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Sirui L10 Monopod Head

10 Oct

Another day, another bit of metal to poke with a stick…

For a long time, I’ve had Benro ball heads on my rigs, and I had a Manfrotto something or other monopod head in the basement; so when I decided to build my barn door tracker, instead of going all out and building an angled wedge for 41º, or buying a polar wedge; I decided to use the ball head… Big mistake, as it moves in three directions, so getting it aligned was a frustration. Then the head said “What about that monopod head in the basement?”

After digging that out, I’d realised I’d not used it for a long, long, pre-full frame, time… So on it went on to the tripod, on went the D700 with the 16-28, the whole lot started tipping over to the floor. I can’t remember what I used that under, but probably not anything that weighed more than my thermal mug full of coffee.

Quick blast around, and for a long time I’ve heard people saying good things about how much a Sirui L10 can soak up before it starts to complain. Will it hold the rig? Is it a lesser priced rip off of an RRS MH1 or it’s own master? Don’t know yet, but let’s find out.

First off, who are Sirui? It’s not really a name that sticks in the mind, nor trips off the tongue; but they are a company who make mounts, lenses, humidity cabinets, and other bits. Founded in 2001 in Guangdong Province in China, they are a bit of a young upstart company who have been getting a bit of traction with their products and winning quite a few awards; some I’ve never heard of but others that I have… And as a lot of folk seem to wax on about the L10 as a monopod head and in places also as a light weight alternative to a polar wedge, at less than 100€ it seemed a good buy (and two month return on it, so if it doesn’t stick, it goes).

First off, it’s not got a rotator plate on it, the L20 has which is meant to have a higher loading rate but is also twice the price, so if like me it needs rotating either get that one out the kit box (which I did), buy a rotator plate or buy the L20.

This thing is a fair old chunk of machined aluminium, has a rated capacity of 15kg, and is meant to be fairly rock solid. So, is it? Will it do what I want it to do (sure that’s only about 5 – 6kg but it’s not straight centred); and will I get blood blisters trying?

Straight out of the box, the first thing with it is that the Arca-Swiss plate, and this has been noted in some spots, has it’s locking shaft in the same plane as the adjustment pin. It doesn’t have a lot of clearance but at the same time I don’t think it’d be too much concern because the knobs are vastly different sizes so twisting one off instead of the other would have to be some serious lapse of concentration.

The other thing affecting the locking pin, and I doubt this would be an issue to nearly anyone unless you are using the L10 in the same position as I am as a polar wedge type affair, is that if whatever on top is wider than the head then there’s not a lot of clearance around the pin; probably the same amount as the plates on my ball heads, but as it’s not rotatable (by ball, not tried with the hex wrench) it’s more noticeable. So on my tracker, it’s placed both the knobs on to the left hand, which will need some practise with when I’m aligning as I’m usually holding the level with the left hand and adjusting with the right.

Now that’s out the way, this thing just screams robust; it is very well machined, the movement of the controls is very fluid and the head is nicely damped. With placing it under the rig, it’s quite easy to get my altitude alignment on the tracker; the movement can be very imperceptible especially if the head is nearly 100% locked so taking a moment to make sure it is 100% is something to make a mental note of.

With having some weight on it, and moving it sidewards doesn’t show any flex or movement, and trying to provoke it along the axis when locked with an obtuse weight like the tracker on there shows no movement that I could sense. Another nice thing with it, is that it doesn’t have any untoward vibration, perhaps on the other side compared to the Benro B2 ball head it seems to dump vibration better. That’s a plus.

When it came to putting it on the rotator plate I have, I didn’t remember the plate is a 1/4″ thread, and there’s no 3/8″ adaptor in the box, so if you’re going to be buying this for any reason to mount on a 1/4″ pin, then make sure you’ve got the adaptor or it’s going to be either a few days before you get some off Amazon or a session in frustration. I always have a handful in the bag, perhaps one of the few “mount consumables” aside from hex-wrenches I think.

It’s a bit difficult looking at a mount in terms of review, as it’s a mount there’s not a lot to say apart from does it work or not? There’s no songs about distortion, sharpness, etc, there’s no photos of brick walls, nor newspapers… It’s a mount.

It works very well, it’s solid and well damped; it sits well under the tracker with perhaps more weight than what I’d really ever use on that thing, it maintains it’s fluidity and doesn’t make any odd noises when adjusted with the weight on top. It certainly feels a good bit of hardware, especially for the price; and I think it’d last a few years in service as it’s on it’s bit and not really going anywhere else unless I forget to swap the centre pole on the tripod back to the ball head.

Certainly as a head goes, it’s very useable; as for a polar wedge replacement, give me a few clear nights and I’ll see about that! Hopefully, we should have some which coincide with moonless nights, and I’ll be out on the balcony having a look; though it probably won’t solve my alignment problems as that’s still compass and drift without being able to sight up to Polaris at the moment.

I’m happy with it, and as it came out of my own pocket, I’m glad I am as I don’t like things which don’t really live up to the expectations of what other people say about them.

Would I recommend it to you? Well, if you are after a solid monopod head, or with what I’ve done here and used it as a form of polar wedge, I’d say go for it. For the price (about 120€) whilst it isn’t in the budget end of things, it’s not in the overpriced area either, and the quality of the unit feels a lot more expensive than it is at the moment.

Whilst Sirui have come up from nowhere in the last few years, if they keep making bits of equipment like the L series, I think the old guard are going to have some serious competition in the next few years; and if that starts happening, I’d see the price sneaking up to match the status…

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