August 1, 2011

Triopo RS-3 Ball Head Review

Triopo RS-3 Ball Head overview
I was surprised when I found this ball head boasting a load of 20 kg, a weigh of only 250 gr. and a cost of only 30 Euros shipped !
Even more surprised I was, reading that it had won the 2007 Beijing Show contest for reaching a locking force of 45 Kg !

Looking for a simple light weight ball head with a good grip, I decided to order one and check it out.
After a very thorough test, I can only say that "This ball head is full of surprises!" But let's see how good or bad these surprises are...

The Ball Head
Triopo is an emerging Chinese brand of camera support systems, with quite a large number of tripods and ball heads, mostly copies of well known products, aiming to the lower-middle end of the market with low prices and big specs. (however, that has to be proved yet).
In Europe sales are handled by their distributors in Poland.

The Triopo RS-3 ball head is the largest of the Triopo RS Series and according to the manufacturer has the following specifications:

Manufacturer Specification:
Model: RS-3
Ball Diameter:36 mm (1.42")
Base Diameter:56 mm (2.20")
Height:80 mm (3.15")
Bottom mounting thread:3/8"-16 UNC
Top mounting stud:1/4"-20 UNC
Weight:250 gr* (0.55 lbs) 
Max Load capacity:20 kg (44 lbs)

Triopo RS-3 Ball Head box contents
The Triopo RS-3 ball head, came in a blue velvet drawstring bag, packaged in a retail box . And that was all , no specification sheet, no manual, no warranty card, nothing else! (Bad Surprise).
Triopo RS-3 Ball Head drop notch
The ball head has now a nice black satin finish instead of an earlier metalic cyan (bluish) color and the design is almost identical to the German Novoflex® Ball 40 thus the previews bluish color.
On top, there is a disk 4.85 cm (1.91") in diameter with an 1/4"-20 stud for mounting cameras or other photo gear. The stud is part of a hexagonal nut residing in a recess of the top disk and is screwed on the ball stem.
Around the center recess of the stud, the disk surface has a recess filled with a smaller diameter rubber flange to prevent the attached gear from twisting. (Unfortunately the rubber flange fell off after 3 days I received the ball head, while only inspecting it yet, showing very little signs of glue under it. Nothing serious to glue it back with a small film of contact glue, but that was also a bad Surprise).
The 3,6cm ball has a clear aluminum color with a yellowish tint in daylight. (More on that later.)
The ball head body is 4.80 cm (1.89") in diameter, having a single lever to control both the ball and panning lock.
At the bottom there is a panning base 5,60 cm (2.20") in diameter, extending from the ball head body by 4mm all around.
Triopo RS-3 Ball Head logo
The ball head body has two drop notches opposite each other, permitting a full 180 degree tilt either sideways (for portrait) or backward-forward which is actually one of the reasons I wanted to try this head as a monopod head. Further, there exist two rubber bands around the ball head body for no apparent reason other than cosmetic. I can only assume that they are there to protect the head from a reverse folding tripod's legs (however, these rubber bands exist also on Novoflex® heads which have no protruding base) but with the RS-3's panning base extending out 4mm all around they are useless for protection.
Triopo RS-3 Ball Head bottom
The bottom is clean with only a 3/8"-16 threaded hole for attaching the head on a tripod, no other obvious screws for opening the base. The panning base has a fluid movement but it is controlled by the same lever that controls the ball movement. Usually with single lever controlled ball heads, by releasing the lever a little for panning this also releases the ball, so both hands have to be used for panning, one holding the camera and one turning the base. We'll see later how RS-3 is handling that.
By the way the locking lever is spring loaded and sits on top a hexagonal nut, which nut actually turns the screw to lock/unlock the ball. The lever can be lifted outwards and turned freely to be relocated in twelve different positions that will make its control more convenient.

Inspecting & Testing the head...
From the first moment I took this relatively small ball head in my hands I wanted to check the weight... maybe a hunch... and I did put it on my electronic scales which I have verified with standard weights...

Triopo RS-3 on electronic scale
Oh yes another Big bad Surprise 306 gr (0.612 lbs) !!! checked many times...
This is 56gr or 22.4% more than the claimed and advertised 250gr.

