December 3, 2012

Sunwayfoto DYH-90 Leveling Base Review

Sunwayfoto DYH-90 Leveling Base + DDY-64iL QR clamp combo overview
The Sunwayfoto Leveling Base line is currently comprised by three models.
Sunwayfoto DYH-66i reviewed last month (Nov 2012) is the entry level model, while the DYH-90 stands in the middle and the DYH-120TRO heavy weight tops the line.
Model DYH-90 forms its own series within the line by offering four different variations with added functionality.
Here we shall have a deeper look in the basic model, the plain DYH-90 which represents the base where all variations are built upon.

At the moment this article serves as a Reference Page in order to maintain a proper internal link structure of the site. Some parts are still under preparation.

Leveling bases in general follow two design schools. The first and older design school uses a large half ball which operates withing a bowl installed on the apex of a tripod, while it is adjusted and tightened/locked by a large handle extending below the bowl, between the tripod legs. Gitzo®, Manfrotto®, Feisol and most of the video head manufacturers follow this design school with very fine products.
The big advantage of the leveling bases of the first design school is that the large handle below the leveling base proves very helpful when level adjusting heavy equipment. While their disadvantage is that they require a special tripod to be installed.
A second design school uses a half ball as well, with the difference that it operates within its own bowl which also serves as a mounting base. Tightening/locking of the half ball is done by side caliper/constrictor.
On the other hand the leveling bases of the second design can be installed on any tripod with a top mounting plate large enough to accept them. Nothing extends below, so the big advantage here is that the tripod may go down to ground level.
All Sunwayfoto DYH series leveling bases belong to this second category.

The Package & Contents
The DYH-90 Leveling Base I received for evaluation, was actually a combo with the new Sunwayfoto DDY-64iL Discal Quick Release Clamp which is also reviewed separately. This combo offers quite some saving if the clamp is also needed.

Sunwayfoto DYH-90+DDY-64iL combo box
The Leveling Base comes in a recycled-carton box as all Sunwayfoto products released after a point in 2012; shrink wrapped which ensures that the product has not been opened after it left the factory. A large white label on the side shows the content photo, model and main specification; while a smaller white label exists in the front together with an oval-shaped transparent label that bears the Quality Control stamp.
Sunwayfoto DYH-90+DDY-64iL combo box contents
The DYH-90 Leveling Base (here combined with DDY-64iL QR clamp) travels in the box within a thick foam padding, with all the accompanying documents and accessories in separate zip-lock nylon bags.
Sunwayfoto DYH-90 warranty & customer cards
A credit card sized warranty Card for the DYH-90 leveling base stating Model and Serial Number and a "Customer Information Card" for use together with the Warranty card in case of applying for a warranty claim.
As I always point out for Sunwayfoto gear, keep in mind that Sunwayfoto offers a 5 year limited warranty extension, for certain products upon registration in their website, within one month from the date of purchase.
Sunwayfoto DYH-90 accessories
A good quality microfiber Sunwayfoto Cleaning Cloth together with an Allen hex wrench and an 1/4"-20 ~ 3/8"16 top mounting conversion bushing (not shown in the picture) are also found in the box.
Sunwayfoto operating instructons & cleaning cloth
There is an "Operating Instructions" fan-fold leaflet (sitting on top of the Sunwayfoto Cleaning Clothe above). However, the operating instructions are addressed to older DYH-120 and DYH-66 leveling base models but since the operating principle is exactly the same what differs are only the schematic diagrams. Further the instructions are basic but adequate to set up and maintain the leveling base.
Nevertheless, I was informed that Sunwayfoto is in the process of printing and electronically publishing new operating instruction leaflets for all their new products, more descriptive and detailed. 

The Leveling Base
Manufacturer Specification:
Platform Diameter:90 mm
Base Diameter76 mm
Height::50 mm
Bottom mounting thread: 3/8"-16 UNC
Top mounting stud:1/4"-20 UNC
Weight:455 gr*
Max Load capacity:>30 kg (66 lbs)

*Verified weight on electronic scales: 524 gr stand alone,
625 gr w/ DDY-64iL and 647 gr w/ DLC-60L mounted.

