on 10 February 2014
So I had been very impressed with the Hahnel Triad 60 tripod I purchased (and still am, it's great vfm) but decided that for my purposes, a ball head would be better than a pan head. Naturally I opted for this Hahnel unit as the obvious choice.
It is so very close to being a 5, or at least 4 star item. Being very reasonably priced, solidly made and the ball-lock mechanism itself is easy to operate and locks firmly into place.
Unfortunately, the hexagonal top plate which attaches to the camera is an issue. While it fixes firmly to the camera and has a spring-loaded, folding, wing-nut style grip on the screw itself (so you don't need a coin or screwdriver), the fitting of the top plate to the quick release is a problem. It seems as if the hex-plate has been machined undersize, because the locking lever can be closed all the way down without much 'bite' on the plate. As a result, the hold on the camera is not as tight as it should be when it is attached.
Mine may be an isolated example and I am looking to get it replaced direct with Hahnel (who I must say, have been very helpful) but it has limited its use and is the reason for the 3 star rating.
I bought this to upgrade my budget tripod and it is vastly superior to the pan and tilt head that came with it. In fact I may not bother replacing the legs for a while, the new head has improved stability so much its no longer a priority. The ball and socket arrangement is much faster to set up than a pan/tilt and the separate rotation movement allows basic video panning with a very smooth action for a non-fluid head. Build quality is better than I expected and the quick release mechanism is fast and effective and has no obvious play once the camera is locked in. After using it for 6 months or so I have noticed that the locking mechanism does cause travel so you have to compensate when positioning. This is most noticeable on the rotary setting, For the price I can live with it for now. The only thing missing is a spirit level to remove the guesswork in setting a level horizon (Update: I've since bought a hot-shoe model for £5 on Ebay which removes the problem!). For the travel during adjustment and the lack of spirit level I give it only 4 stars.