The mother-load of ballheads?
by Ed Prete
About three years ago when I rekindled my interested in cameras, lenses and the like, I learned quickly that two key components of a good (if not great) landscape photograph are, a stable set of tripod legs, and a good solid ballhead. A ballhead will allow you to recompose quickly, without having to readjust the legs of your tripod. It also shouldn't creep on you when the weight of the equipment is placed on it.
In the world of ballheads, there have been many players in the game and up until recently, all ballheads shared a very similar shape and design. Most would have a 20-25mm ball with a shaft through the center, and it sat within a cast piece of metal that would clamp down around the ball's outer circumference causing friction to hold the assembly.
In 2004, Really Right Stuff (aka RRS), of Los Osos, California literally broke the mold of ballhead design, with the release of their BH-55 ballhead. Although it shares some similarities with other ballheads, it's 55mm center ball is one that is still unmatched by the competition. Conservatively rated at 50lbs, this fine piece of equipment can sure hold substantially more.
The ballhead features two drop slots/channels that allow you to position your camera for a vertical orientation, while the three main knobs that control pan, drag, and ball position, are all smartly designed so that each is a different size, eliminating the possibility of mistaking one knob for another. The main knob that controls ball position works independently of the drag knob, that controls how easily the ball is positioned. While the drag knob controls the tension and drag on the ball as you move it, after the main knob has been loosened.
Although beefy in size and in weight, it is fairly easy to operate, and it's weight almost becomes a non-factor. Another ballhead I have, the Acratech Ultimate Ballhead, is substantially lighter but is not as easily worked. Not to say that the Acratech UBH is difficult, but it just isn't as easy to use.
The configuration I suggest is with the Lever Release clamp, that includes a Arca-Swiss quick release clamp system, that makes setup and breakdown quick in the field. Although on the higher end of prices for ballheads, I can attest that once you own this, you will never consider another head.
The mother load? Maybe.
In a class of it's own? Definitely.
Really Right Stuff
PO Box 6531
Los Osos, California 93412