Tripod Ball Head Knowledge Base

Prices below were obtained from average internet prices and may have changed from the posting date

Arca-Swiss Z1 - $364-$598 Really Right Stuff BH55 Pro - $355-$575 Kirk BH-1 - $375

It all comes down to aligning your camera into the exact position you want, repeatedly, with ease, accuracy, and precision. Not a small task. We're talking about Tripod Heads here. Some are designed to hold a camera rock-steady; others allow fluid movement through a smooth arc. There's at least one that will satisfy your specific needs.

Ball heads are convenient for hiking. They have higher strength to weight ratios and fewer protruding knobs to catch on passing branches. Arca Swiss has replaced the B1 with the smaller Z1 monoball. Note that the flip lever version of the new Arca Swiss Z1 shown above is slightly lighter than the classic clamp model. Some users have complained that rotating the lower and smaller panning knob crimped their fingers on some tripod bases, so the knob has been replaced by a lever.

Ball heads come in different shapes and sizes designed to support different types of cameras. Like tripods they are rated by the amount of weight that they can support. The features to look for are ball diameter, multiple secure contact points to the ball, variable tension control, height (lower is better), and rated support weight. The larger the ball and the more secure the mechanism, the more solid the ball head. You can omit a panning base for less weight by panning with the ball. However, panning while your camera is flopped 90 degrees requires a panning base. 

Professional Ball Head Comparisons

Ball Head Height
(mm)
Ball
diam
(mm)
Load
Capacity
(kg/lbs
Weight
(gms/lbs)
Load
Weight
Acratech V2 108 38 11.3/25 450/1.0  
Arca-Swiss B1 114 54 40.8/90 780/1.7 52.4:1
Arca-Swiss Z1 100 54 59/130 680/1.5 81:1
Bursynski 92 60 40-50/110 1030/2.27 48.5:1
Gitzo GH5380QRS 101   30/66 720/1.6  
Kirk BH-1 116 53 40/88 849/1.875 46.9:1
Linhof Profi-III 127   9.98/22 128/2.80  
Markins Q-Ball M20 TI 101 48 50/110 640/1.41 78.1
Novoflex ClassicBall 5 4.5"   12/26.5 860/1.9  
RRS BH 55 Pro+ 92.7 55 23/50 843/1.86 26.9:1
Acratech GV2 Ballhead/Gimbal Head Acratech Ball Heads. (5) For years, the recommended ball head was the Arca Swiss. This jewel of Swiss engineering weighs 1¾ pounds, was silky smooth and just really worked well. I would still recommend it, except for two reasons. The price has become obscene (about $400) and a new ball head is now available that gives us a viable alternative. Known for their Acratech Ultimate ball head, Acratech has released a variant on the theme with the V2 ball head. Weighing just 0.45 kg with a 38mm ball, the V2 can support over 25 lbs . This new head is made by AcraTech, a precision machine shop in California. It just so happens that the head of AcraTech, Scott Dordick, is a machinist AND a photographer. Although ball heads are nothing new, Scott has brought some exciting innovations to his creation.
Arca-Swiss Z1 Ballhead Arca-Swiss The Arca-Swiss Ballhead B1 was the benchmark by which every other ball head was compared for a long time. The new Arca Monoball Ballhead Z1 replaces that version while delivering identical performance in a more compact size and with a lower price tag to boot . Ypu will not discover anything not to like about this change, although it's not too likely many photographers will upgrade their superb B1 for the somewhat extra superb Z1 while the functional difference are slight, although the physical disparities are nice indeed updated article Apr 2, 2011.
Burzynski Ball HeadBurzynski Ball Heads. (1) The Burzynski head is unique that it replaces the top plate of the Gitzo 1325 and 1548 (with an adapter). This way the head is tightly integrated with the tripod. The head has a very low profile (75mm). Unfortunately the Arca clamp is not integrated with the head. We don't feel any problems using a third party Arca clamp.

What are the main benefits? Tripod integration Low profile Can carry very heavy cameras Last not least: Locks in position without any change in your frame. Most heads we used have a tendency to move the frame just so slightly when we lock the ball. This is not the case with the Burzynski head. We feel this a very important properly. Locking is also very smooth.

