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Seeking lightweight good-value ball head

Discussion in 'General Equipment Chat & Advice' started by ChrisNewman, Jan 9, 2021.

  1. ChrisNewman

    ChrisNewman Well-Known Member


    I’ve bought a Feisol Mini Carbon Tripod (reviewed favourably in AP 5 January 2019), intending to carry it permanently in my camera bag for occasional use with outdoor macro shots. I now want to match it with the lightest possible ball head, with an Arca-Swiss compatible clamp, to support my substantial Nikon D800 DSLR, with a 105mm macro lens, or possibly my 24-70 f/2.8 zoom. I have an “L” tripod mounting plate and a nodal rail which will allow me to approximately balance the centre of gravity of the camera and lens over the head. I don’t need much safety margin for the head, as things will be less than a foot above the ground. I’d prefer a low profile head, which may allow me to leave the head on the legs in my camera bag. Also I don’t want to spend too much, as it will only see occasional use.

    I have the RNB-1n head supplied with my Redged travel tripod, but at 320 g it’s a lot heavier than I would like to carry regularly (and much heavier than the legs), and it’s too high to pack still attached to the legs.

    A few months ago on this forum Terry Woodenpick praised the Andoer Mini Ball Head. I bought one, and I think it only weighs about 30 g, but its ball (about 17 mm diameter) is too small for it to hold my kit in place properly.

    I’ve been searching on the internet, and the most promising choice I’ve found so far is the HighLights E1-X. I think the same unit is also sold as the Koolehaoda E1 and the Dörr Highlights XB-28. Different websites quote weights ranging from 170 g to 190 g, and load capacities ranging from 6 kg to 10 kg. The ball diameter is 28 mm, the same as my Redged RNB-1n, so if the clamp is effective, this head should be more than adequate. The best price I’ve found so far is just under £30 (acceptable) from a Chinese supplier on eBay, under the Koolehaoda E1 name. (After a struggle to find the right product, I did find one offered under the Highlights name at a much lower price on Alibaba, but couldn’t work out how I should get it delivered or what that would cost, or find my way back to the same offer. None of the online marketplaces seem to have an effective system for classifying photographic accessories, or filtering for particular types of product!)

    However, I’d prefer a lighter head, I think a smaller ball would be adequate, and the E1-X includes a panning base, which I don’t need. So if anyone can recommend a lighter head at an acceptable price, I’d be very grateful.

    With thanks in advance,

  2. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    If it is a foot height off the ground that you want, why not rest the camera on your camera bag?
  3. ChrisNewman

    ChrisNewman Well-Known Member

    Because I don’t want to get my bag dirty, because the bag doesn’t offer a flat surface, because I want to be able to set the angle of the camera precisely (both roll and pitch), and because I’ll probably want it lower than a foot high; the tripod offers 3 leg angles, although the highest might not be very stable for a substantial DSLR and lens.

  4. Andrew Flannigan

    Andrew Flannigan Well-Known Member

  5. ChrisNewman

    ChrisNewman Well-Known Member

    Thanks Andrew for the suggestion; it was Terry Woodenpic’s post that got me thinking and led to my buying the Feisol Mini Tripod. But the Manfrotto website lists the weight of the 494RC2 as 0.32 kg, the same weight as the Redged RNB-1n I already have, and the Manfrotto doesn’t appear to have an Arca-Swiss compatible clamp to hold my nodal rail and “L” bracket.

  6. ChrisNewman

    ChrisNewman Well-Known Member

    I now have my compact, lightweight mini-tripod setup.
    D800 mounted on Feisol Mini Carbon Tripod TT-15 Mark 2, Leofoto F-19 Ballhead & DC-24 Clamp.jpg
    It packs up small with the “L” tripod plate I use on my D800, to fit in a compartment in my camera bag.
    Feisol TT-15 Mark 2 and Leofoto F-19 & DC-24 folded with ‘L’ tripod plate to pack in camera bag.jpg

    The Feisol Mini Carbon Tripod TT 15 Mark 2 was awarded Gold 5* when reviewed by Amateur Photographer 5 January 2019. It feels extremely robust, and the legs lock at three angles (lowest position shown; the highest is probably rather unstable for a heavy DSLR). Feisol gives its weight, with scant precision, as 0.02 kg; a CameraLabs review claims 180 g. Buying directly from Feisol, it was priced at €67,30 with €15,90 shipping before the end of our Brexit transition period, costing me £76.13.

    The Leofoto F-19 Convertible Mini Ballhead is able to hold my D800 and Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 VR lens in position. It’s supplied with a metal cold shoe to support a flashgun, and also a small metal plate to screw into the base of the head to mount it on a camera’s hot shoe. The column on the ball is relatively long, presumably so that the cold shoe can be mounted upside down below a clamp, and, I suppose to allow this, the thread on the end was much longer than necessary to hold the cold shoe alone, and slightly obstructive through the relatively thin Leofoto DC-24 Mini Clamp, so I sawed off the last couple of turns of the thread. The cold shoe and the hot shoe mount may be useful in future; I’ve packed them with my SB-910 Speedlight. Leofoto gives the weight of the F-19 as 66 g, but I think this includes the cold shoe accessories, and over-estimates the weight I’m carrying. I bought the Leofoto F-19 from Speed Graphic, £22.95 + £2.99 postage, and it’s also available from LCE.

    I was particularly impressed with the light weight of the Leofoto DC-24 Mini Clamp; according to our letter balance it’s less than a third of the weight of the 45 mm clamp I recently replaced on my Uniqball head. Leofoto gives its weight as 37 g. I couldn’t find a UK supplier that offered it, so bought from Photospecialist. Their delivery costs had increased after the end of our Brexit transition period; they quoted £21.64 + £8.95 delivery, but the actual cost on my credit card was slightly less at €34.99 = £30.28. However, replying to the review of my Leofoto F-19 purchase that Speed Graphic had requested, they say they are able to get any Leofoto product which is available in Europe, so I should have asked them. This might also apply to LCE.

    I’ve been fanatical about minimizing the weight of this setup, as I’m expecting to carry it regularly, but use it only rarely. Others getting the Feisol Mini Carbon Tripod will probably prefer a larger ball head, better matched to the robustness of the tripod. The tripod is available complete with a matched ball head (TT-15B), and that was what I ordered initially (€136,40 + €15,90 shipping), but the ball head was permanently attached to the tripod, making the combination too tall for me to pack conveniently. Other larger but relatively lightweight ball heads I came across during my internet search that led to my choice of Leofoto F-19 were:
    • HighLights E1-X with 28 mm ball and quick release clamp 190 g (£34.99 as Dorr Highlights XB-28 Ball Head)
    • Leofoto LH-25 ball head, 172 g including clamp and PU25 plate, £62.40
    • RRS BH-25 148 g without clamp, £116.04
    I was referred to the excellent ‘The Center Column’ website of independent tripod test results, https://thecentercolumn.com; the Leofoto LH-25 and RRS BH-25 both scored well for their stiffness/weight ratio.


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