ARCA-SWISS monoball Z Stronger, lighter
A leader of tripod head design for over 40 years, ARCA-SWISS is setting new standards revisiting their B-series models and introducing the Z-Series, just as elegant, and even more perfect. The size and weight of the ball heads have been significantly reduced. The ball and fastening are now assembled using a patented bayonet mount. Various accessories can thus be quickly mounted to adapt the tripod as required.
In addition to the proven, patented Arca-Swiss features, including aspherical ball heads, axial clamping and PMF (progressive motion related friction control), the Z-Series also boasts new technical developments and optimized materials and coatings.
The new series can withstand an incredible 60 kg (132 lbs) off-axis. Z-Series heads are available as Version Z SP (single pan) and Version Z DP (double pan). The monoball Z DP with its second panning mechanism below the camera mount keeps the camera perfectly vertical to the swinging plane, for perfect panoramic stitching of multiple images.
I've had 4 heads on my Gitzo 1327 tripod. The Gitzo is about as stable as one can get when the wind picks up, though it might need a sandbag on a pier with waves or on a bridge with traffic flowing under it. New York is a most unsteady platform when taking long exposures! My Manfrotto head was good in three axis, but was tedious in trying to get the right setting and as time went on it started to get loose in every axis. An Enduro three axis was very good but was too heavy to cart around and the handles were not good on buses on in cabs. A cheaper ball head leaked fluid. Then I got wise and put my money into this very reasonable Arca Swiss. WOW! Photos that would blur with the other heads suddenly were sharp as a tack, this at 300-450mm used for timed night shots. I believe it will hold 133 lbs. The Nikon D800E with heavy lenses tend to be a piece of cake for this sturdy head. I've begun to mount it sideways so the head openings are at 90 degrees to the shot. So far I've been able to pan, move in all directions by barely loosening the dial. One thing, on mine the area between "4 and 5" on the dial is where the head goes from being firmly clamped to coming pretty loose. I've gotten used to this and I'm still steady with the tripod. I would prefer the nob for the lock, but wanted to save some money and went with the flip lock. It looks cheap, but it is solid as a rock. There's absolutely no slippage with a very long heavy lens and the camera body comes off and on very rapidly once you've practiced for a few moments. One thing - when you loosen the head be SURE you are holding the camera with one hand. Otherwise it could drop off. To be expected when you want rapid release and attachment.
The Z1 is the best ballhead I've ever used, and that compares to a few other top brands. Everything is easy to grasp and turn. Everything has a quality feel to it. It locks solidly with good feedback in the knob; it is obviously when the ball is locked. That might seem like a strange comment but there are other brands that don't provide tactile feedback. Even under strong tension, the ball motion remains smooth. No slip-stick. There is no obvious shifting during lockdown as I have seen with other ballheads I've owned. The panning lock is solid with no slippage. It just locks tightly as desired, and turns smoothly with a nice damped feeling when it is loose. I wish the panning base was labeled with numbers. It seems very compact and light for the strength and quality. The platform was easy to remove and replace with a good quick release from Really Right Stuff (you also need a screw - M6-1.0x25mm (6mm wide, 1mm thread pitch, 25mm long) ; but I have read that Arca-Swiss will soon be using a very strong thread fastener to prevent removal.
The Arca Swiss Z1 is an extraordinarily stable tripod head. It does a great job with long exposure shots with my D800 / 200-400mm F4 combo. Images out at 400mm are sharp, with no pixel smearing detected. Love the classic quick set, as I can adjust to any manufacturer's Arca-Swiss compatible plate w/o having to adjust a lever tension, and it's nearly as fast to engage. I don't own any small form factor plates, so I don't have an appreciation for the presence of the lower jaws, and sometimes when I'm in a hurry, I hook plates on the lower lip by mistake. Not a big deal, just an annoyance as I'm getting more accustomed to the mount. Overall, the Arca Swiss Z1 gets top marks from me.
I mounted this on an Induro CT313 tripod and it is solid, smooth and easy to use. With the new D800 you really need to be steady. I was surprised that it was actually cheaper than the RRS bh-55 and the Markins Q20i. I gave it a 4 because the first copy had some marks on the quick release plate but adorama replaced it with no hassle . By the way the quick release plate is a superior design. It takes two actions to release the lens plate so I never worry about it but it is very easy to use. My only complaint is that I did not buy one years ago. I decided I never wanted to have to upgrade my ball head again and this is truly the best I have seen. ( I should note that I never give a 5 but if there had been a possible score of 100 I would have given a 99). My experience with Adorama customer service was top rate so I use them for all my purchases.
I use with an Induro ct313
The Z1 is a great ballhead. Like the headline says, it is strong, smooth and precise. I had another top brand for 10 years leading up to this purchase, and eventually decided I'd like a nicer tension control. I did a lot of reasearch, checking out at least a dozen brands, and kept coming back to the Z1. It was a combination of rave reviews and ergonomics for me. I can attest to the great build quality, strength and smoothness. If you have not used a top brand, you just have to try it to understand why people spend this much money on them. The Z1 is not night and day better vs other top brands. It is subtly better than others I've used in my opinion. As a strength test, I mounted my 100-400 + camera via the camera mount and put it at an odd angle (this was abusive, perhaps, not something anyone would normally do), and the Z1 handled it easily, without any creep. It is so smooth that even under a good amount of tension where it won't move when you let go, you can still move the camera easily. I learned that Arca-Swiss is beginning to use red loctite on their ballheads to prevent warranty repairs from incorrect 3rd party clamp installations. I bought the non-QR version with the 3/8" stud so I could drop just about any clamp on top, in the event my clamp was locked down. However, the stud was short relative to the depth of my clamp thread and I worried that it would not be as strong as it should be. It is probably best to just get the QR model of your choice.
Fantastic ball head. Smooth movement. Nice finish. But there are few cons: 1. Arca-Swiss Quick Set Flip-Lock clamp is poorly designed when compared to competition. Geared wheel for width adjustment left my clamp in pieces in a few minutes of trying to adjust it to the clamps I use. Had to spent next 30 minutes (lot of patience) to put it back together. Save your money and buy 3rd party clamp (Wimberley or RRS will do better job). 2. Major marking points on the panning base are 15 degree (means 24 major markers for a 360 deg scale). Small markers are 5 deg which is OK. Again, this are minor cons but I'm taking one star.
This is my first professional quality ball head. Wow, what a difference! I replaced the standard plate with a Kirk plate, which includes a built-in bubble. It works much better than my old Manfrotto "pistol grip" Model 3265 in terms of fine adjustments. I keep a RRS "L" plate constantly mounted on my Nikon D200. I plan on changing the head on my monopod next, as the convenience of the Arca-Swiss mounting plate is tough to beat.
I liked that the Monoball was easily stable and it was very sturdy.