ProMediaGear BH50 Tripod Head Review
As more camera companies seem to be embracing in-camera image stabilization, the venerable tripod might not seem as relevant as it has in years past for wildlife photographers. In the days of old, if you really wanted the sharpest photos (especially with large telephoto glass), that often meant you needed a stable platform. Today, you can dump the shutter speed and rely on the cameras stabilization and shoot handheld most of the day - that is, if your arms can handle it.
Although in many ways camera gear has gotten appreciably smaller and lighter, this doesn’t mean they’re no longer heavy - just a little less so. After all, you’re still carrying around a bunch of metal and glass. Today, I think the tripod is one of those things that can seem like an afterthought for some people until it’s really needed, and then, when the situation calls for it, all of the sudden it’s a must have.
Use cases where a tripod and ballhead are still relevant include sitting in a bird blind for hours on end, supporting a heavy rig like a supertelephoto lens on a gripped-DSLR while waiting for a subject, macro photography, capturing long exposure landscape photos or astrophotography, or getting rock solid video/timelapse shots.
Although there are a huge selection of ballheads and tripods on the market to choose from, ProMediaGear has made a name for itself as a manufacturer putting out photography accessories that are a cut above the rest. When I heard about them releasing their lightweight travel ballhead - the BH50 - I was very excited to try it out.
Without getting too deep into the nitty gritty about the pros and cons of ballheads vs. video heads vs. gimbals, my view of the main benefits of the ballhead boils down to travel size, convenience, and versatility. While I enjoy each of those other types of tripod heads for different reasons, the ballhead is super straightforward and the easiest to set up. The ballhead takes up the least amount of space, is usually the lightest, and it provides a rock-solid platform that is conducive for essentially all types of photography.
I think that the folks at PromediaGear read my mind when they designed the BH-50 ballhead (also known as the BH50c40 or BH50c60 depending on the dimensions of the paired arca-swiss clamp. Although their older Sputnik Ballhead intrigued me with it’s versatile design with it’s huge locking knob, the ballhead seemed just a little bit too large for my needs. The BH-50 solves that by offering a lot of the advantages of their original Sputnik head in a smaller, lightweight, travel-friendly package.
Anyone who has used ProMediaGear products knows they produce extremely robust and quality professional products. The BH-50 is no exception, and definitely feels like a premium product that will take a beating and keep on ticking for years. Though not recommended, it feels like you could literally drive nails with this thing and it wouldn’t flinch. Small details like laser-etched markings on the panning base also add to the overall quality feel of the product. Adjustments are smooth and precise, as to be expected of a ballhead of this caliber.
The star of the show here is definitely the huge locking knob on the side of the ballhead. What makes this so special for wildlife photographers who need to work quickly is that you can lock and unlock the ballhead without even looking at it – using pure muscle memory. I simply put the ballhead with the locking knob on my left side and then support the camera on my right hand, and once I’m in position lock it down firmly.
Unlike cheap ballheads, there is also zero creep once you firmly lock the ballhead in place. While it may not be as effortless as a fully-balanced gimbal head to adjust camera positioning, it’s also nowhere near as large and heavy to move around and travel with. This no-nonsense, one knob-approach to the ballhead adjustment means you spend very little time setting it up - which is key for wildlife that don’t stick around for very long waiting for you to setup your tripod.
I think the ease of which you can adjust positioning and lock/unlock camera positions with this ballhead puts it in an entire class of its own. Because of it’s size, it’s also incredibly easy to torque down the lock, and the knurled ridges on the knob work fantastically even with gloves on. The addition of a smooth panning lock knob, multiple indents for dropping the camera into portrait mode, ports on the side for adding accessories like a phone or light holder, and a friction adjustment also make this overall a fully-featured ballhead.
I’ll admit its hard to get super excited about a ballhead, but the BH-50 is a one-of-a kind product that I think could change some minds about ballheads. The functionality of the locking mechanism is what sets this one apart - it’s dead simple to adjust in the field which is a no-fuss experience, and in my mind, the gear “that just works” is the gear that gets used.
This review is written by Bobby Vogt of Oxbowphoto.com. It is not sponsored, nor paid. All words were his experience with ProMediaGear.