To readjust, simply loosed the friction control screw and repeat the process above.
One word of warning, I had issues initially when trying to tighten the friction control screw. Under normal circumstances, the friction control screw should be easy enough to tighten and loosen with your fingernail. Initially, I could not do this with mine and I had to resort to moving it with a large flat-headed screwdriver as it seemed locked in the fully open position and wouldn’t move with the amount of force I could exert with my finger. Once it had been moved once, I found I could easily tighten and loosen it with only my fingers. I’m not sure if this is due to the manufacturing process or if the issue was a one-off with my particular tripod head.
So far, I’m liking Sirui K-30X far more than the Manfrotto XPRO ball head. It looks good and feels good in the hand. It is quite heavy, but it feels well engineered and well built. Ergonomically I have found no issues with it so far. It’s less complicated, and the controls are simple and easy to operate. The friction control doesn’t get moved accidentally as it’s inset inside the main locking knob and the top plate works with all the tripod plates I’ve tested. The movement of the ball is silky smooth and once you’re familiar with it, the friction control is easy to operate.
Due to the lockdown situation, I’ve not used the K-30X excessively or for extended periods of time in the field but so far, I really like it. If you’re in the market for a new tripod head, then I recommend you consider the Sirui range of ball heads.
I hope you found this post useful or informative. Thanks for stopping by, have a good one!