New toy – Acratech GP Ballhead :)

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I was selling my trusty old Manfrotto Tripod & Ballhead. They had been great companions over the past couple years, however it was time for an upgrade. Here’s the replacement for my old ballhead:

Acratrach GP Ballhead

Acratech GP Ballhead

1/25 sec at f8.0, ISO 200
SB 700 with Lumiquest SBIII & SB 600
Edited  & Cropped in Lightroom

At some point I will do a in-depth review, however I’d say it is still to early to do so. I’d be gushing over it just because it’s new and I wouldn’t be able to talk about it with experience from the field. However that doesn’t stop from me giving my first impressions:

  • It is noticeably lighter (weighs 1 lb) than my old ballhead and is rated to carry a heavier load (up to 25 lbs/11.4 kg)
  • I have not detected any creep (when the ballhead moves/settles after it has been tightened) – that’s a good thing!
  • I prefer the quick release system, both in terms of how you attach and secure the camera as well as the safety detent pin to keep it from falling if accidentally. The double speed know is quick, secure and easy to use, and the large bulls eye level is a bonus! My old ballhead was just as quick, felt secure and had two bulls eye levels. The big difference is the Acratech compatibility with other systems, as well as their customized camera plates which I would say are superior as they are unlikely to twist.
  • This ballhead has a friction adjustment – first time I’ve had one and I can see it being handy!
  • You can’t fully see it in the photo, but the ball is oil-less, grease-less and open to the air so dirt and debris can just fall through or easily be washed away.
  • The option of using the ballhead upside down as a leveling base for panoramas – I can see myself using it a lot!
  • The gimbal option seems like it works, although I’m not used to that type of photographer, so I’ll have to see how I go!
  • As you can see above, it is beautifully machined with laser engraved markings.

I’ve already used it in the field and it has been great. I look forward to using it more on my upcoming trip!

This time I had a bit more of a plan in my head when I took the shots, so I’ll include some photos that should compliment what I wrote before on hard vs soft light, key and rim light and putting it all together.

First, I set my camera to a shutter speed of 1/200 sec at f8.0, ISO 200 to kill all of the ambient light (bring the scene to black)

Killing the ambient light

Pretty boring shot eh? Lol.

But it is still the first step. Next, I set up my SB 600 on the ground pointing up like I did for the Manfrotto shoot (zoomed to 85mm, power at 1/128).

Acratech GP Rim Light (light source down, to the back and to the left)

It was alright, but I wanted a bit more rim light that was evenly hitting the side of the ballhead. So I put it on a dirty clothes hamper and put the head back to 90 degrees. This gave me better rim light.

Acratech GP Rim Light (light source level, to the back and to the left)

Better right?

So now it was time to add they soft key light using the SB 700 with the Lumiquest SoftBox II attached (handheld at 1/64 power).

Acratech GP Rim + Key Light (background too close)


The flash is lighting the background (a wooden closet door) and I want it to be in black! So what do you do? I could have closed down the aperture a bit more. But what I did was just move the whole set up further from the door, that gave me back the effect I was looking for. I also played around with the shutter speed, as I remember that my Manfrotto photos were quite dark to begin with and I had to add exposure in Lightroom. I still added a bit of exposure to the final shot, but not as much as in the last shoot. I just wanted to make sure that background was black!!

Here’s a look at the entire set up:

Acratech GP Ballhead lighting setup

Can you tell I’m just miming taking a photo? The camera was on my other tripod and set a timed exposure so that I could get into position. It was taken at the 18mm setting to fit it all in.

If you’ve read this far, you get an extra tidbit, something I learned during this shoot. I didn’t do it this time, but I will make sure to do it next time; When doing this type of detailed photography, make sure you dust the object first!!! 😛



4 Comments on “New toy – Acratech GP Ballhead :)”

  1. bananabatman says:

    A very informative post. Useful for someone like me who still has an awfully long way to go with learning to light. Thanks.

    • Matt Korinek says:

      Awesome! I’m really happy to hear that it is helpful, since that’s why I’m doing this! Its nice to know that the text and photos are useful. 🙂 If you have any questions, just ask!

  2. vk says:

    Very interesting sequence of shots. And a very neat head.

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