Arca Swiss P0 – The only Ballhead You will ever need


review arca swiss p0 ball head gear accessory kugelkopf adjust friction adjusting friction
Arca Swiss P0 ballhead

There are only few accessoires that I would wholeheartedly recommend to anyone, but the Arca Swiss P0 is most certainly one of those. In this review I will tell you why this is the only ballhead you will ever need.


Weight: 317g
Height: 76mm
Diameter: 60mm (without knob for panorama base)
Price: 280$ new: | B&H | | (affiliate links)

There are versions with different clamps, personally I think all of the Arca Swiss ones kinda suck and would recommend to get a Novoflex Q=Mount, as that one features a double-barreled thread which allows for very fast locking.
If you want something cheaper there are many clamps with a diameter of 60mm available nowadays.


The handling is quite different compared to your usual ballhead, as there is neither a knob nor a lever to lock and unlock the movement. Instead you get a ring which runs across the whole ballhead which is used for locking. The great thing about this is that you never have to look for it or even rotate the head to get to the controls.

The ball actually has an aspherical shape, so is not a perfect ball. There is a huge benefit to that, as resistance of the ball increases the more you tilt it. This is really helpful: when you move your camera with lens the center of gravity will shift and lead to a momentum which may lead to your setup just sag down in the process. This is much less of an issue with an aspherical ball.

The panorama base is on top where it belongs. I will probably never get why manufacturers usually put it on the bottom of the head where it is barely useful, as you have to level the tripod with the legs which sucks big time.

Adjusting Friction

Many people say the biggest disadvantage of this head is the absence of a friction control. I tend to agree and I wasn’t really happy with the way it shipped.
Luckily with just a screwdriver it is possible to adjust the friction, which I would recommend.

1. You need to unscrew these 4 screws:

review arca swiss p0 ball head gear accessory kugelkopf adjust friction adjusting friction

2. You can lift the silver part now and see 3 gears with small locking tacks:
review arca swiss p0 ball head gear accessory kugelkopf adjust friction adjusting friction

3. Mark the original position before removing the tack and adjusting the gear:
review arca swiss p0 ball head gear accessory kugelkopf adjust friction adjusting friction

4. You have to remove the 3 tacks and and rotate all the gears anti-clockwise to increase friction, but the tacks in again afterwards:
review arca swiss p0 ball head gear accessory kugelkopf adjust friction adjusting friction

My recommendation: move all the gears 2 teeth anti-clockwise. This setting worked very well for me.

Important: you may loose warranty when you open your ballhead.
All 3 gears must be rotated by the same amount, otherwise the locking will not function properly. I recommend to mark the initial configuration with a pen.

Recommended for 

For landscape I think this is pretty much the perfect ballhead. It allows quick adjustments, has a precise locking and a useful panorama base on top.
For architecture some people might prefer a geared head (I don’t) and for travel it may already be slighty too big depending on your tripod, as it will not fit properly between the legs of most travel tripods.
For wildlife (400mm+) I would rather get a gimbal or a fluid head, I did use the P0 with a 400mm 4.0 but you will start to reach its limits there.
And for macro you might begin to miss an easily accessible friction control or a geared head, depending on the maximum magnification.

If you want one you can get it here: | B&H | | (affiliate links)

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My name is Bastian and I am your expert here when it comes to ultra wide angle lenses, super fast portrait lenses (ranging from a 50mm f/0.95 to a 200mm f/1.8) and I also have reviewed way too many 35mm lenses. Don't ask me anything about macro or wildlife shooting though.

62 thoughts on “Arca Swiss P0 – The only Ballhead You will ever need”

  1. Hi Bastian,

    as I have the same head, I have a few experiences to add regarding arca clamps. Most important: I haven’t tried the Novoflex Q-base, apart from that I know only 2 arca-type clamps which will fit really well and have more or less exactly the same diameter as the clamp itself. One is from Sunwayfoto, DDY-60p0, here the locking screw is long enough and so does not interfere with the lever for the rotation control of the head. Strange enough, this exact clamp is considerably more expensive compared to very similar models without the “P0-fit”. Second is Fittest FC60-P0, here also lever and clamp locking do not interfere. This one is slightly cheaper. I have tried several others and all had issues: from the circular type, the smaller ones had the rotation lever/locking screw issues, others without these problems were just too big for my taste (considerably bigger than P0). Conventional rectangular clamps will fit only when they are large enough – which looks awful on the beautiful P0. I haven’t tried the Novoflex, as I think it’s just too expensive and also I like somewhat bigger controls and wide opening clamps to handle almost every plate. Maybe a question of personal taste, but both mentioned clamps do what I ask. Handlingwise, Sunwayfoto is a bit better (for my taste).

