Battle of the titans: Top ball heads tested
1 Battle of the titans: Top ball heads tested
At some point, almost every photographer ends up needing some support. Sympathetic friends are helpful, but what you really need is a tripod to accommodate longer shutter times, heavier lenses, careful compositions, and panoramic vistas. There is no denying the advantages of a tripod for improving your images in the studio or in the field, but it's the tripod head that lets you point your camera wherever you'd like. Too many are content to stick with the head that comes with their tripod, but there are a variety of head types that can improve your experience with the best set of tripod legs.
In the reviews that follow, we are going to start at the top, with the largest and most capable ball-type tripod heads produced by various manufacturers. Like any gear choice, these heads will not strike the best balance between price, capabilities, and features for every photographer, but they can show us what each company considers to be their benchmark.
The common elements of the ball heads in this group are a ball diameter between 52 and 58mm, and an Arca-Swiss style, dovetail quick release platform (the most common quick release type used by professionals). By limiting the field to heads with these specifications*, we can fairly rate each head in comparison to the others.
In addition, almost every head in this review represents the pinnacle of a line of similar ball heads that descend in size (and price), and much of what we discover about these top-of-the-line heads will be true of their smaller siblings. So, if your needs don't include working with a heavy camera or large lenses, you might look at a smaller version of the heads we consider here.
- Photo Clam Pro Gold VI
- Novoflex Classic Ball 5
- FLM Centerball 58 FTR
- Cullmann Magnesit 8.5
- Arca-Swiss Z1
- Sirui K-40x
- Benro B3
- Induro BHL3
- Sunwayfoto XB-52
- Really Right Stuff BH-55
Notably absent are four big names in professional ball heads: Acratech and Markins heads have smaller ball diameters (with 38mm and 48mm balls respectively), Manfrotto did not have their new Arca-Swiss compatible "Top Lock" quick release system ready for testing this past summer, and Kirk was a no-show.
*One spec you won't find affecting the ratings or general reviews is the often-quoted "maximum load capacity" of each head. This is not a standardized measurement among manufacturers, and therefore could mean how much weight the head can hold at some angle, or before a critical component fails, or even what it takes to shatter the head into shrapnel. Without a standard, this (sometimes extreme) marketing number loses much of its weight.
Mechanically, it is the ball diameter and lock design that determine how well various loads are handled, but the best number to consider is the weight capacity of the tripod beneath the head.
Use the arrows or table of contents below to read each ball head review. On the last page, we recommend three that stand out from the rest of the field.
|Abstract bokeh by Minas_Eye|
from Your City - Bokeh in the City (Rerun)
|Green Tree Frog by BruceRH|
|Custom Red Roadster by Mitchmeister|
from Car Shows 2018
At Sony's press conference at Photokina the company announced that 12 more E-mount lenses will be arriving over the next two years. In addition, the company is working to utilize artificial intelligence in its technologies, with one application being Eye AF trained to detect animal eyes.
Sigma has said it will create a full-frame Foveon camera and will adopt the Leica L mount for its system. It will be able to adapt or convert SA mount lenses to the L mount, for existing users.
Hasselblad is expanding their X System with their announcement of three new lenses: the XCD 80mm F1.9, XCD 65mm F2.8 and XCD 135mm F2.8, along with a teleconverter. The 80mm F1.9 is the fastest in the system. Get all the details and check out Hasselblad's official sample images here.
Sigma has announced give new lenses at Photokina, including a 'Sport' series 70-200mm F2.8 and a 56mm F1.4 for Micro Four Thirds and Sony E mounts.
Sigma has announced the 28mm F1.4 Art, 40mm F1.4 Art, 70-200mm F2.8 Sport and 60-600mm F4.5-6.3 Sport lenses for several full frame lens mounts, including Canon, Nikon and, in the first two instances, Sony E.
ON1 has announced the impending launch of ON1 Photo RAW 2019. The new version, due out in November, brings a handful of new tools and features in a revamped interface.
Fujifilm has said it is developing a 100MP GFX medium format camera that will include both phase detection autofocus and in-body image stabilization. The 4K-capable camera will sell for around $10,000.
