As much as I love good travel tripods, sometimes they’re just too lightweight and just don’t cut it. There are situations where you there’s no escaping the need for a rock solid support that will work with a heavy rig or stay absolutely still even in breezy conditions. And that means ramping up the size and weight of the legs and tripod head.
The Oben BC-166 ballhead is another heavy-duty option in a similar vein. It’s a similar size and works in very much the same way, but it also has almost double the load capacity (66.1 lbs / 30 kg). B&H Photo sent me one to try out. I’ve been pairing it with Induro AT413 and Oben CT-2391 heavy-duty legs.
This is definitely not a small ballhead. It’s the strongest and largest in Oben’s range, and at nearly 2 lbs just by itself, it’s far too heavy and bulky to be considered a practical travel tripod in most circumstances. And it doesn’t make sense in most cases to use it with a small camera. As you can see, it’s almost as big as an entry-level DSLR. I’ve been using it with a Nikon D810 with a battery grip and a large 150-600mm telephoto zoom lensAnd for those kinds of uses it’s been working very well indeed.
This is a very much a traditional ballhead. It doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel in the way something like the Arca Swiss p0 does. It just tries to be a solid, reliable wheel. And at that, it succeeds, and it does it without any fuss.
On the bottom is a standard panoramic base that rotates around 360°. It’s locked with a small knob just above it. The base diameter is 2.7 inches, which is larger than the neck attachment point of some smaller tripods.
The main locking mechanism on the ball is controlled with a large knob on the side. It’s large enough and grippy enough to be used with cold fingers. While it’s certainly possible to find ballheads with smoother ball movement, the movement on this one is plenty smooth enough for the purpose, especially since you’re likely to be using it with quite some weight on it.
Integrated into the main knob is a tension control that can be tightened or loosened easily with your thumb or a coin. This is especially useful when using cameras of different weights. For a heavy rig you can tighten it so that it doesn’t move too freely and make it hard to position precisely. And vice versa if you need a more freewheeling approach for a lighter camera.
At the top is an Arca-style quick release clamp that’s locked and unlocked with a knob on the side. If you’re shooting vertically, there’s a bubble level on the end of the knob.
It comes with a medium-sized Arca-style quick release plate (model QR-40). That extra length, matched by the extra length of the clamp, adds extra stability. And there’s a bubble level on the side for leveling when you’re shooting in landscape orientation.
Quick Release Type: Arca Style (comes with quick release plate)
Maximum Load: 66.1 lb / 30 kg
Base Diameter: 2.7 in / 6.8 cm
Height: 4.7 in / 11.9 cm
Weight: 1.9 lb / 0.86 kg
What’s in the Box?
- BC-166 Ballhead
- QR-40 Arca-style Quick Release Plate
- 3/8″-16 to 1/4″-20 Reducer Bushing (thread adapter)
- hex key
The Oben BC-166 doesn’t try to do fancy. It aims for no-fuss, rock-solid support and easy adjustment. And it succeeds well.
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