    1. Hi Uwe,
      I will update the review with your intel!
      Personally I am using the Q=Mount which also doesn’t collide with the locking knob for the panorama base.

    2. The sunway P0 clamp is about $35.00 and is made specifically to match the design of the head – that’s a bargain- and sort of strange they would do that for a cult item such as the PO. Now 90 degree tilt is a piece of cake. I agree – It is also a good clamp. I know some like lever clamps, but I don’t get it – they are fiddly (3 different rails = 3 adjustments most likely), and disrupt workflow.

  2. Hi, Bastian–

    FWIW, Really Right Stuff offers a tiny ballhead based on a similar concept; the BCP-16 weighs only 125 grams and might be able to handle the gear that you indicated you “would take into the mountains”–if you can bear a lightweight tripod, as well:

    1. Finally a german shop has this in stock so I decided to order and give it a try.
      I would have wished for a slightly bigger version though (20-28mm ball diameter).

      1. Hello Bastian,

        I always enjoy your reviews. They focus on what matters, and routinely demonstrate that you can make great photos with almost anything (I’m still building my skills…).

        I love my Arca P0 and use it exclusively on my regular tripod. As for the small alternatives mentioned above:

        The RRS BC-18 is stronger than the BPC-16, is smaller, weighs less and costs less. Unfortunately, there’s no panorama mode, and it only fits tripods with a 1/4’x20 socket. I’m not sure why they made that decision…

        The SHINEWEE MPBH18, which is very similar to the RRS BPC-16 head, with a larger ball. The panorama clamp is not as strong as I would like, but it works well, overall.

        The Leofoto MT-01 makes a good pairing for these small heads, as do the more expensive RRS table top models.

        I have a tremor and often use my tiny tripod to brace the camera to my chest or anything else convenient. Precise head positioning is not necessary for this application. 🙂

        An unrelated comment – I also enjoy your Podcast, which seems to be on hiatus. Perhaps you could make some more.

      2. Hi Bastian,
        What are your thoughts about the little BCP-16? FWIW, Sunwayfoto now makes what seems to be almost a direct copy with a slightly larger ball (PMB-18), although, since the ball is aluminum instead of the harder material RRS uses, it may well bear only a lighter load.

        Are you still using the P0? I’m tempted, but, like you, I wish for a slightly smaller version.

        1. Hi Brian,
          I am using the BCP-16 on two tripods now, Series 1 Gitzo Traveler and Mini Gitzo.
          The locking strength is remarkable given the size, better than plenty of bigger ballheads.
          There is some locking drift though and I wouldn’t want to use it for longer lenses,
          nevertheless I am really happy with it as the weight/performance ratio
          – especially considering built-in pano base – is great.
          I have no idea about the SWF copy, but there also seems to be a Leofoto copy.

          I am still using the P0 on my Series 4 Gitzo that I mainly use for review
          stuff or with longer lenses.

      3. Years later, a copy of the BCP-16 but with a larger ball has reached the market: the 196 gram Marsace 98K+ with a 25mm ball. I haven’t tried it.

        Are you still using the BPC-16?

  3. One caveat about the Arca Swiss P0 tripod head, if you buy the version with the clamp attached, well it is attached forever. I made that mistake years ago when the P0 first came on the market. I bought the version with the Slidefix QS clamp which turned out to be epoxied on. So not only could I not change the clamp, but it only uses propriety camera plates which are hard to find and ridiculously expensive.

    Operationally, the P0 was a joy to use but my frustration with the clamp system resulted in my selling it within the year and switching to RRS.

    1. Heating it up with a hair dryer helps to loosen the glue and get rid of their shitty clamp.
      Apart from that you can also get it without clamp, as I recommended in the article.

