Ultra light ball-head

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Is there any ball head in the vicinity of 10 oz that you could recommend ? I'd need to support a 6lbs field camera with lenses up to 300, rarely 450. This is only for backpacking (I've a B1 for general purpose use). In the past, I've used the Slik standard head, and it works, but the problem is that this head is annoying to use (esp. with 35mm) when the center column cannot rotate to provide a panning base (as in the new Gitzos with their groved columns), so I've been thinking to try the Linhof Pro Ball Head I.

-- Q.-Tuan Luong (qtl@ai.sri.com), May 21, 2001


Tuan, I was going to recommend the Linhof Pro III. But it certainly weighs more than 10 oz. Probably at least 500g. I have fitted one with a Manfrotto quick release. It adds some weight of course. Otherwise for backpacking, the Manfrotto 168 is as cheap as it is light and I find it plentiful not to say excellent. It might be a bit loose when it is new, but after a while it get's tight enough not to move in any direction without an effort. It has a panning base. Fits the Studex 300 series like a glow. It can be used for vertical shots with a MF too.

-- Paul Schilliger (pschilliger@smile.ch), May 21, 2001.

I just checked my converter and some brochures and 10 oz are just 285g wich make my comments totally irrelevant. The MA 168 weighs 770g and the linhof is in fact probably more than 1Kg.

-- Paul Schilliger (pschilliger@smile.ch), May 21, 2001.

You might want to consider a "Giotto MH 1002 Compact Ball Head Supports 13 Lbs", it's only 8.6 Oz. Here's the link: http://www02.bhphotovideo.com/default.sph/FrameWork.class?FNC=ProductA ctivator__Aproductlist_html___156563___GIMH1002___REG___CatID=140___SI D=E6D3EDFD690

-- Geoffrey Chen (DB45TEK@AOL.COM), May 21, 2001.

Hi Tuang

Some years ago when I boot my B1, I was also very close to buy not the B1 but a Cullmann, because the Cullmann was about 300g and at thad time I wanted the best so I boot the Arca. I think you could have a look If there is a Cullmann homepage, but at thad time they had ball heads from about 100-500g! Cullmann is a good product with understatement!

-- Armin Seeholzer (armin.seeholzer@smile.ch), May 21, 2001.

I have the medium sized Giottos ball head (one size up from the one recommended above). Although it's a good head and works nicely with my Mamiya 6 outfit, I found it too wiggly for my Deardorff 5x7 (which is about 6.5lb) even with short lenses. So I bought a Bogen/manfrotto Super 3-D head, which weighs about 20 oz. and is plenty sturdy. I tend to think that the problem with the Giottos is inherent either in a ball head or a head that is so light, and I think it will be a challenge to find a 10 oz. ball head that will feel secure. Good luck.

-- Chris Patti (cmpatti@aol.com), May 21, 2001.

I suggest a Leitz ball head. I picked one up at a swapmeet for $40 in beautiful condition because it was missing the top piece that attaches to the camera. It was perfect for me as I machined up an adapter and use the manfrotto quick release on top now.

This ballhead is small, light & very well built and has a grooved ball that seems to lock more solidly in place. No slippage whatsoever even when using 300 mm lenses on either 35 mm or MF. One note though, because it is lightweight it tends to vibrate more than a heavyweight head.

-- Duane K (dkucheran@creo.com), May 21, 2001.


As you know, I use a modified Slik Standard Ballhead II (replaced the stock plastic platform with a Kirk Arca-style quick release clamp) for backpacking with my Toho. I find, combined with my modified Gitzo 1227 legs (center column permanently removed and head bolted right to the legs) it works quite nicely with an ultralight (less than 3 lbs.) camera like the Toho. However, I am always looking for ways to save even more weight, so I also considered the Giotto MH 1002 Compact Ball Head after playing around with one in the store. I suggested this head to another Toho owner as worthy of consideration, so he bought one and gave it a try. Here's his (anonymous - since I'm quoting a private email) opinion:

"I received my Giotto 1002 ballhead from B&H yesterday and tried it out a bit. It looks beautifully made and is very light and compact. However, my copy has a serious problem. As you know it has a separate panning feature with locking knob. The rotational panning motion locks securely as does the ball itself. But, no matter how securely both locking knobs are tightened, the upper body of the ballhead wobbles where it attaches to the panning collar. This 'feature' only became evident after the head was mounted to a tripod and the Toho attached. This provided enough leverage for the wobble to emerge. So, my 1002 is going back and I'll pursue the mods to the Slik II; which I also ordered and is very nice except for the stock camera mounting plate as you previously noted."

I also previously bought one of the smallest Kaiser ballheads through Kirk Enterprises. I don't remember the model number, but Kirk sold it with one of their Arca-style QR clamps as the "Backpacker" model. It had this exact same problem (as well as a very unsmooth ball/socket that was totally unacceptable for my use).

So, I'm still using the modified Slik Standard Ballhed II. Personally, I don't mind the lack of a separate pan lock control. In your post you stated:

"In the past, I've used the Slik standard head, and it works, but the problem is that this head is annoying to use (esp. with 35mm) when the center column cannot rotate to provide a panning base (as in the new Gitzos with their groved columns)"

You must be using a different Slik head than I am. Mine does provide the pan function. However, it uses the same locking leaver as the ball - so you can't follow action smoothly without effecting the other two axis (not something I've ever attempted to do with a LF camera). The model I have is the Slik Standard Ballhead II - it sells for about $45 from B&H (the Kirk QR clamp actually cost more than the head).

