Sunwayfoto make some incredibly robust equipment and their ingenuity really pushes the boundaries of what you could imagine you'd need on a shoot. Their design and engineering team are innovative, and the build quality of their products is second to none without sacrificing style. Relatively unheard of in the UK, they were formed in 2008 which was around the same time I started getting into photography. I found them when in need of a camera-specific L bracket, and have since discovered other excellent products in their range.
As a company they easy to communicate with, and are excellent at listening to feedback from photographers. They have a noticeable hunger to learn and improve - something that I feel very strongly about in my own work and methods. Read on for my thoughts on some of the equipment of theirs I use.
T1C30N Mini Carbon Fibre Tripod
Not the lightest of mini tripods, despite its carbon fibre construction, but for the features it packs in and the build quality it boasts, you can forgive it that for sure. And with a max load capacity of 10kg it's definitely a David in a world of Goliaths.
Three super stiff leg sections take it up to a maximum height of 330mm, while solid Angle Adjust Latches allow the legs to splay out to reach a limbo-low 58mm, making it ideal for table-top, macro or super-low shooting.
The Leg Twist Locks are smooth and secure, and feature comfortable rubber grips all the way round. While these grips can feel just a touch loose on the locks themselves, they do a great job of maintaining comfort during use.
The top stud is a standard universal fit, and has a 2-in-1 retractable thread for increased compatibility with numerous tripod heads.
The T1C30N legs do lack an integrated bubble spirit level, but depending on the head you pair them with, that may not be an issue. Likewise, if your camera has an electronic level built in, you won't miss that feature.
The feet are a real bit of simple design brilliance, as the Big Hemisphere Rubber Feet are made from solid rubber that doesn't wobble easily like some other tripods, and they are large enough to still be the first point of contact when the legs are splayed out at their widest angle (see images). This means jagged rocks and street cobbles should be held at bay to avoid getting that lovely carbon fibre weave scratched and damaged. (All important for those rock pool and puddle shots!)
The Leg Tightness Locks employ a clever design that keeps them at the right tension for way longer that other tripods' systems that I've used, and they are a doddle to re-tighten with the allen keys provided when they do eventually start to show signs of loosening. This helps to keep leg articulating stiffness reassuringly solid, and just adds to the overall feel of the high build quality.
XB-28II Mini Dual-Panoramic Ball Head
This is the natural pairing for the T1C30N Mini Carbon Fibre Tripod and its aluminium construction helps to keep the total weight of the set down to 734g. As mentioned above, not the lightest, but when it comes to tripods and stability, extra weight is a good thing for keeping your camera rock steady during the longest of exposures. This particular head only has a maximum load capacity of 4.5kg, so you will need to look elsewhere to make the most of the T1C30N's capabilities, but this is still more than enough to cope with all but the heaviest of DSLR and lens combinations. It'll easily cope with my Canon 7D Mark II and Sigma 150-600mm for example.
The various knobs are all very solid to touch and use, and they give a reassuringly solid feel when operating. The design of the knobs can take a little getting used to as similar designs don't actually have similar functions. But once past that, its surprisingly feature-rich, once again. The way the Main Lock Knob has a pull-and-twist lever is a particularly nice touch.
The rotating actions of all the points of the head are quite stiff, but I like this, as it allows small, smooth adjustments to be made without accidentally overshooting your desired adjustment point.
There are panning bases to both the body and the camera mount, each with clear scales for use during panoramas if needed. Again though, no bubble spirit level is to be found on the XB-28II, meaning you'll need to rely on an in-built or hot shoe mounted level to set your camera straight.
The included camera mounting plate is an expected touch, but the real bonus here is the inclusion of Arca Swiss design, meaning it's compatible with a much wider array of L brackets and third party mounting plates.
The T1C30N tripod comes with a handy carry case included, which actually has enough room in it for the full kit with XB-28II ball head attached. The material feels tough and durable, and there is plenty of padding inside to protect the tripod and head.
The zipper doesn't catch on any material which is good, but the opening is quite tight when extracting and inserting the tripod. This is due to the fact the zip only goes half the length of the case, so perhaps increasing that length would make using the accessory easier.
Other features include a carry hook at the top, along with a large belt loop on the rear, comprising two velcro tabs - perfect for attaching the case to the SlipLock system on the outside of my Lowepro Protactic 450 AW camera backpack. The velcro contact patches could do with being slightly longer, to maximise security when attached in this way, but overall it's a very useable case that does a great job.
On the T1C30N tripod itself, there are three 1/4"-20 mounting holes, to which many different accessories can be attached. LED lighting panels, mobile phone holders and other grips can be useful additions to your shooting setup, helping you to keep your hands free.
If this setup just won't go high enough for you though, and you don't want the hassle of a full-size tripod, you can also attach an ET-02 Extension Tube (think centre column but without the retraction down into the tripod) which will probably get you very close to the minimum standard height of a full size model. And all that in something you can hold comfortably in the palm of your hand.
Finally, going back to those Big Hemisphere Rubber Feet; they actually unscrew and can be replaced with spikes in the 3/8"-20 mounting holes. Sadly the tripod only comes with the rubber feet, but again this is an example of fantastic compatibility and attention to detail.
If this tripod were described to you without reference to its size or weight, you would be led to believe it was a full-size model given the sheer number of features packed in. The build quality puts plenty of larger so-called 'professional' tripods to shame, and the styling is even very upmarket. For situations where you just need to be at ground level, or where large, cumbersome tripods are not practical or allowed, this combination from Sunwayfoto really comes into its own. You will need to find something to stand it on like a wall or a bench if you want to achieve more regular shooting heights, but that's not what this piece of equipment is all about.
In terms of cost, I always say you get what you pay for. This is a scaled down version of a full size professional tripod, and the price reflects that at up to around £140 for the T1C30N and XB-28II combined, depending on where you shop.
- Unbeatable build quality
- Wide range of features
- Third party compatibility
- Attention to detail
- No bubble spirit level
- Miniature design can be awkward for large hands
- Only the case included (other accessories sold separately)