  4. Hi Bastian — thank you very much for this nice review!

    Your review came right in time for me. At the moment, I am looking for a new ballhead for a used Gitzo Mountaineer tripod. I have tried some new Gitzo and Novoflex ballheads, but no one seems perfect (the best ones are rather heavy and very expensive). So maybe the Arca Swiss P0 would make a good, lightweight, but high-quality companion …

    Two questions came into my mind when reading the review:

    * Do you (or anybody else reading this) know how good the support is? I mean, if I buy this ballhead and some times later I get any problems with it, has Arca got a good repair service?

    * Have you tried how smoothly the panorama base works? I understand that dedicated panorama stuff (like the Novoflex PANORAMA=Q 48 or the PocketPano) will do a better job, e.g. because they offer adjustable click stopps, but would the build-in panorama base of the P0 be sufficient for making simple one-row panoramas?

    Best regards, Roman

    1. From what I have heared so far Arca has pretty good repair service.

      The panorama base is actually quite good. It has markings every 5 and different markings every 15 degrees.
      Probably most of my single row panoramas I have only used this base.

      1. Thank you very much for your answer! This sounds very promising. So I am going to try out this head myself … Best regards, Roman

      2. Hi Bastian,
        Is P0 sufficient for taking vertical single row panos, without worrying about parallax errors?

  5. I have used the P0 for several years now and still heartily recommend it to everyone looking for a solid ballhead.
    I used the Sunway DD60 clamp and it is a delight.

    I recently acquired a geared head as the bulk of my work is architectural and the P0 just is a little difficult to place precisely.
    I moved the Sunway to the new head and acquired the Novoflex Q clamp to replace it on the P0.

    The Q clamp works very well but it’s safety pin prevents a rapid slide out of the base unlike the Sunway. Not a huge problem and i suppose I should be going slow with several thousand dollars of kit at risk.

  6. Great ball head, but I strongly recommend to not buy a FlipLock.

    I used my FlipLock p0 for some years with Acratech plates, which work great. Then I bought an L-bracket for my A7 II from EnjoyYourCamera (Quenox) and it destroyed the FlipLock. I contacted Arca-Shop for repairs (that’s where I got the ball head) and they told me this would happen all the time, because the FlipLock requires exact compliance with the Arca Swiss specifications for plates.

    Most of the after market plates might be off by the fraction of a millimeter. To wide at the bottom or wrong slope of the flaks, or maybe even machined perfectly but then coated 5/100 millimeter to thickly and it will damage a FlipLock. This cannot be prevented, because the principle of the FlipLock is that not the user has to apply the pressure to clamp the plate into the head, but the head is designed to close with exactly the right ammount of force to connect to a properly machined plate. If the plate is a fraction to thick, the clamp will grab it too tightly.

    As a result you will not be able to open the lever without force, which resulted in a broken lever. Repai cost 51€, and even after repair it will not work with the cheaper clamp properly.

    I am not willing to spend more than 200€ for a Arca Swiss L-bracket. Arca does not produce camera specific plates and brackets. It is against their philosophy, because you change cameras every 5 years, you would have to change your ARca gear, too, every 5 years. But I want a camera specific L-bracket. I think it is nicer, because it can stay on all the time and improves handling of the rather short gripped A7II.

    So now I have a screw mechanism on my p0 and it works fine even with the not 100% Arca Swiss compatible L bracket.

    My suggestion: you should buy a Arca Swiss Monoball p0, because it is really great, but you should not by a FlipLock clamp.

  7. I have followed your advice and bought the Arca Swiss P0, which has just arrived. I can’t move the panorama base at all. I wonder if you have any suggestions?

    Thanks for this and all the reviews. I love the website and use it all the time for tips for my Sony A7 and lenses!

  8. Just to follow up on my question about the panning plate on the P0, I have just found a video that shows how it works.
    I have ordered the Novoflex quick release clamp.

    Once again, thanks for the review.

  9. I use RRS B2-40-LR clamp with P0. Works perfectly and the level clamp is very convenient and feels great. The only trouble is removing P0’s bolt to install RRS clamp. It was very difficult.