Taking into account the dimensions and load capacity of the DYH-90 leveling base, I consider it most suitable for tripods without a center column and with a large top mounting plate. Such as Gitzo® Systematic 2, 3, 4 series, Feisol Elite series or Benro combination tripods to name a few.
This leveling base will prove equally suitable for use with a large Gimbal head, a 2-way Video Pan-head as well as with medium-format 6 X 6, 6 X 7 or large format 8 X 10 cameras.

Sunwayfoto DYH-90 - DDY-64iL QR clamp removal
As fore mentioned DYH-90 came fully equipped with the DDP-64iL Discal QR clamp. The usual Sunwayfoto sturdy structure with a very fine and high quality CNC machining and finishing. All aluminum parts are hard coat anodized in a satin black color with only accents of the stainless-steel stud, screws and base lock-knob shaft.
The discal clamp is attached by two 1/4"-20 hex-socket flat-head screws on its sides. Most prevailing characteristics are the quite large Lever Lock-knob protruding from the side of the base and the also large removable bubble level, which is attached on the perimeter of the top mounting platform. On the leveling base front side there is the laser engraving of the Sunwayfoto logo and the model name in white.
Sunwayfoto DYH-90 w/ DDY-64iL QR clamp + screws & hex key
For a thorough check and testing the base was stripped down into individual components and their small parts. DYH-90 Leveling Base with top reducer bushing and bottom reducer busing (not shown); DDY-64iL Discal QR Clamp with its two short hex-socket flat-head screws and the appropriate 4mm Allen hex key.
Sunwayfoto DYH-90 lever lock-knob positioning
The half-ball is controlled via a large off-center Lever Lock-Knob extending out from the side of the mounting base. The Lever knob is all metal, spring-loaded, capping a stainless-steel shaft that actually controls the Leveling Base locking mechanism. If in any case the rotation of the Lever lock-knob is blocked or it interferes with other equipment stopping its travel (upper left photo above) it may be easily pulled out until the internal hex nut is revealed (larger right photo above) and relocated in one of the 12 possible positions that proves more convenient (lower left photo above).
Sunwayfoto DYH-90 lever lock-knob travel range
The large Lever lock-knob needs only half a turn from the "loose" to the "tightly locked" position.
Sunwayfoto DYH-90 tilted right
The verified* ability of DYH-66i to tilt +16° or ...
Sunwayfoto DYH-90 tilted left
... -16° degrees, permits leveling of a tripod head in almost any terrain whichever the tripod leg angles may be.
While, on the other hand gives a clear advantage to the DYH-90 over the competition.

*Tilting to 16° was verified with an electronic inclinometer.

Improvements over the previous version

Sunwayfoto DYH-90 original leveling base
Original DYH-90 Leveling Base. Photo by courtesy of
There are obvious and not so obvious differences between the current DYH-90 and the original DYH-90 pictured on the left.
The 3/8"-16 top mounting stud has been exchanged with an 1/4"-20 one for compatibility with more equipment, since it is easier to enlarge via a conversion bushing but not so easy to reduce.
The top platform now sports two pairs of threaded mounting holes in two distances between the holes, enabling the mounting of a selection of quick release clamps.
Finally, the Lever lock-knob has been enlarged. Its longer grip permits the application of greater force to the half-ball immobilization mechanism, thus enhancing the base's load bearing capacity with less effort from the user.
On the other hand the less obvious changes or better invisible but felt, are the improvements in the weight and the internal lubrication which lead in better yet far smoother handling of the leveling base.

Sunwayfoto DYH-90B and DYH-80A w/ integral lever clamp
Intermediate versions of Sunwayfoto DYH-90B and DYH-80A equipped with integral DLC-60 lever clamps.
Photo by courtesy of

Comparison with the Competition
The table below shows a comparison of Sunwayfoto DYH-90 leveling base with leveling bases of similar characteristics and price range coming from well known brands.

