If you’ve ever shopped for an Arca-Swiss-based ball head or other equipment, you might be familiar with Acratech. They are a US company making professional ballheads that have some really unique features. I’ve noticed their videos on YouTube, which inevitably feature their very…mellow…owner with the somewhat acerbic voice.
I walked up to their booth at CES, and the owner was there. Honestly, I was pretty shocked – he’s very different in person – warm, friendly, very easy to talk to and of course very knowledgeable about this products. I hadn’t seen the Acratech in working in Gimbal mode (which is a side-mounting that is especially useful with big lenses shooting moving things like birds or cars), and I was amazed to learn you can invert the head and use it to make completely level panoramas! Especially if these are things you want but only occasionally, the Acratech heads become a super-strong choice because to get those functions on most standard ball-heads, you’re investing big money in additional equipment.
A true gimbal setup like a Wimberly head is almost certainly more stable since it keeps the weight directly over the tripod, but they also cost nearly $600 and are pretty large. The Acratech head offers a very nice solution
Make no mistake – Acratech isn’t selling inexpensive heads here – they are fully a competitor for Really Right Stuff in terms of quality, target market and Made in the USA credentials. But they offer some interesting features for the serious enthusiast that might save you a few bucks while making your photography life easier (while shooting panoramas, etc.). Add to that a clean design that eliminates any need to worry about dirt or water and you’ve got a compelling option.
I’d also mention they have a quick release head that has a safety built in, so the lever can’t get caught on a cord or piece of clothing and accidentally opened. It is still a one-hand operation and their heads have a nice, big level built in, too..
Check them out on the web. Also, both of my local camera stores carry their products (and when I say camera store, I don’t mean a retail store, but one that smells like cheese whiz and canvas, is crammed with stuff and has a lot of guys in it who are either unsure about facial hair or should be).