    1. Arca Swiss is not a very consumer friendly company.
      On their latest models they use some glue for that bolt (heating it with a hair dryer helps), that is why I recommend to buy the one without clamp.

  10. I’ve been trying several ball heads lately and this article convinced me to get an Arca Swiss P0 (without clamp of course!).
    Very nice. I really like using it and framing/composing is very accurate and smooth. I’m not tempted to tighten mine right now (bought new at a good price). I can see it becoming my desert island head…

    The results of my ballhead experimenting:
    – Novoflex Classic Ball 5. Huge & heavy but also the smoothest and most accurate movement. Not something I’ll carry around much though.
    – Really Right Stuff (RRS) BH-55. A true design object. Knobs work beautifully and the cutouts are very well placed for using it as a gimbal. But smoothness and accuracy of framing is far behind the Arca Swiss’… It feels rough in comparison! Selling.
    – Several FLM ballheads, all of which I grew annoyed with (roughish ball which are slow to tighten) and sold.
    – Manfrotto 468 MGRC2 (Hydrostatic). Not quite as smooth as the AS, but when tightened can be used to support a building. Undecided whether to keep.
    – Tiltall BH-10. 139 grams lighter than the AS. Still about as smooth and accurate as the RRS. Undecided.
    – Sunwayfoto FB-28i. Nice ultraght head (about 216 grams lighter than the AS). Lives on my travel tripod. The Tiltall is 77 grams heavier, has pre-tensioning, is slightly rougher but locks more securely and with a smaller turn of the knob.
    – Manfrotto 410 (geared 3 way). What it does is unique, but at 3x the weight of the AS. For very slow but accurate work.

  11. Bonjour,
    Looks like a very good option. Is it stil your favorite ball head?
    Will it work with the new Novoflex Q=Base II?
    And the Q=Mount, which has a screw knob? Or does the latter interfere with the knob on the AS?
    Thank you very much!

    1. It is still my favorite ballbead, but I also still hope for a P(-1) which is a little smaller.
      I would prefer the Q=Mount as the Q=Base is bigger in diameter. It might still work but it just looks out of place (I only have Q=Mount and the original Q=Base here, not Q=Base II).

  12. Thank you!
    The Q=Mount knob does not interfere with the AS knob?
    Sunway has a special Po-fit with a “long neck” knob,

  13. Tried it…, but…
    Very good to have it leveled, but for a multiple range Panorama I stil need a panohead to tilt.
    I want to level first and then I want to have the possibility to pan and tilt, to follow a bird, a car or a person, all level.
    So for me I think the only solution is a halfball leveler and a 2-way head…
    Or do you see another solution?

    1. I’d strongly suggest a shift lens – I use canon, but Leowa has come out with some interesting options. Easy to use, seamless stitching.

  14. Had a look at the Flexshooter Mini…
    Like that, but what about Uniqball…, the same thing, also made in Hungaria…
    What’s the story behind this? Which one is the best of the two?
    BH is only selling the Uniqball… Flexshooter has no dealers in France, you order direct in Hungaria.
    Somewhere I do feel a very sad story behind these ballhead makers.
    Why did you say Flexshooter?
    Curious to know.
    I will order one of these for sure!

    1. There is a pretty lengthy discussion on a german photography online board on these two.
      Out of that I got the message the Flexshooter is the better of the two, but as I haven’t tried either myself what do I know.

  15. Bonjour,
    Use the Flex Shooter Mini since 2 month and it’s a joy!
    It a counter balanced head, so no falling over of your camera.
    The duo ball system works perfect. The big ball to level everything first and the small ball for pan and tilt, like with a video head, but small and rather light.
    Very pleased.

  16. I am considering the P0 and would like to request feedback regarding your experience with longer lenses. I plan on using this with a 300/4.5 lens and a full frame body DSLR. With my current ballhead, I’ll frame, lock the ball, and when I let go of either the lens or body, I notice very slight movement. Do you have any experience with a similar setup?

          1. Have you used the Arca P0 with a similarly long lens? After locking the head, did you experience any movement?

          2. Depending on the weight of the lens, the maximum focal length and/or maximum magnification almost every ballhead will show some locking drift.
            Especially true for the Novoflex heads, which allegedly do not show this behaviour (they do!).
            I have often used the head with a 2/200 lens which still works fine. Adding a TC and making it a 4/400 a heavier head may be advisable.

