UniqBall UBH 45XC Ballhead with X-cross Clamp - Review
With a name like 'UniqBall' it's no surprise this ball head is one of the most unique heads on the market. What makes this head so unique is the fact that it utilises TWO balls, one inside the other, allowing for easy levelling of the camera without interfering/fiddling with leg adjustments. This makes it not only a traditional ballhead, but also a gimbal head, a pan & tilt head and a fluid head, all in one.
One of the very few, if not only downsides to this product, is the price. I'm sure it's not the most expensive ballhead in the world, but it certainly isn't the cheapest. Available directly from UniqBall, it comes in at 529 Euro - which at the time of this review converts to roughly $850AUD. It's also available from Australian store Mainline Photographics for $795. The model I'm currently using is the UBH 45XC with X-cross clamp, Mainline Photographics currently sell the model with the regular clamp.
Load Capacity: 40kg / 90lbs
Height: 10.5cm / 4.1 inches
Thread Size: 3/8"
Weight: 724g / 1.6lbs
Base Diameter: 69mm / 2.7 inches
Aesthetics and Build Quality
My immediate impression, upon opening the UniqBall from it's package, was nothing short of delighted. It feels extremely solid, yet not too heavy - weighing only 724 grams. That may sound heavy compared to lower-end heads, but for the strength and quality of the UniqBall - it really is quite light.
It has a beautifully smooth and high quality finish, but I fear that might make it more susceptible to scratches. Luckily, it does come with it's own soft case for transporting the head without worrying about various blemishes that might occur during travel. One thing I really like, that is purely superficial, is the red accent on the main ball and the pan/tilt knob.
Unlike most conventional ballheads, what really sets the UniqBall apart is it's versatility. As I mentioned in my introductory paragraph, the UniqBall has more functionality than just a regular ol' ballhead, it also has the ability to be used as a gimbal head, a pan/tilt head and a fluid head. It is able to achieve this by taking advantage of the additional ball in an otherwise more traditional ballhead.
Once the main ball is levelled off using the built in bubble level, which is calibrated to 0.1º of accuracy (much more accurate than the digital level in some recent cameras), the second smaller ball can be used to pan AND tilt. This allows the horizon to always be level no matter how you pan or tilt the camera, making it super easy to shoot panoramas or panning video. As you can see in the animation below, the tripod was clearly on an uneven surface or the legs were extended to different lengths/angles. Being able to level the outer ball first, then panning or tilting without worrying about a horribly slanted horizon, really is a joy.
There are many tripod/ballhead manufacturers out there that sell levelling bases to be mounted in-between the legs and the head, unfortunately at the added cost of another few hundred grams. There's also the option for panning clamps, but again - they add an extra ~300 grams. Now with the UniqBall; it's never been easier, lighter or more convenient to shoot with a levelling head in your setup.
Adjusting the Head
You can see in the hero image for this review that the main knob for the larger ball is poking out at a somewhat random angle. This can actually be changed to any angle that suits your shooting habits. For me, I have found that I like the knob/lever to be pointing downwards when it is fully tightened. To adjust the movement of the inner ball (pan/tilt), the red knob pictured below, will need to be loosened or tightened accordingly. Once this is loosened there is free movement from left to right and top to bottom. The tension depends entirely on how much the knob is loosened.
So far, I really love this ballhead, apart from the price I think it really could be an all-in-one head for many people. One thing I'm not overly fond of however, is when it comes to actually mounting a camera to the clamp. On most clamps I've used on other ballheads, the plate slides right into the clamp and a single turn is usually more than enough to tighten it down. Because of the design of the actual plate itself, the clamp has to be opened wide enough for the plate to enter from above, rather than sliding into place from the sides. This just means there is a lot more time spent turning the knob to secure the plate (and camera) to the clamp. Certainly not a deal breaker, but still something worth mentioning.
Things I love:
Build quality is exceptional.
Ability to level with ease.
Independent pan/tilt abilities.
Weight load capacity (40kg).
It looks sexy - is that a selling point?
Things I don’t love:
Time taken to mount camera/plate.
Panoramas taken using the UniqBall
If you find yourself shooting a lot of panoramas, wildlife, video etc, and don't want all the extra weight of heads made specific to those shooting scenarios, then it would be hard to look past UniqBall as a feature rich and versatile ballhead. It looks awesome, feels great and does so much more than most ballheads on the market. If you're on the lookout for a new ballhead and can get your head around the price tag, the UniqBall definitely needs to be at the top of your list!
As usual, if you have any questions about this ballhead, please leave them in the comments below - I'd be more than happy to answer them!