But let's see further...
Triopo RS-3 ball detail
As I mentioned earlier the ball itself has a clear aluminum color but with a yellowish tint. More to that, the feeling when touching the ball is different than metal. A nice Surprise this time ! This is owed to a thin Teflon film coating on the ball. Since there are not any Teflon inserts between the ball and the ball head body, as in quite more expensive ball heads, this is another way for smoothing ball movement and overall operation.
Triopo RS-3 lock lever 6:00
With single lever type controlled ball heads as the Triopo RS-3, there is no way to have an index or scale indicating the force needed for locking the ball. So I turned the lever clockwise to the maximum and then lifted and relocated it to the 6 o'clock position in order to have a visual representation by the lever position. I used a quite heavy camera/lens combination in order to determine various states of the head.
Triopo RS-3 lock lever 3:00
Turning the lever counter clockwise, at 3 o'clock, there was enough force applied to immobilize the ball and the panning base.
Triopo RS-3 lock lever 1:30 tilted
At the 1:30 position the camera could be moved smoothly* with little effort, standing still when no external force was applied without any drift! Let's say that this was a sweet spot for a Gripped Canon 50D with the EF 70-200 f2.8 L IS lens.** Also at this position of the lever the panning base turns easily, while the camera is held firmly in place so no need for using both hands in order to pan the head.
Next nice surprise, the ball stiffened and stopped moving, when reaching an angle of 45 degrees. This fact clearly means that the ball has an elliptical shape quite peculiar for a ball head of this price.
Triopo RS-3 lock lever 11:00 tilted
Unlocking a little the ball by turning the lever counter clockwise at 11 o'clock , we can push the ball stem halfway into the notch...
Triopo RS-3 lock lever 9:00 portrait
And only if we unlock the ball completely by turning the lever at the 9 o'clock position we can drop fully into the notch.
All the above signify also that it needs half a turn of the lever from the completely loose to the lock position in order to control the ball.

Adding a quick release clamp...

Triopo RS-3 w/ Fotopro QAL-500 QR clamp
The easiest and cheapest solution for this ball head was to attach one of my spare Fotopro QAL-500 5cm Arca Swiss® compatible quick release clamps, which has a 3/8"-16 center hole, with the aid of a 1/4"-20 to 3/8"-16 thread converter bushing.
Triopo RS-3 w/ Fotopro QAL-500 QR mounted
The 5cm clamp is a good match covering the round top disk completely and adds only 89gr (3.14oz) to the total weight, totaling now 395gr (0.869 lbs)
Triopo RS-3 w/ Fotopro QAL-500 QR side
The thick rubber ring on the round top disk prevents the clamp from twisting, dampening also vibrations, but makes the contact a little elastic for my taste.

So I decided to remove the round top disk...

Triopo RS-3 top disc removed
It is fairly easy to unscrew the round top disk gripping the 12mm nut of the 1/4"-20 stud with a pare of small pliers.
Triopo RS-3 stud detail
Focusing on the stud we can see that it is a single piece of metal divided in two by a 12mm nut. The upper part is 7,5mm (5/16") long with an 1/4"-20 thread for mounting cameras or other equipment and the lower part which goes in the ball stem is 1,27cm (1/2") long with an M6 metric thread.
Triopo RS-3 top disc detail
Focusing on the top round aluminum disk, we can see clearly the recesses for the stud nut and the rubber anti-twist ring.
Triopo RS-3 ball stem bosses
Finally focusing on the top of the ball stem, we can see the M6 thread hole and two anti-twist islands ( bosses )...
Triopo RS-3 top plate bottom
... which fit under the top round plate groove on the sides of the center hole. Same grooves that exist under many Arca-Swiss® compatible quick release clamps!
Triopo RS-3 w/o top plate on scales
With the top disk removed the ball head still weighs 276 gr (0.552 lbs) ...........not even close to the boasted 250 gr !!!
Triopo RS-3 w/ Hejnar F012 QR clamp
Another good match for the size of this ball head is the Hejnar Photo F012 1.5" (38 mm ) Arca Swiss® compatible Quick Release clamp. We need a flat 1" long M6 screw in order to attach the clamp on the ball stem.
Triopo RS-3 w/ Hejnar F012 QR mounted
Clamp fixed ! Total weight now 360gr (0.792 lbs)
Triopo RS-3 w/ Hejnar F010A QR clamp
If someone's intention is to use the ball head with heavier camera/lens combinations and need some space for leveling adjustment a bigger clamp like the Hejnar Photo F010 2.375" (6 cm) Arca Swiss® compatible Quick Release Clamp is more appropriate.
Triopo RS-3 w/ Hejnar F010A QR mounted
Ready ! A little heavier, totaling 393gr (0.865 lbs) but still on the light side and with better ability of handling larger and heavier camera/lens combinations. However, besides the weight, adding a big clamp the cost rises too, considering that the clamp's price is higher than the ball head itself. And only if the ball head can hold the advertised weight, it is justified to spend so much for a clamp.

