Gear review by Jason DiMichele
If you use a tripod, you’ll know that a tripod head is almost always required. There are a few different styles of tripod heads, with the ballhead and pan-tilt heads being the most common. The tripod head industry isn’t one that has had a lot of revolutionary designs, but one mostly incorporating minor ergonomic tweaks to existing head designs. I then discovered the UniqBall, a ballhead that is very unique!
The UniqBall, the world’s only levelling ballhead, is available in two sizes, the UBH45X ($699 Cdn) and the UBH35X ($475.99 Cdn). Both models use the Arca-Swiss compatible quick-release system. UniqBall has introduced a very interesting and effective ballhead design to the market by incorporating a ballhead, levelling base and pan-tilt head into a single unit. A levelling base, usually a separate component that attaches beneath a standard ballhead, allows you to level your tripod without having to adjust all legs individually. A levelling base significantly speeds up the tripod levelling process, which is important for tasks such as creating multi-row panoramic images or when a levelled camera platform is important. Due to the UniqBall’s design, your camera will be more stable as it will be closer to the tripod.
Both UniqBall models can handle large loads (UBH45X, 40 kg; UBH35X, 15 kg) and regardless of which angle I secured the ballhead at, even with my longest telephoto lens and panoramic head, it remained where I set it. Ballhead creep is an issue with many ballheads, even some expensive ones. Ballhead creep refers to the camera moving after the ballhead locking knob is set, and is more obvious in high magnification situations such as when photographing with macro or telephoto lenses. It can be very annoying, and I was delighted to discover that the UniqBall had absolutely no creep. The best practice when purchasing a ballhead is to get one that supports a larger maximum load than your heaviest camera and lens combination. The UBH35X is designed to handle lenses up to medium telephoto size, while the UBH45X can handle the monster telephotos with ease!
Most photographers won’t be using camera and lens combinations anywhere near as heavy as what either of the UniqBall models support, but there’s more to a ballhead than just its load rating. The design of the UniqBall is such that the outer ball can operate either as a standard ballhead or a levelling base. The inner ball can then be operated like a pan-tilt head, providing the best of both worlds. The user experience is excellent as the outer and inner ball component movements are very smooth. The levelling base uses a lever as a locking mechanism, which makes it very quick to change the position of the base, and the inner ball uses a textured locking knob for easier operation. The inner ball-locking knob works so well that it doesn’t even need to be completely screwed in to hold the camera in position. The upper and lower bubble levels are machined with extreme precision and have virtually no parallax, allowing you to see an accurate reading from most angles.
Due to the outer and inner ball design, the UniqBall’s movements operate differently than a conventional ballhead, so spending some time with it before taking it out on a shoot is recommended. Once you’re familiar with how to operate it, you’re going to be impressed with how much additional functionality and efficiency it provides compared to ballheads you’ve been using.
I truly enjoyed reviewing the UniqBall. The functionality, usability and ergonomics are wonderful. Although not cheap for a ballhead, the quality is high enough that you’ll probably never have to replace it. I’ve used a lot of ballheads over the years, and while some of them have been interesting, none of them have impressed me as much as the UniqBall. It allows for very efficient camera positioning, aiding more accurate compositions. It’s going to be unfortunate when I have to send this review sample back to Red Raven Marketing (www.redravenphoto.com). The UniqBall easily makes my top gear list and has been added to my wish list!