Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Sirui K-20X ball head in review

I've been shooting for years with my Chinese-made unbranded KS-0 ball head that I bought from Dealextreme.com. While it is quite sturdy ball head, it has some quirks, which've led me to look for a better alternative. The alternative which I've now bought is Sirui K-20X which I'll now review.

Sirui is also made in China, but it tries to separate itself from the numerous white box manufacturers as a premium brand. Sirui's K-20X ballhead was purchased from Poland, Foto-tip.pl's online store to be exact. Amazon also sells the same head for about the same price.

Below are the main specifications of both ball heads:

KS-0 Sirui K-20X
KS-0 Sirui K-20X
Approximately 31€ at time of purchase, now a tad more (Dealextreme.com) approx. 100€ (foto-tip.pl)
The tightening mechanism of the ball is with two screws. Panning has also its own screw. Screw handles have rubber coats. The tightening mechanism of the ball is made with one screw with a limiter. Panning has its own screw. Screw handles have rubber coats.
Arca-Swiss compatible quick release plate with anti-slip rubbers. Can be attached to tripod with either 1/4" or 3/8" screw, adapter supplied. Arca-Swiss compatible quick release plate with anti-slip rubbers and anti-twist feet. Can be attached to tripod with either 1/4" or 3/8" screw, adapter not supplied.
approx. 475 g approx. 400 g

Build and construction

Whereas KS-0 was delivered in white, partially crushed cardboard box without any documentation whatsoever; had the Sirui's ball head instruction written in good English, nice neoprene pouch and Allen key. Even though the pouch probably won't be used and the instructions for simple accessory aren't really needed, it gives warm and fuzzy feeling in the customer.

Both ball heads have Arca-Swiss compatible quick release plates. Sirui's supplied TY-60 quick release plate is tad larger (60mm x 48mm) than KS-0's plate (40mm x 50mm) and features anti-twist feet for attaching heavier cameras. Sirui's quick release plate's screw also has hexagonal socket to tighten the screw further than is possible using bare hands. KS-0's quick release plate's screw has a slot that can be tightened using a coin or similar, it has no handle unlike the Sirui's screw, which is a nice detail.

Vibrations and dampening while shooting

The ball heads' dampening was tested by shooting a series of ten images with Nikon D200 at the maximum frame rate (5 fps). Exposure times were locked to 1/80s, which should show the vibrations caused by the slapping mirror. The images were cropped to 256px sized squares and animated GIF image was made.

Left image is KS-0 and on the right is Sirui K-20X.

KS-0, landscape orientation

Sirui K-20Xlandscape orientation

KS-0 portrait orientation

Sirui K-20X portrait orientation

As one can see from the animations, there's not that much difference between the cheap ball head and the more expensive one. Sirui is less blurred, but for triple the price, it should be. It's interesting to note that the portrait orientated images are less blurred than the landscape orientated images. I guess that would be caused by the mirror's movement direction being perpendicular to the Earth's gravity, hence smaller total force moving the camera about.


Because the Sirui has oversized quick release plate, it can be used as a makeshift focusing rail. Below is an image of a critter that was shot when taking the above test images.

Kiiltäväkuorinen vihreä hyönteinen

Sirui also has spirit levels in all three dimensions, KS-0 has none. One of the spirit levels is under the camera when the quick release plate is attached, however.

KS-0 is operated with two tightening screws for the ball and one for the panning base. Sirui's single tightening screw is a better solution, easier and faster to use. KS-0's ball is usually either fully freed or locked up, Sirui has more progressive tightening, Sirui's solution is better. Sirui also has a friction limiter which prevents one accidentally fully opening the ball when it's loaded.

Biggest drawback of the KS-0 is that the ball moves around when fasting it. Those movements start to be annoying when shooting with a lens longer than 100 millimeters or so. For macro shooting the KS-0 is basically unusable. Sirui doesn't have that problem even at four times longer focal length, and even at macro distances the movement is millimeter or two.

This article was originally published in Pallopanoraamablogi in 2012-05-29 as "Halpa ja hyvä kuulapää testissä".

1 comment:

  1. Loved the review, specially the images showing vibration.