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Acratech ballhead

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Reviews Views Date of last review
29 74871 May 13, 2013
Recommended By Average Price
76% of reviewers $276.83
Build Quality Rating Price Rating Overall Rating
9.19
8.70
8.2
57ballhead_1_

Specifications:
Weighs less than 1 lb (.45kg) with quick release clamp.
Easily holds over 25 lbs (11.4kg) at any angle.
Full movements allow any camera position.
Precision C.N.C. machined.
Shown with left side controls (right side available).
Compatible with Kirk, Arca, R.R.S., and many other QR plates.
Beautiful satin black anodized finish.
Fits all standard tripods (1/4-20 and 3/8-16 threads).
Engraved degree markings.
Solid precision feel.
Made in U.S.A.
Ball will not shift when tightened.
Oilless and greaseless ball will not attract or hold dirt and debris.
All knobs are secured so they cannot vibrate loose and fall off.
Patent pending.


 


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realkuhl
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Registered: Apr 22, 2003
Location: United States
Posts: 6814
Review Date: Jan 27, 2006 Recommend? no | Price paid: $269.00 | Rating: 5 

 
Pros: Lightweight, very strong, cool design (although not "ultimate" by any realistic measure)
Cons:
Design requires rotating ballhead frequently for different angles. Becomes a lot more frustrating the more you use it. My version didn't have the slip resistant camera plate and the camera fell 4 feet into sand at Joshua Tree (nothing damaged, thank God).

It's pretty much all been said. If you want a beautiful artistic product that doesn't work as easily as others that cost about the same and are just a little more expensive, then this is for you.

I "upgraded" to the Markins rather quickly after trying this out in the field. If you use a Wimberly then the short comings of this lens might not be so apparent. But I don't work that way and being forced to rotate the mount all the time got old really quick.


Jan 27, 2006
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markblumberg
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Registered: Dec 20, 2005
Location: United States
Posts: 30
Review Date: Jan 6, 2006 Recommend? | Price paid: $299.00

 
Pros: Light weight, cool design, reasonable price
Cons:
Awkward for taking verticle shots, nonintuitive for everything else

I originally purchased the Arcatech Ultimate Ballhead because I tromp around in the mountains a lot and wanted something light. But after awhile I became increasingly frustrated. If you want to point the lens down you have to turn the ball in one direction and if you want to shoot up you have to turn it another. Taking verticle shots is a real hassle. After awhile I found the setup was getting in the way of composing shots. Far from an "ultimate" experience. I recently switched to an Arca Swiss, which works much better. Wanna buy a used Arcatech?

Jan 6, 2006
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markblumberg
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Registered: Dec 20, 2005
Location: United States
Posts: 30
Review Date: Jan 4, 2006 Recommend? no | Price paid: $299.00 | Rating: 7 

 
Pros: Cool design. Light weight makes it good for hiking.
Cons:
Awkward for verticle shots. Non intuitive for everything else.

I echo many of the comments made previously. The nonorthodox design makes it difficult to set up a shot quickly. Because the ball rotates only in certain directions, I end up thinking too much about where the camera is in relation to the subject, the ballhead and the tripod. A setup like the Arca Swiss (which I recently purchased as a replacement) makes more sense because it rotates in every direction, so you can quickly move your camera in the direction your eye takes you; much more intuitive. The Acratech is far from ultimate.

Jan 4, 2006
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Remford
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Registered: Aug 7, 2005
Location: United States
Posts: 1391
Review Date: Sep 11, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $299.00 | Rating: 5 

 
Pros: Light, inexpensive (relatively), and innovative design. Nice progressive quick release knob. Exposed works.
Cons:
A bit too clever. Too many compromises, especially when compared side-by-side to more conventional designs. Lack of vertical orientation detente. Exposed works.

Lightweight and having the "cool factor" on its side, I had great hopes. It is a well-build precision device.

Acratech plates and accessories are competitively priced and often less expensive than competitors', and with ballheads and plates, every penny counts.

Several characteristics make the Acratech seem to be reaching a bit beyond its grasp. The lack of an absolute veritcal position for use with vertical grips and gimbal add-ons like the Sidekick are a definite disadvantage. Full access to all components is a benefit for cleaning and maintaining its works, but the works are generally much more exposed to fouling at the outset.

While l love the progressive speed knob included on the default Quick Release clamp, the lack of a spirit level in Acratech clamps is a serious disadvantage, especially when trying to achieve level orientations with articulating tripods or bases.

