Yoshizen's Blog

Ball and Socket


(from top-left down = Bilora, Unknown German, Bilora copy.  Second top = Velbon, Velbon. Third = Slick. Fourth = Manfrotto with fixed quick camera  mount, Cheap Manfrotto. Big white Bilora. Gitzo and the second largest ball size in the world then = Cullmann (Germany) with Manfrotto quick camera mount )

While looking for something, I noticed one of the box is very heavy.  And it turned out to be full of Ball-and-Socket Tripod-heads packed in.  For general use, I’m using two Gitzo tripod, one with a Ball-and-Socket head and the other with ordinary 3 axis adjustable head.  On top of those, I’ve been using small tripods, ball-socket to many improvised use in the dairy life.

When we connect something, bar, arm, even camera or light to the base or tripod kind, a Ball and Socket is the most useful (if not the best) system.  They can be easily adjusted of position, angle and able to fix it with a turn of one lever.  Very good for a busy photographer though, such advantage is exactly the big disadvantage in the same time. = painstakingly found, adjusted position could suddenly collapse with one miss move of the fixing lever.  And when it collapses, it dramatically collapses all XYZ direction.  Try to counter this trouble, Cullmann Ball-Socket Head using very heavy grease to prevent the sudden move of the ball though, as the ball was somewhat stuck to the socket, it is very heavy to move.  (And even worse, this heavy grease preventing the solid clamp of the ball, even when the fixing lever was tightened, ball would move slowly by its own = and after a while, the position = lens direction would have been changed by the gravity ! — with such trouble, soon it disappeared from the market, so, my one is a historical collection.   😀 ) 


And in the box, there are quite a few “Ball-Socket” kind of items.  Left is a Level Adjuster from Manfrotto  #138. 


Probably the most incredible and disturbing item in my all collection is this Manfrotto #138 = level adjusting head.   As you can see on the photos, its ball is cracked and started disintegrating.   Non of the other head etc showing the same deterioration, it must be unique to this item = the material must be hopelessly inferior or mixed with wrong additives.   To my complaint, Manfrotto said that they got the confidence in the quality of their products, and didn’t even interested in to see the photos let alone item itself = indicating it may not be new to them = don’t need even inspect, let alone investigate.  (As you can see the deterioration occurred only the ball side nothing on the socket = indicates it was not caused by the external factor such as the way how it was used or kept (heat, humidity kind) but solely in the quarity of the ball itself. = material or manufacturing process was responsible.)   Still they says that anyway its out of warranty and the product #158 has been discontinued. = No hope ! — So, this is who Manfrotto is = we may need to prepare that their product could suddenly clack and breakdown, while crushing the expensive camera on it.  Oh dear.

And the second = Action Head from the Slick — with a grip of the lever the ball will be released to move — though, it was a torture to the hand ! (This one was designed more than 45 years ago.) The third must be a kit tripod for a small camera though, I haven’t found the camera fit to this.  And the right one was in fact a base of an old wooden tripod = level adjusting base — 100 years old ? — I thought it would be useful in somewhere, one day.  😀


When I need to shoot on table top with flash light etc, I’m using a Support stand which can hold the subject, accessory etc or a light reflector etc.   Those system is having many different kind of grip, clamp, holder etc and having many articulated flexible joint to adjust the position.


For such purpose, the Ball-Socket is what we need.  But there is not such small Ball-Socket in the market.   If not there, why not make one myself.  It is only a matter of cramping a ball.  And such material could be found everywhere. (From a fixture of a furniture to a broken top of a Hasselbrad Focusing Lever. (Photo middle)   Or make a cramp using a large screw nat. (Photo right)


If we look around, the useful material we can improvise, is everywhere.   A small display base could be a small camera base. (Photo left)   And you might recognize this = looks familiar wasn’t it ? (Photo middle and right) = it was a flexible base of a radio antena. = now converted to hold something on front of a lens  on close-up shot or hold a light reflector on a side of the lens.    (Once before, I did hung a flower dipped with honey to attract the flying bee come to the front of the lens. = it’s worked !   😀 )


Tripod — give a thought


Among rather delicate Photo equipment, Tripod is exceptionally physical.

No another equipment would be thrown into a car floor. —– and may be that

was a reason why a film company disposed and gave a broken tripod to me.

When I got a huge Bilora tripod (Photo Left),  it’s legs were crushed. I replaced

them with 3 Manfrotto’s Monopod and put Gitzo No.4 (largest) Tripod-head.

= This 15 Kg heavy tripod can extend to 3 m high(with extension column) and

never produced blared image caused by a vibration, resonance kind. (of cause) !

(I was using this for Pentax 6×7 high-angle shot, or large format 4×5 kind.)


Center Photo is a rather light-weight Gitzo (Reporter) with Ball-socket head.

A09A3351Unlike other Gitzo which got 3 axis (X,Y,Z) fixing,

this ball-socket head has “a kind of” ease for quick

adjustment.  In the same time it is a disadvantage.  

If 3 axis can be adjusted individually = for instance, while keeping X,Y

fixed, but change only Z direction, it can have finer control.  

And being as light-weight and thin pipe, (even worse, ball and socket’s joint

is rather thin long neck) this tripod is sceptic to vibrate when all the

combination and the balance of the weight happened to resonates.


And the Photo right is one of my small tripod (but not the smallest) which

become flat, when not in use. (Easily slip into a bag. )  


This tripod extends to 1 m and fold to 38 cm, the weight is mere 500 g !

It’s a typical case, “Better than nothing” but never perfect in any aspects.  🙂

The most important point of using tripod is, never fallen into an expectation

of false security. = Unless the tripod is really hefty heavy one, the use of tripod

may create more adverse effect = causing the blur.  Somewhere like a beach or

hill side, when the wind was strong, the tripod may be vibrating with the wind.

(You can feel it while rightly touch the leg.)

Test your tripod with your camera mounted —–> Click a shutter while rightly

touching your finger to the tripod leg. = If you feel tripod vibrates,

that is a quality of your tripod ! => Need to become aware of FALSE security !

Then take a measure.  Such as, hung something heavy from the tripod.

When tripod is vibrating, instead to use a Remote-Trigger or Delay-shutter,

grip the camera (on the tripod) and trigger the shutter by your finger !

(Hand works as a dumper. )  —– Or completely opposite approach against

Shutter-shock = drastically lower ISO and the shutter speed and make

shutter speed something like one second to few seconds !  

Unless the subject is moving, strangely, the photo become much sharper.

(See it yourself !  🙂 )

—– From the experiences seeing the broken Carbon Fibre Tripod, Golf club

and Fishing rod,  I’m not a fan of Carbon Fibre.  = When they brake, they

disintegrates.  Broken aluminium leg is still “a kind of leg” = You still able

to shoot a last photo or two on it. 

But, disintegrated bunch of plastic is utterly useless.  

Not to have a feeling of “false security” mean, better carry an insurance

for the worst situation too = carry one Kg more for stronger tripod !

After all, the steadiness and the reliability comes from its solid weight.  🙂


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