However, beside the above basic requirements, experience and personal preferences had set forth some extra prerequisites for a true Traveler ball head.
a. Maximum weight should not exceed 400gr,
b. Elliptical or ellipsoidal -as more appropriate- ball design,
c. One main locking knob with friction control for simplicity and easy handling,
d. Dual axis progressive locking mechanism, for smoothness of operation,
e. The maximum possible ball diameter for the size of the ball head, with short ball stem for better stability,
f. Arca Swiss® compatible quick release clamp with relief grooves for M3 stop screws.
g. Compatibility with Arca type rails from different manufacturers and last but not least
h. keep the budget at reasonable level without having to spend a fortune.
There are quite many choices between well known manufacturers like RRS, Gitzo, Markins, PhotoClam, Benro to name a few, producing Traveler Ball Heads close or within the above set specs, with prices ranging from USD 100 to more than 400.
After a little research I came up to the ball head that seemed to match all the criteria I had in mind, produced by a relatively new contender in the photographic support equipment market, who by declaration aims to the high end segment.
SUNWAYFOTO® is a photographic equipment company founded in Shenzhen China in 2008, specializing in camera support systems with a quite large assortment of tripod ball heads, panoramic heads, multipurpose rails, L - plates, etc, with innovative designs and continuous improvements according to photographers' opinion, while maintaining reasonable prices.
Sunwayfoto produces a traveler version of their DB-36 ball head in two variations. The DB-36TR with a screw knob Arca Swiss® compatible quick release clamp and the
As the one with the Lever Release is more compact, I decided on that and proceeded in ordering one for a hands on test.
The Ball Head
|Ball Diameter :||36 mm|
|Base Diameter :||45 mm|
|Net Weight:||380 gr|
|Max Load:||18 kg|
|Sunwayfoto DB-36TRLR Traveler Ball Head box with sleeve.|
|The DB-36TRLR ball head travels in the box within thick foam padding together with ...|
|A credit card sized warranty Card stating Model and Serial Number...|
|A fan-fold with Operating Instructions covering all Sunwayfoto ball head models...|
The verified weight of the DB-36TRLR ball head on electronic scales is 360gr, just a little better than the 380gr stated by the manufacturer.
According to Sunwayfoto their ballhead balls are ellipsoidal but closer to spherical form than balls made by other manufacturers. At present, on most ellipsoidal ballheads in the market, the Y-axis diameter of the ball is about 0.07mm longer than the X-axis, in order to compensate for the extra torque generated when the ball is tilted to the side, by increasing the friction and thus avoid the risk of drift or drag.
On Sunwayfoto ballheads the ball Y-axis diameter is 0.03mm longer than the X-axis, leading to a smoother operation, while retaining the previous advantage.
However, Sunwayfoto claims that based on many shell-destructive tests, has strengthened the ball head shell and can fully ensure the shell durability.
There are two discriminating points between the DB-36TR (TR for traveler) and the DB-36 standard version. One is the positioning of the Main Lock Knob at 90 degrees to the Panning Base Knob, and the other is the Panning Base diameter which has been decreased down to 45mm from 54mm.
Both alterations were made in order to avoid the interference with traveler tripod legs when folded back 180 degrees.
The Lever Release clamp
Update Oct 2013: The current version of DB-36TRLD ball head features the more advanced Sunwayfoto DLC-42 Duo Lever/Knob Quick Release Clamp which does not present any issues.
|On the outer non-moving jaw exists a small but convenient bull's eye bubble level which can be removed if desired since it is held in place by two M3 screws.|
Mounting on a traveler tripod
As I have mentioned in the Triopo GT-3228X8C Traveler Tripod Review, I decided to enhance some of the tripod's strong points like stability and lack of vibration with a high end-ish ball head. So all reference for now will be for that specific tripod/ball head combination.
By fully tightening the panning base lock knob first, the ball head can be easily screwed on the 3/8"-16 tripod stud and securely tightened on the top plate.
|The Sunwayfoto DB-36TRLR 's small foot print fits perfectly between the Triopo's 180 degree folding legs. The ball head weighs only 360gr adding very little to the total transportable weight.|
|The tripod legs fold fully and perfectly between the ball head knobs ...|
|... while the quick lever release clamp has to be tilted a bit...|
|...so as to fit in the remaining space between the legs.|
|The outcome of the Triopo GT-3228X8C + Sunwayfoto DB-36TRLR combination has proved a very stable and functional traveler solution.|
Using the Ball head
After having used the ball head for a few months now, I'm in a position to comment on some of the excellent and other not so excellent characteristics of this ball head.
First I can say that the hard coat anodizing on the ball head shell is excellent, it is non reflective, does not show hand / finger prints and is scratch proof, since I mount and dismount it quite often on the metal tripod top plate without any rubber flange in between, and without any signs of wear on the base up to now.
Excellent machining, finishing, fitting and build quality.
Very gradual ball friction control that permits fine tuning.
Very smooth operation in all aspects.
Excellent value for money ratio.
5 year limited warranty extension upon registration.
Faintly visible scale on the Main Lock Knob ring.
Keeping track of Sunwayfoto product evolution in the past 1-2 years, I see a company that listens to photographers needs and continuously modifies and improves their line and their quality.
As a bottom line I would fulheartedly recommend the DB-36TR ball head for its smoothness of operation but either the version equipped with the screw knob quick release DDC-42 clamp or the DB-36TRLD version equipped with the newer and improved Sunwayfoto DLC-42 Duo Lever/Knob Quick Release Clamp clamp which features a combination of screw knob + lever release .
Still, if you don't use rails or plates from different manufacturers and don't like to play with thumb wheels, then DB-36TRLR is an excellent value for money. (Update Oct 2013: DB-36TRLR is discontinued).
This review and test was run on a single product sample, using the specifically described methods. Although the findings are good and 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: © 2011-2012 S.C.Vlachos
DB-36TR, DB-36TRLR, DB-36TRDL ball heads are discontinued!
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Sunwayfoto DLC-42 Duo Lever/Knob Quick Release Clamp Review
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