I was recently contacted by a reader who wanted to know more details about the Arca-Swiss p0 ball head for their potential use in the field. After speaking with them, I realized their application may require adjusting the base friction setting of the head, so I’d like to address that here. I will go step by step, with photos, on how to properly adjust the base friction setting on the Arca-Swiss p0 ball head to accommodate differing camera and optic weights to ensure the benefit of the elliptical ball head is maintained.
For the past few years, I've been using my Gitzo Series 1 Mountaineer as my primary tripod. It served me well when my primary camera body was the Fujifilm X-T2, X-T3 and X-H1. Once I bought the GFX 50S to use alongside my X-H1, I became acutely aware of the tripod's shortcomings.
The Gitzo Mountaineer Series 1 GT1542 is an excellent tripod. Combined with the lightweight Arca-Swiss p0 head, the tripod weighed in at just under 3 lbs and featured a very slim profile when folded down. The 25mm max leg diameter contributed to this slim profile, and while it works well with entry-level DSLRs and mirrorless camera bodies, the slim legs are just a bit too thin for a heavier, professional level body like the GFX 50S.
Most people with a larger, heavier camera would be perfectly served with any Gitzo Series 1 tripod, as they only need it for single shots in adequate lighting. In my case, I use it primarily for landscape photography, astrophotography, night photography, etc... situations that require long exposures and/or multiple exposures for stacking, exposure blending or panoramas. This requires greater demands on my tripod as any movement between shots can ruin an exposure. It becomes difficult, if not impossible, to work with multiple, misaligned exposures in post-processing, thus a lighter-weight tripod can cause problems as any flexing will result in misalignment.
While I haven't gotten rid of my Series 1 Gitzo, I recently bought a Gitzo GT3542 Series 3 Mountaineer.
A quick comparison between two products designed mostly to perform the same function. In case you're not familiar with an L-bracket, it's function is purely to allow rotation of your camera by 90 degrees while keeping it balanced on the X axis of your tripod. This is especially important for panoramas so the camera yaws directly over the center point rather than circumnavigating it, which alters the perspective enough to make stitching the result more difficult or even impossible.
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.
If you didn't already know, the Gitzo Mountaineer Series 0 and 1 Tripods come with fixed rubber feet. I can't speak for the 3 section versions, but generally the Mountaineer Series 2 and up come with 3/8"-16 threaded interchangeable feet, while those below have permanently affixed rubber feet. So I decided to buy a final leg section and foot for the GT1545T Traveler, already knowing it shared the 14.7mm leg diameter with my GT1542 Mountaineer but comes with a threaded cap to support 1/4”-20 interchangeable feet. The part number for the leg section is D106023 and the foot is D108623.
First, and most importantly, know what genres of photography you enjoy the most and if that genre requires a tripod. Then, buy the largest, highest quality tripod you're willing to carry that fits in your budget. Specifically in that order; do not put budget ahead of any other aspect of the tripod. If you go too cheap, you may very well end up with a tripod that meets none of your needs when you're forced to replace it due to instability or fragility. The adage, "buy cheap, buy twice (or more)" applies here.
As much as I like Gitzo as a brand and the quality of their products, some of their stuff just isn't as good as others. Take for example their leveling base; Gitzo features a large lever for tightening a head to the base and a handle borrowed directly from their sister Manfrotto's lineup.
Instead, I got the series 3 leveling base from Really Right Stuff. It's lighter, has a simpler attachment system with no silly lever and a much sleeker locking handle with, get this, a gear hook! That hook alone is almost priceless, allowing me to attach weight for stability when I'm not leveling the head, ending any need to swap back to the flat top base. Back into the box that can go.
I finally have my dream 3 tripod setup. Gitzo Systematic GT3543LS+GH3382QD, Mountaineer GT1542+GH1382QD, and Traveler GT1555T+GH1382TQD.
Next up is the Gitzo GM2542 Monopod and Mini Traveler Tripod.
I plan to give all of them a thorough shakedown in Long Beach, WA in a couple of weeks and then in the North Cascades the week after.
That is all.
So, just like what happened with the deal on the Gitzo Mountaineer GT1542 + GH1382QD kit, I got a price alert on a Gitzo Traveler GT1555 + GH1382TQD kit for 45% off the advertised price of $989. So I bought it, because I have no self control.
Some first impressions after picking up an Arca-Swiss P0 Ball Head recently.
Why? It's interesting. It's an inverted design so that the panoramic base is above the ball, ensuring a level platform for panoramic photography. Basically it eliminates the need for a leveling base. Combined with the 9oz weight, it'll reduce as much as 1.5lbs from my systematic tripod setup.
I quickly discovered the reason for the weight savings: the base of the ball head is made of polycarbonate, most likely Delrin. The rest is made from either magnesium or aluminum, depending on the part. Regarding the design, it also has no protruding parts beyond the pano lock lever. The ball lock is performed by a rotating collar around the middle of the body, resulting in a sleek design. The ball is also aspherical, a feature used across Arca-Swiss' whole line, that increases friction to prevent your camera from loosely flopping over when the ball lock is loosened. A very elegant solution to a universal issue with all ball heads.
So, I tore down my Gitzo Mountaineer GT1542 to see what's so special about it. Actually, I do this with every tripod I buy to discover its weaknesses and proper disassembly for maintenance, cleaning, and lubrication. During the process I just happen to take a close look at each part to see how well it's been made, purely out of curiosity. In this case, I was truly interested to see if Manfrotto/Gitzo does anything differently during the manufacturing process that justifies the higher retail price or legendary status.
As promised in my previous blog post, I'm revisiting my thoughts on the Leofoto LN-324C Systematic Carbon Fiber tripod I picked up before going to Forks, WA. The trip gave me my first chance to use the tripod in a real world setting for photos I cared about. After putting the Leofoto LN-324C and LH-40 ball head through the roughest conditions I ever plan to use it in, it has stood up admirably. There are no conditions to this conclusion. It is an excellent tripod, full stop. The value oriented pricing only makes this combo that much more appealing.