I have owned the Really Right Stuff BH-55 for about six months now so I think it might be helpful for anyone looking to purchase a new ballhead if I write a short review. The bottom line, if you prefer not to read any further, is that you should stop what you are doing and buy it. I will even give you the direct link: http://bit.ly/RRS-BH-55
I had a pretty good ballhead that came with my Vanguard tripod, but it was not arca-swiss. I’m not sure why anyone makes mounts that aren’t arca-swiss anymore (I’m looking at you, Manfrotto). Just about every L-bracket and universal mounting plate is arca-swiss. Anyway, I ended up having to purchase a part to convert my Vanguard ballhead to arca-swiss. When I did this the screw did not get tight enough and it would always come loose after a few days so my camera would start turning slightly when I had it on the tripod. Not good.
On my next trip I decided to take a small, lightweight ballhead to cut down on weight in my bag. This ended up being even worse, as the ballhead could not handle the weight of my camera. It would tip over as I tried to take photos. Again, not good.
So, when I went home for a short time last year, I decided to say fuck-it and follow my new rule of only buying the best quality items. I went to the Really Right Stuff website and purchased the best ballhead they sell, the BH-55 with a panorama mounting plate for a cool $640. It’s a ton of money, but it is one of the best buying decisions I have ever made.
The RRS BH-55 is heavy. It definitely did not help to cut down on the weight in my bag. But when you hold all five pounds of it in your hand you can immediately tell that it is sturdy. You could throw it through a window and off a cliff and still get stable shots when you put it back on your tripod.
The BH-55 is huge, with a large base that fits perfectly on all of the best tripods, like the Gitzo GT5543LSUS. This means you will be taking advantage of every bit of stability your tripod has to offer. Also, the version with the pano head that I got is great. Once you level the ballhead horizontally and vertically you will be able to take perfect pano shots just by turning the mounting plate, which is also labeled with a guide.
Last but not least, the knobs are amazing. The BH-55 looks like a Little Tikes My First Ballhead due to the massive silver knob that loosens the swivel ball. However, this turns out to be incredibly convenient and easy to find and turn while your eye is in the viewfinder, even if it is minus twenty degrees out.
And definitely get the quick release latch. This is a signature of Really Right Stuff and well worth the slightly higher price. I’ve never had a ballhead that allows me to attach and detach my camera so quickly and still maintain full security.
Overall, the BH-55 with the quick-release latch and panorama head is the best ballhead on the market today. If you spend the large sum of cash on this ballhead you won’t even consider purchasing another for fifteen or more years. This beast will last you basically forever and will always do its job well. Really Right Stuff is one of the best companies out there for camera accessories and this ballhead is no exception.