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 provide the benefits of a leveling base, making it easier to achieve a level platform to shoot multi-exposure panoramas while allowing the legs to be positioned freely 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?) panoramic ball head. To shoot a level pano with the horizon in a position other than center requires the head be reconfigured to a more traditional arrangement with yaw control beneath the ball. (Update: more on this in a bit…)

Using a second clamp from Novoflex, a 2″ dovetail plate from Hejnar and bolting the latter to the tripod rather than the former, I can now invert the p0 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 a 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, making the dovetail plate I bought from Kirk useless. The Hejnar and RRS dovetails use removable safety stops, making it fully compatible with the Novoflex Q-Mount clamp system. Now I can flip the head as the situation dictates, something other heads like the Acratech GP-SS are designed to do from the outset.

Update: Always with an eye toward efficiency, I ended up making what I did in the last 2 paragraphs moot by purchasing a Novoflex Panoramic Plate and installing it between the center column and ball head, keeping the head right side up. The benefits are two-fold: one, no more flipping the head, and two, the combination is a couple of centimeters shorter now than the previous configuration, making it fit in the travel bag with less fuss. This reconfiguration also gave me an opportunity to invest further in Novoflex products; the reality being the design and build quality far exceeding FLM’s. Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

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

On the Gitzo Mountaineer, the p0’s body 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. More on the stability: I learned how to adjust the p0’s base tension, making it much more stable with heavier camera and lens packages.

It’s an excellent head and an 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, as the added durability would outweigh the slight weight penalty. Offering an optional, all metal version could be one solution, albeit a costly one. 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 ball head’s base, to directly screw onto a tripod or for the installation of a clamp.

These changes would put it more in line with the Acratech head but could also make it nearly as expensive. I feel the sleek design and lightweight construction is what separates it from the competition. If you prefer an all metal design, the Acratech GP-SS, despite its extra cost, weight and bulk, is a known quantity and sound investment. If you require something lighter, sleeker and equally capable, choose the ARCA-Swiss p0. Bottom line, the p0 at under $300 is an excellent value on a precision ball head.

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