October 17, 2011

Benro B-2 & B Series Ball Heads Tips

Benro B-2 Ball head overview

Having used the Benro B-2 Ball Head for over a year now, permits me to have a more clear aspect about its strengths and weaknesses.
During this time it had a little dip in the mud, a little exposure to direct sun at 45 oC and a few bumps with other fellow photo equipment in the trunk of my car although bagged.

It still operates smoothly and does not seem to have lost any of its locking ability, nevertheless I would like to share some findings and tips for better and long lasting operation.

More than 90 degrees tilt...

Being used to other ball heads, in the beginning I was a little frustrated trying to find the exact 90o angle when shooting in portrait position with this ball head. When the ball stem is dropped in the relevant notch it stops at an angle greater than 90o. But this was indoors where floors are quite level. Shooting outdoors at rough ground, I realized that this could be a benefit, saving time not to have to level the tripod more precisely for a few degrees difference.

Benro B-2 Ball portrait tilt
The Benro B-Series ball heads tilt to approximately 95 degrees when dropped in the notch.

Mark the panning index...

One of the first things that I had noticed in my Benro B-2 Ball Head Review was the obscurity of the panning base index marks and the relative index point.

Benro B-2 panning base mark
"...However, is not the best implementation I have encountered since the numbers are recessed and both digits and index mark are completely obscured in low light."
Since the index point is just the peak of a two curve formation, one has to rely on available light and judge from the shadow where that peak is.
Benro B-2 w/ small screwdriver
A simple solution is to mark that index point and make it more visible. Using the tip of a small flat screwdriver you can carefully scratch off the paint from that peak.
Benro B-2 panning index mark scratched
The result is clear line, a lot more helpful than before.

Use the friction (drag) control...

One of the most usual problems with ball heads I read about is the ball slip or drag during lock time. Yes it is quite frustrating but it is a problem of the past when ball heads had only one knob or lever to lock everything so we had to let the ball loose in order to frame and/or pan and then lock it at a specific position.
Nowadays, with ball heads that have friction regulation this is not so severe when you precharge the ball with friction to a sweet spot that permits movement but not dragging.

Benro B-2 control knobs
Same applies to Benro B-series ball heads that have a separate friction control knob. Use it to find the sweet spot for your camera/lens combination and mark the point on the scale for each setup.
However, Benro B-series ball design is not elliptical to compensate for increased torque when working at an angle, therefor a precaution must be taken by increasing the friction by one or two points according to your setup, beforehand.

Close the quick release clamp for transport...

As many other brands Benro's ball heads and parts are manufactured using molded Magnesium alloy. This method has many advantages, like lower weigh, faster production, better vibration absorption but has also a small weakness. Molded parts are a little softer than parts which are CNC machined from massive blocks of Aluminum. This is due to tiny air bubbles trapped into the hot alloy during molding. unless high pressure extrusion machines are used, which I do not think this is the case with ball heads.

Benro B-2 QR clamp open
Benro B-series ball head QR clamps are designed to minimize weight at maximum.
Benro B-2 QR clamp detail
This applies to the QR clamp moving jaw, which is quite thin compared to other manufacturers clamps.
If left open during transport the probability of bending it from an accidental bump is quite high. This will result to a very uncomfortable situation. You may be able to screw and lock the clamp but if bent the springs inside will not have enough power to push it open afterwards. With a little manual help it will open again but that might frustrate some and through it in the river as I read in a forum.
Benro B-2 QR clamp closed
So a little precaution should be taken by closing the clamp fully prior to transport.

Loosen all knobs for long storage...

On the other hand the opposite should be done with all knobs if you intend to store the ball head for a long time. As it is the situation with all ball heads, there are Teflon inserts and springs inside the head, which if left under pressure for a long time might be deformed and result in deterioration of its characteristics.

Benro B-2 all knobs loose
All four, Quick Release clamp, friction control, Locking and Panning knobs should be loosened before long storage of the ball head.

Except for the above, there are not much to say about this ball head, than that during this period did not have to lubricate it at all and that I saw a little bit loss of locking force at high summer temperatures, but could not measure how much at that time. (My priority was not to get burned by sun myself).
Didn't have the chance to operate it in freezing conditions yet, but if I do I'll post an update.
Keeping in mind the price range, I still consider the B-2 ball head a good value for money, for a combination of operation smoothness, firm locking and quality of manufacture. However, if it also had an elliptical ball, then it would be perfect.

This article was based on the Benro B-2 ball head, but as almost all Benro B-series ball heads are identical in design (with the exception of B-00) differing only in the knob positioning, the above tips may be applied to all the B-Series ball heads.

I hope you found the article useful, thank you for viewing.
All Photos: © 2010-2011 S.C.Vlachos

The Benro B-2 Ball Head is available from Amazon, as well as from eBay.

Referenced Articles:

Benro B-2 Ball Head Review

Benro B-2 Ball Head Torque Test

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