As we all know, a Gimbal Head is an indispensable piece of camera equipment for use with ultra-telephoto lenses. Yet its expensive cost and heavy weight has always been a problem to us. Now, the SIRUI PH-20 Gimbal head is likely to bring about some changes.
Carbon fiber is now a normal material for tripods, but rare for heads, especially for Gimbal Heads that require a high load-bearing capacity. The well-known Wimberley Gimbal Head (WH200) is made of aluminum, weighs 1.43kg (3.15lb), a bit heavier than most aluminum tripods with 25mm diameter leg tubes. Gimbal Heads made by other manufacturers are generally the same.
Composite material is now available to replace metal in many industries, but it’s still rare to apply in products with a high demand for load capacity. But the SIRUI PH-20 Gimbal Head is a pioneer - its main body (half U-form tube) is constructed of carbon fiber. Deducing from its appearance, its surface layer is like a woven structure. This method of weaving carbon material is widely used in rackets and other equipment in the sporting industry, which has better stability than average carbon fiber structures (because it can quickly rebound after deformation, and crack problems seldom appear). The only shortcoming could be that its rigidity may not be ideal, but the PH-20 is formed by many layers of different carbon fiber material (the manufacturer did not provide actual number of layers), which makes its structural rigidity and strength as good as those made of metal.
Except for its main body, the other parts of the PH-20 (tripod connection base, vertical slide with scale and Arca Swiss compatible quick release system) are constructed of metal, but total weight is only 1.04kg (2.3lb), much lighter than Wimberley and Jobu-Design heads. The extra weight of 400g (14oz) may seem like nothing compared with the weight of a camera with a long lens. But it will significantly influence the whole tripod-camera system, especially when all leg tubes are extended to their limits. Our test shows the lighter SIRUI PH-20 Head can be used with a light tripod with a 25mm tube diameter (of course it’s not a recommended match) to support a 3kg (6.6lb) lens + camera body outfit. While a heavier Gimbal Head made of metal should at least be used with a tripod tube diameter bigger than 28mm to support this same camera equipment.
Of course, there is no perfect product. But the Sirui PH-20 Gimbal Head performs well against the top world brands. It provides precision 360° panning and +150° - 70° tilt adjustment. If the friction is properly adjusted, the lens and camera body normally will not move (only slightly shift) – even when you release your hands from the camera. Maybe its operational feel is not quite as good as the top brand, but the PH-20’s price is lower than Wimberley or Jobu-Design, and is much lighter and smaller. In conclusion, we applaud the manufacturer for their unique thinking and hope they continue to introduce products that are innovative and satisfy our various needs.