I had the opportunity to try out the Robus RTH-1050 ball head, using it for two consecutive nights of long exposure photography in a remote auto salvage yard.
Robus is a new name to me, but seeing it reminded me of the Really Right Stuff BH-55 ball head in some respects. As the BH-55 is regarded as one of the highest quality ball heads, I was intrigued.
Big and beefy
The Robus RTH-1050 is a beefy thing, weighing 1.8 pounds. All knob controls and moving parts feel precise with no wiggling or looseness and inspires confidence.
The manufacturer states that it has a load capacity of 55 pounds — five pounds more than the BH-55. While I don’t have anything that heavy to test it, it’s easily believable. Also, there are no flimsy rubber parts that will deteriorate over time. This ball head appears built to last.
Trial by wind
The first test of the Robus ball head was on a night with perpetually powerful gusting winds. I paired it with a Feisol CT-3372 tripod, using it in place of my BH-55 ball head, which I would ordinarily use in such adverse conditions.
I used my heaviest combination, a Pentax K-1 with a 15-30mm f/2.8 lens, together weighing 4.52 pounds. But at that, it’s not even a tenth of the ball head’s load capacity. Still, would it stand firm during long exposures of 12 minutes with these powerful gusts of wind?
The ball head comes with an Arca-compatible quick release plate to attach to your camera via a standard 1/4-20 D-ring mounting screw. This plate enables you to quickly take your camera on and off, great for switching cameras.
Since I had my own quick release plate attached to my camera — an L-bracket — I used that instead.
Locking it down
One of the first things I noticed is that despite me having to use the new Robus ball head in the darkness, I was able to do so automatically without having to think about the various adjustment knobs. Everything works well and is logically placed.
The locking knob is large and knurled. I have large hands, so this is a welcome feature. Regardless of position, when I turned the locking knob all the way, everything felt like it was cemented in place. In fact, even when I turned the locking knob most of the way, the camera did not move when pushed. This is largely a function of strong design and a ball head with a large 2.2” diameter.
Dialing in the tension
The large locking knob has a black tension dial within it. Otherwise known as a friction control, I consider this to be a crucial feature of any ball head. This ensures that when you unlock the locking knob, you can still retain control of your camera position without it easily flopping over.
The tension dial in the Robus works so well that it almost acts like another locking knob. In its tightest position, the camera does not budge even when pushed!
Curiously, although I set the tension dial to my liking repeatedly, it continually moved, increasing its friction. This resulted in me having to adjust the tension dial quite a few times throughout the night. Thankfully, it never adjusted to a lesser amount of tension. It always tightened. My guess is that since the dial protrudes slightly, I was mistakenly turning when making the adjustments on the large knob.
The RTH-1050 has a 90-degree notch, allowing you to quickly switch between portrait and landscape orientation. I typically prefer to use the L-bracket for portrait orientation because no matter how beefy a ball head, having a camera tilted to the side introduces more weight on one side, and therefore, increased instability. This is particularly crucial for long exposure photos, and all the more so when dealing with uneven surfaces, darkness and howling winds.
Despite these conditions, I tested the ball head anyway. It held firm despite uneven sandy surfaces and the wind. I photographed two 9-minute long exposures in portrait orientation while closely monitoring the tripod. For less arduous circumstances, I would not hesitate in using the Robus ball head for vertical orientation regularly.
The Robus ball head also features a 360-degree panoramic base, which is marked for precise location. A small knurled knob locks this into place. This moved smoothly and precisely when tested, and didn’t wiggle or budge when locked down.
To aid in leveling the horizon, there is a bubble level on the top of the head’s Arca-compatible quick release. When a large camera is mounted, it obscures most or all of the bubble level, so if you need to produce level horizons, you will need to do this before mounting the camera.
In practice, night photographers rarely use the built-in bubble levels that come with tripods or ball heads, often relying on either the camera’s leveling sensors or using a larger bubble level mounted on top of the camera’s hot shoe, such as the Vello Three-Axis Hot-Shoe Bubble Level, sold as an accessory. This is because in practice, bubble levels that come with ball heads are tiny and are difficult to adjust precisely. This is compounded by having to adjust this in the dark.
How does it hold up?
The Robus RTH-1050 ball head performed admirably with gusting winds and uneven sandy terrain in the field and inspires confidence. When this is locked down, it’s not going anywhere. It compares extremely well in general size and ability with the venerable BH-55.
At 1.8 pounds, it might not be your first choice for hiking or travel. This is aimed more at photographers who need to mount heavy equipment or require extra stability.
The only peculiarity I encountered was having the tension dial shift the amount of friction, apparently when adjusting the locking knob. Thankfully, this always shifted to greater tension, and therefore, the camera was never in danger of unexpectedly flopping over.
With a 55 pound load capacity and aircraft-grade aluminum, this ball head seems to be a great choice for photographers who require rock solid stability and durability — especially those with heavy setups.