In the second half of last year, Sunwayfoto expanded their camera support business from the manufacture of ballheads, plates and levelling bases to include a small selection of tripods. They very kindly sent me two of their first range of products to field test, namely the very lightweight carbon fibre travel tripod with the model number T1C40T and a tabletop tripod with the T1A10 model designation.
I’ll go through some of the features of the CF travel model and let you know what I think of it.
Firstly, as with all the Sunwayfoto products I have had the pleasure of using over the past few years, this is a very well made piece of kit. The smooth carbon fibre legs extend in four segments and are fastened with rubberised screw down rings, much the same as you’ll find in the Gitzo range of CF legs. They are very easy to turn and quick to extend, unlike legs that use clips to release tension on the locks (and which a certain other manufacturer of Italian origin designed in such a way as to almost always catch the flesh between my thumb and forefinger).
The feet of the tripod are rubber tipped, but there is no spike option on this model. Prior to getting this tripod I have been using the Velbon CF-430 Sherpa Pro which has a few additional features that this Sunwayfoto tripod doesn’t have, such as rubberised feet that can be screwed upwards to reveal metal spikes for use on terrain where the feet might not achieve optimal purchase. I can’t say I have used the spikes on the Velbon very often, so I am not missing them on the Sunwayfoto.
The legs of the T1C40T fold all the way around the central column and ballhead (when extended) so as to minimise the length when you are travelling, as well as protect the ballhead from bumps and bruises that can easily occur during transit (I’ve experienced this quite often over the years with other tripods), so it’s a very nice design in this regard. The legs also have two angles you can splay them to, one for normal use and another for splayed use. The problem with the splayed option is that the centre column needs to be raised in order to get the legs lower to the ground, so while you can get the legs much lower, you still have to deal with the centre column in its extended position and possible vibration from that. The Velbon I have has an advantage here in that the centre column has two sections that can be unscrewed, which allows you to get much closer to the ground than the T1C40T does. I am hopeful that a future version of the T1C40T will offer the same feature.
While I am talking about the centre column I should also mention that Sunwayfoto have designed this column with a groove that runs the length of it and which slots with a little nib in the throat of the tripod that stops it from turning in position. Now I suppose there is a reason for this, but my preference is for a centre column that can rotate smoothly when loosened in place, because not all heads have the ability to pan, the one I am using on this tripod being one of them. Most heads do have a panning ability so I suppose I need to invest in one of those if I want to do panoramas. The centre column also has a retractible hook that you can use to hang a bag of rocks or your camera bag from for additional downforce in windy conditions. A very handy feature.
Another useful feature of the T1C40T is that it can accept both standard tripod thread sizes (1/4" and 5/8"). I discovered this purely by chance when I somehow managed to get an adapter stuck in my Sunwayfoto FB-28 head. There are small hex screws on the top of the centre column that when loosened reveal a reversible thread size. I was hugely relieved to find this because at least now I can use the same head on both tripods and not have to stress about trying to get the stuck adapter out of it.
In The Field
So how does the T1C40T handle in the field? Well, as a dedicated tripod it certainly is easy to use, is very lightweight and can easily be stored in your checked luggage without taking up much room if you are travelling by air. It measures only 43.5cm when folded down, which makes it at least 10cm shorter than my Velbon when using the same Sunwayfoto FB-28 head. When using the centre column extended it stands to a height of 140cm, which for me is fairly comfortable, even though I am 6’ tall. However, I seldom extend the centre column so I would need to stoop a bit when I am using the viewfinder. Fortunately with my Olympus OM-D cameras this doesn’t come into play because all I do is tilt the rear LCD when I am in landscape mode and shoot that way. I very seldom shoot portrait orientation when using a tripod and if I had to then I suppose I might need to hunker down some to get the shot. Actually what I’d probably do is not extend the legs that much and then just sit behind the viewfinder if I was shooting landscapes (which would be the only time I would use a tripod anyway, so whether I am standing or sitting doesn’t make much difference to the outcome).
Recently I took the tripod with me into the Drakensberg mountains in the hope of doing some landscape work, but unfortunately the weather was a bit iffy while I was there and most of my time was spent doing other things (like drinking beer, playing bingo, falling around a volleyball court and other things holiday makers do). I did venture off on a hiking trail with it one morning while the sun was shining and got to a small stream where I had hoped to do some cliche’d slow shutter speed work with water running over rocks. Not quite the picture of paradise I had hoped to make, but the shot below is what I managed to do without getting any part of me wet. The tripod was easy to carry by hand in the little material sleeve it comes in and it didn’t phase me at all on the short 4km hike. However, I will probably get a different bag made with a sling for when I go on more adventurous hikes and where I will need to use both hands to find my way across rocks. I found it to be pretty sturdy, particularly when hanging a bag from the hook. No quibble there.
Improvements I’d Like
Things I would change would be the centre column. I’d lose the groove and make it a 2-piece column so that you can get the camera closer to the ground when splaying the legs in their widest position. Something I didn’t mention before but would also consider a good improvement would be to put numbered markings on the legs so that you can space the segments equally when not fully extended. My Velbon has these markings and I use them quite often, especially when shooting product in studio.
All said I think that this is a very good first effort at a travel tripod by Sunwayfoto so if you are looking for something basic that is a good fit for a lightweight mirrorless system you can’t really go wrong with the T1C40T. It’s handsome, unobtrusive and does what you expect it to do.
As I have two travel tripods I am probably going to use this one more often for two reasons. Firstly it’s smaller than my Velbon and secondly it is easier to operate when it comes to extending the legs. I will be using this one on my upcoming Olympus Trail Blaze in the iMfolozi Wilderness, which is an OM-D workshop I have put together with Olympus SA for our local people. I may very well offer this to our Safarians in 2016 too, so keep a look out for that.
You can buy it directly from Sunwayfoto’s shop using the link in our page footers. At the time I am publishing this they don’t have any stock, but I am told that they will be available again soon. The price is $269 excluding shipping.