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

RRS BH40 ball headQuick 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 90 80 104 76 102 90
FEISOL CB-40D 129 EUR 420 gr about 12 KG 85 85 148 63 69 90
Manfrotto 468 250 EUR 690 gr 15 KG 88 80 141 100 43 90
Sirui K-20X 115 EUR 400 gr 6.5 KG 85 90 98 100 73 89
FEISOL CB-30C 99 EUR 235 gr about 8 KG 85 75 107 50 123 88
RRS BH-55 420 EUR 900 gr about 8 KG 93 80 123 100 32 86
Markins Q3 285 EUR 385 gr about 8 KG 90 80 100 79 75 85
Triopo B3 150 EUR 590 gr about 7 KG 90 75 124 84 49 84
Arca Monoball P0 285 EUR 350 gr about 6 KG 88 80 88 79 83 83
Arca Swiss Monoball Z1 280 EUR (without Schnellw. system) 600 gr (o. Schnellw. system) about 8 KG 95 75 94 100 48 83
Sirui K-10X 100 EUR 350 gr 6.5 KG 60 90 91 89 83 83
Sirui G10 81 EUR 300 gr about 6 KG 78 80 78 76 97 82
Sirui G20 85 EUR 400 gr 6.5 KG 80 80 81 92 73 81
Benro B-2 145 EUR 480 gr about 7 KG 88 75 80 89 60 79
Benro J-2 185 EUR 510 gr 6.5 KG 88 78 85 84 57 78
Triopo B-2 105 EUR 420 gr about 6 KG 88 75 66 89 69 78
RRS BH 40 340 EUR 480 gr 6.5 KG 85 79 74 89 60 77
F eisol CB-50D 1 45 EUR 560 gr about 7 KG 85 85 94 71 52 77
Cullmann MB 6.5 149 EUR 640 gr 6.5 KG 92 88 85 63 46 75
Sirui C10 35 EUR 180 gr 5 kg 75 70 65 63 100 75
Benro J-1 159 EUR 390 gr about 3 KG 88 78 26 68 74 67
Kirk BH 3 240 EUR 550 gr 7.5 KG 83 75 84 16 53 62
Benro J-0 149 EUR 340 gr 2.2 kg 85 78 18 42 85 62
Novoflex Ball 40 85 EUR 485 gr about 7 KG 40 25 80 89 60 59
Benro KS-1 115 EUR 560 gr 1.5 KG 75 70 13 68 52 56
Novoflex MB 50 230 EUR 610 gr 4,5 KG 75 55 43 53 48 55
Kaiser 6011 139 EUR 660 gr about 6 KG 45 53 50 79 44 54
Novoflex Magic Ball Mini 169 EUR 330 gr 1.5 KG 75 45 13 37 88 52
FLM Centerb. 38 FT 270 EUR 465 gr about 2.3kg 75 95 18 5 63 51
Cullmann Magnesite 25 Nm 70 EUR 445 gr 6.5 KG 65 65 51 5 65 50
Walimex FT-011 H (Action-Grip) 55 EUR 840 gr 1.3 KG 55 65 12 79 35 49
Bilora Perfect Pro 40 EUR 320 gr about 2 KG 40 50 16 37 91 47
Manfrotto 322 RC2 110 EUR 650 gr 5 kg 60 60 58 11 45 47
Manfrotto 486 RC2 60 EUR 460 gr 5.5 KG 58 55 48 5 63 46
Manfrotto 484 RC2 55 EUR 320 gr 2.4 KG 55 55 20 5 91 45
Kaiser 6017 60 EUR 290 gr 2.8 KG 40 50 23 11 100 45
Walimex FT-001 Mag 60 EUR 480 gr about 3.3kg 40 60 28 0 60 38

 

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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