equipment reviews

uniqball ubh 45

UniqBall is a quite new brand of tripod heads. It was established in Hungary a few years ago and its products were first presented at Photokina show in 2014. Currently two head models are offered under this name - UBH 35 and UBH 45 - each one in combination with two models of quick-release clamps - a usual screw fixation clamp. I own a head of the version UBH-XC 45, and I refer to it. However, most of what I write in this review applies to all current models of UniqBall.

UniqBall UBH-XC 45. Source: UniqBall

The inventors of the UniqBall define it as a “new type of ball head, combining all the attributes of a traditional ball head, a gimbal head, a pan & tilt head and a fluid head”. In reality this product is more a combination of a two-way head with a leveling base.

A two-way (or pan-tilt) head allows rotation of the camera around two axes – horizontal (tilting) and vertical (panning). For panning, the head always needs to be leveled. Otherwise the movements will not be strictly horizontal, hence everything will appear in the photographs more or less noticeably tilted. This is one of main reasons why outdoor photographers who usually work on an uneven ground prefer ball heads. Ball heads allow tilts of the gear in any direction as well as horizontal rotation. They have also their specifics and disadvantages.

In a typical ball head the rotation of the ball cannot be limited only to certain axes although it is possible in more advanced models to fixate the ball and let the entire head rotate horizontally, around the central axis. This is a big disadvantage for videographers and action photographers who need to follow moving subjects with the lens. Therefore videographers prefer fluid heads which are a kind of two-way heads, while so-called gimbal heads are the first choice of wildlife photographers.

Just like in a pan-tilt or fluid head, in a gimbal head the movements are limited to two axes: The camera is balanced and swinging on a gimbal that is standing on a rotating base. Both, the swinging and the rotation can be quickly locked if the subject has stopped moving and released if it moves again. Of course, always when you use it, you need to put a gimbal head on a leveling base to ensure that its panning movements are horizontal. Many large tripods of good manufacturers, such as Gitzo, FLM, Really Right Stuff, provide a leveling base already in their construction. For tripods that do not have it a separate leveling base is necessary.

Obviously, gimbal is a specialised head which is perfect for action shooting but very difficult to use in other genres of photography. Therefore, nature photographers who photograph not only quickly moving animals but also slowly moving or static subjects, such as landscapes, flora or invertebrates, normally have to use in the field more than just one tripod head. In practice this is not so easy because a gimbal-ball head combo (plus a leveling base) is heavy and swapping the heads takes too much time.

The developers of UniqBall attempted to solve this problem having invented just one head that can both, be leveled like a ball head, and move the camera around two axes, like a pan-tilt head.

UniqBall UBH 45 and UBH 35 have identical design and defer only in size. UBH 45 is larger and is intended for use with heavy (6 kg or more) and large lenses, such as 600mm F/4, 800mm F/5.6, 200-400mm F/4, 500mm F/4, 400mm F/2.8, 300mm F/2.8, 100-400mm F/5.6, 50-500mm F/6.3, etc. UBH 35 is smaller and should be used with equipment that weighs up to 3 kg.


  • Load Capacity: 40 kg
  • Height: 10,5 cm
  • Tripod Mount Thread Size: 3/8"-16
  • Weight: 724 g
  • Base diameter: 69 mm

Scope of Delivery (UBH-XC 45):

  • UniqBall head
  • Quick release plate
  • X-Cross clamp
  • Allen Key for the plate and for the clamp
  • Soft bag
  • User manual

The enclosure of the head contains two moving parts – a half-sphere and a ball placed inside it. Like in a usual ball head, the camera sits on top of the ball. The ball, however, can perform only tilt and pan movements inside the half-sphere. The half-sphere rolls in the outer inclosure that is mounted on a tripod. It acts just like a leveling base that you need otherwise for any kind of head, particularly for work outdoors.

Before mounting the equipment on the head, you have to level the half-sphere and lock it by tightening the large lever. It has a bubble level calibrated to 0.1 degree of accuracy. When the head is leveled, you attach the camera or the lens to the clamp on top of the ball and adjust friction of its rotation with the red knob. After that you can move your camera by hands just like on any two-way head. You can lock it any time by tightening the red knob.

It is not “world’s only leveling ball head” like the advertising claims because the function of the ball head is always limited to just two axes. A more correct definition of UniqBall would be that it is a pan-tilt head with a built-in leveling base – a simple and easy to use construction.

Canon EF 600 mm f/4 IS L USM II and Canon EOS 5D Mark III on Uniqball UBH 45 and Novoflex Quadropod. On this picture the Uniqball is with the original cross clamp shortly after unpacking. A few days later I replaced the quick release clamp with RRS B2-AS II.

