Why not a "perfect" ball head???

Discussion in 'Accessories' started by jose_angel, Feb 25, 2010.

  1. I already have many tripod heads... as you can imagine most of them in the closet. Some of them are simply useless although with a very good and professional looking. Others are too heavy, or too awkward to use, or too tall, or with stupid release systems, or... ... ...
    I imagine that most of you, like me, have different tripod heads for different uses, and perhaps also a polyvalent one. Those who like to shoot panos, probably have a dedicated outfit with a leveling base and rails, long lens users have Wimberley devices, product shooters a Cube or similar, macro shooters a focusing device, etc.
    Well, I`m looking for a dedicated ball head for, e.g., a landscape specialist... it must be:
    1. Lightweight (and I want to mean lightweight)
    2. With large controls (to be used with gloves)
    3. Strong enough and sized to be used with very lightweigh but big cameras (=bigger ball diameter).
    There are in the market many products that could fullfil this specifications, but sadly, with another silly ones (IMHO):

    --Use to have an undersized, slippering panning base. I don`t need this feature, I prefer to add a separate leveling&panning base for pano shooting if needed.

    -- Are extremely tall to my liking (some even more than 3"), thanks to the slippering base and other silly features. Removing the paning base the head gets considerably shorter.

    -- Too long stems, to be used for vertical shots at 90º. I don`t need the plate at 90º. Useless feature for others than 35mm format users (or "gimbalists"... ).

    -- Smaller than desiderable balls, forced by design. Without the panning base and with shorter stems the ball size can be easily increased.

