Over the last couple of years I have experimented with with several different ballheads and failed to find what I was looking for. I don’t use a ballhead very often for my work but when i do need one, i need one that is going to be reliable in fairly hostile environments. Last year I was let down by ballheads from other brands in key situations so I finally decided to bite the bullet and pick up an RRS BH-40. At almost $400 its relatively expensive but hopefully this will be the last ballhead I have to buy for many many years. The longest lens I will be using with this is a 300mm f4 (and more often a 70-200 2.8). If you are using bigger lenses that this you might want to take a look at the larger BH-55.
A lot of the previous reviews of this head talk about the smoothness of the controls and the quality of the machining and frankly it is superb, it has to be seen to be believed. Once you pick it up you cant help but turn it over and over in your hand marveling at the detailed design. I promise you there will be no buyers remorse with this if you like your photography gadgets!
The head has a separate knob for adjusting the panning base and also one for adjusting the amount of drag on the main ball and all the controls operate in a smooth and precise manner with a very repeatable feel to the settings. In use with a canon 1 series body and a 70-200 2.8 the head is rock solid and appears to dampen vibrations from shutter release very well.
A lot of the time the deciding factor for me when choosing between between several similar products is the size and weight, ounces add up!! This ballhead is load-rated at 18 pounds but weighs only 13 ounces compared to the similarly revered Markins M10 which weighs in at nearly 18 ounces. That’s a very good ratio and it’s small form factor helps too when it comes to packing it in a backountry ski pack to take on a long days skiing, or squeezing into my carry-on case for flying with.
You can buy the BH-40 ballhead in all its variations, from B&H Photo.