  17. Hi Bastian,

    Just bought a used p0 along with the Q=Mount and was wondering if you could advise as to how the clamp is attached to the ballhead. Picture:

    I’m assuming the gold screw has to be removed, however, I am unsure as to how. Any help would be much appreciated – thank you!

    1. Unfortunately the Novoflex people always make small yet meaningful and undocumented adjustments to their products.
      At the bottom of the Q=Mount there should be a 3/8″ -> 1/4″ adapter mounted, you should be able to remove it and then
      be able to simply screw the Q=Mount on that gold screw.

  18. I decided to get the Acratech Monoball p0 with 1/4″ & 3/8″ and the RRS B2-40-LR. And after having read all the discussions about removing the M6-1/4” from the p0 I was prepared for some struggle.

    – a 1/4” 11mm socket will fit just fine
    – the “bolt” is not glued in place

    I without any use of force was able to remove the M6-1/4”.

    To have a bit more space to work with, I placed the RRS B2 on top of two 3mm washers.

  19. Thanks for the review, looks like a great ballhead indeed. I am wondering whether the P0 without clamp will accept the Hasselblad Quick Release 45144? Will the P0 top interfere with the levers on the 45144 or will the 45144 interfere with the panorama lever on the p0? I’m a bit worried it will not work, so maybe someone has experience with this setup and can shine a light on this. Many thanks.

      1. The Hassy clamp has 2 levers; one acts as a safetey against sliding the camera out, the second to lock the clamp. The first one has to be pushed downwards and could be resticted when the clamp is a bit smaller than the top of the P0. I guess I have to see for myself, but not many shops have the P0 in stock. Would be great when someone has experience with this combination. Thanks.

        1. The answer is here: it works like a charm! I ordered the ballhead and the Hassy clamp fits perfectly. Very happy with the combination.

  20. I love this head, and I hate ballheads. I mount pretty heavy stuff on it and it does not budge. When you tighten it – those planetary gears tighten from all sides, and it doesn’t shift at all. With the sunwayfoto clamp – it is so so good.

    I have no problem with the friction, and the ellipsoid ball makes for great for granular adjustment. I shoot gallery and architectural, and I have no problem making small adjustments in a specific plane. I hope anyone looking at this review, doesn’t think they HAVE to do any fiddling – it is a wonderful tool.

  21. Thank you so much for your “hack”-) a really useful trick to optimize the handling of a principally sensation ball head … it will replace several other heads e g FLM, novoflex or some cheaper chinese models (who only work with grease to compensate their bad precision)

    So I can save a big amount for the p0+ version and look out for an at a geared head (probably the d4).

    I would recommend the classic clamp, all other arca models are too fragile, “unsure” and far too expensive

    Therefore for special purposes (arch, landscape) i combine it with the LEOFOTO G2 instead of using the overly expensive Hybrid version… and a second win is that I can exchange the G3 “Hybrid ” very easily to get the mobile and light original : best of both worlds for much less budget ( not every photographer can afford the luxury boutique heads from Switzerland-( )

  22. Hi
    I bought the Arca-Swiss P0 this summer, and I made the mistake of buying it with the Arca classic clamp. It turned out that I could remove it by unscrewing the hex screw. Loctite(?) had bern applied and I could hear a crack when the screw started moving. The screw is an M6 type btw. I used a tool with a hex bit installed which gave me much better leverage than just using a hex key. I didn’t apply any heat. The colour of the Loctite(?) appeared to be white.

    Currently I have a Wimberley C-12 installed, actually using the screw originally holding the Arca clamp. The Wimberley C-12 has the set screws, to prevent it from rotating after installation, but the knob on the C-12 interferes somewhat with the control and movement of the ball head.

    The ball head itself works very nicely, though I will look further into the question of which clamp to use.

    1. I was able to finally locate my Sunwayfoto DDY-60P0 and instead install the DDY-60P0, and get rid of the interference with the pano lock caused by the Wimberley C-12 with the Arca p0. Interestingly the Sunwayfoto kit also included a correct length M6 screw to install the DDY-60P0 directly onto the Arca p0.

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