After trying out the MeFOTO Aluminum Backpacker Tripod, I decided to return it, spend a little more and get the Sirui T-025X Carbon Fiber Tripod. I know that in my review of the MeFOTO I tried to justify not getting a carbon fiber tripod because of the extra expense over an equivalent aluminum tripod, but there was something I didn’t take into account. Carbon fiber is stiffer and doesn’t resonate like aluminum. Weighing in at 1 lb. 14.5 oz. (862 g.), it’s 11 oz. less than the MeFOTO and is helpful in reducing the total weight of my photo backpack. So here’s what I’ve discovered so far about this tripod. I’ll be making some comparisons to the MeFOTO, so bear with me.
The MeFOTO and the Sirui target a similar audience: travelers looking for a lightweight tripod solution. However, a tripod is more than just its own weight. It must be steady and support the weight placed on it. The Sirui T-025X uses carbon fiber tubing versus aluminum. The carbon fiber tubes are a slightly smaller diameter, but with nearly the same tubing wall thickness. The legs each have 5 sections and fold 180° for compact storage just like the MeFOTO. However, the carbon fiber legs are stiffer than the aluminum ones and they don’t exhibit the resonant vibrations I get with the aluminum legs. The smallest diameter leg sections are where the carbon fiber really shows its stiffness and dampening ability. Even with weight hanging from the center hook, there was hardly any bending or flexing in the legs.
The Sirui’s center column is removable. Even with the center column installed, if I move my camera slightly when mounted on the Sirui, it doesn’t transfer that movement down into the legs. Not something I could say about the MeFOTO. Wind induced vibrations are also reduced, and since the center column is removable, without it, vibrations are almost non-existent. Eliminating unwanted vibrations is one of the major reasons I went with carbon fiber over aluminum. The removable center column also means a minimum height of 10.2″ versus 16.75″ for the MeFOTO whose center column isn’t removable. Good news for those needing to shoot low angles or macro photography.
The leg angle locks are automatic. As I unfold them down, they click past each angle stop. To release the angle lock, push on the bottom portion of the lock while folding the leg up. The MeFOTO has manual locks requiring the lock be pushed down after setting the angle. Not a big deal, but a nice touch. I like the positive locking of levers on tripod legs, but I prefer twist locks because they don’t get snagged on things when it’s strapped to my camera bag. The twist locks on these legs have a more positive feel to them. As I unlock them, I can feel a distinct click as it releases after a quarter-turn. The legs seem to slide in and out much easier than the aluminum legs on the MeFOTO. And I don’t need to crank them down hard for the leg to hold. It seems that the carbon fiber has slightly more friction to hold the legs in position. Another nice touch are the foam grips around two of the legs, but why not all three?
I read reviews of people complaining that the legs come out of the locking mechanism and falls apart, which is ridiculous. That would only happen if you’re a complete moron and unscrew the locks too far, and even if you did, there are only two pieces inside that you need to replace to reassemble it. So simple, but my recommendation would be to READ THE MANUAL.
The load capacity of the Sirui is 13.2 lb. versus the 8.8 lb. capacity of the aluminum leg versions of the Sirui and MeFOTO. The extra capacity can make all the difference when using this tripod with a big DSLR and heavy large lenses.
The tripod’s base (spider) is smaller than the MeFOTO allowing the tripod to collapse to a smaller diameter. And speaking of collapsing, the Sirui has designed the tripod so that the center column is a bit longer and the mounting clamp of the ballhead doesn’t get in the way of the legs folding closed as it did on the MeFOTO. However, that design increased the folded length of the tripod to 13-3/8″ compared to the MeFOTO’s 12-5/8″. If that 3/4″ extra length is all that critical, the ballhead can be removed and stowed separately, reducing the folded length to 12-1/8″. I have no idea how B&H is getting 11.8″ for a folded length. At the other extreme, since the center column is longer, the Sirui tripod’s maximum height is 54.25″ versus the MeFOTO’s 51.2″. Of course, that’s with the center column fully extended—something I’m not likely to do anyway.
