Acratech Ultimate Ballhead Experience

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by tedharris, Sep 14, 2003.

  1. My poor old 30 year old Gitzo ballhead finally died. I have not made a firm decision
    on a replacement but everything I read about the Acratech Ultimte Ballhead impresses
    me favorably. I have read the comments in the archives from several years ago when
    this head first came out and also some of the other reviews. Any input from others
    here that have actually been using or have used the head will be appreciated. I would
    also appreciate any experience using the head with QR systems from others.

    At the moment I use both the large Bogen QR system and Horseman Quickmounts
    (way too large and heavy for most of my gear). I will likely stick with the Horseman
    system for the Monorail in the studio. This new ballhead will become part of my
    lightweight travel kit. I will use the same QR system with it that I use on my Ries
    J600/J250 combo. (maybe the Bogen and maybe something new to go with th enew
    head as I have little invested n the Bogen stuff). I will be using this ballead/QR
    system with a Horseman 45FA, Noblex 150, Fuji GW690II and (maybe) my Philips
    Compact II 8x10 if it feels stable enough .. which I suspect it will.

    All thoughts appreciated.

  2. Ted: I purchased one of these maybe 9 months ago. It is my first "real" ballhead. (Meaning heavier duty than the 35 mm ones I had tried.) I use it on a Gitzo 1325. I can't compare it from personal experience to the alternatives, but as a newcomer to using ballheads for LF I can give you my thoughts. I have used it for a Deardorff Special, and Canham MQC and the new lighter Canham 8X10 camera. Pluses: Price, weight, exceptionally well made, nifty design, locks solid with any of these cameras even with 3 lb lenses mounted on them, good customer service when ordering plates. If I push on the camera when it is locked down, the flex isn't in the head. The quick release is what I believe is the standard arca plate and it works fine and locks up very, very tight. takes slightly longer to get the camera leveled versus something like a 3 way head. (True of any ball head, I am sure. This is the trade off for having something so light.) My only complaint is that the knob for panning is a little small. When inserting a film holder into the 8X10 there is quite a bit of leverage available for accidentally shifting the camera laterally, and the small knob has to be really tight or it will shift. This is not an issue with 5X7 and smaller cameras, and once you become aware of it and make a point of really setting the knob and inserting the holder carefully, it is not an issue with the 8X10. I mention it only because it is the only point of the product which has bothered me on occasion. In general, I am very happy with it and I have started using it in the field even when I'm not hiking far and weight really isn't an issue.
  3. Hi Ted
    I find it difficult to tighten down sufficiently for my 6lb 4x5 camera. If I'm not careful the camera will move when inserting quickload or polaroid. The acratech is very well made, however.

    I'm thinking that using a pan/tilt or similar head is a better match for a camera with movements. With a ball head there is always the issue of level and plumb.

    I use the arca swiss style quick release system.
  4. I've been using one of these since they first came out and have zero complaints. Very well built, affordable and light. Fantastic machining! A friend uses an Arca and I wouldn't dream of trading.
  5. Ted,

    I didn't get around to replying to your direct email... sorry.

    Yes, I got one of these, but I only got to use it for a short while when my dad came to visit from the UK - his old tripod head broke while he was here so I lent him my Acratech to use for his MF camera. Well... I ain't got it back yet!

    So I'm still using my Arca Swiss (B1 I think... it's 10+ years old).

    First, with my Phillips 8x10 (and my arca swiss 4x5 and toyo 4x5) I have found I much prefer a precise ball head to a pan and tilt. Some people do, some people don't - it really seems an either or thing.

    That said, going by memory, with the Arca Swiss the tension is nice and gradual, so you can loosen it "just so" then you can level the camera left to right and for and aft just by shifting the camera with tension from the head just holding it in place (ie it's not flopping all over). With the Acratech, I could besically do the same but it wasn't quite as good as the Arca (good, but not quite as good).

    The arca swiss release plate system on both heads works just fine and I've used it for years. I got a very basic RRS plate with a 3/8 screw for my Phillips (and Dorff before that). The Acratech plate release mechanism is almost idendical to the Arca original - I think plates from Acratech, RRS or Kirk are really down to which makes the one most suitable for your camera. I've generally gone with RRS even when they were a pain in the butt to deal with... (that's changed now).

    The issue with the pan knob is in fact exactly the same on the arca swiss - it's a small knob and it's easy not to tighten it up enough - you pull the bail on the back with an 8x10 to put in a film holder and voila, you just panned the camera 20degrees... I've just got in the habit of making sure it's really tight or cursing when I forget.

    So IMO the Acratech works really well as a soemwhat lighter and somewhat cheaper arca swiss ballhead. I found it okay the few times I got to use the Phillips on it, but I would like to try anything heavier. If you get on with a ball head for a view camera (which I think is the big question) this head is good enough to do the job. It's certainly very well made.
  6. My Acratech ballhead replaced a Foba Mini Superball. The ballhead is extremely light
    and locks much tighter than the Foba. For the weight, you won't find anything that
    locks tighter in a ballhead. I use it with SLR's, Hassy, MF rangefinder and an Ebony
    view camera and it's been a dream to use.

    I agree that the ballhead doesn't have the real precise control that a Arca Swiss might
    have, but the savings in weight make it worthwhile for me. I bought mine new but as
    a second from Scott at Acratech at a local camera show. You can save a hundred
    bucks or so by buying a "second" directly from him. The only question is whether or
    not he has any "seconds" in stock. I'd call and check with him first. Good luck.
  7. I've extensively used both an Arca Swiss B1 and the Acratech Ultimate Ballhead. I love both of them. For very long hikes I'll use the Acratech, and for short hikes or roadkill I use the Arca Swiss. Unlike a poster above, I've had no problems whatsoever locking down the Acratech tightly enough for use with my 6lb Toyo and lenses ranging from 75mm to a 360 Nikkor-T. Both the Acratech and the Arca Swiss use the Arca Swiss quick release system, so all of my cameras are mounted with RRS quick release plates and can be instantly used on either ballhead. The Acratech is very well made and extremely compact. It also weighs a full pound less than the B1. I highly recommend both of these heads.
  8. Thanks for all the responses .. would have sent individual thank you's but the email
    response from doesn;t seem to be working .....

    anyway going to go with the Acratech as planned.



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