Today I am going to talk about the Really Right Stuff BH-55 ball head. When I started to look for a new ball head (as my gear was getting bigger and heavier), I did what most would do, and that's search the internet for the "best" ball head. Like most I came up with about 10 different answers. Arca-Swiss, Acratech, Gitzo, Linhof, Kirk, Manfrotto, Induro, Really Right Stuff (RRS), and much more. I spent days, weeks, and months trying to decide which one would work best for me and something that would be hard to out grow. I visited camera stores, searched blogs, read reviews, I even looked at what my favorite photogs were using. So after all my research and deliberation I decided between two. Kirk and RRS. Along with RRS, Kirk has a wonderful reputation in the field among pros. Kirk's manufactured in Indiana (close to my home state), and have an attractive price. They also have a full line of camera plates, lens plates, flash brackets, macro tools, and more. There really wasn't a reason not to invest in Kirk products. Like Kirk, RRS has all the plates, brackets, macro tools, but they also have an extensive line of pano tools. So which one to choose?
Well RRS had a couple features that I liked. One: it uses a lever quick release, two: it's a lower profile, 3: it looks pretty darn sexy. Don't lie to yourself looks do matter. So were those couple of things worth the extra mula?
RRS manufactured in San Louis Obispo CA, which is about 30 minutes from where I was living at the time. I decided to stop by their shop to see one first hand. Finding their shop was a bit tricky, I didn't notice any shop signs when I went, but being that most of their sales come from online its understandable. I opened the front door and walked into a small room with a couple of ball heads and tripods set up. I was promptly greeted by a younger guy (his name escapes me) and he demonstrated their products for me. We talked about tripods, ball heads and photography in general. He also showed me the back warehouse where they do most of their work. I was so impressed with the friendliness of the staff and the customer service, it made me finally decide to go with RRS. Service is a big deal to me. I am always willing to pay more for a product or service knowing that the people behind the scenes care about me and care about the products they sell. Kudos to RRS.
Along with my ball head, I have 2 RRS camera L-plates, and a lens plate. The ball head main knob is big and easy to find, the support is rock solid, the ball head is silky smooth, and the lever release makes it easy and fast to switch from landscape to portrait. I have had my BH-55 in the bitter cold of northern Michigan, and in the sandy desert heat of Arizona. Never had a problem with it! It's rated to support up to 50 lbs, so I shouldn't have to worry about out growing it. Besides the big locking knob, it has a drag knob you can set so you can move the camera freely and once you let go, the camera will stay in that position. This feature also keeps the camera from suddenly flopping when the main lock knob is loose. The last knob is a panning knob, just loosen it and you will be able to pan smoothly across the scene. I use the panning feature to make some simple panoramas.
I am very pleased with my ball head and I am also pleased with RRS as a company. I recommend them to anyone looking for a new camera support system. They are a bit pricey but the saying "you get what you pay for" holds true in this case. I can't even imagine my kit with out it. My work flow is that much easier and more enjoyable, that to me is worth the price of admission alone!