August 22nd, 2019
Travel tripods are a comprise. You can’t have everything so you are going to have to sacrifice something. Which is often stability in favor for portability. The idea is to find a system that considers those comprises and balances them accordingly. Which is where the Sirui T-2204SK T-S comes in. I’m confident in saying that, for the money, this tripod is about as close to perfecting that balance then any other current travel tripod on the market today.
If money were no objective you might think you would get an objectively better tripod. Ultra-luxury, if you will, tripod brands such as Gitzo are often associated with superior materials and components; the carbon fiber is better while machined parts, such as leg locks, tend to be higher quality. As such, they are priced accordingly. Gitzo’s Traveler series tripods, a popular recommendation, start at $879 and cap out $1,128.90, depending on your preferred choice of minimum folding length. The Sirui T-2204SK T-S, on the other hand, has a purchase price of $362. Admittedly, the Sirui is not what one would consider to be a “cheap” tripod, but it approaches that fine-line of diminishing returns where carbon fiber is simply just carbon fiber and legs locks are simply just leg locks without all of the caveats.
This particular model comes in at a carry-on friendly folded length of 15.7”, a maximum height of 56.2”, and a load capacity of 33 pounds. It’s a four-section, twist lock, tripod with a center column that reaches its max height when both sections are fully extended. The leg angles are variable with an easy to operate and secure stop lock button. The legs fold up on themselves to achieve its minimal folded length. It comes with a well-made carrying case, metal spiked feet attachments, hex keys, and a short carbon-fiber center column. The entire package is covered by Sirui's 6 year warranty. It’s a conventional tripod that does what a tripod is supposed to do. What Sirui has done, however, is took what is conventional and simply made it well.
Arguably, the most important component of a tripod are the leg locks and how they function. The Sirui uses twist-locks and they function very well. You can release all three locks with a simple 1/2 twist which extends all three legs automatically. There is no need to manually extend each section once they become unlocked. They simply glide down. It’s extremely satisfying. And so are the twist locks. The rubber collars are tactile with a firm response indicating when they are locked.
The legs themselves come in at a larger diameter than most other travel tripods, which is a specification that seems to be generally overlooked and rarely mentioned in tripod reviews. Smaller diameter legs offer greater overall compactness, but at the expense of stability. This is especially noticeable when a tripod is greater than 4 sections. The Sirui offers a generous max leg diameter of approximately 29mm. This may not seem significant, but when you first hold the Sirui you will immediately appreciate how substantial the tripod feels versus other travel tripods that use smaller leg diameters. Yes, the extra millimeters in diameter adds extra weight, but it is negligible. It is an advantage that outweighs any disadvantages and is appreciated out in the field.
Traveling with the tripod is simple. Having recently flown, it easily fit inside my standard sized carry-on luggage with room to spare. Out in the field it performed like you would expect any quality tripod to perform. It is reasonably sturdy and easy to operate. Obviously, the tripod suffers from some stability issues (e.g., camera shake) when both center column sections are fully extended, but that is to be expected. It is, however, very well controlled. For landscape photography, a steady hand or a two-second timer completely eliminates the issue. With the center columns detracted, it’s solid and not widely different in stability than my full-sized Benro Carbon Fiber tripod.
If you can’t already tell, I’m extremely impressed. While Sirui may not have the brand recognition like some of their competitors, the T-2204SK more than makes up for whatever perceived advantage brand recognition might have. They have produced a high quality tripod package that easily stands out in the overly saturated market of travel tripods. That is not easy to do. If you are looking for a travel tripod that ticks all of the right boxes, seriously consider the Sirui T-2204SK.