There are two downsides: The Burzynski head can only be tilted +/- 45 degrees (not a problem for portrait shots as we use an L-Bracket anyway. We only know one source in Germany Isarfoto. The price of the head is not cheap but in the normal range (332 Euro). Unfortunately the cost for mailing can be very expensive. All foreign sales are handled via Isarfoto.

Feisol Ball Head CB-70DFeisol Ball Heads. (4) The ball head has revolutionized tripod functionality - any enthusiast and professional can confirm this. By allowing free-flow movement of the camera through all the axes of rotation, photographers and videographers can quickly and seamlessly adjust camera angles to frame the optimal scene by allowing free-flow movement of the camera through all the axes of rotation.

All FEISOL Ball Heads are precision manufactured with computer-controlled CNC machines to ensure perfection in design so that you too may experience perfection in your craft. FEISOL Ball Heads offer the latest innovations in design and manufacturing to bring you the finest tripod to camera attachments available in the industry. Buy Feisol Ball Heads

Giottos Ball Heads (23) Designed for fast and easy positioning of the camera. Movement through all 3 axes is controlled from just the one locking lever and the head incorporates a quick release plate system with a maximum load capacity of 6kg. When unlocked, you can pan, tilt and level your camera with one smooth movement.
Kirk BH1 Ballhead Kirk Ball Heads. (2) Kirk Enterprises offers the BH-1 and BH-3 ball heads. The revised BH-1 has a 53mm ball diameter, and is designed to carry larger lenses without the occasional lockup problems of the Arca Swiss B1 (see Figure 5). Kirk has replaced the quick release plate with a redesigned model with a spirit level, and reduced the overall weight from 2 to 1.875 pounds. The smaller BH-3 has a 42mm ball and weighs 19 oz, and is designed to carry lenses smaller than 300/2.8 or 400/3.5. The Kirk BH-1 is patterned after the Arca-Swiss B1 ball head, and includes a panning knob for locking/unlocking the panning mechanism (which includes a degree scale and reference mark), a large control knob for locking/unlocking the ball, and a variable-tension knob for adjusting the tension on the ball. The BH-1 uses Arca-style quick release plates, and a captive knob on the quick release clamp is used to lock the plate in place. The ball tilts to 45-degrees in any direction, and to 90-degrees in the vertical notch. The head is 4.5 inches in height and weighs 32 ounces, and is covered by Kirk's Satisfaction Guarantee and a full 5-year warranty. The entire unit is extremely well crafted and operates very smoothly. The ball locks firmly in place with no creep. As opposed to the 3055, I can compose an image, lock the ball and it all stays precisely in place.
Linhof Prof-II-BallheadLinhof Ball Heads (4) Linhof Ballheads are renowned for the superb construction and rigidity and the Prof II (shown at right) is no exception. The Profi II features a panorama base, reversible top and fully adjustable ball tensioning. It measures 107mm high and 63mm wide, weighs just 540 grams and will safely support camera/lens combinations up to 8 kilograms.

 

Markins Ball Heads. (3) The Markins has a unique patented “bi-axial locking mechanism” that allows it to be smaller and lighter, yet support more weight. In fact, the weight to load ratio is 80:1, which means the Markins will support eighty times more weight than it itself weighs.

The M10/20 uses the industry standard Arca Swiss style dove-tail plates, so you'll never have problems finding extra plates for them.

