Today we continue our series of reviews of Sirui products as part of our larger tripod and heads series and on this third video we are going to take a look at the VH-10 mini fluid head.
After we praised the Sirui T-2204X tripod and gave a thumbs up for the K-30X ballhead in our last 2 reviews, it is time to test one of the company’s fluid heads. Sirui has several video heads divided into two main lines – the prosumer line which includes the VA and VH compact fluid heads and the professional BCH line. All the VA/VH heads have a flat base while the BCH are 75mm or 100mm ball compatible.
The VH-10 is the mid size fluid head in the VH line with an official load of 6kg (or 13.2lbs) while the larger VH-15 has a similar design and an official load of 10kg (or 22lbs). The much larger BCH heads have a very different design with more features and support for up to 18kg (40lbs) in the largest BHC-30 model.
Sirui VH-10 – compact with good build quality
Let’s take a closer look at the VH10:
- The build quality of the VH-10, just like the rest of the company’s products that we have tested, is extremely good and the entire head is made of forged aircraft aluminum and feels very nice.
- Although the head is rather small it weighs almost 1kg (or just under 2lbs) and you can feel it in the hand. At the end of the day it is still quite compact for a fluid head.
- As we noted the official carrying capacity of the VH-10 is 6KG (or 13.2lbs), we didn’t encounter any issues on this front and even with all the gear that we could load at around 4kg the head functioned very well. As for the counter balance it is rated at 2KG (or 3.2lbs) and indeed it was unable to handle our heavier cage so keep this in mind.
- The pan of the head is pretty smooth. However, there are two things that can be improved – first – it has no drag control so it is either open or closed. The second thing is that the head doesn’t have a good way to lock itself to the top plate of the tripod (unlike the Sirui K-30X ballhead for example). For this reason if you try to pan to the right and the head is not 100% secure to the top plate of the tripod, you might spin the head instead of panning it – so make sure the head is really secured to your tripod.
- The tilt of the head is quite good and pretty smooth, however the mechanism which controls it is lacking, and it is possibly the biggest downside of the VH-10 in our view. You only have a single knob for locking the tilt, drag control and counterbalance – as you can imagine this can be really difficult to control sometimes.
- One thing that we quickly discovered is that you can’t tilt the head 90 degrees forward because of the pan locking knob – which is definitely a drawback.
- As some people online noted – the counterbalance can be quite aggressive. Because there is not separate control over it – it is also a bit hard sometimes to set the exact amount accurately and repeatedly.
- The extendable arm that comes with the head is made of metal and can be mounted on both the left and the right sides. Since we are right handed we moved it to the right but in this location both the bubble level and especially the locking knob are just way too close for comfort. The handle itself is pretty nice and can extend to about 50 cm (or around 20 inches) which gives you a bit more precise control.
- The VH-10 has two bubble levels – the top one is useful (but again to close to the handle if used on the right side), the other one however is not really visible from most angles.
- The VH-10 has a very nice sliding quick release system with a side lock and a red metal security button in the front which works very well.
- The VH-10 uses Sirui’s VP-90 QR plate (which for some reason is exceptionally expensive). This plate is very similar to Manfrotto’s 501 plates and we do have some 3’rd party 501 plates which seems to work just fine on the VH-10. Keep in mind that some users reported that 501PL plates don’t work on this head so we can’t promise 100% compatibility here.
- The VH-10 comes with a really nice, padded and uniquely shaped case. You will need to take off the arm to put the head inside though, but this doesn’t take more than a few seconds.
- One thing that your really need to keep in mind with any flat based fluid head is that you will need to use either a tripod with a leveling center column or add a leveling base between the fluid head and the tripod. Sirui actually has one of those and we might test it in the future. At any rate without one it can be very hard to work with the head on any uneven ground.
Partial Manfrotto plate compatibly
So let’s some this quick look at the VH-10. Out of the 3 Sirui products that we tested this time around, the VH-10 feels like it needs the most design modifications. It isn’t that Sirui did a bad job in terms of build quality, actually it is very well build just like all the other products by the company that we looked at – almost fully metal and feels really nice to handle.
The main fault in our view is with the design. Sirui wanted to make a very compact fluid head and it was successful, but too much was lost on the way. The knobs and the handle are too tight (especially on the right), there is no separate knob for tilt friction control or counterbalance, there is no friction control at all for the pan and the counterbalance is really strong and changing it is a bit delicate (again with no dedicated knob).
There is also strangely no way to secure the head to the tripod plate other than the 3/8″ screw (other Sirui products like the K-30X ballhead that we tested can be secured to a tripod with a small allen key). This is missing from this head and should have been included as it would prevent the head from spinning when panning to the right.
The head is certainly usable and we did use it quite a bit, but if Sirui only implemented a few design changes we could easily recommend it as one of the best flat base mini fluid heads around. It is worth mentioning that the BCH line by Sirui does seem to have almost all of the features that we were asking for but it is much larger and more expensive (starting at around $1000) and as far as we can tell can’t be used on a flat base tripod or slider.
The VH-10 is currently sold for under $190.
A single knob for tilt lock, counterbalance and friction
What we liked
- Great build quality.
- Fairly smooth motion.
- Decent counterbalance for mid-size DSLR cameras and smaller rigs.
- Very easy to use quick release mechanism.
- Comes with a nice carrying case.
What might still be improved
- The tilt drag and counterbalance control mechanism needs to be separated from the locking knob.
- No pan drag system.
- Head is not 100% compatible with some Manfrotto 501 models (although some work just fine).
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