Is the ( Really Right Stuff) RRS BH 40 ball head worth the money?

Is the ( Really Right Stuff) RRS BH 40 ball head worth the money?

Quick background.  Ball heads are an essential part of the tripod equation if you need to steady your camera for landscape, long exposure or portrait work.  Really Right Stuff (RRS) established a reputation for their ball-heads as the best there is amongst the web-based photography pundits.  They cost a small fortune, and don’t look wildly different from any other competitive heads.  So are they really better?

Well here we get into the ‘audiophile mains cable’ (or power cord) arena.  When I was interested in hifi, I was always amused by the reviews of audiophile power cords, which could cost several hundred pounds, and claimed to deliver mains electricity better to your high-end hifi than a normal cable.  Reviewers would write about the ‘improved sound stage’ and ‘crispness of the high-end’ with these cables.  All b*llocks of course.  No way could you detect any difference by changing the power cable in a hi-fi system, and the lack of blind testing of this or any other component of hi-fi systems showed what hogwash it all was.

The same b*llsh*t applies to much in the photography accessory arena.  Camera sensors and lenses have a standardised set of tests from the likes of DxOlabs and Photozone, that allow true objective comparisions.  Not so in the case of tripods and accessories.  Most reviews are purely subjective, and reviewers are clearly swayed more by marketing than objectivity.  Those that do tests usually conduct them over a few (say 5-10) products, and don’t maintain a database.

But I have discovered an amazing German database of ball head tests from the excellent Traumflieger Fotographics (literally Dreamflyer Photography – go figure).  They have been testing ballheads since 2009 and so far have done 37 at all prices. So what are these tests?

The main requirement for a ball-head is that it can carry a reasonable load, doesn’t droop when a long lens is mounted, is easy and smooth to adjust camera position, and has reasonable damping of camera vibrations. Oh and ideally it needs to be low in weight as it has to be carried around. The Traumflieger chaps have objective, repeatable tests for all of these.  They are located here and are in German.  The easiest way to understand them if you are not a native speaker, is to use Google translate.  I have extracted their summary below – and translated the headings.  if you want to know how the tests were done, it’s in part I of the test report.

And what of the results?  In objective testing, the RRS-BH40 is only an average performer.  It comes 17th out of 37, and does pretty poorly in the droop tests.  It also costs 340 euros and weighs half a kilo.  What is the best ball head in the test?  This is the Tiltall BH07unpromisingly-named Tiltall BH-07, which costs only 99 euros, and destroys the RRS head in almost every category.  It also weighs half as much as the RRS.  You can get them from Amazon UK for £84 including delivery.  I ordered one, and it’s absolutely excellent. The table is useful for evaluating most other expensive and highly regarded makes of ball-head like Arca, Markins and Kirk.  Not surprisingly, these all do fairly poorly in objective tests. An abridged version of the results summary is shown below.  At the end of the table, is a picture of the test results for the RRS BH 40, showing the 8mm of droop (!) when a 4kg load is applied…….

Head Approx price Weight Max weight skew Points
Quality/
Haptics
Points
Features
Points droop
Points
damping
Points
Weight /
Vol.
Points
Total
Tiltall BH-07 99 EUR 284 gr 7.5 KG 90801047610290
FEISOL CB-40D 129 EUR 420 gr about 12 KG 8585148636990
Manfrotto 468 250 EUR 690 gr 15 KG 88801411004390
Sirui K-20X 115 EUR 400 gr 6.5 KG 8590981007389
FEISOL CB-30C 99 EUR 235 gr about 8 KG 85751075012388
RRS BH-55 420 EUR 900 gr about 8 KG 93801231003286
Markins Q3 285 EUR 385 gr about 8 KG 9080100797585
Triopo B3 150 EUR 590 gr about 7 KG 9075124844984
Arca Monoball P0 285 EUR 350 gr about 6 KG 888088798383
Arca Swiss Monoball Z1 280 EUR (without Schnellw. system) 600 gr (o. Schnellw. system) about 8 KG 9575941004883
Sirui K-10X 100 EUR 350 gr 6.5 KG 609091898383
Sirui G10 81 EUR 300 gr about 6 KG 788078769782
Sirui G20 85 EUR 400 gr 6.5 KG 808081927381
Benro B-2 145 EUR 480 gr about 7 KG 887580896079
Benro J-2 185 EUR 510 gr 6.5 KG 887885845778
Triopo B-2 105 EUR 420 gr about 6 KG 887566896978
RRS BH 40 340 EUR 480 gr 6.5 KG 857974896077
F eisol CB-50D 1 45 EUR 560 gr about 7 KG 858594715277
Cullmann MB 6.5 149 EUR 640 gr 6.5 KG 928885634675
Sirui C10 35 EUR 180 gr 5 kg 7570656310075
Benro J-1 159 EUR 390 gr about 3 KG 887826687467
Kirk BH 3 240 EUR 550 gr 7.5 KG 837584165362
Benro J-0 149 EUR 340 gr 2.2 kg 857818428562
Novoflex Ball 40 85 EUR 485 gr about 7 KG 402580896059
Benro KS-1 115 EUR 560 gr 1.5 KG 757013685256
Novoflex MB 50 230 EUR 610 gr 4,5 KG 755543534855
Kaiser 6011 139 EUR 660 gr about 6 KG 455350794454
Novoflex Magic Ball Mini 169 EUR 330 gr 1.5 KG 754513378852
FLM Centerb. 38 FT 270 EUR 465 gr about 2.3kg 75951856351
Cullmann Magnesite 25 Nm 70 EUR 445 gr 6.5 KG 65655156550
Walimex FT-011 H (Action-Grip) 55 EUR 840 gr 1.3 KG 556512793549
Bilora Perfect Pro 40 EUR 320 gr about 2 KG 405016379147
Manfrotto 322 RC2 110 EUR 650 gr 5 kg 606058114547
Manfrotto 486 RC2 60 EUR 460 gr 5.5 KG 58554856346
Manfrotto 484 RC2 55 EUR 320 gr 2.4 KG 55552059145
Kaiser 6017 60 EUR 290 gr 2.8 KG 4050231110045
Walimex FT-001 Mag 60 EUR 480 gr about 3.3kg 40602806038

RRS BH 40 test results

Note that ‘Testergebnis Nachsachen’ does not refer to scrotal dimensions, but to the amount of head droop experienced.  Quite a different thing.

rrs044_sollist

 Tiltall BH 07 test results

soll_ist_tiltall_bh07

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