Back in the early 90’s I was in the Florida Everglades when I came across another photographer using a 600mm lens on a really strange looking tripod head. He told me that it was a prototype head that he was field testing and asked me if I would like to try it for myself. He went on to say that it had been jointly designed and manufactured by two keen wildlife photographers, brothers Clay and David Wimberley, who owned a small engineering workshop in Virginia, USA. That was my first introduction to the very first Gimball Head that subsequently became known universally as the “Wimberley”. It went on to become a world-wide best seller, not by any slick form of advertising, by the best form of advertising – Word of Mouth.
Talk about being in the right place at the right time! Not surprisingly, on getting back to my hotel, I immediately rang the Wimberley’s and had one sent down overnight. It is almost certain that I was the first wildlife photographer to use one in the UK and I continued to use it in one form or other for the next twenty or so years.
Then fate intervened again a few years ago when I was sent a new ball head called the Uniqball to test and review and very soon my gimbal head was redundant and quickly sold. There is no doubt in my mind that, like the Wimberley all those years ago the Uniqball is a revolutionary invention that will be dominating the tripod head market before very long.
It actually looks pretty fantastic in its red and black livery but this is not about appearance, it’s what it can do and how it does it. In one quick simple move, it can be transformed from a ball head into a pan and tilt head. Very much like the gimbal head, movement of the camera and lens, regardless of weight, is silky smooth resembling that of a fluid head and is perfect for recording video.
Regardless of the unevenness of the terrain you can set up the Uniqball in an instant so that the horizon, water or buildings are always perfectly level. This is a brilliant feature when you are panning with a bird in flight or a running animal. You stay smooth and level at all times.
Difficult to fully explain here but it is because it is actually a combination of two balls, with one set inside the other. The outer or largest one functions like a conventional ball head and incorporates a really useful precision bubble level The smaller ball sitting inside is where the Uniqball is so revolutionary and clever because it restricts movement to just two axis – pan and tilt with the facility to be locked completely. This astounding feature prevents the camera and lens from tilting over sideways, commonly known as “Ballhead Flop”! Simply put if its correctly set up, regardless of size and weight, a telephoto lens just cannot flop sideways on a Uniqball. This is quite amazing when you see it for the first time.
So am I saying this means you should all go out and sell your gimbal heads and ballheads? No, absolutely not but I and many others have once they have had the chance of handling a Uniqball. Five of the participants on my most recent Florida tour used Uniqballs and all had no regrets whatsoever.
When you are using a gimbal head and you want to use wide angle or short zoom you have to change heads and most people will use a standard ball and socket head or a pan and tilt head. So you have to carry two heads, your gimbal head and whatever your second choice is.
The quickest and most efficient way to switch heads is to use a tripod like a Gitzo that enables you to the change the head plate. So now you have to use two plates. Now you are carrying a gimbal head, let’s say a ballhead and the two interchangeable tripod plates. Now try weighing them all.
Using the Uniqball you have one head and one plate. Now weigh them and it’s no contest! In fact the Uniqball plus the camera plate will weigh less than your gimbal head on its own. You will be surprised!
Possibly a greater consideration is when travelling abroad with ever increasing weight restrictions being imposed on us at the airports.
There are just two sizes of Uniqball, the small UBH35X and large UBH45X. The manufacturers recommend the smaller one for lenses up to 300 mm, Anything longer (and heavier) requires the larger size.
I recommend that you buy the larger one for this simple fact. If you opt to buy the small one, what happens when you decide you want a longer telephoto lens? You will need to buy the bigger model! However if you buy the large one in the first instance then that will take any lens you currently own plus anything you might buy in the future.
Currently I am selling the Large Model for £395 and if you purchase one during the months of January and February you will also receive a voucher worth £75.
This voucher is only redeemable when used against a 1-1 Bird Photography Workshop at Arundel WWT and only during these two months.
The normal cost of these workshops is £150 and they do include specific tuition on setting up and using the Uniqball.
To order this UniqueBall, email George via my "Contact George" form .