Revisiting the ARCA-Swiss p0 Ball Head After 6 Months

Since buying this head, I’ve quickly learned to love it, especially after buying the necessary hardware that allows me to invert it as needed. The smooth design, reliability and light weight has helped it find a permanent home atop my Gitzo GT1542 Mountaineer tripod, supplanting the GH1382QD ball head that came with it.

The inverted design, as you may know, is specifically designed to supplant the need for a leveling base, making it easier to achieve a level platform for panoramas while allowing the legs to be positioned for the most stability. The only problem is it can only shoot level panos, unlike a standard, “non-inverted,” (or is it perverted? Reverted? Verted?) ball head. To shoot a level pano with the horizon in a position other than center requires the head be reconfigured to a traditional style.

Using a second clamp from Novoflex, a 2″ plate from Hejnar and bolting the latter to the tripod rather than the former, I can now quickly reconfigure the p0 in either direction and, most importantly, without any tools.

ARCA-Swiss p0 with FLM SRB60, Novoflex Q-Mount and Hejnar 2” Dovetail atop Gitzo GT1542 Mountaineer

To be clear, you can also use the dovetail plate from RRS, Kirk or one of a number of generics offered across Amazon. In my case, I’d bought the Novoflex long ago for another application but it lacks safety stop grooves. I’d originally bought the dovetail plate from Kirk, ignorant to the fact that it has machined-in safety studs, and thus the Novoflex clamp wouldn’t fit. The Hejnar, and the RRS, dovetail uses removable studs.

ARCA-Swiss p0 combo, inverted for traditional ball head use

So, I am able to flip the head as the situation dictates, something other heads like the Acratech GP-SS are designed to do from the outset. On the Gitzo Mountaineer, the p0’s diameter is no larger than the collapsed legs of the tripod. The sleek design of both helps the combination slip easily in and out of the straps, loops and pockets on my backpacks, making it easier to carry and access. The lightweight design shaves a noticeable amount of weight for both carry and topside balance, leading to improved stability. Lending to stability, I learned how to adjust the base friction, making it much more stable with heavier camera and lens packages.

It’s an excellent head with excellent value. My only complaint would be the use of Delrin as the primary body material; I would’ve preferred a material that’s more resilient, like magnesium, although it would incur a significant weight penalty. Offering an optional, all metal design would be one solution, albeit costly. If it were offered, I would likely pay as much as $200 more for it though, if only for peace of mind. After 6 months, there’s no evidence of damage or wear, so my concerns may be unfounded. Another point of contention is the use of an unremovable 1/4″-20 stud for camera or clamp attachment. While it’s more versatile than the version that includes a dual channel clamp, I’d prefer a 3/8″-16 hole, mirroring the head’s base, to directly screw onto a tripod or application of a clamp.

These changes would put it more in line with the Acratech head but would also make it equally heavy. And expensive. I feel the lightweight construction is what separates it from the competition. If you want the feeling of an all metal construction, choose the Acratech GP-SS despite its extra cost, weight and protrusions. If you require something lighter, sleeker and equally high quality, choose the ARCA-Swiss p0. Bottom line, the p0 at under $300 is an excellent solution with unique features but for $100-150 more you can double it’s capability.

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