An even lighter head I am considering is the Velbon PH-253 Magnesium ballhead. Like the Slik, it uses a single lever to lock both the pan base and the ball (again, I don't consider this a big negative for large format use). This head is made out of magnesium and is EXTREMELY light - at 160g. Rather than a QR clamp, it comes with a spring loaded captive mounting screw that is almost as fast to use as a QR clamp. A friend uses this head with his 4x5 Nagaoka (about 2 3/4 lb.) when backpacking and is happy with it. On a recent backpacking trip, he let me try it out with my Toho. It seemed to work fine for such a light camera. The ball action wasn't quite as smooth as the Slik, and if you completely loosened the locking lever, it offered no resistance at all. However, I quickly found if you only loosened the lever about 3/4 of the way, it was sufficient to allow easy movement, but still provided enough resistance to prevent a total flop. I'll probably end up buying one of these heads to use for backpacking with the Toho. However, I'm not convinced it is stong enough to support your Canham (which weighs more than twive as much as my Toho). They also have a larger model the PH-263 that has a larger ball and might be a better match for your camera. It weighs just a hair below your 10 oz. figure - at 280g. Here's a couple URLs for info on these two Velbon magnesium ballheads:



Good luck and please let us know what you get and how well it works. I've been happy with the performance and ease of use of my Slik Standard Ballhead II, but am always looking for a way to save a few more ounces. So, I'll be eager to hear what you try and how you like it.


-- Kerry Thalmann (largeformat@thalmann.com), May 22, 2001.

The Novoflex Magic Ball Mini weighs 330g (11.6 oz) and is rated for 5 kg so it should do what you want.

however it is a single control head and does not have a tension control.

The Linhof Universal Ball Head I weighs a little less (280 g) and is rated for 3.5 Kg. It has a seperate ball lock and pan lock

-- Bob Salomon (bobsalomon@mindspring.com), May 22, 2001.

I have a Cullman (CU-905) as mentioned above. It is 13.4 oz, has a panning base and is reasonably solid. I haven't used it much since getting the B-1, but it should work nicely as a backpacking model. I certainly can't imagine any lighter ballhead working well with a 6 lb. field camera. Out of couriosity, I just mounted it to the Gitzo 1228 and put a Tachihara camera on it (lighter than 6 lbs). No significant problem. You have to apply quite some torque to the locking lever, but once set, it is very solid. If you're really concerned about weight, I'd leave it "as is" from the factory and not add a quick-release clamp. A bit inconvenient, but sounds like weight is your key concern. Good luck! jj

-- Joe Johnson (joseph.johnson_85@gsbalum.uchicago.edu), May 23, 2001.

i've been using one of the novoflex's mentioned above for the last year or so with a graphic mounted onto it. so long as one is careful, this ballhead will securely hold your camera. on the other hand, my graphic is a little front heavy and the ball head does occasionally slip if i am not careful about tightening it. also, the lack of a seperate pan control or a tension control is sort of a hassle at times.


-- michael (mnm207@stern.nyu.edu), May 23, 2001.

Later this summer Novoflex will add the Magic Ball 50 which was shown at PMA this last Feb.

The 50 lies exactly half way in weight, price, capacity and size between the Magic Ball Mini and the Magic Ball.

Like the Magic Ball it has a tension control so the problem with a front heavy camera will be overcome.

-- Bob Salomon (bobsalomon@mindspring.com), May 23, 2001.

Hi Tuan

I have just after a long search and testing also boot a new head for my new Gitzo 1228, but I changed my mind from a ballhead to a 3-D-Head and since after a few shootings the B1 is not anymore my favorit! His Name is Mamiya AW 701 weigts 620g and is rock stable made from magnesium! He holds all my different kameras from F5 to Arca F-line 4x5 without any problem, but it is in the next higher weight category! But if you did not buy a new one up to now, you should have a look on it! Good luck!

-- Armin Seeholzer (armin.seeholzer@smile.ch), May 27, 2001.

Kerry: apart from the color, I believe my Slik Standard was identical to yours. But I lost a tripod with this head mounted. You are right about the panning. What I meant is what you mentioned: you cannot use it to pan independently - after all, any ball head offers panning just using the head :-) I ordered a Linhof Pro Ball Head I. It suffered from exactly the same problem as your friend described about the Giotto. In addition, it doesn't totally lock. Since my trip was so close that I didn't have more time to experiment with gear, I bought again a Slik Standard which I knew would work. In the next few weeks, I'll be trying some other heads and will report.

-- Q.-Tuan Luong (qtl@ai.sri.com), July 16, 2001.

I shoot medium format (pentax 67) and I need a ballhead with seperate pan and ball locks. I tried the Giotto 1002 and it does not lock out. Even with great force applied it is a joke and cannot hold the pentax with a 200mm lens to any degree of stability. I returned it, got a Cullmann 905, same problem. The cullmann is probably the worse ball head I have seen. It is big,heavy and it does NOT lock out with any confidence either. I have used a $25 stroboframe that requires very little pressure to totally locks the ball out. I am amazed that it is still better than both of the bigger "pro" models in locking out. I just need a bigger one. I guess I will have to get the Strobo PL1.

-- esso (sonicc@bellsouth.net), June 26, 2002.

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