Sirui K-40x – Review
For a solid 2 years, I contently used the Manfrotto 498 RC2 ball head, and for the most part, it did a semi-decent job. It wasn't until I received the Sirui K-40x that I truly realised what I've been missing out on for so long. It's been a good 6 months now since I first got my hands on the Sirui K-40x ball head and I can honestly say it's changed the way I shoot when mounted to a tripod (which is all the time).
Straight off the bat, the price was a major selling point for me. When purchasing photographic gear you often hear the saying "you get what you pay for", but in the case of this ball head, I really don't think I did. I think I got much more than I paid for! Compared to it's competitors, the Sirui K-40x is a steal coming in at only $229 AUD. It's actually increased in price since I received mine, but it's still a bargain in my eyes.
Just like I mentioned in my tripod review HERE, I spent quite some time researching various ball heads to find the one that suited my needs best. After careful consideration, I opted for the K-40x.
Ball Diameter: 54mm
Max Load: 35kg
Arca-Swiss type mount
Aesthetics and Build Quality
The first thing I noticed when I removed the ball head from it's box was how unusual it looked, at least compared to other ball heads from brands like RRS and Feisol. What I mean by unusual is the fact that the ball itself is obviously inclosed a "shell" but as you look further down the body of the ball head, it starts to taper in slightly. While I find this does look a little different, in the end, it can only be reducing the weight and overall size of the ball head. So it's a plus in my books!
As I said in my first impressions post, the build quality feels nothing short of exceptional. And let me tell you, it lived up to that statement. This thing is built like a tank! It's hard to put into words how this ball head feels, you just need to get one in your hands to truly appreciate that quality of such a well-machined head. The fact that the manufactures rate this tripod at a hefty 35kg load capacity should help paint the picture!
Whilst this ball head does exactly what it is intended to do, I do occasionally have some issues with how it does it. For example, I find that the tension dial located on the edge of the "ball lock" to be very difficult to adjust in the field, if needed. Obviously, the intention is to use a flathead screwdriver, or even a coin; but while I'm shooting, I put all my focus on just that - shooting. I don't like to be looking through my bag, for my Leatherman or a spare coin, to adjust the tension/friction of the ball as I could potentially miss the shot. I can see why they didn't include a dedicated friction knob (spacial limitations), but I think that the inclusion of a dedicated knob would make this tripod practically unbeatable.
Ok, so, that's 1 of 2 negative comments about this ball head, now for number 2. My next issue is with how the ball head moves once it is loosened. For the most part - it's great! It moves back and forward and side to side without any issues. However, it's very difficult to pan/rotate your camera from left to right. The ball just feels very tight, no matter how loose it actually is. But I guess that's where the ball head's 360º pan function comes into play, which works exactly how you would hope and expect - very smoothly! I really can't fault it there.
Nowadays, most recent cameras bodies come with the addition of a built in digital level. However, these are not entirely accurate, which was why I was excited to see the inclusion of not one, not two, but THREE bubble levels built in the side, and top, of the ball head. I don't want to get into it here, but I can often rotate my camera several degrees in either direction before my camera realises it's not level. Whereas with a physical bubble level, it's based on physics - and physics are never wrong :)
Things I love:
Weight load capacity (35kg).
Multiple bubble levels (for each axis).
Things I don't love:
Dials are hard to turn when wet.
Ball is difficult, some times near impossible, to swivel (all other movement are perfect).
Rubber grips on knobs slip making it hard to actually rotate.
I'm pretty confident in saying that the Sirui K-40x ball head is by far the best head for the money (uuhh). It's bloody solid, has some nice features and at just over $200 - you'd be hard pressed to find a better ball head for the money. Having said that, it's certainly not the best ball head, by a long shot.
For my Australian readers interested in purchasing this awesome ball head, check out Mainline Photographics: Sirui K-40x