The lack of friction control is a significant drawback, especially given the wide area of travel the head can exploit and the fact that most competing products include them as an integral part of their design. While weight is a nice characteristic, if a ball head does not offer the fundamental features of durable, smooth, and secure operation capable of easily and steadily orienting equipment, everything else is failry moot; and I feel the Acratech makes too many compromises in favor of attempting to save weight and offer a unique design.

Many may be entirely satisfied with the Ultimate Ballhead, but its lustre quickly fades when placed next to more capable and conventional designs. However, if $100 really makes a difference, then it certainly should be one of the candidates considered.


Sep 11, 2005
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rubendpara
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Registered: Jun 16, 2005
Location: United States
Posts: 347
Review Date: Sep 1, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $220.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: compact size and weight.
Cons:

I really like the compact size and weight. perfect balance with the 24-70 L and lightweight tripod .highly recommended for travel .

Sep 1, 2005
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Keith Flood
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Registered: Nov 25, 2003
Location: United States
Posts: 381
Review Date: Aug 29, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $299.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Compact, light, easy ball adjustment, holds very well for it's size.
Cons:
Panning base knob is weak on my model, though I have heard that they have upgraded the knob. The panning base also has too much vertical play.

Bought mine used and have really enjoyed it. It is extremely solid for it's size. I was able to use a Sidekick on it with a Canon EF 500mm f/4 and 1DII body all hanging off the sidekick. Worked great. I really like the compact size and weight. My only problem was with some play in the panning base when lossened up and the knob for the panning base was too small. Overall this is a great ballhead especially for travel.

Aug 29, 2005
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jkbaum
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Registered: Jun 12, 2005
Location: United States
Posts: 6
Review Date: Jun 13, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Light weight, easy to use
Cons:
difficult to go vertical

I have the head mounted on a Gitzo G1228 and use it to support the Canon 20D with the Canon 400m/5.6L lens estimated to weigh about 18 lbs. I have plates for both my cameras and this lens.

It is a not a suitable arrangement for following fast moving targets such as birds in flight.

Overall, I'm pleased with it, knowing it's limitations.


Jun 13, 2005
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nma
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Registered: Jul 22, 2003
Location: United States
Posts: 1252
Review Date: Mar 24, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Build quality, weight, size, design
Cons:
none (for me)

I have used this head on a Feisol 4 section CF leg set. My goal was a light, but strong and sturdy setup for travel and day-hiking. To evaluate my review, the reader should consider that I am referring to supporting a Canon D60 with either a 16-35 mm f2.8 L or a 70-300 f4.5 IS DO (sometimes with extension tubes). Also, it is mounted with a quick release plate and the comfort-coated knobs.

You have to understand the geometry of the head and the use of the controls to get full satisfaction. This explains some negative comments about difficulties in positioning for verticals. By mounting the camera in the "proper" orientation on the quick release plate, I can quickly position the camera/lens for landscape, vertical or arbitrary angulation. This may involve both rotation about the vertical axis and angulation on the ball. Easy once you know how. Completely rigid. No creep or droop.


Mar 24, 2005
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Mike Murphy
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Registered: Nov 13, 2003
Location: United States
Posts: 216
Review Date: Feb 18, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $299.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Lightweight, sturdy, seems to lock very well w/o movement.
Cons:
none yet.

I just got the Acratech to stick on top of a new Gitzo Explorer 2227, expressly so I'd have a lighter package to carry than the Gitzo 1320 with AS B-1. I've not spent any time in field with it, but initial impressions are very favorable. The 2227/Acratech definitely feels better when shouldered compared to the 1320/B-1; and while it's not quite as tall as the latter, it's plenty tall to have the EOS 1D MkII at eye level (I'm 6') without raising the column. (I started to say "center column" but this tripod has the column off-center, allowing for some unusual camera positions compared to conventional tripods.)

Interestingly, the 2227 combo seems more rigid than the heavier 1320 when set up with camera on it. When I'd grab a leg of the 1320 and attempt to move it slightly, the tripod would seem to flex. The 2227 wouldn't do this with the same effort. I don't know if this will translate into better images, but it's a good sign since rigidity is desireable for long exposures. The 300mm f/4 with MkII seems to be plenty solid for good work.

I'll follow up on this report with another once I've been dragging it around in the field a while.



Feb 18, 2005
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Tom Conte
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Registered: Mar 8, 2002
Location: United States
Posts: 3313
Review Date: Jan 29, 2005 Recommend? no | Price paid: $275.00 | Rating: 7 

 
Pros: It is ultra light and very well machined. The design is open so you can clean it. Acratech is a great company to deal with (and you can now buy these at B&H too).
Cons:
The design became annoying over time. The asymmetry would be perfect if you could tilt the earth at a 45 degree angle. There really isn't a tension limiter or other tension drag control analogue to what conventional ball heads have, and that proved dangerous to me at least once.

