I’ve recently begun reviewing some standalone ballheads to go along with reviews of travel tripods.
For this latest one, I’m focusing on the Oben BE-117 Dual Action ballhead.
The “Dual Action” bit is just marketing enthusiasm. All it means is that there’s both a ballhead and a panning base, so there are two knobs on the main base and there are two different ways to move it around. In that, it’s hardly unique–just about any other modern ballhead out there also has this.
Overall, this is a pretty traditional ballhead. It doesn’t have much in the way of bells and whistles but is designed and priced as a capable and cost-effective option.
Here’s a rundown of the main features it does and doesn’t have.
It has a maximum load capacity of 17.6 lbs, or 8 kg. That’s basically a lab-tested limit, and in practice other factors come into play, like the load capacity of the legs and where the center of gravity is with the camera and lens when they’re mounted. But 17.7 lbs is plenty in many circumstances for even a DSLR with a small to medium lens attached. A Nikon D810 with a 50mm f/1.4G lens attached, for example, comes in around 2.2 lbs.
It comes with an Arca-style quick release system (and includes a plate). A locking knob on the side clamps down on the QR plate, and there are two two safety screws on the bottom of the plate that help stop the plate from sliding out either end.
There are two bubble levels. One is in a pretty standard place on the side of the QR clamp dock. The other, more unusually, is on the end of the locking knob and is designed for use when the camera is vertical (although you’ll still need to make sure the QR plate is exactly flush with the camera when attached).
The main ball is a 32 mm aluminum ball. They don’t claim any fancy technology to create extra smoothness like some other ballheads–it’s just a stock-standard ballhead.
The body is a simple cylinder with a 1.9 in / 4.8 cm base.
It has 360° panning around its base, with a separate locking knob. It’s pretty simple–it just lets you rotate around the base.
It doesn’t have any. That’s pretty typical with basic ballheads. Tension control comes in handy for controlling the level of resistance when adjusting the aim. With just one knob, as this ballhead has, you get some control over that but it isn’t as fine-tuned as it could be with a separate tension control feature. That matters most with heavier camera/lens combinations where it can feel a bit like it’s either locked or not, with not much in between. With lighter camera/lens combinations it’s much less of an issue.
What’s in the Box
There’s the main ballhead unit as well as a quick release plate, an allen key that let’s you remove the QR dock, and a 1/4-20 to 3/8-16 thread adapter.
In the copy I got, there’s some grease leaking from the main locking knob. That, in itself, is easily wiped away, but it suggests a vulnerability to dust and grime getting stuck.
Quick Release Type: Arca-type
Base diameter: 1.9 in / 4.8 cm
Height: 3.7 in / 9.3 cm
Weight: 0.85 lb / 380 g
Maximum Load Capacity: 17.6 lb / 8.0 kg
Ball Sphere Diameter: 32 mm
Bubble Level: 2 x bull’s eye
Tension Control: No
Separate Panning Lock: Yes
Tripod Mount Thread Size: Female, 3/8″-16
There’s nothing fancy or innovative about this ballhead, but overall it’s a good, reliable, and cost-effective option. Sure, there are better ballheads out there, but they tend to be much more expensive.
I’ve been using the Oben BE-117 on a Gitzo Traveler Series 2 tripod as well as on a Platypod Pro, mainly with a Nikon D810 DSLR and a Ricoh GRII mirrorless. It’s been reliable and functional, and I really haven’t found much to complain about. It works, and it works without any fuss. And, crucially, it comes at a very reasonable price.
So if you’re looking for a capable and cost-effective ballhead, especially for travel, this one is well worth considering.