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.
|_ERN9064 by ernesto juarez|
from Shoot yourself ! (with your camera)
|walkersons fields by George Veltchev|
from -Waiting for Autumn- (in Full Colours Only)
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.
Sony has taken the wraps off of its new 24mm F1.4 GM full-frame lens, which the company claims is the lightest in its class. Despite its fast aperture, the 24mm F1.4 is remarkably light, weighing just 445 grams (15.7 ounces). The lens will set you back $1400 when it ships next month.
In this episode of DPReview TV we take a look at Sony's brand new 24mm F1.4 GM lens, a desirable focal length for many photographers. How does it perform? Chris and Jordan give us their first impressions.
We've had a little time to shoot with Sony's new wide/fast prime, both close to home and on the water in San Francisco. Check out our initial sample images.
Fujifilm released a firmware upgrade for its X-T3 mirrorless camera that addresses issues with distortion compensation and the mechanical lock on SD cards.
The app's algorithms have been trained using using 200 million cropping data points from real photographers.
Thanks to a software update, the Loupedeck+ editing console can now be used for video editing.
British photographic engineer MTF Services is claiming the world’s first third-party lens adapters for the new Nikon Z system with a collection of four units designed to allow cinema lenses to be mounted on the mirrorless full frame bodies.
Think Tank Photo has updated its line of heavy-duty rain covers and introduced a new, compact version for emergency situations.
The X-T3 is our first opportunity to analyze what's likely to be Fujifilm's next generation image sensor. Take a look at how it performs next to the competition in our studio test scene.
Canon's new normal is seriously sharp wide open. After shooting with it for a few days, we've prepared a gallery of real-world sample images.
Nikon will cease offering Brazil-based customer service and technical support, though the company stresses that it will still offer technical assistance and warranty repairs for valid warranties.
Two years ago, CatLABS of JP announced a plan to save Packfilm from the dead. Now, it's announced it's giving up its efforts to better focus its resources elsewhere.
The GoPro Fusion is designed to make it easy to capture 360-degree video and stills. We took it out recently on a typically hot Seattle summer day to see what it can do.
We've got our hands on a full-production Nikon Z7 camera and have updated our gallery with additional samples.
A new Kickstarter campaign seeks funding for Chroma Chrono, a programmable RGB camera flash that emits multiple colors during long exposures.
Think Tank Photo has launched a new lineup of six dual-access, water-resistant protective lens cases it calls Lens Case Duo.
Canon and Nikon finally entered the full-frame mirrorless market this summer with the brand-new RF and Z mounts. Now that we've had some time with the cameras, we wanted to revisit our earlier predictions and take stock.
The devices' camera specs look pretty much identical to last year's iPhone X but under the hood a number of important improvements have been made.
Blackmagic Design has announced the public beta of its new Blackmagic RAW video codec. The company says the new format combines the benefits of shooting Raw video with the ease of use and smaller file sizes usually associated with non-Raw video files.
Serif, the company behind the Affinity suite, has announced the latest update for its mobile Photoshop competitor Affinity Photo for iPad.
The Atomos Ninja V external video recorder and monitor will be ready to ship at the end of this month. The 5.2in Ninja V is designed to provide a smaller option, while still offering many of the features of the larger 7-inch models.