Since there is no rotating base in UniqBall, for exact panning, a separate panning plate is required that should be put on the head under the camera. This is not a problem and even better than a rotating base in many ball heads: For panoramas a rotation of the camera on the head is required, but not of the head on the tripod. Anyway, I never understood why most ball heads have panning plates at the bottom and not on the top. With UniqBall almost any panning plate can be used. I have one of Novoflex. Certainly, the panning plates made by RRS or Berlebach, or any other tripod gear manufacturer will fit it, too.

To attach anything to UniqBall, you have to use a dove-tail (a.k.a. Arca-style) QR plate. Also a panning plate needs to be with such a QR plate.

Both models of UniqBall are supplied with a quick-release clamp included. The company currently offers two models of clamps: a classic Arca-style clamp (called UC45) and a “X-Cross” clamp (UCX). With the second option cameras can be attached directly to the clamp while with the first a 90° adapter (called UXA) is necessary. Both these options are with screw knob fixation mechanism. This quick release is not very quick: It requires at least 4 complete turns to open and close the jaws. This protects the equipment from accidental release of the clamp but makes the mount-unmount cycles longer.

X-Cross quick release clamp UCX included with Uniqball UBH-XC 45. Source: UniqBall

The included clamp works well with plates made by Kirk, Really Right Stuff, Jobu, ProMediaGear, Wimberley. Novoflex, Berlebach and Sirui plates are not compatible. If you use such plates you can purchase a UniqBall distributed by Novoflex that is equipped with a Novoflex clamp that can hold virtually any Arca-style plate. Unfortunately no option to buy a UniqBall without QR clamp is available. If you, like me, are not going to use the included clamp and replace it with a different one, first you pay for a part that you won’t need.

The UniqBall heads are machined from aerospace industry aluminum alloy to 1/100mm tolerance. My UBH 45 feels very solid and reliable. However, I am afraid that its open construction may be a problem when the environment is very dusty, or moist and dirty. The other heads that I use have either completely closed body (Novoflex Classic Ball) or completely open and easy to clean (Acratech). With UniqBall I have to see whether it would still work well when the grooves in its parts get filled with dirt.

Anyway I expect it to be more scratch resistant than in Novoflex and Acratech heads that I own: The finishing is more glossy than in the heads of other manufacturers and appears to be more abrasion and scratch resistant than in other tripod heads that I own.

The leveling ball and the friction adjustment knob of the inner ball are painted with red semitransparent lack. On product photographs this red colour looks very bright and intensive. Therefore, a wildlife photographer would think that it may be noticed by animals. In reality, when the head is leveled, not much of those red parts are visible, and particularly in dim light the red colour isn’t so striking at all. Someone who wants to hide the red parts can use the neopren pouch that is supplied with every UniqBall.

Manufacturer and Model Weight, g Height with leveling base, mm Weight with leveling base, g Lowest price (incl. leveling unit), €
UniqBall UBH 45 724 105 724 515
Wimberley WH-200 II 1430 ~ 120 ~ 1800 ~ 750
Jobu Black Widow Heavy Duty IV 1100 ~ 120 ~ 1450 ~ 650
Berlebach Albatros 1400 ~ 150 ~ 1750 ~ 700
Berlebach Pegasus 1550 ~ 150 ~ 1850 ~ 750
Novoflex Classic Ball 5 II + Wimberley Sidekick 970 + 590 > 250 ~ 1860 ~ 900
FLM Centerball CB-58 FTR 822 ~ 150 ~ 1050 ~ 480


My current setup: UniqBall UBH 45 with RRS lever lock B2-AS II clamp mounted on Novoflex Quadropod (Click to enlarge)

replacing the qr clamp

Bottom view at RRS quick release clamp. Note two twist prevention grooves. (Click to enlarge)
To be compatible with UniqBall, a clamp has to be at least 60 mm long and have two small grooves at the bottom side – one at each side of the screw hole (see the picture on the right). These grooves should fit small – ca. 2 mm thick and ca. 5 mm long – lips on the attachment point on the inner ball, also at each side of the screw hole. It has also to be suitable for screws with 3/8” thread. Obviously, we cannot expect too many products of other manufacturers to match these criteria. The clamps made by Really Right Stuff do it but with some small difficulties that you have to overcome. First, the anti-twist grooves on RRS clamps are a little wider than the lips on UniqBall, and it is hardly possible to reduce the width. Therefore, you have to use thread locking paste and to tighten the screw very firmly to prevent the clamp from dangling.
Second, the screws in some models of RRS are not compatible with UniqBall. This can be solved with some additional work. I managed to mount a B2-AS II clamp that comes with a flat head M6 – 1.0 x 25 – screw. This screw has a different thread and is, of course, too thin. I replaced it with a flat headed 1/4” screw that fits the diameter of the whole in the plate. Then I used an adapter for 3/8” thread to make it fit the whole on the UniqBall. It was a RRS 3/8"-16 to 1/4”-20 reducer bushing. Finally, for better security, I put some thread locking paste into the whole.
RRS also offers some clamps with dual mount – 1/4” and 3/8”. They may fit UniqBall without any need for adaptation.


April, 2016