T2C40C CARBON FIBRE TRIPOD
Build and Design - Leg Sections
The T2C40C is very well built, and from first impressions seemed very sturdy and securely put together. I suspected this was the case before getting my hands on a copy to use and review, as I'd been using Sunwayfoto's smaller T1C30N mini carbon fibre tripod, and was mightily impressed with how that felt. I mentioned in that review that it was basically just a miniaturised version of a full-size tripod, and that has proven to be exactly the case, with this top-of-the-range model being just as well manufactured and designed.
Its weight is competitive with other manufacturers' models, and whilst I'm less interested in its exact weight of 1.65kg, it feels directly on par with carbon fibre models from Manfrotto and 3 Legged Thing when held alongside its competitors in the hand. I tend to carry my tripod in my hand when walking to a location, rather than attaching it to my camera bag so this was the most important 'feel factor' for me.
One trade off of using a super-light tripod is that you start to see the centre of gravity rise up towards the tripod head and camera, which can lead to top-heavy setups that can fall over more easily and are overall less stable. Shooting long exposures and using slower shutter speeds in general can be problematic or even impossible in the lightest breezes if top-heaviness is an issue.
I feel the T2C40C strikes an ideal balance between lightness and sturdiness when photographing outdoors. It might be nice to have a slightly lighter tripod for my indoor work as a property photographer, as I cart my gear around some large houses and up awkward stairways, but the weight simply helps me keep a little more active and get a bit more 'exercise'. Or at least that's what I tell myself. It certainly feels solid and trustworthy.
One area that was of interest to me was the inclusion of 4 leg sections rather than 3 as I had been used to previously. Obviously, with 4 leg sections you can pack a similar-sized tripod down to a smaller overall size, but you risk losing stiffness with the addition of an extra contact point on each leg. Sunwayfoto have mitigated for this though, with extended friction tubes between the leg sections that make each joint stronger.
As well as being able to reduce the tripod down to a shorter height with the 4 leg sections rather than 3, you can also use three different leg angles to get lower too. Whilst there may be nothing new here in comparison with other popular rivals, these are enabled by squared-off latches that feel very solid, being made of aluminium. They have a purposefully wide contact point too, which aims to reduce flexibility once again.
Build and Design - Centre Column
The T2C40C's centre column is slightly different to other manufacturers' that I've come across, as it has a groove up its length that prevents it from spinning when being raised up and down during height adjustments. This may or may not be a positive, depending on your preference. The adjustment method for the centre column height involves a twist lock, but not a rubber-gripped one like the legs. This one is more like a giant wing nut, again made from high quality material that feels solid in the hand.
The centre column includes a hook at the bottom, which can hold up to 20kg - more than enough to add ballast to your setup and lower the centre of gravity for extra stability. A great touch is also the inclusion of a rubber ring, which acts as the contact point for the legs when they close, stopping the carbon fibre from being scratched, or knocking against other metal when in transport.
Finally, the top mounting plate provides a solid base on which to attach your chosen tripod head. My previous brand of tripod had the male threaded screw as part of the tripod head, with the centre column's mounting plate including a threaded female hole - Sunwayfoto seems to follow the more conventional method of attachment, so third party compatibility should be less of an issue.
Build and Design - Rubber Components
Whilst predominantly made from carbon fibre and aluminium, the rubber that is used for the rubber seals, the leg twist locks and the feet is of a surprisingly hard compound. I haven't used the tripod for a sufficiently long period yet to really see how the rubber seals hold up over time, but their inclusion in each twist lock is a welcome effort towards longevity of the equipment and prevention of corrosion.
The twist locks have a solid feel to them, and can be completely undone so that the tripod can be disassembled for routine maintenance - a feature that I actively looked for when purchasing my previous tripod, and one I am very glad to see included here in Sunwayfoto's models.
The area where solidity is most important though is in the feet, as these are often a tripod's only contact point with the ground. It would be easy to overlook this finishing touch and skimp on material quality, but it's good to see Sunwayfoto maintaining their standards from top to bottom.
An added bonus with the feet is that you can unscrew the rubber sections to reveal small metal spikes - useful for different terrain where you might need to anchor your tripod even more securely.
While incredibly well made and put together, the usability of a tripod is a slightly different matter.
