Sirui A-1205 & Y-11 Ballhead Review

Updated: May 13, 2020




Join me as I put the A-1205 Carbon Fibre Tripod and Y-11 Ballhead to the test on a trip through Europe.


Disclaimer: While I am an official Sirui Australia Ambassador, Sirui has not paid me for this review, and I have made every possible effort to describe my actual experiences with the tripod in the least biased way.


In the market for the perfect travel tripod? Why not head down to your local camera store and pick up the smallest and lightest model they have............ If only it were that easy!


Like any popular photography gear, there is an endless array of tripod choices on the market. Perform a basic online search for 'best travel tripod', and you'll be hit with more comparisons and models than dollars in your pocket. Many of the brands offer you much of the same features but packaged in a slightly different way or form.


While the stabilisation technology available in today's modern cameras is nothing short of incredible, a good sturdy and compact tripod is a necessity for any travel photographer looking to capture long exposures, night photography, self-portraits, panoramas and tack sharp images.



At Home in the Mountains


Like many other amateur photographers, I had been previously using the MeFoto Roadtrip Aluminium model as my everyday and travel tripod. In fact, I loved it so much that when I misplaced one, I purchased another. It was relatively light, small and worked ok in most conditions. But it wasn't perfect.


After a lot more photography experience and numerous rugged adventures, I've now entered into the world of Carbon Fibre tripods. My Sirui W-2204 Tripod and K-30x ball head (See my video review here) being my go-to piece of equipment for timelapse, ocean scapes and windy conditions, I required something that was less bulky and more suited to scaling large mountains and packable into the side of a bag.


Enter the Sirui A-1205.



Minimalistic Design

 


Specifications (Taken from Sirui Australia Website


Tripod specifications – Weight: 1kg – Max. load: 10kg – Height: 26 – 140cm – Closed size: 37cm – Material: Carbon Fibre, Aluminium Centre column – Extendible and removable centre column – Reversible 1/4 inch and 3/8 inch screw for tripod heads or camera – Legs fold up by 180° – Sealed twist locks for secure support – Hook for stabilising and cold weather grips


Ball head specifications – Weight: o.3kg – Max load: 8kg – Material: Aluminium – 360° panorama function – infinitely variable friction control – Rubber release plate – size: 30x38mm – Release plate with 1/4″ stainless steel screw – head with 3/8″ thread – Vertical slot


Included 1x SIRUI A-1205 tripod Carbon Fibre black 1x SIRUI Y-11 ball head black 1x SIRUI release plate black 1x Soft case



 


Questions I asked myself


Heading down to the store to check out the entire Sirui tripod range, I was again, a little overwhelmed. Would I need something with waterproofness? Did I need a tripod that extended over the height of my head? Was this little tripod going to be sturdy enough when conditions get tough?


Let's see how it faired.



Just Thick Enough To Wrap A Gorilla Pod Around


 


What I look for


As a professional adventure travel photographer, I look for a variety of features and specifications in a travel tripod + ball head combination that may differ from the average weekend warrior. In general these fall in the below order.


This review is broken down into the following categories.

1) Weight (less than 1.5kg)- if the thing is too heavy to take around with me, I won't use it. Simple.

2) Form factor - The tripod must be slim, unobtrusive and fit into a carry on sized bag with ball head attached. At the very least not protrude above the height of my bag when strapped to it.

3) Price - $329 RRP. Certainly less than $500 AUD.

4) Stability - Outdoor conditions are dynamic and often less than favourable. Does it hold up or fail under pressure?

5) Ease of use - How quick is it to set up and pack away?

6) Appearance - Hot or not? Is it inconspicuous?




Weight


Every second person's idea of the perfect weight to stability combination will vary drastically. This perfect' weight limit develops the more you get out and shoot and realise what is necessary and what can be left behind. Being that I shoot predominantly M4/3, any tripod + ball head combination over 1.5kg is pushing the limits of practicality for the majority of my work.


I need a tripod that is barely noticeable when trekking multi-day routes through the mountains and can also be packed into my carry on luggage without tipping the scales. The A-1205 + Y-11 fits the bill perfectly. At 1.3kg for the carbon fibre model, it's not the lightest on the market, but it sure is trim enough that you hardly notice after a full day of walking.


A travel tripod that is light enough to carry in one hand with a camera attached is super important. I often found myself capturing a shot then walking to another location that could be 10 minutes away, plonking the tripod down and begin shooting again. This becomes an increasingly tiring process with a heavier tripod. I felt I could move swiftly and comfortably over uneven ground or long distances with the camera attached to the unit. It wasn't a burden.



Most Stable When Centre Column is Down


The A-1205 is carbon fibre which keeps the weight down to a minimum while maintaining superior strength and minimising vibrations. Anyone looking to purchase a good travel tripod that will last you many years of exploration should invest the extra $ for a carbon model.


