Just over a year ago when we were getting ready for Photokina 2016 we received a large number of products from Manfrotto – one of them was the XPro Ballhead which has been around for a few years now. We have been using it ever since and that is the product that we are going to review today.
The XPro Ballhead is a kind of a mid-range ballhead. It comes in two flavors – RC2 base – which is what we have been using and an Arca Swiss style which is a bit more expensive.
The XPro Ballhead
Design and Build quality
Most of the head is made out of metal and feels pretty solid, although as we discovered the knobs (and possibly the security lock) are made out of plastic. We would really like those to be made out of metal but that will probably increase the price of the unit.
The head is about 12cm tall or 4.5 inches and weighs just over 500 grams or around 1.2 pounds.
It has a max load of 10kg or 22 pounds although with front-heavy lenses we would not dare push it anywhere close to this number. However, for most “normal” setups it should be perfectly fine.
The head has angle markings on the lower part which is nice for shooting panoramas and another helpful feature it has are dual bubble levels which is really nice and a bit uncommon at this price level.
The head also has 3 knobs. A pan lock with a half wing design, a larger ball lock also with a (semi) half wind design – both of these with a ratchet mechanism, as well as a smaller friction knob.
On the top of the head, you have a base plate that comes with a single RC2 plate (as we mentioned there is also an Arca Swiss version of this head which we didn’t test). We love RC2 – we feel it is THE best all-around quick release system in the industry – surely for stills but we find ways of using it for video as well – you can check out our video comparing RC2 to Arca Swiss here.
With the XPro Ballhead Manfrotto decided to change the original base design of the RC2 (Do keep in mind that the plate itself is the same and any RC2 plate will work fine with this head – we tried). What they have done is to create a different type of security lock. It seems to be made from plastic (we are not 100% sure) and to be honest we really prefer the original RC2 base security lock design which is easier to use with one hand and just feels more secure to us.
A new type of base lock
You can remove the base plate from the head and put the older RC2 base plate on, but you will lose the useful bubble levels so we would probably suggest against it.
In the field
We used the XPro Ballhead on countless shoots over the past year or so on both tripods, monopods and even a slider or two and it always worked great.
You really do need to be careful not to drop it with those plastic knobs but other than that it is super easy to operate and basically fun to use compared to many other ballhead designs that we tried.
We especially liked the small friction knob. Some might think that there is nothing special about it, but sadly most ballhead manufacturers go with the much more common and far more annoying, internal screw type friction control, which we simply hate.
All you need to do here is easily turn the friction knob which moves in clicks and you get more or less friction – much more convenient than trying to turn a tiny screw with your nail every time you want to change the friction on the ball. If it was up to us we would add numbers to the knob – just so that you can always go back to your setting.
RC2 top base
Despite not having any fancy high-end bells and whistles, we keep finding ourselves getting back to X-Pro ballhead. When you need a quick and simple way to stabilize your camera and have good control over it, the X-Pro does the job.
The knobs design is not complex but it works – we especially like the friction control – this is almost the exact design that we would like to see on every ballhead and for whatever reason almost no other manufacturer uses.
The X-Pro ballhead – like almost any other product that we test here, also has some drawbacks. As we have mentioned, the knobs are made of plastic, and although they are user replaceable we do recommend caution when using the head (i.e. don’t drop it). A fully metal version of this head with the same design – even for an increased price, could be a good idea for Manfrotto.
We also prefer the original RC2 base design as we have mentioned – we find it more intuitive to use and more robust than the new one and we prefer the tiny security lock of the original base over this new push down leaver lock.
Dual bubble level design
Minor drawbacks aside, for $150 the Manfrotto XPro Ballhead is a fantastic head and in some respects we find it to be significantly better than much more expensive heads – especially when it comes to the simplicity of operation and particularly for controlling the friction level which we find to be a sore spot for a lot of ballheads, including high-end ones.
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