Sunwayfoto XB-44DL - Review

The XB-44DL is a low-profile, light-weight ball head from Sunwayfoto. Considering these characteristics, it still packs a punch in terms of performance and strength. I've been using this head for a few months now and feel it's time I can honestly and thoroughly share my thoughts.

Price

The XB-44DL is a fairly reasonably priced ball head. Considering it's competition, I actually believe it could be a little cheaper. At the time of this post, you can pick one of these up for $379AUD from sunwayfoto.com.au.

A few important specs:

  • 40kg load capacity

  • Weight - 490g total weight (1.08 pounds)

  • Height - 79mm

  • Ball diameter - 44mm

  • Base diameter - 58mm

  • Clamp type - duo, lever/screw combo

Aesthetics and Build Quality

First, lets talk about the physical appearance and overall quality of the XB-44DL. Put simply, it really can't be faulted. With a mostly metal construction, durability isn't a real concern. Top that off with a satin anodised surface, providing decent scratch/corossion resistance, and you've got yourself one tank of a ball head. Considering this head weighs a mere 490 grams and can comfortably hold 40kg, I'd say this is up there with the lightest and strongest ball heads around.

The XB-44DL is also equip with the typical markings you'd expect to find on a fairly high end ball head i.e the 'panning degrees' around the base for precise and replicable panoramas.

Functionality/Usability

Arguably the most important factor when considering a new ball head is it's ease of use and overall functionality. If I was to score the XB-44DL out of 10 for functionality, I'd have to give it a solid 9. However, this could easily be a 10 if the panning knob was slightly higher - though, due to it's overall size, I guess this is to be expected. With my current setup I find the leg joints of the tripod often get in the way of securing a decent grip on the knob, depending on the knobs alignment with said legs. Sorry for saying knob so much. This is by no means a deal breaker, but just something that I find bothersome at times.

The XB-44DL is one of the very few heads I've used that comes with not only a lever clamp, but also a screw knob for adjusting the width of the clamp. This is great if you find yourself using multiple plates that are slightly different in size as you can adjust the width of the clamp to fit a certain plate, then use the lever to clamp it down securely in place.

Something I find other tripod head manufactures often overlook is the inclusion of a BUILT IN bubble level. Sure, not everyone uses them, but how hard is it to chuck a 50 cent bubble discretely on the side of the clamp? Luckily, Sunwayfoto seem to be on the ball with that one. Pun very much intended.

Lastly, even though I would always recommend using an l-bracket (l-plate), the XB-44DL has a two drop notch design. This allows you to easily switch to portrait mode in one notch AND to also have more freedom when tilting the camera with the other notch. Another feature that could easily have been overlooked, but just gives it that little something extra.

Images taken using the XB-44DL

Summary

Things I love:

  • It's lightweight and hardly adds any bulk to my tripod.

  • Punches well above it's weight in terms of strength and durability.

  • Look pretty darn sleek as far as ball heads go.

Things I don't love:

  • It certainly isn't expensive, but it still believe it could be a little cheaper.

  • The placement of the panning knob.

Conclusion

Having used close to a dozen different heads over the past few years, when selecting a tripod from my cupboard, I always find myself reaching for this one. Whether it's on my smaller tripod I use for travelling, or my hefty beast that I use locally - this is the closest ball head I've found that meets MY needs.

Update (29/12/18): Still my ball head of choice.

If you have any questions about the XB-44DL, please feel free to leave them in the comments and I'll get back to as sooooon as I can!