Installing Really Right Stuff BH-55 Ballhead on Tiltall Tripod
This weekend, having collected and fabricated the necessary parts, it was time to upgrade the head on the venerable Uniphot tripod that I purchased around 1988. The tripod has served me well for all these years, though really the dual-handle head tilt mechanism isn’t always ideal. Often it moves when tightening, and while I have learned to mentally compensate for this my recent forays into shooting panoramas have sometimes been frustrating because of this. Getting my node rail properly leveled was much more fiddly than it needed to be. I’m shooting longer lenses these days(and wider sometimes, but that’s another story). When trying, for example, to get a shot of the moon with a 500mm lens the tiny bit of movement upon tightening the head makes for quite a shift in the image centering. Below are some details and pics…
To start the conversion I purchased a replacement center column from Gary Regester here. I also purchased a Really Right Stuff BH-55, though this mod would provide a more stable platform for any large ballhead.
Next I needed a plate to not only provide a stable support for the base of the ballhead, but to allow the column to bottom out on the rubber bumper inside my custom strap fitting without metal-to-metal contact. Below are all of the pieces that I needed to make the change.
In the first pic above, there is the new column from Gary, but the stud that he provides in the column end plug has been removed and the plug bored out to 3/8″ and deburred. The bottom side of the new mounting plate has a .200″ deep pocket in it so the end plug will not protrude and get hung up in the strap fitting. This column was about 0.006″ larger in diameter than my original column so I needed to hone away some material from the ID of my strap fitting, the black piece on the lower left of the first pic. Also pictured, the grade 8, 3/8-16×1.25 bolt and grade 8 washers that hold it all together and the socket with extensions I used to position the bolt in the hole and then tighten it to the ballhead. The second pic shows these pieces assembled and ready for the ballhead.
Above, the ballhead has been installed and tightened down.
Everything comes together…
Below, some overview pics of the fully reassembled tripod and ballhead. I was fortunate that my custom end plug with strap fitting and leg retention fingers fit the threads in the new column. I could have modified the one Gary sent if needed, but I was spared the trouble. Sorry about the P&S camera output, but it gets the point across…
Here are some closer views of the head and tripod.
This ballhead is a night-and-day improvement over the original Tiltall head. I haven’t even shot any pictures with the setup yet, but I have played with it some. With slight tension on the ballhead, I can position the camera easily without having it flop around. A quick twist of the main clamp knob on the ballhead, using very light force, and the ballhead is locked solid as if it were welded in place, even with this fairly heavy lens and camera(Sony a900 with 70-400G, ~5.5 lbs). A bit more of a twist and I’m sure something else would break before it moved.
I have lived with the shortcomings of the original head for many years, because once locked down it was very stable and overall the tripod has been trouble-free. With this upgrade I think I’m going to be very happy. The one downside is that with such a shiny ballhead on it, now I want to grab a toothbrush and clean the dirt build-up from the rest of the tripod. 😀