Torque Test ...
The next thing I had in mind was to measure the ability of this head to handle the claimed weight of 20 Kg successfully. Therefore, I conducted a torque test according to the methodology set in my article for Benro B-2 Torque test.
The ball head was set back exactly as it came with its round top disk and the Manfrotto Super Clamp 35 was screwed directly on the ball head's 1/4"-20 stud. The same procedure as with the Benro head was followed from there.

Triopo RS-3 w/ Manfrotto SC35 mounted
The Manfrotto Super Clamp 35 screwed directly on the top disk with the 1/4"-20 stud. With the ball head locking lever really pushed as far as it would go.
Triopo RS-3 w/ Manfrotto SC35 on Weifeng 595 tripod
Head and clamp sitting on a Weifeng WF-595T Alu-Mag Traveller Tripod.
Triopo RS-3 w/ Manfrotto SC35 & Tube leveled
The back drop tube balanced on the Manfrotto Super clamp.

After tightening the Manfrotto clamp jaws to a point that the tube started to deform, I started moving the sand sack outwards away from the head.
When I reached a torque of 348,4 Kgf*cm the sand sack was so out on the tube I could not believe it...

Triopo RS-3 w/ Manfrotto SC35 & Tube tilt
The force applied on the tube by the Manfrotto clamp jaws was not enough...
Triopo RS-3 w/ Manfrotto SC35 & Tube deformation
The center column of the tripod was deformed from torsion...

But BIG Surprise the ball did not move !!!
I unloaded the weight and applied more force on the Manfrotto Super Clamp jaws tightening the back drop tube more and deforming its shape even more, so it wouldn't lose it's 90degree position with the head.
In this way, I managed to move the sand sack a few cm outwards reaching a torque of 358,8 Kgf*cm !!!

Triopo RS-3 broken stud
But then a "crack" was heard and the 1/4"-20 stud broke in two pieces...
Triopo RS-3 broken stud closeup
... exactly on top of the round disk
Triopo RS-3 broken parts closeup
A closer look reveals that the breaking point was just below the hexagonal nut, exact point where the 1/4"-20 thread turns into M6 thread.
My advice... never load this head with more than 50 Kg (110 lbs) hanging on its stud!
(This is a joke of course because nobody would ever do that.)

Very low price
Extreme locking ability
Good value for money

The declared weight of 250 gr. is deceiving.
Weak top plate stud (although pushed too much).
Poor quality control.

Yes, indeed this ball head is full of surprises, maybe it does not weigh 250 gr as advertised, maybe it is not so smooth in operation, maybe a stud broke under extreme conditions (which is my fault pushing it out of limits) but...
THIS BALL HEAD LOCKS far more load than its specification and beyond any expectation !!!
After running the above test, even if Tropo RS-3 is a very low cost ball head, I can justify the expense for a big Arca-Swiss® compatible Quick Release clamp and recommend it for use on a monopod or attach a Panorama clamp on it and use it as a leveling base for a Panorama head as I intend to do both.
Nevertheless, time will tell if that extra locking ability will be maintained after long use and I'll be back with any findings.

Update: October 2011
Triopo B-2 Quick Release Clamp Review

This review and test was run on a single product sample, using the specifically described methods. Although the findings are good in general and some overcame the expectations for the product, it can not be used as a rule, unless more samples of the same product are tested. Furthermore, similar comparison tests should be run with comparative capabilities products so as to reach a solid conclusion.

