Uniqball 45XC – Review

Uniqball 45XC
Uniqball 45XC shooting in Minsk, Belarus

The Uniqball 45XC, true to its name is very unique product.

It’s basically one ball within another. While the outer ball functions in the same way as any regular ball head, the inner one limits movement to just pan and tilt. With this combination the head is something of a hybrid between a ball head and a pan and tilt head, which also serves to give it advantages that you would get from adding a leveling base, or using a gimbal head.

For those using longer lenses, the design also overcomes one of the key obstacles to using a ball head over a gimbal head through the combination of leveling and then restricted movement of the inner head. This means that the shot is able to be adjusted while the horizon remains level.

Over the last 6 months I’ve been testing one out in the field and its accompanied me as I’ve visited a total of 12 countries.

Vs – regular ball head: Vs – pan and tilt: Vs – gimbal head:
Advantages:
Leveling function Leveling function Weight
More precise pan and tilt Much faster to use Size
More compactVersatility
Disadvantages:
Slightly heavier More Expensive Balance
More Expensive

Specifications:

  • Recommended for: super telephoto
  • Load Capacity: 90 Ib (40 kg)
  • Height: 4,1″ (10,5 cm)
  • Tripod Mount Thread Size: 3/8″-16
  • Weight: 1.62 Ib (733 g)
  • Base diameter: 2.7″ (69 mm)

“UBH 45 ballhead with a built in leveling base and pan-tilt head. World’s only leveling ballhead. Machined from aerospace industry aluminium alloy to 1/100mm tolerance. Equipped with a precision bubble level, calibrated to 0.1degree of accuracy

For an overview of the operation of this head, Outdoor Photography Guide has an excellence overview video:

Price vs Performance

The model as tested is currently available at $559.00 USD and designed for 40kg camera setups including with super telephoto lenses (ie. 300mm+).

The biggest drawback for many will be price. This is cheaper than a top quality gimbal head or a gimbal head + ball head combination, but the price is higher than most ball heads, including some high end products from more well known manufacturers like Gitzo. While dual ball head design is much more complex than a single ball head design and is correspondingly more expensive, this is really only justified if there is a corresponding benefit in the product. I feel that the unique combination of features, additional versatility offered and the overall build quality justify the price tag.

For those with smaller camera setups that aren’t intending to use large super telephoto lenses, the smaller and lighter UBH 35XC is probably be a better choice ($369 USD – load capacity up to 15kg).

Other features:

  • Cross type release plate – allows use with both lenses on a tripod collar or those that have an L-bracket for wide angle lenses.
  • Protective pouch has drawstrings on both ends – this makes it usable even with the camera mounted – for me this makes a handy remote trigger holder and a useful added feature while shooting timelapses.

Build quality and ergonomics:

My impression over 6 months of use is that the head is very robust and sturdy at a level that is commensurate with the price. The 2 + 3 year warranty suggests that the manufacturers are also confident about their product.

When out shooting, ergonomics are critical. This is an area where many cheaper tripod heads fail and bad design can be quite frustrating. In practice for the majority of my shooting at the moment, the regular ball head functions are enough and I didn’t find myself using the pan and tilt function too much.

However, in the instances that the extra accuracy and the leveling was required, its very nice to have and very simple to use. For me, this is particularly the case when shooting panoramic images with a longer lens.

Conclusion:

The photography world is filled with products that have very nice features on paper, but don’t quite live up to their promises in practice. This isn’t one of them. In the last 6 months of use, the head has been very practical in its operation and enjoyable to use. It offers a great balance between speed of use and accuracy. The overall functionality means that it will remain as a fixture in my traveling kit.

For travel photographers that are looking for a versatile tripod head, particularly those that regularly use longer lenses this is a very easy head to recommend. In particular the unique design offers a versatility that isn’t matched by any other product that I’m aware of. Obviously, many of the features while useful aren’t in the essential category – if you’re on a tight budget and aren’t shooting wildlife a regular ball head is perfectly adequate. This is however the kind of product that makes shooting a faster and more enjoyable experience.

Disclosure:

While I frequently get offers to test or review sample photography products, which in almost all cases I decline. When the opportunity to test and use the Uniqball came up, I did so mainly because I was interested in the innovative features of the product. Other than the provision of the demo model as tested, I don’t have any connection with uniqball and as such this is not a paid review.