Acratech GP-S and GP-SS Ballheads
Related: workflow, software, tripods and support, Adobe Camera Raw, gear
All of the GP ballheads are the perfect complement to a lightweight tripod, with the GP-ss ideal for cameras like the Fuji X100 or Fuji X-Pro1 or Sony NEX-7 or Leica M9. And all of them are perfectly capable of supporting larger camera, but I’d suggest the GP model with its larger clamp for pro-size DSLRs.
I was impressed with the attention to detail with the GP/GP-s / GP-ss ballheads: the fit and finish, the stainless-steel and brass parts, the built-in spirit level., the laser-engraved markings. It’s clear that a great deal of thought went into the features of these heads, right down to the removal of excess metal from the cross member.
After speaking with Scott Dordick at Acratech, I came away realizing that Acratech is one of those companies with a deep comittment to design excellence. That’s the type of company I like to support when I buy my gear. And Made in the USA is a plus too.
I tested these combinations:
- GP-SS #1180 (smaller ballhead with knob clamp)
- GP #1155 (Regular size ballhead with knob clamp)
- GP #1157 (Regular size ballhead with lever clamp)
The GP and GP-s models are slightly different. According to Acratech:
The GP-s has a smaller base diameter and a relocated pan knob so it provides additional clearance for compact, travel tripods where the tripod legs fold over the tripod head”.
I saw no particular need for the GP-s model even with my tiny Gitzo 0531 tripod; I used the GP and GP-ss models. When I use a small tripod setup, I stuff the tripod with head into a side pocket of my North Face Recon day pack.
With the knob clamp, the spirit level remains exposed and visible when the camera is mounted. I also like the fact that it keeps the clamp form-factor smaller, a factor for stowage in the side pocket of my pack.
With the lever clamp, the spirit level is covered once the camera is inserted; see the two photos on this page and why this is so will be immediately clear.
As per Acratech.
- Works as a gimbal head with lenses up to 400 f4.0.
- Weighs .90 lbs with quick release clamp.
- Reduced base diameter of 2.375" (60mm).
- Easily holds over 25 lbs (11.4kg) at any angle.
- Full movements allow any camera position.
- Precision C.N.C. machined.
- Compatible with Kirk, Arca, R.R.S., and many other QR plates.
- Fits all standard tripods (1/4-20 and 3/8-16 threads).
- Laser Engraved dual degree markings.
- Solid precision feel.
- Beautiful satin black anodized finish.
- Long lasting stainless steel hardware.
- All knobs are secured so they cannot vibrate loose and fall off.
- Oil-free and greaseless ball will not attract or hold dirt and debris.
- Made in U.S.A.
Weight as actually weighed on my lab scale.
GP-SS: 386g with screw clamp
GP-S: 400g (nominal)
GP: 452 with screw clamp
GP: 475 with quick release lever clamp
Together with a small and light tripod like the Gitzo 0531 tripod, carrying a tripod need not be so burdensome.
The 386g weight is in line with the Really Right Stuff BH-30, but I prefer the Acratech head for its superior control layout, which interferes less with rotating/aiming the camera.
Craig B writes:
I've been following your blog and subscribing to Making Sharp Images and DAP for a few years now. I got into photography after buying a Canon Digital Rebel in 2005 so consider myself a relative newcomer. Despite not having the time I'd like to invest in improving my craft, I really enjoy your articles. I learn something new every time I read them. I appreciate the attention to detail. I especially appreciate the MSI articles about avoiding blur. They are worth repeated study.
I am glad to see you review the Acratech ballheads. I think that they don't get the attention they deserve. Maybe people are freaked out by their very unconventional design.
I have used the Acratech GP ballhead with my Canon 40d and 7d and a variety of smaller lenses and also with a Wimberley Sidekick for my Canon 500 and 100-400 for about 18 months now. It's lightweight, well built, and gets the job done. I have used it everywhere from my own backyard to the Serengeti and it has never let me down. Acratech doesn't quote inflated weight limits - they say that they can handle 25 pounds at any angle and that's what they do with little fuss or hassle. Their design makes cleaning a non-issue. They don't need lubrication or much maintenance at all to keep working.
I also use their separate leveling base which works great as well. Note that the ballhead can be flipped over and used like it has a leveling base for quick panoramas in a pinch but it's a bit awkward so I recommend a dedicated leveling base. I agree with another comment that notes the limitations of the gimbal mode - I would only use it in a pinch if I forgot my Sidekick. With a replacement lens foot for my 500/4 the weight is well centered over my tripod and I have lost little if any functionality over a full Wimberley. When you are limited to 15 kg of luggage on an African Safari and wish to actually have a few changes of clothes as well you will really appreciate the Acratech GP ballhead.
There are many quality options out there from manufacturers like RRS and Arca-Swiss but I recommend everybody at least take a hard look at the Acratech options.
Click for supersized view.
Other Acratech products
Acratech makes a variety of other products as well, see the Acratech web site for details.
- A handy allen wrench on a clip.
- A nodal point rail for panoramic shooting.
- A leveling base.
- A panoramic tripod head.
- A universal L-bracket.
- A nifty viewing-angle clip-on for laptop computers.