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Review: Sunwayfoto XB-52DL Duo-Lever Tripod Ball Head


Review: Sunwayfoto XB-52DL Duo-Lever Tripod Ball Head

Overview : The XB-52 Low Profile Ball Head from Sunwayfoto is the larger of two ball heads in the XB line of low profile ball heads from Sunwayfoto. It features a very low center of gravity, very high load capacity (132 lb) and improved ball head design for smoother movements when changing position. It includes the two-drop-notch design for camera orientation, and rubber has been abolished completely—all knobs are now all-metal on the XB-52.

XB-52DL with DLC-60 Lever / Screw Combo Clamp. The screw knob side is for adjusting the width of the clamp, and the lever side is for locking the clamp.

Features :
  • Locking System is located on the side of the ball instead of the bottom of the ballhead. Whole center of gravity is lowered more than 15%;
  • Adopts geared locking structure, higher locking strength;
  • Specially designed panning base, smooth operation;
  • Elliptical ball for progressive resistance and avoiding suddenly sliding down;
  • Two drop notch design. One for portrait, one for tilting;
  • All metal knobs for reliability and long term durability;
  • Two set spirit level mounting holes for users to mount the removable spirit level to the other sides of the clamp;
  • Special structure makes it the lightest of its class;
  • 360° panning movement with calibrated precision, precisely capture overlapping panoramic images;
  • Compatible with Really Right Stuff (RRS), Wimberley, Jobu Design, Arca Swiss, Kirk Enterprises, Markins, Photo Clam etc.;
  • Ideal for Gitzo, Manfrotto, Sirui, Benro, RRS tripod
Specification :
  • Ball Diameter: 52mm
  • Base: 68mm
  • Height: 91mm
  • Weight: 690g
  • Max load: 60kg (132 lbs)
  • Bottom thread: 3/8″ with 1/4″ adapter

Quality/Usability : My main ball head for quite sometime has been the Manfrotto 494 RC2 with Hejnar Photo Conversion Set. But as my gear got heavier, I wanted something that was better at handling that much load.

Sunwayfoto is based in Shenzhen, China and may not be a well known brand like Wimberely, Really Right Stuff, Kirk and other brands but its looking to grab a piece of the high-end ball head market. The Sunwayfoto XB-52 has been compared to Really Right Stuff BH-55. Unfortunately, I don't have a RRS BH-55 to do a comparison but what I do have is the XB-52DL and that's what I'll be reviewing.


The XB-52DL weighs around 1.5 pounds and measures a little over 3.5 inches tall and the DLC-60 clamp base is a little over 2.5 inches. No quick release plate is included but it will work with any Arca-Swiss compatible plate. A nice feature on the ball head is the way the Y-axis (front to back) bubble leveler is mounted. On the DL version, the leveler is inside the base of the clamp. With the XB-52, it is attached on the long side, opposite to the screw knob and fixed by two hex-screws. It can also be mounted to either of the short sides. It would be nice if it gave you a bubble leveler for the X-axis (left to right).


The quick release clamp can easily be detached by unscrewing the stainless steel M6 screw with the proper Allen hex key (not included) in the event that you want to swap out the clamp for another clamp.


The bottom of the ball head has a 3/8"-16 threaded hole for tripod attachment, with a 1/4"-20 to 3/8"-16 bushing that allows you to convert the thread for tripods with an 1/4"-20 stud. There are also two small Torx head screws visible, that hold a small cover of the ball control mechanism. Each ball head will have its own serial number as well for warranty purposes.


One of the things that got me interested in the XB-52DL is the friction ball head. It's rated to hold up to 132lbs. As I mentioned above, my main ball head has been my Manfrotto 494 RC2 but with heavy gear such as camera and a slider, the camera would begin to drag or slip now matter how tight I turned the knob. There are three separate controls on the ball head: main friction/lock, panning and friction limiter. All knobs (including those on the clamp) have a slip-proof surface. No rubber is used.

The main friction/lock (big) knob takes one and a half rotations from the completely loose to the fully locked position. The little silver "star" adjustment wheel within the main friction/lock knob is a friction limiter thumb screw. This allows you to set and control the friction for the main knob. Once you set the desired friction by tightening the thumb screw, the lock knob will not unscrew intentionally or accidentally beyond that point.

The panning (small) knob takes three full rotations from the completely loose to the full lock position. The panning is fluid and smooth.


A small laser engraved triangle, placed just beside the protruding hump at the back of the ball head body plays the role of the panning index mark. The panning base has laser engraved marks every 5 degrees and numbers every 30 degrees. This is great if you're doing time lapse or anything that needs precise degrees.


Another reason why I chose the XB-52DL over the XB-52 is the quick release clamp lever. I wanted something that allowed me to quickly disconnect my camera from the ball head but still offer security. The quick release clamp lever can be stopped in 3 positions: fully-closed, half-open, and fully-open.
  • Fully-closed: locks the camera securely in place onto the ball head.
  • Half-open: allows the camera/lens plate to slide within the clamp for positioning adjustment.
  • Fully-open: allows you to completely lift and remove the camera.

There's also a safety release switch built into the lever. In order to release your camera from the clamp, you must use your thumb to slide the safety switch. This will let you flip the lever from fully-closed (locked) to half-open, if you want to make adjustments and slide your camera or from half-open to fully-open which you can now take your camera off the ball head. You also have the option of using the quick release screw knob if you don't want to use the lever. It also provides more clamping force for that extra security and usually recommended for large telephoto lenses. What I usually do is use the lever lock to lock the camera in place and just tighten the screw knob just to make sure the clamp is securely tightened.


The XB series features two-drop-notch design for portrait orientation. In the pictures above, I used a Canon 5D Mark III with BG-E11 Grip and Canon 24-70mm f2.8L II. The Sunwayfoto XB-52DL had no problem holding the camera. I even tried it with a Canon 1D X and 70-200mm f2.8L II from my employer and it had no problems holding that much amount of weight.


There is a screw on the XB series ball heads just between the two drop notches. I don't know of any screw driver that can turn this and I'm sure it's for security purposes so it is best not to mess with this.

  

In a cold wintery day or an over-tightened thumb screw, it will be hard to turn the screw with your bare fingers. Sunwayfoto includes a metal friction tool ($3.97) in all XB series ball heads to help you adjust the screw. You can attach it to your keychain and it also serves as a dual purpose as you can also use it to tighten and loose screws. It will work with any ball head that follows the Arca Swiss style Friction/Lock Knob limiter. In a warm or indoor environment, I had no issue using my thumb.

Conclusion : Overall, the Sunwayfoto XB-52DL Duo-Lever Tripod Ball Head. XB-52DL brings nothing new to the high-end ball head market but combines proven features known from other popular ball heads. As the old saying goes, don't fix something that isn't broken.

Sunwayfoto also offers the XB-52 which does exactly the same thing as the XB-52DL but does not have the quick release lever feature and the XB-52DDH3 with a panning clamp.




Manufacturer: Sunwayfoto
Site: Buy from Amazon (XB-52) / Buy from B&H Photo (XB-52) / Buy from Amazon (XB-52DDH3)
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