Manufacturer: SunwayfotoSunwayfotoAcratechManfrottoRRS
Platform ∅:90 mm /2.60"90 mm /2.60"74 mm /2.90"-- mm73 mm /2.9"
Base ∅:76 mm /2.37"60 mm /2.37"60 mm /2.37"-- mm73 mm /2.9"
Height:50 mm /1.97"60 mm /2.36"46 mm /1.80"50 mm /1.97"68 mm /2.7"
Bottom thread:3/8"-16* 3/8"-16* 1/4"-20 3/8"-16 3/8"-16 
Top stud:1/4"-20* 1/4"-20*1/4"-20 / 3/8"-163/8"-16 3/8"-16
Weight:524 gr / 1.15 lb 642 gr /1.41 oz295 gr /10.4 oz650 gr /22.9oz338 gr /11.6 oz
Max Load :30.0kg / 66 lbs30.0kg / 66 lbs11.4 kg / 25 lbs15.0 kg / 33 lbs16.0 kg / 35 lbs

*Convertible via 1/4"-20 to 3/8"-16 bushing

Mounting on a Tripod

Sunwayfoto DYH-90 bottom view w/ bushing installed
The bottom view, shows the sturdy structure of the base with concentric grooves, the "Made in China" logo and the Leveling Base serial number which reside in one of the concentric grooves.
DYH-90 comes preinstalled with a base mount 1/4"-20 ~ 3/8"-16 thread conversion bushing in the base 3/8"-16 mounting hole. In this way it may be mounted either on tripods equipped with an 1/4"-20 top mounting stud ...
... or by removing the bushing, on the top platform of tripods equipped with a 3/8"-16 mounting stud.

Combined with DDY-64iL Discal QR Clamp
The Sunwayfoto DDY-64iL Discal Quick Release Clamp (L denotes the long shaft knob) was especially designed to offer a partner to the updated Sunwayfoto DYH-90 and DYH-90R Leveling Bases. Due to the 90 mm large top plate of these Leveling Bases no other clamp but one with a long shaft knob would be able to be controlled unobtrusively.

Sunwayfoto DYH-90 w/ DDY-64iL QR clamp + screws & hex key
Due to the high load bearing capacity of the DYH-90 Leveling Base, DDY-64iL should be mounted on the top platform of the Base via the two included 1/4"-20 short flat-head screws and tightened by the 4 mm Allen hex key.
Sunwayfoto DYH-90 w/ DDY-64iL QR clamp installed
DDY-64iL screwed and secured on DYH-90. As fore mentioned DDY-64iL's long shaft knob may help in the leveling base adjustment during the leveling process.
DYH-90 may be purchased as a combo with DDY-64iL preinstalled at the factory.

Combined with DLC-60L Duo Lever/Knob QR Clamp
Same story goes for the Sunwayfoto DLC-60L Duo Lever / Knob Quick Release Clamp (L denotes the long shaft knob) which owes its existence for the same purpose but addressing a different user group. DLC-60L being equipped with both a Lever Release and a screw knob is most appropriate for fast action with frequent interchange of equipment on top of the leveling base.

Sunwayfoto DYH-90 w/ DLC-60L Duo QR clamp + screws & hex key
Once again the high load bearing capacity of the DYH-90 Leveling Base, requires that the DLC-60L be mounted on its top platform via the two included 1/4"-20 hex-socket bolt screws.
Sunwayfoto DYH-90 - DLC-60L Duo QR clamp installation
Then thoroughly tightened with the little larger in this case 5 mm Allen hex key which comes with the clamp.
Sunwayfoto DYH-90 - DLC-60L Duo QR lever release open
DLC-60L screwed and secured on DYH-90 Leveling Base. DLC-60L's long shaft knob may be utilized in the leveling base adjustment during the leveling process.
DYH-90 may be purchased as a combo with DLC-60L preinstalled at the factory.

Torque Test Results

Sunwayfoto DYH-90 ball diameter
The model name DYH-90, implies both the diameter of the top mounting platform but also the diameter of the half ball that bears all the weight undertaking the leveling task. Therefore, considering the ball diameter the declared maximum load of 30 kg by the manufacturer is very preservative.
Sunwayfoto DYH-90 bolted on workbench
The proof can come by measuring with some approximation the mass required to move this big 90 mm ball from inertia when fully locked. In this regard I decided to bolt the DYH-90R equipped with the DDY-64iL quick release clamp on a workbench, using a stainless steel 3/8"-16 bolt.
Sunwayfoto DYH-90 on workbench w/ elongated rail
Next thing was to level the base using its bubble level and tighten its lock knob as much as possible by hand. As a usual length rail was not enough a 10" rail and an 8" rail were bound together with another rail from below, creating a 18" long rail in order to measure the torque capacity of the leveling base.
Although I have made more precise devices to measure torque in the past, I decided that a simplified rough estimate is enough to give the reader an idea of what the leveling base is capable of.
Sunwayfoto DYH-90 under load
It was soon proven that my usual counter balance sand bag of 5 kg was not enough for this torque test as I would require a very long rail or pipe. Therefore, to compensate I had to add a second and heavier sand bag of 7 kg. Where after some experimentation the ~12.5 kg weight of the two combined bags + rails + carabiners etc. could remain hanging safely at a distance of 40 cm from the center of the quick release clamp, taken also as the pivoting axis of the leveling base.
The stress on the rails by the torque generated by this weight is evident from their bending shown above. But nonetheless, such a result means that the leveling base can withstand a torque of ~500 kgF*cm (~ 4905 N*cm). By deduction this could mean a load of ~41.6 kg with its center of gravity at a distance of 12 cm (4.7") from the pivot center (Gitzo method) or even more than 100 kg on top of the leveling base.
Based on the forementioned stress results, quite favorable conclusions can also be drawn for the capacity of the top platform rotator but also for the quick release clamp jaws!

