I’ve been shopping for a new ballhead for some time. My first ballhead was the Manfrotto 488RC4. It is a nice ballhead but heavy; weighing in at 22 3/4 oz. I quickly replaced it with the lighter (14 7/8 oz) Manfrotto 486RC2. I’ve used this head for several years. This was a trade-off of weight vs functionality. I’ve always missed the bubble level on the 488RC4 ball head and the scale for panoramas but it was good enough.
One item that always bothered me was location of the knob and the fact that it never felt like it was locking the camera in place. So what I really wanted was the Manfrotto 488RC at the weight of the Manfrotto 486RC2.
I stumbled upon the Acratech GP ballhead through a web search and had a chance to play with it at Hunts Photo and Video [see below for information about a deal Gary Farber at Hunts is providing to camera club members].
Being an engineer and photographer, I love how form follows function with this device. It is a very nice looking unit and you can see the quality of workmanship here. Built from aircraft quality aluminum, they’ve removed extra weight by milling out what isn’t necessary and adding where strength is required.
Even when compared to Manfrotto’s newer units, this ball head really stands up. The laser etched scale is large and legible. There are two knobs, not one, to set tension on the ball giving better control. The knobs are set so the will never completely unscrew and fall off. (A bad situation for a night photographer).
What is also interesting is that the ball is exposed. Dirt will not accumulate inside the ball head keeping it moving freely.
BUT WAIT THERES’ MORE!
You can use this ball head upside down. (That’s why the scale is written both ways). You do this by removing the Acra-swiss compatible quick release clamp and mounting it on the bottom of the ball head. Why would you do this? Well now you have a self leveling head that allows you to do panoramas.
Two for the price of one so to say. But there is a hitch, to do this requires removing and resetting a screw. But if you need that function in a pinch, you have it. Also they set the screw to work with a small coin or with the hex wrench provided with the ballhead. The same hex wrench you need to mount the plate. Talking about the plate…
WHERE’S THE PLATE?
One annoyance is that the plate does not come with the ballhead. Acratech provides special plates for various cameras and they need to be purchased separately. I guess it give them better support but after I got the ball head, I had to search out an acra-swiss compatible plate.
To learn more about how this ball head works, check out the video on their website.
I bought the ballhead. It gives me functionality without trade-offs. It is a great device and something I plan to use for many years. PS I am not affiliated with Acratech in any way, I just think this is a very nice ballhead which is under marketed and wanted everyone to learn about it.
Now about Hunt’s deal.
Of the camera shops I’ve visited in the Greater Boston area, Hunts seems the most geared up for the prosumer, camera club junkies like myself. I think Gary Farber is a sharp marketer. He realized that us camera club junkies have special needs. We are more knowledgable then the standard Point and Shoot photographer but not at the level of the professional (also without the budget). I appreciate the time that Hunts is willing to put in with us where other camera shops treat us quite poorly (at least that is my experience). Anyway, Gary Farber (who sold me this ballhead) is offering a special for a limited time to camera club members for this ballhead. He is taking $20 off the list price and providing free shipping. You can contact him directly at 781-462-2332 or email at email@example.com.