Leica has announced the S3 medium-format camera – an S2 successor with a 64MP sensor capable of 4K video.
The GFX 50R is a 50MP rangefinder-style mirrorless camera. It borrows heavily from the existing 50S model but in a smaller body and at a lower price. How does it differ?
Fujifilm has announced its GFX 50R, a rangefinder-styled version of the company's GFX 50S medium-format camera. The 'guts' of the two cameras are the same, with the difference being the design, weight and Bluetooth, all at a considerably lower price.
In this episode of DPReview TV, we get our hands on Fujifilm's GFX 50R which hides a medium-format sensor in a new, more compact body. Watch to get Chris and Jordan's first impressions on image quality, video and more.
Fujifilm is adding a trio of new medium-format lenses to its G-mount roadmap. GFX owners will soon be able to get their hands on 100-200mm F5.6, 45-100mm F4 and compact 50mm F3.5 lenses. Pricing and availability have not been announced.
Micro Four Thirds users will soon get a super fast, constant aperture wide angle zoom.
Panasonic has announced it is developing two full frame mirrorless cameras: the 47MP S1R and the 24MP S1. We've been shown fairly advanced-looking but non-functional prototype cameras, and have been able to squeeze a few details from Panasonic.
Panasonic is developing a pair of full-frame mirrorless cameras that use Leica's L-mount. The S1R will feature a 47MP sensor, while the S1 will be 24MP. Both cameras will support Dual IS shake reduction 4K/60p video capture and will have XQD and SD card slots.
Leica, Panasonic and Sigma are teaming up. Expect L-mount cameras from Panasonic as well as L-mount glass from Sigma.
Ricoh has announced the development of the GR III enthusiast compact, due to ship in early 2019. The camera gains sensor-shift image stabilization and an updated 24MP sensor with phase-detection. The 28mm equivalent F2.8 lens has also been redesigned and a touchscreen added.
The 'I'm Back' is now available for a range of old film-SLRs, such as Nikon's F-Series, the Olympus OM10 or the Canon AE-1.
IRIX has announced its latest lens, the 150mm F2.8 Macro 1:1. IRIX claims the lens features 'close to zero' distortion and stands out with its 150mm telephoto focal length.
The RF 24-105mm F4L IS USM is one of four lenses to launch with Canon's new full-frame mirrorless system, and it boasts the longest reach of the range. Take a look at some of the samples we've gathered thus far as our EOS R testing continues.
Nikon's Sendai factory in the Tōhoku region North of Japan has been churning out cameras and lenses since 1971. We had the opportunity recently to visit Sendai during events to mark the launch of Nikon's new Z mount.
There's no mistaking the Nikon Coolpix P1000 – with a 24-3000mm equivalent zoom, it really is in a class of its own. It's a conspicuous-looking superzoom with one main job: getting you really close to far away subjects. We've put together a gallery showing the kind of results you can expect from it.
A new report from The Verge claims Instagram is currently testing a feature that allows users to re-share posts to their own account feeds.
GoPro has announced its HERO7 camera lineup. The updated action cameras feature new HyperSmooth and TimeWarp modes, as well as improved video and photo specs.
The latest Samsung midrange smartphone offers a super-wide-angle lens in its triple-camera setup.
The Sony 24mm F1.4 is the latest lens to join the company's premium G Master lineup. We've been shooting with one for a couple of days - here's what you need to know.
Apple released iOS 12 a few days ago and some iPhone X users are less than happy with how the new operating system has made their phones look.
Camera bag manufacturer Lowepro has introduced mark II backpacks for its ProTactic AW range with models that are said to feature an improved handling experience as well as a collection of accessories that can be attached to the outside.
Canon has announced its latest superzoom camera, the PowerShot SX70 HS. Compared to the SX60 that came before it, the SX70 has the same lens but offers a higher resolution EVF, 4K video capture and support for Canon's new CR3 Raw format.
Cosina has announced its eighth lens designed specifically for Sony's E-mount system. The Voigtlander 21mm F3.5 lens is due out October 2018.