Provides: Camera placement and support for tripods
Minimum Requirements: Tripod, camera
You already have a tripod, maybe even a Gorillapod Focus. All that’s left is the head. A ballhead is a great choice because of its ability to change angles quickly and easily. Joby now has a new ballhead in their line: the Ballhead X. It’s a great ballhead all around, and one of the best accessories you can buy for your Gorillapod Focus or other tripod.
The Ballhead X is named for its X shaped detachable mounting plate. I really have no idea why it’s X shaped instead of rectangular, but it looks nice and functions just as well. It’s not really a quick release plate, though it’s advertised as such. Typically, quick release snaps in and out of place in no time. This, instead, tightens into place with the help of a knob. If it means anything to you, it’s Arca-Swiss system compatible. It will take longer than a standard quick release system, so you’ll have to evaluate if an extra second or two is a problem for you.
One potentially nice feature of the way this system works is that it’s possible to slide your camera left and right or back and forth (depending on orientation) with less than full tightness from the knob that secures the plate in place. While I wouldn’t depend on that functionality too much, it can be useful for tiny adjustments. After the plate is attached to your camera and seated in the ballhead, just twist the knob to hold it in place. Now, you’re ready to shoot.
Fully posable. That’s a term that was synonimous with awesome toys when I was a kid, and it’s no different now. The Ballhead X is fully posable. It’s awesome. You can tilt it in all directions to get just the right angle for your shot. There’s a cutout on the sleeve for the ball for perfectly 90 degrees (assuming your tripod is level). Getting the specific angle you desire is child’s play. There’s a giant knob that controls the friction against the ball; just twist to loosen or lock in place. It works superbly.
And while most ballheads would be happy with themselves thus far, the X Ballhead isn’t done with its feature list yet. There’s one more knob that controls panning, completely indepentent of tilting. You can pan your camera or camcorder smoothly by loosening the lowest knob while retaining the angle at which your camera is pointing relative to the ground. This panning joint comes complete with degree markers. This makes it much easier to uniformly space out a series of images to later be combined into a panorama. Just take an image every so many degrees, say 30. You could also just leave this knob loose to follow action along one axis. This single feature could elevate this ballhead from good to great for many potential buyers.
Everything on the Ballhead X is knob driven. You twist a knob to loosen or tighten the mounting plate, ball joint and panning joint. All knobs are appropriately sized for their amount of usage. They have smooth action and are easy to use. I really appreciate how nice the largest knob is. It controls the ball joint. The rubber is easy on your fingers and very grippy, and once you tighten that knob, your camera isn’t going anywhere. It’s rated to hold 5kg (11lbs), and not just straight up. If you’re having problems getting this ballhead to not drift, you likely also have camera-related back problems, as well. For everyone else, this thing is like a tank without any fuel—it’s sturdy and going nowhere.
There are really only two things possibly missing from this ballhead: a level and a quick release. I don’t mind not having a level, but I’m sure some photographers would consider this important. There also isn’t a true quick release. This would be more of a problem if you intend to use the ballhead with a tripod other than a Gorillapod. A quick release mechanism is designed to allow a photographer to detach his or her camera from a tripod quickly to take handheld shots. A Gorillapod is easy enough to pick up and shoot while on the bottom of your camera since it’s both light and small. (Then again, if you have it attached to something like a pole, I can see where you might desire the quick release again.) The knob release isn’t super quick, but I wouldn’t say it’s slow. Not a real problem, just something to be aware of.
The X Ballhead is a worthy addition to Joby’s incredible line of products. It’s an extrememly well-built ballhead for any tripod, but it truly shines when matched up with a Gorillapod Focus. The Gorillapod Focus, X Ballhead combination is quite possibly the best tripod kit you can carry with you. It’s compact, relatively light, durable, sturdy and incredibly functional. But even if you don’t use a Gorillapod, the X Ballhead is still a great choice among ballheads for its ease-of-use and ability to pan and tilt independently.
Buy the Joby Ballhead X