My only purchase from Focus On Imaging this year was a new Ball Head to replace the 3-way head I have been using for the last 3years. This isn't a thorough review, having only had the new head for 3 days, more of a 'first impressions' post...
Giottos MH1311.resized http://www.flickr.com/photos/nosamluap/6820643966/ by NosamLuap (aka Paul Mason) http://www.flickr.com/people/nosamluap/, on Flickr
- adjustable friction control allows me to very easily set up a 'balance' on the head, allowing it to move without dropping. I've tried with just the camera + 35mm f/1.8 lens (i.e. a light set-up) right up to the D300s with 70-200 f/2.8 attached, and in all cases it's possible to quickly get the friction such that the head stays where you leave it, yet is still loose enough to move easily without jumping.
- The lock is very secure, and certainly handles my heaviest combo (camera + 70-200 + SB900 + Battery grip). There is very little (if any) movement of the camera as you tighten the lock - I know this is a concern for Macro shooters where a tiny movement can spoil composition. I can't see this posing a problem with this head.
- I like the Giottos QR plate system (I use the 642 plates, which marry to the 652 camera mount on this head - the head can also be bought with other mounts as I understand it). It locks quickly, easily and securely, and the release lever has a safety switch so it's hard to release accidentally.
- the addition of a gauge to show the angle of rotation could be handy for panoramas (accepting that this really isn't a panoramic head)
- Price. I paid £69 at Focus on Imaging; typical price is ~£75, and for this price it seemed more robust than similar offerings from Manfrotto...
- It's a really nice size - makes the tripod far easier to carry compared with having a three-way head!
- It's far harder to level the head than it was with my 3way - I guess this is par for the course with a ball head, but it's certainly something that will take practice
- only able to drop to 'portrait' orientation on one side of the head; some I looked at allowed you to rotate by 90degrees each way, and that could be handy depending on how you've aligned the head/controls... Where I'd prefer to align the controls (Lock on the left, rotation lock towards me and friction on the right) would leave the 'portrait' notch on the head directly in front of me, so the camera would point down. A minor niggle that's easily resolved with a quick rotation.
Overall, I'm very pleased with it.