Ballhead Review: Foba Mini-superball
Unless you are using a long, heavy telephoto lens or medium format gear, you probably do not need one of the larger, heavy-duty ballheads that are available. These ballheads tend to be quite expensive, and their solid construction makes for a substantial amount of weight to have to carry around in addition to all your other camera equipment. For wide angle to mid-ranged zooms, prime lenses or short telephotos, a high quality mid size ballhead can be perfectly adequate.
One of the mid sized ballheads available is the Foba Mini-superball from the Swiss company, Sinar Bron. This product has all the features normally found on a high quality ballhead. There is a tension control so the resistance of the ball can be adjusted to the weight of the mounted equipment. There is also a rotating panoramic base and an Arca-style quick release mechanism. The head is sold in a variety of configurations for varying prices; it can be purchased with or without either the quick release or the rotating base. It should be noted that the rotating base (which can also be purchased on its own) is actually a separate item that screws into the base of the ballhead by means of the standard 3/8th tripod thread. The base then attaches to the tripod by the same means. This may seem like an advantage, however, it adds an extra thread that can twist and come loose if the attached camera is jarred. To be fair though, this has never happened during 2 years of use.
The Foba Mini-superball is very solidly constructed and has a sturdy feel to it. The ball moves smoothly in its socket and locks down very tight; also, the ball does not require any greasy, messy lubricantsa huge plus. The main ball release is a lever rather than a round knob, which makes getting a good grip very easy; this is a good thing because although the ball is smooth, the actual release action can be stiff and abrupt at times. This is a minor problem, but is sometimes annoying.
The Mini-superball has a claimed carrying capacity of 6.8 Kg (15 lb) and itself has an advertised weight of 0.59kg (1.3 lb). This is significantly lighter than most full-sized ballheads, but the figure is somewhat deceptive. The claimed 0.59kg (1.3 lb) weight sounds great until you realize this is for the basic head with no quick release mechanism and no panoramic base plate. If you require both these add-ons (and most people would), the weight jumps up to a more hefty 0.77 Kg (1.7 lb). Many other ballheads include both these features as standard, so just keep that in mind when comparing weight and price.
The Mini-superball is not lightweight when it comes to pricing either, if it is bought with panoramic base and quick release. I purchased mine on sale for nearly half the list price, and for that money, it was a reasonable value at the time. For its full list price however, I would have to say it is just not worth the money. This ballhead is generally well made and has high quality construction. The minor flaws it has do not seriously detract from its usability. Also, Sinar Bron has recently updated this product and some of the issues may have been addressed. The main problems with this head however, are weight and price. There are competing mid-sized ballheads from other makers that are cheaper or lighter or both. There are even a couple of full-sized heads with similar weight and only slightly higher prices. If you find a Mini-superball for a significantly reduced price, either on sale or used, it could represent a decent value; otherwise I would recommend checking out the competition first.