At 300g the Y-11 ball head is hardly noticeable, even though it's made from aluminium it doesn't feel unbalanced, overly small or too large. With just 2 small tension knobs and an equally small ACRA plate, the weight is kept to a minimum.



Bubble Level For Use on Uneven Ground


Form Factor


At first glance the A-1205 and Y-11 when folded back on itself is tiny. You'd be forgiven in thinking that it's a child's toy. I'm a short guy at 171cm, and the tripod is almost precisely the length of my forearm and hand.


Traditionally when I've travelled by plane the few hundred extra grams and large width of my tripod pushed my carry on limits into the "Sorry sir, you'll have to check your bag in" zone. I would then pray to God it arrived intact.



Carry on Compliant Dimensions of the Fstop bag


On my recent trip to Europe, I placed the A-1205 inside the supplied Sirui tripod bag and strapped it to the outside of my bag without creating any unnecessary bulk that could raise eyebrows during check-in.


However, with the airlines cracking down on oversized carry-on, I feel the little guy will end up back in the checked luggage to save space for my precious camera glass.



Lightning Fast Twist Lock Grips


Having first-hand experience using tripods with both tab and twist-lock mechanisms, I can safely say that I would never go back to tabs. The twist-locks that the A-1205 sports, barely make a difference to the overall diameter of the legs, they're easy to grip and non-obtrusive. The three top leg angle adjustment tabs sit near flush with the rest of the leg, adding to its sleek form.



Spring Loaded Leg Diameter Tabs


Being an already small tripod, Sirui has managed to fit a dual section centre column without adding much to its diameter. The thin stabilising hook protrudes out around 5mm, which I thought would get hooked on everything, but this is yet to happen.


As mentioned before, I stand 171cm tall which means that many regular sized tripods extend to or above my eye level. With its maximum height of 140cm (2 section centre columns raised), the camera sits just under my eye level. Anyone taller than me would need to squat down a lot to use the viewfinder. Not necessarily an issue with many modern-day flip screens but could be a deal-breaker for anyone 6ft and over.





The small size of this tripod meant I could easily set it up in small and narrow places quite easily then move onto the next location without folding it up.


The best thing about this tripod is that it will always be with you.

Timelapsing in an Awkward Location: Venice.


Compared to a full-sized tripod like the W-2204 the A-1205 is significantly shorter and is marginally shorter than the Mefoto Roadtrip.





Stability


Let's face it. If your tripod isn't stable then it's not really doing its job, right?


A tripod's level of stability across a wide variety of conditions is paramount when considering it for travel. After all, you can't simply head into the camera store and purchase a new one in the middle of a desert. For purist landscape photographers, the slightest sign of vibration can be a deal-breaker.


There's little point carting a tripod to a location if all your shots end up blurry due to the wind, water or vibrations. In the realm of tripods, bigger and heavier is generally more stable, and carbon is stronger and handles vibrations better. There is always a better, but with better, there is usually a trade-off. In the travel world, that trade-off is portability.



Minimal Footprint When Shooting in the Streets


Resulting Image From Above


I want to make this next point clear. I shoot almost entirely Olympus, which has hands down the best IBIS of any brand. Pair that with the IBIS of some pro lenses and I get 7.5 stops of stabilisation. That's some crazy long hand-held long exposures here. I'm talking 2-5seconds of sharp images here. I found throughout my trip in Europe that any vibration or slight wind gust was easily counteracted with the camera's stabilisation. It was a match made in heaven for 90 % of the long exposures I was shooting.


Yes, I know you might be asking why I didn't have the stabilisation turned off. I honestly have had very few issues with it being left on. But that's just me.



6kg Hanging From the Hook


Where the little tripod did struggle was during a shoot that required me to fully extended the legs to shoot above a tree line. The other occasion was when I was shooting a time-lapse along the somewhat breezy cliff faces of Cinque Terre. Even with my camera bag attached to the stabilising hook, there was enough sway in the 2 section centre column to render some of the time-lapse images unusable. Wherever possible, I kept the centre column and bottom 2 leg sections down to provide a much smaller centre of gravity and lower the bottom leg portions so it's stabilised by thicker legs.


The hook itself is brilliant, easy to access, responsive and large enough to hang a large carabiner such as this one.





I'd recommend removing your camera strap or at the very least, winding it around the tripod as the gentle swaying in the breeze was to cause minor blur in long exposures with IBIS turned off and the centre column fully extended.


This is the general rule for all tripods I know, however, the A-1205 suffers during full extension when the wind is blowing beyond a gentle breeze.


The tripod features quite a substantial hexagonal plate that the 3 legs attach to and provides a large angle of support that's definitely welcomed. It feels substantially more secure than the Mefoto Roadtrip which features a narrower base of support.



Solid Hexagonal Plate


During a recent canyoning trip into the Blue Mountains where weight and size were a significant consideration, the A-1205 was my go-to choice. I was a little concerned at the little guy's stability when submerged in chest height water and erred on the idea of hauling the W-2204. I'm thrilled I didn't.