In the spirit of what you should consider putting on your holiday gift wish list (family always asks), I thought this was a good time to put out a few blog posts about what I saw and what came home with me from PPE (Photo Plus Expo) held every October in New York City.
I’ve been looking around for a new tripod, as my Gitzo GT3541XLS (at least 9 years old and no longer available) doesn’t really fit into my new set of 29″ 4-wheel rolling luggage. I am flying more and more these days to locations and having to place the Gitzo diagonally in the suitcase has gotten on my last nerve. I was willing to compromise a leg section, going from 4-leg sections to 3-leg sections to cut the overall folded length. I was not going to compromise leg tube size.
What I found as I walked the show was disheartening: with the growing popularity of mirrorless cameras, the tripod manufacturers have gone to “twigs for tripod legs.” They all think that if the camera is smaller and lighter, then so can the tripod be smaller and lighter. Tell that to my workshop group on the beach in Cape May for sunset one evening with constant 25mph+ winds. I walked up and down the aisles of the Javits Center searching for anything than what most vendors were showing but I didn’t need video camera weight (which turns out to be even beefier than my Gitzo).
The highlight of my trip was two-fold… Here is part one.
I came upon a manufacturer booth that was presenting only tripods, heads, and monopods. Sirui (pronounced she-ray) is a Chinese photo and video equipment manufacturer, founded almost twenty years ago and they make a lot more equipment than what Sirui USA (pronounced she-ray) was showing… check out the company history here.
I was incredibly impressed with the build-quality and ingenious design features (and I didn’t even look at the tripods heads!). I settled on a carbon-fiber 3-section tripod (SR-3203) from their new SR line and the creature features blow me away!
The padded carrying case has a full-length zipper with handles as well as optional clip on/off shoulder strap. The length of the case will fit not only the legs but the tripod head. Inside the case, I found a bag of three stainless steel spikes for shooting on uneven terrain. Normally these would be “optional accessories” that you would have to purchase, right? Unscrew the wide, rubber feet and screw on the spikes.
There is a retractable bag hook under the spider (the platform that connects the legs together and where you screw on the ball head) to stabilize the tripod if needed (or just keep your eye on your camera bag).
You will find a built-in bubble-level on the spider and a 1/4″ screw socket called the accessory connecting port to alleviate having to use a clamp or clip to attach something to the platform.
The BEST news is that I do not have to go out and purchase a new set of Leg Coats as the top of each leg has a foam sleeve already in place. Foam sleeves are great in wet weather — no slippage.
The SR-3203 tripod that I purchased has no center column. You can purchase (for a price) an adjustable center column The trade-off is that you will lose the use of the bag hook. When all the leg sections are fully extended on the SR-3203, the spider is exactly level with my eyes (58″) so the ball head and the camera would be above my head. This gives me a little wiggle room for leg length adjustment and keeps my back as straight as possible. Better to buy a tripod that is too tall than too short.
I love the half-twist locks on the legs (I always end up pinching my fingers on the clamp leg-lock style) and I feel it is really stable for my big DSLRs especially with the 200-500mm lens (the leg tubes are 1.33″ in diameter).
The easy push-touch button to expand the legs (my Gitzo has a far-outdated slide-out metal key to unlock each leg) is a dream and the tripod platform can be lowered to a mere 5.5″ off the ground.
Many times I have used this lowest tripod position when using my 24mm tilt-shift lens to photograph a building. And finally, all of this for a mere 4.4 lbs. This tripod is clearly my new go-to “travel tripod.” If you are taller than me, you will probably find the SR-3204 (4-leg sections) to be the perfect size for you.
The second highlight of my trip was meeting Gary Farber, Marketing Manager at Hunt’s Photo Video thanks to an introduction by John Mascis, Vice President Sales for Sirui USA. While you might be familiar with all of Hunt’s retail stores in New England, Hunt’s wants you to know they are a full-service (with the emphasis on personal customer service) photo and video retailer with a terrific website (be sure to get on their email list). While they seem like a “big” e-tailer, what makes them different is that they offer personal customer-centric service as if they were on Main Street in your hometown.
I am thrilled to announce that my clients have been assigned a personal concierge from Hunt’s to help YOU with all your gear and photo accessory needs. That means you can call Noah, get a real person on the phone, have a go-to person with knowledge to answer all your questions before you make the purchase, and then he will be happy to place the order with you.
Website-centric companies cannot offer the personal customer service that I grew up with — walk into a store and they greet you by name. Since my local camera shop closed up years ago, I am so excited to have this type of relationship with Hunt’s. It is reassuring to me that I am a customer that matters to them, my questions will be answered, and I will be respected. It is so refreshing in this day and age to find this type of personal service. Please reach out to Noah Buchanan by email (email@example.com) or call him on his direct line (781.462.2356). Tell him I sent you!
15% off Sirui products from Hunt’s
Gary has graciously offered up a fantastic Hunt’s Photo Video deal for YOU to celebrate my new Sirui tripod (that I purchased from Hunt’s) here is a 15% discount on all Sirui products. If for some reason the link doesn’t work, use the promo code yztWV at checkout.
More news from my trip to PPE to come over the next few days …
All photos on this post were taken with my iPhone 8, AirDropped to my iMac and processed in Luminar.