    I think the perfect ball head for most panoramic&landscape, macro, Large Format, Medium Format and other users that demand a strong but lightweight head could be something similar to the Burzinsky head design. Sadly, this head is extremely heavy and probably oversized for most outfits.
    Why not an Acratech type design? A model with a bigger ball (hollow), shorter stem, no panning base, no 90º slot and better knobs could be made under 300-350grams. It means half the weight of the Arca-Swiss B1 that many of us use, and a 25% below the lightweigh current offer. I wonder if any of their models can be modified in this way.
    What do you think?
  2. Just to add that many "serious" photogs that use this kind of products with DSLR/SLR cameras, like to use "L" type plates for portrait shots. Another reason to avoid the 90º slot, making the ball grip even stronger.
  3. I haven't used it but the new Arcaswiss p0 looks like it might fit the bill, also check out really right stuff, strong and more squat then usual.
  4. This is not a question of perfection. It a question of your preference. You may not like any heads on the market, but for most of us, something like an RRS BH-40 is hard to improve on. Good balance of strength/weight. Very well made, good knobs, very smooth. I am not sure it is "perfect" but since there is no general agreement on what perfect is in this context, I suspect that perfect can not exist.
  5. I think you just described the Acratech Leveling Base . Short (< 2"), light weight (8oz), same size ball as the head you mentioned, supports heavy loads (25lbs). Screw an Arca-Swiss clamp on top, like the Wimberley C-10 , and you're good to go.
    You can only tilt 10 degrees in any direction, but I wouldn't think that would be a huge limitation for landscape photography.
  6. What is "perfect" to the OP would have inadequate tension control for me. I could not use a ball head without a panning base (mine has two, one in the clamp). I'd be OK without a notch as long as there were about 30 degrees of motion on any side of vertical, provided I were shooting with an L-bracket, a 6x6 camera, or a camera with a rotating back.
    Rotating back - that's funny. What is the point of shaving weight in the head for use with a 14 pound camera? A 6 pound DSLR?
  7. I've used an Arca Swiss Z1 with RRS lever quick release (on Gitzo GT2541ex) for about a year now and it's perfect for macro work. It's on the heavy side for hiking, but it also great for landscapes if you don't have to carry it much. I also use an RRS BH-25 (on Gitzo GT0531), and it's great considering it's weight and very usable for landscapes and hiking (2 pounds total), but it's doesn't come close to the feel of the Arca Swiss. I'm tempted by the new Arca Swiss P0 - anyone have any experience?
  8. I have the Kirk BH-1. Most excellent though it does have a (very precise), panning base. Light, short stem, big grippy knobs.
  9. Darin, I have never seen the A-S p0 but on a little fleasheet; definitely their lack of information don`t help the customers to buy it. It comes in two options: 1/4" thread on top (useless to me, I want a clamp or a 3/8" screw), or with another new smallish clamping device. This makes me think that is not a strong head. The p1 could be interesting too, sadly on the same weight than the B1 and with that silly new double clamps.
    Anthony, I like the BH-40, it has a very nice design, but as commented above, is designed for 35mm type DSLR/SLRs. The panning base is a must if the 90º slot for vertical shooting is needed... useless not only for LF shooters but even for most MF camera users.
    Waltz, you`re right, and that`s another nice device. Here I see that total weight is slightly below current lightweight heads but with excessive limitations.
    Edward, you`re saying it all. You need my "perfect" ball head. You`re using a panning device where you want it, on the clamp. Hence the other is useless, unless you were using a DSLR. I wonder if your favourite head for DSLRs is the same than for a lightweight Canham 8x10", or for a RZ67... this are cameras people use in the field, and much below 14 pounds.
    Ted, I`m using a similar setup, and as you say, it`s on the heavyside for backpacking. I`m looking for a much lighter head, but with the same if not better level of performance (strenght, smoothness, ergonomics... ).
    Louis, with 30 ounces I`d not say the BH-1 is lightweight. I`d like to have the BH-1 performance level below 14ounces.
    "Sadly", all heads looks to be designed to be used:
    1. By any kind of user, for any kind of task (what is good for everything, is bad for each thing).
    2. With cameras who need the head to be rotated 90º for portrait shots.
    I want to mean that perhaps we are demanding a head to be used...
    1. ... by serious or advanced photogs who demand a really lighweight head for their bigger field cameras or for field work (we can put into this group panoramics, macro, landscapists, backpackers of any kind... ).
    2. ... ocassionally -or even more often- with DSLR/SLR cameras, via "L" plates. Many of this "serious" photogs already use this plates for their vertical shots (and that`s good for the manufacturers who will sell this device and the "perfect" head as well).
  10. Edward, you`re saying it all. You need my "perfect" ball head. You
    Jose, you're sounding like the Big O - as if I didn't understand the issues. I have the "perfect" ball head for my purposes, called an Arca-Swiss B1. The functionality of the panning base and panning clamp are different - due to something called geometry. You can't use a leveling head for panning because it the direction of the axis can change too. Finally, I have heads for video and view cameras which are "perfect" for those jobs respectively.
    Now tell us what the "perfect" camera bag would have ;-)
  11. "You can't use a leveling head for panning... "
    Of course. I prefer to level with a panning clamp over the ball. If I need to level the whole head, I`ll use a leveling head below the ball. If I don`t need to level anything, I`ll go then with a equally strong head, but way lighter because it has not panning devices attached. That`s my point.
    Looks like everybody (except me) are happy with the current offer.
    I definitely don`t. I believe a very few designers have had a similar feeling, perhaps it`s matter of time to have a wider offer. The Arca-Swiss P1, Burzinsky and the Gitzo Systematic are the only heads in this area... sadly all over 700grs.
    I`m not in the ball head manufacturing bussiness, but if I were, my first product would be in this line... I think many users looking into lightweights like the Markins Q3, Acratech, RRS BH-40, A-S p0, Gitzo smaller center ball and others could opt for a simpler but stronger product, and those using BH-55, B1, Z1, P1, M10, M20, etc. etc. could prefer an equally strong, high quality but much lighter head removing some features (that can be added if needed in a modular system of accesories).
    I know I`m just dreaming... thank you very much for your commemts.
  12. If you level the camera with the ball and use a panning clamp, the horizon is always exactly in the center of the frame. If you shoot buildings, the center is at tripod height (essentially in the center). This is not good for composition, and is only really necessary when shooting small interiors.
  13. Panolamic landscape, large format, medium format cameras are all fairly heavy. I don't think there is any point of losing 300-400g on the ballhead.
    Also, the 90 degree slot is not only for the portrait orientation of the camera, but it is useful when directing the camera extremely upwards or downwards.
  14. Not all bigger format gear is heavier, my DLC45 + lens is lighter than my RZ67 + lens. Any shaving in weight is welcome... believe me, some grams here and some there became noticeable over the shoulders.
    And I`m not only refering to any saving in weight, but also on the benefit of bigger ball diameters, lower gravity center, etc.
    Of course every head has their cons and pros; those who need extreme tiltings can already use their e.g. B1. Those who want the strength and smoothness of this head for "normal" shooting, are forced to carry with the load.
  15. If you are not tied into the Arca system, and want to go for an amazing head, try the Gitzo GH1780QR. It is rated for loads of 10kg, but weighs a tounch under 0.3kg!
    With the GT0531 tripod I have something I can mountaineer with, it confortably supports a D700 with 80-200mm f/2.8. I am stretching the limits of the tripod, rather than my shoulders, but not the head. Simply superb head.
  16. Mudit, I know your`s a good advice, thanks. This head was on my "best gear" list. I already have a somewhat "former" vintage model of this head, and actually holds a huge load for their size.
    As you mention, I`d need to install an A-S clamp.

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