I had this ball head for about a year on my Gitzo g1228 so that I could have a light, all-around package for on the go.

At first, I loved this ball head because it was very light weight. But as time went on, in use, I got increasingly annoyed by its design. You have full range of movement in only some directions. For wildlife tracking, there is no good fixed orientation for the ball head. To compensate, you have to leave the panning base unlocked and the ball reasonably loose and hope you don't get into a 'programmed' mode where it won't go where you want it to go.

Also as I mentioned in my negatives, the main knob is progressive, which is good. But there is no tension stop like the Arcaswiss B-1 or the Markins M10 has. So you have to be careful to not open it without supporting your equipment, or bang! I did that once. Call me stupid, sure, but I was just tired. I like torque limiters and missed it on this head.

Ultimately I sold the Ultimate Ball Head after I decided it wasn't cutting it for me.


Jan 29, 2005
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MarkSaperstein
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Registered: Sep 23, 2003
Location: United States
Posts: 1339
Review Date: Jan 22, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $250.00 | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Light and strong.
Cons:
Rated to support 25 lbs., but does not handle heavy gear well.

The main selling point of the Acratech Ultimate is its combination of sturdy build and light weight. I experienced problems when using heavier gear (Canon 1D and 300/4 IS for example). Although rated to hold 25 lbs, I found it difficult to lock the head in the spot I wanted it with this combo. I'll admit to being picky about this, but when using longer lenses a little movement makes a big difference with composition. Despite this quibble, I think this is a great product, and I would recommend it, especially for hiking and travel when those extra ounces matter.

Jan 22, 2005
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krementz
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Registered: Oct 31, 2004
Location: United States
Posts: 1209
Review Date: Jan 20, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $229.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: light, strong
Cons:
none yet

I am a newbie to tripod shooting, so this is my first real tripod. I researched quite a few heads. I borrowed a Velbon tripod for a two week trip to Costa Rico, and discovered lots of things that are NOT good. The article at http://bythom.com/support.htm was very helpful for me.

My heaviest setup is a Drebel with 70-200/4, so I didn't need to hold any really heavy artillery. My primary need was lightweight for hiking. I mounted it on Gitzo 1228 legs, and mounted a Really Right Stuff panaroma clamp on top, instead of the Acratech clamp. The camera has a RRS L-clamp. Just over $1000 for the setup.

This setup locks very tight. Everything is easy to adjust. You can keep some resistance on the ball by not unscrewing the clamp all the way, which is convenient. The rubber knob is an extra $10. Even with the rubber knob, the grip is a little small, so you definitely want it.

When I had the 70-200/4 with Kenko macro extension tubes mounted in portrait, I though there was too much drop. Actually, the ball was tight, it was the L-clamp was slightly rotating on the screw. The ball was not moving at all. Calling RRS, they gave me a gasket that seems to have solved the problem.

While the ball is rated for very heavy loads, I do not know how it would do with really heavy lens. Pushing on the ball I haven't seen any creep or drop at all, but I still would be cautious.

So far I am very happy. About to take off for a month in the Far East, will update then.

Followup 3/2/2014: Still have the Acratech ball head, still totally satisfied after nine years. The RRS panorama head got a little loose, so I have replaced it with a RRS snap clamp.

I use this regularly with my 100-400 (semi-big artillery?) on a 50D and 6D. Very stable.


Jan 20, 2005
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eeprete
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Registered: Jun 4, 2004
Location: United States
Posts: 3733
Review Date: Jan 19, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $225.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Lightweight, strong, well built
Cons:
none.

Do you want light? This is it. Can't get any lighter or tougher. Superb build quality from a manufacturer that cares more about quality than quantity. Mates perfect to a Gitzo CF tripod for the perfect hiking solution.

My only complaint was the difficulty in changing the quick release clamp/plate. Acratech uses blue Loc-Tite on the threads and it needs to be heated to loosen up the QR plate, which isn't documented on their paperwork I had. If you are perfectly happy with the factory clamp, then it's the perfect solution. If not, then you might as well buy the version without the clamp.


Jan 19, 2005
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Acratech ballhead

Buy from B&H Photo
Reviews Views Date of last review
29 74871 May 13, 2013
Recommended By Average Price
76% of reviewers $276.83
Build Quality Rating Price Rating Overall Rating
9.19
8.70
8.2
57ballhead_1_


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