Uniqball UBH 45
Many wildlife photographers own a gimbal head, after all they give an unparalleled ease of movement with longer lenses making them feel weightless. But what if you plan to do some landscape or wide angle wildlife work during your shoot too? In that case you will need to carry both the weighty gimbal but also a ball head of some description as well. Personally I’m all for cutting down weight and any faffing around on my outings. The last thing I want when I’ve got cold hands is to be fiddling around with allen keys and swapping heads.
It just so happens that a visitor to one of my Red Squirrel hides had just bought the smallest version of the new Uniqball head (the UBH35). From what I understood it was developed in Hungary by two photographers with an engineering background.
The design essentially comprises two ball heads in one. The first allows easy leveling of the head using a single locking lever, without having to micro adjust your tripod legs. This means you can setup very quickly on uneven ground and ensure that your horizons are level and that panning movements will also be level.
The second ball operates like a conventional ball head with friction control but with one major difference. It will only pan left/right and tilt forwards/backwards, therefore, not flopping to one side or the other with a heavy camera and lens on it. As your setup is already level courtesy of the first of the balls then the two planes of movement are all that are needed for most images.
Having seen the smooth operation of the Uniqball in action and the high quality of its construction, I felt compelled to give it a try. To clarify I was not given any discount on the Uniqball, and I have no association with its creators or suppliers at all so this review is about as impartial as it gets.
I decided to go for the larger of the two models the UBH45 which has a load capacity of 40kg, yet is very light at only 743g. To this head, I added the manufacturers X Cross clamp. This clamp allows both camera plates and L-brackets to be secured as well as long lens feet or plates (since both mount along different axis).
At first I was supplied with the standard clamp which allows a lens foot to be attached. You would then have to use an adaptor to attach a camera plate to the Uniqball, which I found a bit inconvenient (see image to right). The X Cross clamp resolves this problem and I would recommend purchasing this setup from the off.
With a long lens, such as a 500mm prime or 200-400mm with a pro-body the X Cross clamp allows the lens foot to be quickly centered and secured. The friction knob at the front can then be adjusted to taste and the lens can be panned and pivoted up and down smoothly or held in any position with a quick tighten of the knob.
The drawback of the Uniqball is that it is not a true gimbal and that when pitched forward or backwards too far gravity will take over and the body/lens will not hold in position. You do have to be careful with the friction adjustment so the setup does not suddenly tip forward or backwards. With use this becomes less of a problem as you learn to understand it’s limitations.
The weight saving over a gimbal is significant and it is certainly easier to carry on a backpack too. Many times in the past I’ve clobbered myself in the head when mounting the tripod to the side of my pack, with no large projections this doesn’t occur with the Uniqball and I’m saving a few brain cells!
There is also a benefit when used in a hide. As the support is under the lens, there is no arm to the side to restrict your view. Very useful where visibility is limited due to camouflage or a soot being used.
For landscape photography, it works just as a standard ball head would, just with the ease of level horizons through the simple adjustment of that first ball.
I’ve had my UBH 45 for about 18 months now so have had plenty of time to test it fully. Put it this way, I’ve sold my gimbal and the Uniqball sits on my tripod permanently now.