Really Right Stuff Ball Heads (2) The Really Right Stuff BH-55 is an excellent ball Head that is often compared to the Arca-Swiss ballheads. I've used both (BH-55 and B1) about equally and can say that I'd be very happy with either. The RRS BH-55 is shorter (3.65"/85.4mm vs 4"/101.6mm) but wider and about 7 oz (198g) heavier at 1.96 lb (889g). The BH-55 main friction knob is most notably larger but the entire head is beefier (see the top-view photo above for a comparison that shows this best). The BH-55's load capacity is rated at a much lower but seemingly far more conservatively at 50 lbs (23kg). Buy Really Right Stuff Ball Heads Direct
Less Expensive Ball heads
Alzo Ball Heads - (1) The ALZO Ball Head is an ALL METAL aluminum alloy Ball Head for use on any tripod leg set with a 3/8" x 20 thread mount. This is the head used on the ALZO Ball Head Tripod. The ALZO Ball Head features a "quick release camera platform" with "Snap Lock" to allow for quick camera removal. The "snap lock" also prevents accidental detachment of the camera. Includes a 3/8" x 20 female thread hole in base for attachment to a tripod base.
Benro Ball Heads. (8) Zhongshan Benro Precision Machinery Co. Ltd. is located in the Guangdong province of southern China. The company used to be a major parts supplier to a couple of well-known tripod & head manufacturers. (Gitzo et al) It was not until the end of last century that the company began to produce its own branded professional tripods. Since then the company has been growing rapidly and has now become a dominant player in the Chinese market underpinned by continuous improvement and technological innovation. First-class product quality, excellent service and affordable prices means Benro is becoming the first choice for professional photographers worldwide.
Bogen Ball Heads Bogen dosen't make the best ball heads. They make the cheapest usable ball heads and maybe the best value ballheads. Most serious photographers eventually end up with something better - and significantly more expensive. The Bogens (especially the 3055/3262) are cheap enough that there's no big loss when you upgrade. If you can afford it, go with something better (like the Arca Swiss B1 at $360, plus $40+ per QR plate!). If you can't, get a Bogen and don't lose any sleep over the decision. B
Cullmann Ball Heads. (6) The Cullmann Magnesit 35nm WB is huge and feels just as solid as I want it to and I would trust it to carry the most expensive gear without being afraid that it would fail. The controls are silk smooth and the ball locks in a manner that makes it feel rock solid.
Davis & Sanford Ball Heads. (2) Over the past 60 years, Davis & Sanford has built up a diverse line of well-engineered, sturdy tripods: from low-priced, high value tripods for the weekend snapshooter to versatile, rugged tripods for around-the-clock professionals, and everything in between. Plus, Davis & Sanford provides a variety of platforms, tripod heads and accessories to meet a range of specialized applications. Tripods ordered in quantity can be modified or customized according to a customer's needs. All Davis & Sanford tripods and support systems share some important features.
DMKFoto Ball Heads. (3) The quick release plate system is universal, compatible to all major brands, including the most popular Manfrotto 3157N. The 3157N plates is to show its compatibility . Redundant plate lock and safety lock provides secure mounting of your camera. Ball heads are made from the latest metal (aluminum alloy) technology that provides super strong and sturdy construction and yet weigh 40% less than comparable units.
ePhoto Ball Heads. (3) Versatile, quick and easy to use., just grip the handle and you can position your camera anywhere within 180. It is unlike the traditional head, there is no handle sticking out. It allows you to operate this grip head freely. It comes with a quick-release camera plate and a secondary safety lock, built-in bubble level and tension adjustment. Made of cast aluminum. Ideal for 35mm and digital cameras with short or medium focal length lenses.
Flashpoint Ball Heads. (5) Flashpoint Ball Heads feature smooth operational movement and positive locking. Made of magnesium alloy, they are 30% lighter than standard materials and that's a real savings for photographers on the go. The quick release plate receiver has a safety catch to prevent accidental release of the Q.R. plate. Flashpoint Ball Heads are available in several sizes to accommodate the various needs of photographers.
FotoPro FPH Ball Heads. (1) Fotopro Ball Heads are made by precision CNC machined to offer the best performance. From its black anodized aluminum body to its ball, it provides drag micro-adjustment to easily balance many camera weight categories. Both course and fine drag adjustment are conveniently incorporated within the same drag adjustment knob. In addition, a panning locking knob is also available for accurate panoramas shooting, buit-in slim quick plate.
Gitzo Ball Heads. (23) Gitzo Ball Heads are engineered to provide exceptionally smooth rotation, positive locking, and rapid mounting or removal of film or visual system.
Induro Ball Heads. (4) The Induro line-up has some excellent ball and panning heads to choose from. Although they have their own quick-release system, Mounting your camera with an Arca-Swiss style mounting plate works well—your mileage may vary. Of all the products, the Induro line is the most impressive with the most for quality and cost.
Joby Ball Heads. (2) The Ballhead X is not the be-all, end-all of ball heads. It is not a Really Right Stuff BH55 and probably won't support a 400mm f2.8 so be realistic with your expectations. For what it is I am very satisfied. It is smooth, reliable, and strong enough for my camera and lens's. The addition of the Arca-Swiss compatible mounting clamp really is what makes the difference at this price point and opens it to a much wider realm of options like camera mount L-plates and camera specific mount plates. B
Manfrotto Ball Heads. (19) $46.90 -$330.20. Manfrotto’s new family of ball heads. Compact, lightweight and reliable, the eight new ball heads guarantee high performance and ease of use to all photographers.

