This is ball head DB36-DBL review from Dweck, who has been a professional photographer over 35 years.
My assignment work is mostly architectural so I use a tripod about 90% of the time. I have several different leg sets, the wooden Bernbach which I use for interiors, a Gitzo Giant carbon fiber for exteriors when I need to get well off the ground and a smaller CF Gitzo leveling number which is great for travel and lighter use.
I have a preference for the precision of gear heads when I’m shooting architecture, but they are too heavy for travel and slow to operate. So, with a trip to Hawaii coming up, I launched a search for a solid ball head, small in profile, to use on the smaller Gitzo. The challenge? It had to be strong enough to hold everything from the Lumix GH2 to the Leica S2. If I am going to put that expensive heavy brick on a little ball head, it better lock down tight! Oh, I also had a budget of $200 or less. In my search I came across a brand I was unfamiliar with, Sunwayfoto.
|Solid build feel, good tension control are the strongest features|
Sunwayfoto makes several versions of the ball head, I bought the DB-36DL which has an interesting clamp with a locking lever on one side and a screw adjust on the other and it is of course, Arca-Swiss compatible, a non-negotiable item as far as I am concerned.
1/2″ more length to the clamp would be a big improvement
|The safety release on the lever is superior to the Arca-Swiss version|
Sunwayfoto products are made in China. I tend to buy the high grade USA made RRS gear when I can even though Chinese products are priced lower. That said, $200.00 is a significant price for a Made in China ball head as I have seen them for under $40.00. The RRS BH-30, a great small head, weighs a bit more and has a 15 lb. capacity. The Sunwayfoto’s 40 lb. load, the double notch configuration and unique clamp compelled me to click the buy button.
I have had this head a short while so I cannot speak to its longevity, but the fit, finish and build quality makes a good initial impression. You can find some of the line at the B&H web site and more marketed on Ebay by Oeccamera in Texas. I ordered from them, tracking was almost instant and delivery was quick.
|The small L bracket on the GH2 is a perfect fit to the clamp|
Here are the important specs as posted on their eBay listing
- Elliptical Ball for progressive resistance.
- Y-axis diameter 0.03mm longer than the X-axis.
- Two drop notch design. One for portrait, one for tilting.
- All Metal knobs.
- Main Lock Knob Scale Ring
- Laser-engraved with index marks from 1 to 12.
- Pan Lock Knob and Panning Base with 5 degree increment marks
- 42mm Duo-Lever clamp.
- Ball Diameter: 36mm
- Base: 54mm
- Height: 87mm
- Weight: about 1/2 pound
- Max load: 40 lbs.
- Bottom thread: 3/8″ with 1/4″ adapter
You will notice that I emphasized the weight capacity. This is what I was looking for if I was going to mount the Leica S2 into this small clamp.
120 MM Summarit. Using an L bracket is critical here, I don’t know how well the ball would hold if the camera was hanging over the side using the notch in the ball head. Due to the size of the clamp I have to be extra cautious fitting in making sure it and the ball is firmly locked. This is where an extra 1/2″ in the clamp size would give more confidence.
The locking lever is easy to use, much better designed than the one on the Arca-Swiss which I had to return after it fell apart. The one bubble level is useful only at eye level and it is small. Placing a level on top of the clamp would require a significant size increase which would defeat the low profile. Using a multi-plane level in the flash shoe of a camera would do nicely instead.
|Panning knob set too close to the friction knob|