Arca-Swiss B1 Ball Head

Part 1. Arca-Swiss B1 Description

Figure 1. Arca-Swiss B1

The Arca-Swiss B1 Ball Head (around $400 in North America) is a precision-made, smooth operating, all metal ball head. See Figure 1, and click on it for a larger version. The B1's base screws on top of a tripod base with the latter's standard screw. The B1 is 3" in diameter at the base and 4.5" tall with the mounting platform/clamp in the horizontal position. This is the position you would use for taking horizontal shots. There is a snug notch in the side of the housing that allows the ball's post and mounting platform/clamp to pivot a full 90 degrees for taking vertical shots.

Once the B1's base is screwed onto the tripod's base it is not intended to move relative to the tripod. The vertical cylindrical housing (of the ball) can rotate above the fixed base. A 0.5" diameter Housing Rotation Knob near the bottom of the housing adjusts the grip tension of the rotating housing, such as for panning, and is also used to lock the housing to the base.

Rotating the 1.375" diameter calibrated Main Control Knob adjusts the grip tension of the housing on the ball. This allows the photographer to accurately control the grip tension to allow some camera movement while framing, focusing, and metering. Locking into place requires a modest amount of additional grip tension - excessive force when tightening is unnecessary and could cause damage.

When the Main Control Knob's grip tension is fully released, the ball can move freely inside the top opening of the housing. There is a short post that connects the ball to the flat mounting platform (2.375" by 1.5"). The platform has a vise-like clamp for mounting a camera body or lens collar ring. The clamp is tightened and loosened with a 1" diameter Clamp Knob that sticks out to one side of the clamp. The clamp has a dovetail profile that grips a matching mounting plate on the camera body or lens collar ring.

Whether a camera body or a lens is mounted to the ball head, it must have a mounting plate that exactly matches the clamp's shape. Really Right Stuff, a friendly and very proud machine shop, makes precision mounting plates for the Arca Swiss line. These plates are custom made for various types of equipment. For example, I purchased a mounting plate for the bottom of my Nikon N90s body, another for the bottom of my Nikon F5 body, and a third plate for the tripod collar ring on my Nikkor 80-200 mm lens. Fit, finish, and functionality are top-notch. They cost from $50 to $55 each.

On the front face of the Main Control Knob is a 0.375 inch diameter dial for adjusting the minimum tension on the ball, which is helpful in a number of situations.

The next part of this article explains that proper use of the B1 requires an understanding of how to orient the controls.

Updated 11-aug-11   Contents copyright © 2001 - 2011 PhotoCentric.Net, All Rights Reserved