Building on the success of its traditional ball head range, the new Manfrotto ball head family provides a variety of solutions for different needs so they are the perfect choice for improving your photographic passion.

Novoflex Ball Heads. (17) $42.95-$875.00. Novoflex gets the award for the most innovative and cool-looking designs. Even more impressively, they work every bit as good as they look. The MagicBall takes the standard ball head and turns it upside down, with a fixed ball and moving mount; its handle has won praise from most everyone who has used it.
Pedco Ball Heads. (1) $11.95. The Pedco UltraMount is designed to attach to any tripod, or other device that has a standard mounting thread. Once in place, it allows you to attach a Camera, GPS, or other device and angle it in any possible direction. The ball head swivels 360 degrees, and the clamp can rotate 180 degrees. The UltraMount will hold nearly any device, and gives additional functionality to your tools.
Promaster Ball Heads. (12) $19.99-$105.99. The versatile PROMASTER SystemPRO Superlite series of heads are precision machined from lightweight aluminum alloy, making them 30% lighter than the standard SystemPRO series. The ultra high quality finish and exceptional construction ensure long-lasting, smooth operation.C
Sirui Pro Ball Ball Heads. (4) Smooth, precise movements, solid locking and top manufacturing, Sirui Professional Ball Heads are ideal for medium format, 35mm digital cameras. With central ball, classic Quick Release plant, patented safe lock and sliding stopper, 360 degree panning system, separate lock and drag control knobs, bubble level built in and -45 to +90 degree tilt range, Sirui ball head guarantee ultra strong locking and accurate exceptionally smooth movements.
Slik Ball Heads. (16) New from THK are three sizes of professional ball heads, SLIK SBH-280, SBH-320, and SBH-550. Constructed of anodized hardened aluminum parts for trouble-free, extra-smooth operation, they each feature oversized, textured, single knob operation to lock or release the ball connection to the camera plate.
Smith-Victor Ball Heads. (5)
SunPak Ball Heads. (5) As a leading manufacturer of quality tripods for professionals, serious enthusiasts, casual photographers and videographers, Sunpak has developed a reputation as an innovator devoted to the highest level of product quality. Sunpak tripods are amazingly light, yet offer remarkable strength and stability, and uniquely engineered designs and wide selection of models allow you to choose just the right support to hold your camera steady at any angle, indoors or out, on virtually any terrain. C
TMS Ball Heads. (1) TMS 4022PG trigger-action ball head allows the trigger grip handle to release tension on the 45mm inner ball when the grip is squeezed and lock the ball head in any position by simply releasing the trigger. This quick orientation ball head allows the camera to be pointed in almost any direction with ease. It works on any tripods with standard 1/4x20 or 3/8 inch thread mounts.
Trek Tech Ball Heads (1) MagMount PRO is the best ball head we have come out with to dayte! A full-featured ball head designed for use with D-SLR cameras. It utilizes our patent pending MagMount quick connect / release system, so you can be ready for any shot in seconds. Square Tooth Anti Rotation (STAR) technology prevents equimpent from moving while at any angle. It will support cameras & lenses up to 13.5 lbs. The integrated rotating locking clip mechanicaly secures your camera to the MagMount PRO & a spring loaded locking lever allows for easy adjustment.
Vanguard Ball Heads. (5) Vanguard's top-of-the-line ABH-340L semi-elliptical ball head automatically adjusts and increase tension to handle off-center load, with exceptional strength and stability. Patented features include Combination-Friction Forces Control (CFFC) which enables extreme tension and friction control via an ergonomic grooved dial located on the main adjustment knob.Both are independently adjustable but positioned side-by-side on the same axis for convenient fine-tuning. This combination of precise tension and friction forces control increases the strength to provide outstanding security.
Velbon Ball Heads. (4) Whether you need a tripod for a digital, 35mm, medium or large format camera, video camera, binoculars or scopes, Velbon has a model with the quality, craftsmanship and exact features to meet your needs.
Wimberly Ball Heads (1) Things once thought of as impossible with a ballhead are nothing short of mundane with a Wimberley, because a weightless camera/lens combo (even a 600mm f/4 w/ large body) can literally be controlled with one finger. Point the rig where you want and take the hand away, and it stays exactly where you put it.

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