For me, the 4 leg sections do not introduce any extra wobble or cause a lack of stiffness, and coupled with the solid compound of the rubber feet make for a very sturdy setup indeed. There is very little flex, despite how thin the last leg sections need to be, and it could be argued 4 leg sections give greater options for height adjustment than similarly-sized 3 section tripods. The issue here for me though, is that the legs simply don't provide enough height for my liking, even when fully extended. I am 6'1", and in order to raise my camera to eye level on flat ground I need to extend the centre column as well as the legs. Now the stiffness of the tripod is brilliant, but there is still a small amount of wobble that creeps into this setup that wouldn't be there if the legs on their own provided enough height for me. Plus, the extra height of the centre column would allow for higher level shooting too, and better options on uneven ground to maintain the same shooting height - especially on steps or hillsides.
That is a very personal issue to me of course, but at the present moment there is no alternative model in Sunwayfoto's lineup that caters for taller shooters in this way, unlike models from some of their competitors. At least getting the tripod to maximum height is easily done through the twist locks and the centre column wing nut though; the latter allowing torque to be applied more easily when tightening and loosening the centre column than if just another rubber twist lock was used like other companies do. Making a taller model with 3 leg sections would increase height AND reduce setup time though, with one less leg section to have to extend and pack away.
Despite the lack of maximum height, however, it hasn't taken me long at all to adjust to the different dimensions for my work in property photography. I do find I need to adjust this 4 section tripod more during a shoot than a 3 section, so a taller 3 section model would be a great addition to Sunwayfoto's lineup, and one that would suit my usability needs more accurately.
Talking of property shoots, I often find myself setting up on bare wooden floors or tiles, and the hard compound of the rubber feet is really noticeable when it comes to preventing camera shake. I regularly blend multiple exposures in Photoshop, so to have them line up perfectly straight out of camera is a massive bonus and saves me a lot of time and frustration back in the computer.
Those feet having built-in spikes makes securing your tripod easier too, as they are always with you - unlike competitors who sell them separately as accessories that need swapping in for the standard rubber feet. I don't actually use the spikes all that often as we don't get frozen ground where I live that regularly in winter, but they are useful on slippery surfaces like seaweed-covered rocks. In all other situations I've encountered, the rubber feet have been more than stable enough for me.
For minimum shooting heights, the longer centre column needs to be replaced with the included shorter aluminium one to allow the necessary ground clearance for the legs to be splayed out at their widest angles. I tend not to use this shorter column at all though, as it is slightly more of a pit stop to swap out the longer column for the shorter one. Another tripod I have used had a simpler method that could be done quicker in the field, but I tend to use the T1C30N for low-level shooting, and keep that in my car boot, or even just take that with me instead if I'm after something different.
The leg hinges are reassuringly secure though, with little to no unwanted movement from them when picking up and moving the tripod. Personally, I like my hinges quite stiff, and this is easily achieved with the mechanism Sunwayfoto have developed, and with the included tools. The legs maintain their stiffness for a long time, and only need retightening every so often. They do use a specific adjustment tool though, so don't lose it!
Lastly, I pair my T2C40C tripod with Sunwayfoto's GH-Pro II geared tripod head, and there is no noticeable loss in stiffness at this contact point. It feels like a seamless system through daily use.
The T2C40C comes with a shorter centre column, built-in spikes, adjustment tools, a reversible tripod head mounting screw and a carry bag. There are also LWP-02 tripod leg warmers available for cold weather shoots (sold separately).
The carry bag includes a main compartment in which to store your tripod and attached head, and a side pocket in which you can keep your tools and shorter centre column safe. The bag is well padded, but is disappointingly short when pairing this tripod up with the GH-Pro II geared tripod head as I do. The camera mounting plate just sticks out of the bag and prevents the zip being able to close all the way over it. Should you be using a shorter ball head though, this won't be an issue.
Sunwayfoto make a number of accessories that can be attached to tripods that allow things like mobile phones and small lighting and video rigs to be used alongside conventional stills shooting, but unfortunately this tripod model lacks the female threaded holes for the attachment of these accessories. On the T1C30N there are such mounting holes between each of the legs on the aluminium main structure, but not here for some reason.
This tripod has been very well developed, manufactured and put together, and that shows in its build quality and stability. It has some limiting factors, like the number of leg sections and lack of maximum height, but those come down to personal preference, and are not an inherent negative of the tripod system.
Other models in the Sunwayfoto tripod range include some features where this one doesn't, which is strange, but they have at least kept things simple here in an effort to maintain rigidity and strength - some of the features of smaller tripods may compromise this tripod's stiffness given its increased dimensions over those products.
- Unbeatable build quality
- Level of rigidity, even at maximum height
- Smooth and secure operation
- Third party compatibility
- Built-in spikes
- 4 leg sections take slightly longer to set up than 3
- Maximum height is lacking in comparison to rivals
- Included bag is not tall enough to carry the T2C40C and GH-Pro II combined