I hope you found this review useful, thank you for viewing.
All Photos: © 2011 S.C.Vlachos

The Triopo RS-3 ball head is still available from eBay

Referenced Articles:

Fotopro QAL-500 5cm Quick Release Clamp

Hejnar Photo F010A and F012 Quick Release Clamps

Benro PC-0 and PC-1 Panorama Clamps

Manfrotto Super Clamp 35

Weifeng WF-595T Alu-Mg Traveller Tripod with WF-595H Ball Head Review


  1. Excelente avaliação, parabéns.

    Eu procurava informações sobre este modelo há tempos.

    (Great review, congratulations.

    I was looking for information on this model for some time.)


  2. Muito Obrigado!

    Thank you very much for your kind comment Ricardo. I know there is very little information about Triopo products on the net. I'm glad it is useful to you. Keep connected as I will have more reviews on Triopo soon.

    (Muito obrigado para o seu tipo comentário Ricardo. Eu sei que há muito pouca informação sobre os produtos Triopo na net. Estou contente que é útil. Manter conectados como eu vou ter mais avaliaçãos sobre Triopo em breve.)


  3. Thank you Sotiris.

    The only information I had gotten from the Internet was this video below.
    Your review of the product was very good. I will stay connected on blog for sure.

  4. Thank you very much from Spain!!! just i have buyed one, and i want for panorama clamp and for me it is the most important the strong can be it and the price :)

    Antonio from Spain

  5. You are very welcome from Greece! This proves to be a very strong head for the price. If you can remove the top plate and screw your panorama clamp directly on the ball stem, will be better with less vibration and more secure, since panorama heads are quite demanding due to offset weight. Hope you enjoy shooting nice panoramas :)


  6. Thank you very much for your time and excellent review about Triopo RS3 Ballhead. I prefer wait to buy a better and little more expense ball head and donot have any problem. I appreciate your notes a lot. Sincerely, Ruben Olivier, M.D.

  7. You are welcome and thank you in return for your comments. As mentioned in the review, I would not recommend this ball head as a general purpose ball head, but only for specific uses e.g. a monopod or as a second option. If you spend a little more there are quite many choices.

  8. Hi Sotiris, how are you able to unscrew the the 1/4"-20 stud with small pliers? Are you gripping the 1/4" thread with the pliers or do you somehow grip the small nut embedded in the disk? I do not see enough space where you can grip the nut while the round disk covers most of the nut.

  9. Hi Sotiris, Thanks for your review. How are you able to remove the 1/4" M6 nut from the head? Are you using pliers to grip the exposed 1/4" thread or gripping the nut that is embedded in the round disc? There seems to be very little space to grip the nut.

    1. Hi Ron,
      You're welcome and I'm glad you found the review useful.
      I happen to have a set of very thin and flat pliers that fit between the nut sides and the round disc. Something even thinner than This one.
      It also requires to use some heat in order to break the thread-lock bond.

      However, in order to make your life easier and avoid damaging the stud, an alternative way to remove it is to get two 1/4"-20 nuts from a hardware store and counter tighten them on the protruding stud thread. Then the use of a wrench will apply enough torque to break the thread-lock compound and unscrew the top-plate.
      I hope that helps.

  10. Hi Sotiris:
    I tried the 2 nut method without success. Could you explain how you heated the bond to loosen it? Do you apply a solder iron to the nut or some other method? I also tried a small set of pliers but all I managed to do is strip the nut a little.
    Best Regards,

    1. Hi Ron,
      Before going into heat, which is a method I'm reluctant to suggest publicly, I would suggest that you try the two nut method once again and after fitting a wrench on the tightened nuts, bang the end of the wrench grip abruptly with a hammer sideways. This most probably will brake the bond.
      If this still does not work, you may proceed with heating the stud, but I should warn you first about the dangers and the possibility of damaging the head!
      For difficult nuts I use a small butane gas soldering iron which may also be used as a very pointed torch after removing the solder iron point. If you decide to go with this method, take all precautions to remove the rubber pad from the top plate first (which is flammable) and protect your hands wearing thick workers gloves as the Aluminium top plate will get very hot. Any heat should be directly pointed to the stud only.
      I hope you succeed this time. Good luck!
      Best Regards,

  11. Hi Sotiris:
    Thanks for the advice. I will try the 2 nut method again.
    Best Regards,

  12. Hi Sotiris:
    The problem I find with the 2 nut method is that the 1/4"-20 stud that is exposed is not long enough to accommodate 2 nuts to be able to wrench the stud free.