Arca Swiss P0 – The only Ballhead You will ever need

Introduction

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.

Specifications

Weight: 317g
Height: 76mm
Diameter: 60mm (without knob for panorama base)
Price: 280$ new: amazon.com | B&H | ebay.com | ebay.de (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.

Handling

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: amazon.com | B&H | ebay.com | ebay.de (affiliate links)

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My name is Bastian and for many years I have been mostly shooting Nikon DSLRs. As of today I have made my transition from Nikon to Sony and I am mainly using small but capable manual lenses. My passion is landscape photography but I also like to delve into other subjects from time to time.

12 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. 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:

    http://www.reallyrightstuff.com/BPC-16

    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).

  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

  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.

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