A well-engineered ball head is a joy to behold and use. Wayne’s been testing the Freedom FB-12QR for some months.
There are two schools of thought, with regard to tripod head choice: two-way (or three-way) tilt, pan heads and ball heads. There are pros and cons with both head types: simply put the bal head is quick to use whilst the tilt pan head allows precise adjustment of individual axis position. For the last three months or so I’ve been using the Freedom Ballhead FB-12QR model.
The FB-12 comes in two models: the FB-12 has a twist screw attachment fitting to attach a camera, whilst the FB-12QR simply has a tripod screw to which you can screw on a quick release plate of whichever brand your prefer. Around the tripod lug on the QR are three setscrews that can be made tight with the supplied allen key to ensure the plate cannot rotate or come loose. Which model you choose depends entirely on whether you like to work with a quick release plate system or not. The FB-12 weighs under 450 grams (1 lb) but is designed to support up to 4 kg (9 lbs).
Operation of the FB-12 (QR or normal) is very straightforward. A twist ring around the base of the ball head locks and unlocks the head in a ¼ turn, allowing free movement of the head in rotation and tilt in all directions. A slot allows the head to be tilted into a vertical position for portrait format shooting. The same single locking mechanism allows you the option of tightening but not completely locking the head. This works very well in situations where you may want to pan to follow the action.
The ball is extremely well made and the locking mechanism is very smooth and effective. I’ve placed some pretty heavy lenses on my admittedly light Canon 350D and 400D (Rebel XT and XTi) and the tripod head has always performed brilliantly. Remember that the key thing with a head’s locking ability is the unbalanced weight. So it becomes a real issue when shooting vertically or with a heavy lens on the camera but the camera attached to the tripod head, rather than a mounting ring on the lens.
For me, I replaced my Manfrotto 029 tripod head, a triple axis head with inbuilt quick release plate, with a total weight of 1.5 kg (3.3 lb). So switching to the FB-12QR made my complete tripod setup a full kilogram lighter, something I have found a noticeable benefit over the last few months with climbing over sand dunes and up and down hills. Now I still prefer my Manfrotto head for some purposes, like panoramas and macro work. But for many other types of work I have found the Freedom Ballhead a joy to use.
If you are considering a ballhead, I would highly recommend that you have a good look at the Freedom Ballhead FB-12. It is worth every penny of the US$199.99 for the FB-12QR version or $249.99 for the FB-12. Both are now available in red and blue, as well as black. Very highly recommended.