Another nice touch is the use of brass, especially on the threaded portion of the tripod base to the center column. I was concerned that it might be aluminum to aluminum threads which could corrode and bind. There are also brass bushings where the legs pivot and a small bit of brass for the security pin.
And despite this being made by a Chinese company, they obviously found someone with good English language skills to write the instruction manual and warranty card. It’s not the usual Chingrish that accompanies most Chinese products.
Most of my complaints are minor. Nothing negative was a deal breaker, but they still gave me cause for concern.
While the ballhead can be mounted low on the tripod base, the process to remove the center column is a bit complex with many pieces that are removed and the chance of losing something increased. The ballhead mounting screw sits inside the mounting plate, the only plastic component in the tripod. The screw isn’t captive because it’s reversible from 3/8″ to 1/4″. For the included ballhead, it uses 3/8″. Since the mounting screw can be easily flipped around, it can also easily be lost. I recommend not removing the ballhead anywhere that you could lose the mounting screw, such as over long grass or on a rocky hillside—basically, anywhere outdoors.
Full-extended without the center column, the height is 40.5″ to the bottom of the camera. That means crouching down to see through a viewfinder. Also, with the ballhead mounted directly to the tripod base, the legs can’t be folded up. However, with the legs collapsed and folded together with the ballhead exposed, the tripod is still only 16-1/8″ long. Removing the center column only reduces the weight by 2.5 oz.; not really enough to justify leaving the center column at home. Here’s why: with the legs fully extended and folded together, and the center column fully extended, this tripod becomes a nice on-the-move lightweight monopod. I’m 5’9″ (175 cm.) and the viewfinder eyepiece is just at the right height.
I liked the hook at the base of the MeFOTO tripod better than this one. It was a more elegant design than the one on the Sirui. This hook looks a bit flimsy and it protrudes from the tripod base. I foresee that it will be the first thing that breaks off. Even though the carabiner they use is partially rubber coated, it will likely scratch up the paint around it.
I know it doesn’t take much clamping surface to hold a camera onto a ballhead, but this clamp and camera plate are incredibly tiny. It doesn’t have a bubble level either, but the panning is very smooth with just enough resistance; smooth enough to do video pans. The security pin is a nice feature, but only if you’re using their camera plate or one with a similar design. Otherwise, I have to fully open the clamp to insert my camera with a Kirk plate. I don’t see any way to disable or remove the pin, but at least it doesn’t get in the way too much.
The case is a joke. The MeFOTO case looked like a case made for a tripod. It was substantial padded cordura nylon with zippers and a nice strap. The Sirui case is basically a drawstring bag, except that the strings are thick rope with a big overhand knot at one end. The bag isn’t even padded, yet adds another 3 oz. to the total weight. Rope is heavy. This is an instance of “why bother?”
Some people may prefer different color options, but I like the basic black color. It’s understated and doesn’t call attention to my gear, especially when it’s strapped to the side of my camera bag. When I’m traveling, I don’t want to have flashy gear or anything that screams out, I have expensive equipment. Of course, once I pull out my camera, all bets are off.
The fit and finish are first-rate, except for a couple of things. The inside tube that extends from the center column has a small hole thru the carbon fiber tube with a pin to hold the threaded end piece in place. I’m surprised it wasn’t epoxied into place. It already looks a bit frayed around the edge of the hole, but I don’t see that it should be a problem since I rarely extend that section anyway. There are also holes where the pins for the lever on the leg angle locks are located, although they seem to be filled in nicely.
One review said that the when you tilt the quick release clamp all the way to the side to shoot vertical, it doesn’t go far enough to get a true vertical orientation. I don’t seem to have that problem as mine works fine. Besides, I use L-bracket plates on my cameras to avoid this issue.
Finally, there’s the price. At $240, I just keep reminding myself that it’s nowhere near as expensive as a Gitzo. It’s $90 more than the MeFOTO Aluminum, but I think it’s worth the extra money for a more stable and sturdy tripod. And isn’t that why you want a tripod in the first place. This is the tripod I’m traveling with and I recommend it. I’d give it 4.5 stars out of 5. You can buy this tripod on Amazon through our affiliate link: Sirui T-025X 52″ Carbon Fiber Tripod with C-10X Ball Head & Case (Black)