If you’ve seen the support section in my new gear guide you’ll know I’m a fan of Really Right Stuff gear. I’ve just done a guest post for their webs tie detailing how I use some of their equipment for sports photography. Where most people imagine that kind of stuff being used for landscape work I thought it would be fun to show some other uses. You can check the post out HERE.
Having broken my tripod recently I decided to look at what the high end of the market has to offer. A cheap tripod rarely does you any favors and whilst my previous one wasn’t exactly cheap, I’d often wanted a bit more stability and a generally nicer feel to things. I did a lot of research, read a lot of reviews, blog posts and forum threads and narrowed things quickly down to Gitzo and Really Right Stuff.
I’m a big fan of Really Right Stuff products in general and I use their BH-40 ballhead as well as an MH-01 on my monopod so I was interested to watch their development of a tripod lineup over the last couple of years. Initially they launched the TVC-33 which promised the support capacity of a Gitzo 5-series but in a size and weight that was closer to a Gitzo 3-series. Those that have ever handled anything made by RRS will know that they are second to none when it comes to quality of machining and construction. The new carbon fiber tripods are no different but it comes at a price of course.
Over the last couple of years I have experimented with with several different ballheads and failed to find what I was looking for.Â 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.Â 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.Â At almost $400 its relatively expensive but hopefully this will be the last ballhead I have to buy for many many years.Â The longest lens I will be using with this is a 300mm f4 (and more often a 70-200 2.8).Â 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.Â Once you pick it up you cant help but turn it over and over in your hand marveling at the detailed design.Â 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.Â 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.Â 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.
Currently the RRS products can only be purchased from their website so you will have to factor in some shipping costs wherever you live but they are very helpful to deal with.