REVIEW: The Sirui N-2204SK tripod
When you teach photography as long as I have, the question of tripods comes up a lot. What I am often struck by is the idea of purchasing that incredible (and often high-priced) camera and good glass to use with it only to trust its stability and equally important “safety” on a flimsy, sometimes difficult to use tripod. A good tripod is worth its weight in gold to be sure and in fact it may be worth even more that its weight in terms of providing secure and trusted support for your camera.
The Sirui (pronounced Soo-ray) N-2204SK tripod with a Sirui K-20x ball head is an excellent choice for many photographers. It is a beautifully designed professional grade tripod that promises years of faithful service. It is solidly built and light enough to carry with a camera and lens for miles up and down the dunes at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico, where I recently tested this tripod.
At White Sands, I tested the tripod using my Nikon D850 DSLR with Nikon 14-24mm, 24-70mm and 70-200mm lenses. I found no flaws with the tripod and it performed beautifully in this harsh environment. However like all tripods you have to take care of them—wiping them down with a barely wet rag at the end of the day to keep dirt and sand out of the locking mechanisms on the legs and tripod head is highly advised. And if you do a lot of work where your tripod is frequently immersed in water or you use it in extreme environmental conditions, you might want to take a look at the Sirui W-2204 which is designed to prevent water, dust or small particles from entering the legs and/or locking mechanism.
The Sirui K-20x ball head uses the venerable Arca-Swiss Quick Release type lock that requires an Arca-Swiss type dovetail connecting plate to mount your camera. The head does come with a single generic plate, however I recommend taking a look at an L-type bracket specifically made for your camera to achieve the best stability and ease of use. Too, an Arca-Swiss quick release plate on the foot of my 70-200mm lens makes for easy and quick mounting of the lens using the tripod collar. Custom L-brackets and lens plates specifically made for your camera and lenses are offered by several companies including Sirui, Really Right Stuff, Kirk Enterprises and Sunwayfoto to name a few.
According to Sirui the N-2204SK can handle up to 33 pounds and folds down to about 19 inches. The tripod comes with tools, wrist strap and a nifty case that holds the tripod and head after folding the legs 180 degrees that will allow for an easy fit inside your luggage. Another nice feature of this tripod is that it can be easily converted into a monopod for those locations where a tripod may not be allowed such as a crowded street, museum or church. The tripod has a reversible center column for macro work and a set of both rubber and spiked feet that can easily be interchanged as the situation demands. And while I never expect to use it, Sirui warranties the tripod for 6 years just in case. Like the other Sirui tripods I use, the N-2204SK certainly held my Nikon D850 and lenses well.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I’d like to mention that this tripod was given to me free of charge by Sirui in exchange for this review. As for any gear I choose to review, I only accept items that I would probably purchase anyway or want to try out for myself before demonstrating/recommending them to the good folks who attend our workshops. And if I don’t like it, I send it back—no harm no foul.
It’s hard to beat a good tripod and the Sirui N-2204SK is definitely one I’ll be recommending to my students. It won’t be too hard on your bankbook either allowing for more funds to travel or perhaps even an additional lens. Check it out at your local camera store, at the usual suspects online or on Sirui’s web site here
Steve Jobs signature move as he walked off the stage after having just finished presenting an amazing new Apple product would turn to the audience and say, “But there’s one more thing . . .”
Please allow me to say one more thing . . . If you don’t usually work with a tripod, preferring instead to hand-hold the pictures you make, learning to work effectively with a tripod can take a few days. I know in my workshops that a student who complains about using a tripod at the first of the workshop often falls in love with one by the end. I have noticed too that people who make pictures using tripods—aside from their pictures being sharper—tend to make pictures that are more thoughtful, more inspired and deeper in feeling. Their compositions are stronger because they can take the time to study what they are seeing. And yes I do know that a tripod is not necessary, or even warranted for every picture one makes (I’m thinking street photography here). However, if you are wondering how to change up your photography, a good tripod . . . a Sirui tripod just might be the answer.