Andoer Pro Ballhead
25€ on a ball head, is it good or not? Lets find out…
Over the last weekend I was out taking photos and noticed a crack on the clamp plate on my Benro IH2 head; which I didn’t think too much of as it still worked well and I could pick a new clamp up on Amazon for 20€ (I did, but that is a different pain in the bits, as the clamp was slightly out of tolerance on the lugs). Whilst I was on there, I saw the aforementioned ball head for less than 25€, and I needed another for doing something with that doesn’t require critical support, so it seemed pretty decently reviewed for the price.
First off, straight out the door, I’m a bit biased to cheap supports, I don’t trust them, so this ball head is on the back foot there.
When it arrived, the first thing I noticed was the weight of the thing; it seems to be a lot heavier than the Benro I’ve got it up against, and the second thing was how “dirty” the movement felt. Neither of these bits are too much of a problem for me, as the legs can support this, and the second can be resolved by five minutes stripping, cleaning, lubricating and then back together. At this price point, I’m not expecting super fluid out the box and some manufacturing dirt is to be expected.
This, second step passed me on to a third problem; the locking plate on top of the head would not come off… No matter what hex wrench I tried with the bolt would not move; I don’t know if it’s just this head or if it’s a manufacturing defect, but considering that the head costs less than a decent Arca-Swiss plate, is it really a great concern? I don’t think it is that much because the clamp head seems solid enough and if I wanted to swap the plate, I’d be looking at a different head to start with, not one that would cost less than a decent clamp head anyway!
One thing to note with the clamp head, compared to some other heads it does not have a double stage lock, it’s either tight or loose; so if coming off another clamp which has the pull safe on it then it’s something to bear in the back of the mind.
Right, now it’s lubricated and cleaned, what are we looking at?
It’s a ball head that fits on a 3/8″ thread, and has an Arca-Swiss receiver at the top; it’s a triple action head, so that means it has three knobs on it. One is to adjust the movement of the head, the second is to adjust the friction of the movement of the head, and the third is to adjust the panoramic spin of the head.
The big one is the locking pin, that opens and locks the ball; the other two are mounted at 90º from it (that’s the panoramic head adjuster) and the one that’s about 20º further around is the friction adjuster.
You’ll find that with these things, they generally aren’t marked and it’s assumed by the manufacturer (considering the lack of manual for ball heads) that the user will know what they are doing, but this with a lot of other triple action, a lot of reviews on Amazon and the like have folk complaining about the need to have two “locks” for the ball; that’s not the case though, one is just to vary how much movement the ball has before the main lock is fastened down. My main preference on the friction adjuster is about 1/4 turn counter clockwise from tight, this head here seems a bit scratchy when it’s set but the movement seems to have a nice bit of tension on it; this could change in time especially when it’s had a few months of use.
This brings me to another niggle with with something that gets me with a lot of triple action heads, and that’s the way that the panoramic adjuster is close to the friction adjuster; and if you are like me with gangly fingers, or with gloves, adjusting one or the other can be a bit of a nuisance.
Mounting it up on the tripod, no surprises, it mates directly up to the 3/8″ on the legs; but if you are planning on using this with a tripod or mount that only has a 1/4″ then buy a few thread adaptors (useful in a lot of situations).
When it is mounted, and the ball lock is tight, I can’t feel any slippage on it with a camera/lens combo of 3.5kg; and even trying to force it to slip makes is a good work out. For a small outdoor rig, maybe a Nikon D500 without grip, the 16-80 and a few filters on there it feels though it would hold up; with a mirrorless like my Fuji XE-2s and a lens on there, nothing untoward pops up at all. I have only managed to make it slip by placing a 200mm nodal rail on it, using that as a lever whilst pushing on the ball housing; and then that still took some effort to do. This is now, though, this head is new and hasn’t had much use; with wear on it, then it could slop around a little more, I’m not sure yet.
As a cheap head goes, it is going to get some use; I don’t think that it will have the long term survivability compared to something like my Benros or a Giotto but it’s a good chunk hardware, but it’s not a professional grade bit of hardware.
Fit and finish wise, it’s not powder coated, it feels like plasti-cote; not sure about the pano ring though, but at the price a spectacular blemish free finish is not to be expected; after time it there may be some cracks and dings form on the coating especially if slapping it around a bit. The knobs on the other hand feel substantial, with plenty of grip; probably not nice if you are wearing gloves, but for using bared hands, plenty to grip on to. There aren’t any creaks, groans or odd cracking noises, and on the clamp head there are two bubble levels, one for the vertical alignment and the other for horizontal, but one would be practically useless (like most in that position) when the camera is mounted on to the top.
In all, this head isn’t bad; it’s not spectacular compared to other heads, it’s functional and does what it was designed to do.
In use, it’s not a head that I’d expect to be able to comfortably mount a fully tooled up full frame Nikon like my D810, with grip and high-cap battery, and a long, constant lens like a 300mm; it’s not that type of head. However, for a lighter duty head, with a smaller camera and lens combination up to about 3.5kg then it’ll do the job quite easily.
In all, I’m quite surprised by it; sure it has a few niggles which need resolving out of the box, and not being able to (on my unit) remove the clamp plate easily enough is a bit of a pain but for something that costs less than 25€ I’m wasn’t expecting it to be as good as it is to be honest. It’s substantial, doesn’t have any really nasty surprises, has two bubble levels for adjustment, can swing a panorama without having the ball move and accepts Arca-Swiss.
My views may change on it after some time putting wear on it, but for a part that costs the same as a round of ale in my local then for a cheap and useable unit that is perhaps equal or better than the basic kit bundle heads, or for a part to use as a second mount on a lighter camera system it’s worth looking at.
EDIT : 22/05/2020
I managed to get the screw out of the ballhead and remove the top plate last night; from the conclusion of that, I don’t think the plate is designed to be removed as the screw was locked in with what seemed to be cyanoacrylate adhesive.
Still, though, replacing a plate on a <25€ part isn’t worth the hassle really, as how much would a plate be? The last cheap one I bought to hold something in place (not a camera) cost me 50% of the price of this ball head to start with.
EDIT : 10/11/2020
After using this a bit, I’m still not against it for the money, but have found some bits that may or not seem that good.
First : Don’t try and remove the plate, ever. After putting a long lens on it the other day, and then putting a bit of pressure on it, the plate came loose under the camera, and I had to drop in a load of superglue to get it back locked. But then it’s not for taking off in the first place!
Second : A sure fire way to tell if this head is getting close to it’s maximum supported load is how scratchy the panning becomes; when it gets to about six kilos on there it’ll start scratching badly and the movement will become jerky.
Third : It’s maximum load is about 6kg, I wouldn’t put any more on it and probably would say not to put more than about 5kg on it; which for most combos, if you had something that weighed over that, then you’d probably not be looking at a cheap ball head to put underneath. Only reason I got there was because I was stuck in doors with the weather and the restrictions in the area, and decided to see how much I could load the head with before it started to slip.