The Uniqball UBH 45XC Ball Head with X-Cross Clamp is perhaps the most unusual ball head I have ever used. And I’ve used pretty much all of them.
A friend suggested the head to me. He had one and let me try it out. I was immediately interested. I photographed birds from a blind in southern Texas for several days using this head, paired with a Robus RC-5570 Tripod. I liked this ball head so much that I bought one. Read on to learn why.
Let’s start with the basic specs –
Load Capacity: 88.2 lb
Max Height: 4.1″
Weight: 1.6 lb
Built-In Leveling Base
Yes you read that top line correctly. This ball head is sturdy. I don’t care what kind of rig you throw up on top, it can handle it. Is this overkill for a guy like me, who uses a Micro Four Thirds camera system? Absolutely – says I with a wink. And that is the way I like it. If I’m going to use a tripod/ballhead combo I want it to fear no evil as it walks through the valley of the shadow of death. In fact, I want it to hit that shadow of death in the mouth! It’s better to over compensate here than to under compensate.
The head is well-named, because it certainly is unique. I must confess that when I first heard about it, I thought it must be a gimmick. But I was wrong.
This head is a combination leveling base, pan/tilt head, and ball head. It has a unique design that incorporates an outer ball with a bubble to level the clamp, and an inner ball for panning and tilting. Once the outer ball has been leveled and locked, the inner ball will only move on the Y-axis, maintaining level pans. The head can also be used as a conventional ball head with a full range of movement by locking the inner ball and only using the outer ball.
What that all means is simple. You can use this ball head like any other for things like landscape photography, or you can use it like a pan / tilt head for video work, you can use it for panoramic photography, or – if you’re a bird/wildlife photographer, it can take the place of a gimbal head.
The secret is in its ability to be quickly, easily, and accurately leveled. As in level as can be. As in the most level ball head I have ever used. Once you level the head, you set it and forget it. Then from then on, you just have a pan / tilt head. This is very important for video and for gimbal style photography.
IN THE FIELD
Once you get the hang of it, this thing is a time-saver. There are only three adjustment knobs on this head. Set the bubble level on the red base, lock it, and then you’re done. Any recomposition of the scene during shooting keeps the camera level without having to recheck your horizon.
I learned to simply rest my left hand at the end of the head where the one control knob lies that you will need to constantly adjust as you pan/tilt, etc. and it became a very intuitive, and fluid motion for me.
THINGS TO PAY ATTENTION TO
This head takes some getting used to. I assume that some people don’t take the time to figure it out, adequately test it or understand its real strengths. I spent about an hour to fully master it. Once I did, I decided I loved it.
It comes with a very high-quality, Arca style camera/lens plate and it works with MOST (but not all) Arca style plates on the market. I tested it with a RRS plate with no problem. Be sure to test your plates before you decide to use them.
The UniqBall does have some slight locking drift, but nothing to complain about. The X-cross clamp, which allows the plate to be in line with the optical axis but also perpendicular to it, may get in the way of some camera/lens combos. In my case it does not interfere but came close.
If you aren’t like me, and don’t feel the need to over compensate, the less expensive, less beefy, UniqBall UBH 35XC Ball Head with X-Cross Clamp will probably work just fine and save you some money.
I personally just have a habit of making sure my camera supports are sturdier than they need to be.
I really like this head. I can tell a lot of thought went into it. It’s well-designed and in my opinion, well-made. I have only had mine for a few weeks and have no idea how it will stand the test of time, but for now, I am very pleased. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.