Novoflex BasicBall w/ Ball 30
$220 / £140  www.novoflex.com

The Novoflex BasicBall tripod with the Ball 30 head.

The long history of Novoflex is filled with unique and unusual interpretations of otherwise common photography gear. From the pistol-gripped Noflexar telephotos of the past to the more recent lens adapters and quadropods, they all have the unmistakable stamp of Novoflex refining an innovation to a very high degree. As seen in recent reviews, this driving aesthetic can have impressive results, but almost always at a premium price. The BasicBall is not a recent design, but offers capabilities rarely seen in tripods of this (or any) size. Adding the Ball 30 creates a relatively compact support kit within the Novoflex family.

Specifications

MSRP  $130 tripod / $90 head
Folded length  11.8" (30cm)
Maximum height  11.2" (28.5cm)
Minimum height  5.3" (13.5cm)
Weight  1.4 lbs (645g)
Load limit  55lbs (25kg) tripod / 11 lbs (5kg) head
# of leg angles 3
Angle degrees 30 / 55 / 80°
Warranty  2 years (in the USA and Canada)

Size comparison

The (semi-) packed size of the Novoflex BasicBall & Ball 30, compared to common storage media.

The Novoflex BasicBall tripod does not collapse or fold-up like many other tripods, but rather dis-assembles into 3 or 4 main parts. Adding the Ball 30 to the package means one of those parts is a large and heavy chunk of metal. Although the legs can all be screwed into one row of angles (fanned out), the most compact way to store and carry the BasicBall is shown above, with two legs unattached. If only Novoflex thought to include a small bag or slotted pouch with this tripod!

Available heights*

*With Novoflex Ball 30 head attached. Subtract 3" (7.5 cm) for tripod alone.

11.2” (28.5 cm) 8.5” (21.5 cm) 5.3” (13.5 cm)

Construction and handling

An expandable system

The BasicBall hub has 9 threaded holes to put the legs at preset angles, as well as 3 more horizontal 1/4" threaded holes, for attachments like the Novoflex Flexible Arm shown above. Beyond this, the legs themselves are extendable with the optional 6" (15cm) intermediate rods, shown in use above, or even with the Novoflex Telescopic Rods, which are full-height hiking poles that replace the smaller legs.

In keeping with the Novoflex corporate colors, the BasicBall is offered with the central hemisphere in either silver or blue anodized aluminum, while all come with black steel legs that end in firm rubber ball feet. The machining of the BasicBall is excellent, with an attention to detail that includes countersunk slots for aligning the legs before screwing them in, accessory threads at convenient locations, and provisions for an extending center column (of a sort). Typical of Novoflex, every part is overbuilt and seems incredibly durable.

The BasicBall tripod, with its massive 55lb capacity, is equally at home with the giant Novoflex ClassicBall 5 head... ...or the diminutive Novoflex Neiger 19P ball head (for holding a hotshoe flash).

Loaded system

The incredible maximum load of the BasicBall comes from the very simple, but durable design and material decisions. By using steel legs and common screw threads, Novoflex has intentionally created an expandable system that is not limited to lighter or smaller gear. In fact, the BasicBall would be just as able to hold a gimbal head and fast telephoto prime, as it could hold up an iPad or off-camera flash. Given the more modest capabilities of the other tripods in this group, the focus will instead be on more common use cases.

Half a ball

At the literal crux of the BasicBall tripod is a hemisphere of finely machined aluminum, with screw holes for the various leg angles and any additional attachments. Three additional holes pass from top to bottom, allowing for a tri-pole center column to be added on later model BasicBalls.

The chrome nut shown at the bottom of the ball rotates the 1/4" threaded mounting screw on the base of the ball, allowing for very easy and secure attachment of any head or camera.

Ball 30 head

While Novoflex offers a number of heads in various sizes and capabilities, the Ball 30 was chosen to compliment the BasicBall as a (slightly) more affordable option, and to create a compact but capable kit.

The Ball 30, as the name implies, has a 30mm ball and a single lever-style knob to lock and unlock both the ball and a panning base hidden under the chromed base. A larger version of the same head, the Ball 40, naturally increases the ball diameter to 40mm, with an increase in load bearing ability.

Unfortunately, almost all Novoflex ball heads come without a quick release, so one was added.

Field experience

With a 55lb capacity, the BasicBall is well suited to hold up a tiny mirrorless camera.

Once getting beyond the jumbled nature of the unpacked BasicBall, the whole kit found a home in various bags as either two legs with the third holding a ball and head, or as three legs stuffed in pockets with two chunkier pieces of aluminum insulated from banging into other gear. In almost every case, the time to get out the tripod and head and set it up for shooting was more than any other kit in this comparison, and even longer than a full-size tripod. The modular nature of the Novoflex system was a detriment when trying to grab a quick shot with some support.

Ball control (or lack of)

After screwing in the legs at the required angles, the BasicBall became a very solid platform for the Ball 30 head (and camera). The problems started when trying to adjust this rougher than expected ball head with a camera on top. The ball and panning lock knob seemed like a binary on/off switch, with no way to set a medium amount of friction on the ball to hold a load in place and still be able to move it. The locking lever had enough rotation to potentially apply some friction before locking, but instead it felt disconnected until it quickly flipped from one unlocked to immoveable.

Adding to the frustration, the panning base underneath the head is also unlocked by the same knob, and sometimes an attempt to adjust just the angle was met with unintended rotation of the drop slot. Holding the camera and lens when unlocking the ball is a good habit to get into with single knob, mini ballheads like this, but trying to keep the head from rotating with the other hand was just too much.

A different head

Because all of this was so different from the experience of the (much larger) ClassicBall 5 in an earlier review, a slightly larger head of the same design (Ball 40) was also tried out. Unfortuantely, it had the same rough, almost sticky, ball motion as the Ball 30, and no more control over friction and panning. These are older ball head designs, and really need to either be improved or replaced to compete at this size.

Pricey system

To add compatibility for common dovetail quick release plates, a Novoflex Q=Mount Mini was added to the Ball 30 for testing. However, this adds yet another $90 to the price (for an MSRP total over $300), which makes this anything but a cheap system to get into if more than a 1/4" threaded stud is desired.

Interestingly, while this simple clamp retails for as much as the whole head (and not much less than the BasicBall), the accessories to add height to the tripod legs or a flexible armature are reasonably priced. Moving parts of any complexity must incur a high cost...

Summing up

The Novoflex BasicBall is a departure from the usual specs and features of a mini tripod. With steel legs and a solid aluminum hemisphere at the crux, it can hold up more than most other tripods (mini or not), and is suitably built like a tank. The screw in/out legs require patience when setting the tripod up, but that’s the cost of such incredible strength. Of course, those legs can be extended with steel inserts, and the ball itself can hang almost anything from its various screw holes, so this is really the base for an extensive support system.

In this regard, Novoflex has a unique offering with the BasicBall tripod by itself. However, the Ball 30 head is a disappointment in terms of performance for the price, and really only adds to the weight and cost of this system, not to the ease of use. Overall, compared to the other mini tripods in this group, the BasicBall comes across as an expensive tripod system for really heavy loads and maximum stability, at least when coupled with larger (and better) tripod heads.

Pros

  • As stable and strong as tripods get
  • Impeccable fit and finish
  • Extensible and expandable
  • Simple and colorful

Cons

  • Ball 30 is rough and pricey
  • Packs loosely in 3 parts
  • Quick release sold separately