Mounting Heavy Gear Directly
As mentioned in the beginning a leveling base of this size and load capacity will prove equally suitable for use with a large Gimbal head, a 2-way Video Pan-head as well as with medium-format 6 X 6, 6 X 7 or large format 8 X 10 cameras.

Sunwayfoto DYH-90 top stud & conversion bushing
The DYH-90 Leveling base comes with an 1/4"-20 ~ 3/8"-16 conversion bushing pre-installed on its top mounting stud, when purchased alone or in-the-box when purchased as a bundle with DDY-64iL or DLC-60L Duo QR clamp.
Sunwayfoto DYH-90 w/ conversion bushing installed
In this way any gear with either an 1/4"-20 or 3/8"-16 mounting socket can be mounted directly on the large top platform of the leveling base.

Using the Leveling Base

Usage examples and illustrations are under preparation.

Innovative and original design ideal for low level shooting.
Exceptional machining, finishing, fitting and build quality.
30kg load bearing capacity, outperforming competition.
Compact size and low weight for its class.
Great stability and vibration absorption.
Very smooth ball operation at all angles.
Very Good value for money ratio.
5 year limited warranty extension upon registration.

A little excessive lubrication that may smear your hands and consequently anything you touch carelessly.
Not suggested for low weight gear.

Although pending some usability tests with really heavy equipment, I may come to some sound conclusions.
This is a strongly built Leveling Base for heavy loads. It can cope with offset mounted heavy gear without effort, locking almost anything within its angle range. However, with heavy loads is where this leveling base has its best and smoothest performance.
Users of lightweight gear may find it stiff to operate despite the lubrication and improved smoothness over the previous models. Therefore, this is more a professional product and considering its weight lifting abilities after the unparalleled Torque Test Results I would Highly Recommend for heavy duty and heavy weight gear.
Nevertheless, its actually a matter of correct research and choice before buying, as there is always the smaller DYH-66i Leveling Base in Sunwayfoto's line for lighter weight gear users.

Note :
The updated DYH-90 Leveling Base presented in this article was kindly offered by Desmond Photographic Distribution, USA, for evaluation and review.

This review and test was run on a single product sample, based on the specifically described methods. Although the findings are good 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 the article and ideas useful, thank you for viewing.
All Photos & Photosynths: © 2012-2015 S.C.Vlachos

Price & Availability:
Current price for the DYH-90 Leveling Base is US$ 169.00, for DYH-90+DDY-64iL is US$ 209.00 and for DYH-90+DLC-60L is US$ 229.00 all models are available from

Update May 2017
Current prices and availability of the Sunwayfoto DYH-90i Series of Leveling Bases are greatly reduced. They are still available from Amazon and from eBay worldwide.

If you are interested in the above product(s) or any other product please consider using the relevant link(s) to make your purchase and help support this site. Your support is needed and greatly appreciated.

Referenced Articles:
A Quality Lens Cleaning Cloth by Sunwayfoto
New Sunwayfoto DYH-90A/B Leveling Base with Removable Duo Clamp
Sunwayfoto DDY-64iL Discal Quick Release Clamp Review
Sunwayfoto DLC-60L Duo Lever / Knob Quick Release Clamp Review

Relevant Articles:
Sunwayfoto DYH-90R Leveling Base Review
Sunwayfoto DYH-66i Leveling Base Review

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