Has anyone got one of these, used it for a significant amount of time and able to give a review?
A friend of mine, professional wildlife and landscape photographer Guy Edwardes, has just bought one and so I look forward to what he has to say about it but he's still 'on honeymoon' with it and so only singing its praises.
It's very light (I have handled it) and really does work positionally as claimed (a Canon 600mm + 1DX was mounted). Being German it seems very well built.
It's supposed to be much better than the Uniqball (or whatever it's called).
Never heard of it/them so went a Googling
Andy Rouse seems to rate it!
On the website it mentions this 'twin shooter' bracket ~ caught my eye https://www.ballhead.eu/double-arm-310
Andy Rouse will rate anything for the right price.!
Joking aside, I do believe that flexline was set up from former uniqball personal.? They had a difference of opinion I’m told.
....I thought that Uniqball are American and Flexline are German and so a strange breakaway if that is what happened.
I think you’ll find both Eastern European.
There are a few photographer out there who rave about a certain brand being the greatest thing, they get a good following on the various social media channels, then all of a sudden they are "ambassadors" for a different brand, have been given £thousands of kit and then come out with the new system is the greatest.
Do they really expect us to believe they've not been bought?!
They surely do.
....Hey, have you never been on honeymoon? Everything is perfect in the beginning
If you were a pro being given the same opportunities might you not do the same? Most of the high end camera gear is worthy of enthusiastic praise and there is no such thing as perfect camera gear < We all know that, don't we?
I'm seriously considering going for one of these. My rationale is that it would combine standard ball head use with what seems to be gimbal like use with my long lens.
The price is eye watering though but I can find no other ball head that has those precise characteristics.
I find using a full size gimbal in my little chair hide virtually impossible, could be that I'm too fat though.
....That 'ballhead-gimbal' combo is exactly what is attracting me. In my case not to replace my Gitzo Fluid Gimbal but to replace my Really Right Stuff (RRS) ballhead (on my Gitzo Travel tripod) which is superb but doesn't have the differing features which the Flexline Pro has.
The Pro price of £475 is not far off the RRS ballhead - It's the Flexline Extreme price of £710 which is more eye-watering but the Pro version will happily support a Canon 500mm prime + 1DX even with 2x Extender.
If you want a small compact but good quality gimbal I recommend Jobu's Jr-3 - I use it mounted on a Skimmer and bought it originally for my monopod but now prefer the RRS Two-way head with swivel foot on the Gimbal monopod.
I'll post how I get on with the Flexline Pro in due course.
Looking forward to that Rob How does it compare to a gimbal for long lens use? There's precious little about it I can find apart from Andy Rouse.
It's a bit worrying that no one who is independent has made a review but I suppose as it's pretty "revolutionary" we're all waiting for each other.
Although my longest lens is not in the super telephoto class, Sony 100-400GM with 1.4tc, it would appear to suit my style of photography now I'm ancient.
If I can summon up the courage I'll pull the trigger later today.
I've never handled one of the FlexLines, but I do own a couple UniqBall heads and I have used several types of fluid heads with counterbalance springs. IMO, the FlexLine is being "oversold" and the changes from the UniqBall are not enough to get me to buy one. That said, If I did not already have the UniqBall heads, and a fluid gimbal I was happy with, then I would consider it. But the large price increase just for the counterbalance spring is really hard for me to justify.
A few things to understand about the FlexLine. It uses a fixed resistance counter spring, and that means it's effectiveness is going to depend on how well it's matched to the weight you put on it, and how far off-center the weight is when tilted... in other words, it's "fussy." To get it to work well you will need to refine the spring resistance characteristic with an increased drag adjustment. Or you will have to adjust the CG point so that the spring resistance matches the offset and your desired level of drag... that can be done pretty well with any ballhead.
I.e. I can set the UniqBall or any other ballhead to hold position pointed upwards by offsetting the camera/lens CG forward, or the opposite. That does degrade the position hold in the other direction, but you don't generally really need "holds any position," which is good because you won't always get it w/o an increased drag setting on the FlexLine.
The design of the heads allows for smooth drag at lower settings, at higher settings it doesn't really. The drag adjustment is also fussy... it is easy/quick to go from high to low and back, but hard to refine exactly what you want in-between. Which means it's going to be fussy getting the drag setting right when tuning the spring resistance, and you won't want to change it once it is set.
I would assume the different models with different load ratings have different spring resistances (if not, that would be worse). But if going for "most useful" I would probably go with a model rated for your heaviest kit. Then the spring would tend to return the camera to level rather than hold position when the drag is set too low with lighter kit on it... similar to how a non-adjustable gimbal with a low CG camera/lens on it behaves. But there are reasons why you might prefer an underrated spring... i.e. not having to "fight" the spring resistance when repositioning.
It probably sounds like I'm making a big deal out of this...it's probably not. But you are paying a large price premium just to get a ballhead to function more like a properly balanced gimbal head, and IMO it won't be as effective because it just can't. If I sold all my ballheads/UniqBalls/fluid gimbal and only wanted *one* head, then maybe... probably?... IJDK...
IMO, it is best compared to a cheaper friction video head (non-fluid) with a fixed counterbalance spring... because that's what it is really.
The problem is, we're all searching for the 'perfect' tripod head that does everything well. It just doesn't exist - no more than the perfect tripod or the ideal camera bag for all occasions etc etc.
For some years now, I've used two tripod heads for different tasks, on two tripods - a light/compact/fast/easy ball head for walkabout (Arca-Swiss P0) and a geared head for precision in the studio/architecture etc (recently changed to a Sunwayfoto GH-Pro). I'd love to get into birding sometime (no immediate prospect!) but then I'll add a proper gimbal (new fluid Gitzo?) and maybe another tripod to go with it.
You're not making "a big deal" at all, what youve said is informative and technically appropriate. I am in just that position you mention, I only want 1 head now so I can happily switch from macro to landscape and then to wildlife without carrying a ton of support gear but I fully appreciate exactly what compromise means.
For the most part I think I would choose a proper fluid video head like a Benro S8... true fluid head, 4 step counterbalance resistance (0-3), separate pan/tilt drag adjustments, and a separate tilt lock. 8kg load rating for about £200...
The main problem is the weight (2.4kg), dedicated plate, and particularly difficult configuring for portrait orientation w/o a rotating lens collar.
I find it funny that way-back-when counterbalanced video fluid heads or basic pan/tilt heads were the preferred choices for wildlife... then friction gimbal heads became prominent and everyone decided the others were s***e... and now they're "reinventing" them...
Edit: I would probably never choose a video head for macro work in the field.
Honestly, if you want a "do-it-all" head with the smaller lighter kit I would get the UniqBall UBH-35X for ~ £300. It's a little cheaper than the FlexLine mini and has over 4x the weight rating (equiv to the Flexline Pro @ £480). I would *not* get the one with the panning top clamp for use with long lenses/action photography. IMO, the only time having the head "hold any position" without friction applied is particularly useful is when you have a long period of bored waiting and then suddenly have to jump into action (and those shots are usually "misses" anyway).
Don't get me wrong, it's not perfect by any means. I did a review of the UniqBall and pretty much everything I said about it will/should apply to the FlexLine. The only major difference is the counterbalance spring AFAIK, and for a wide variety of uses the fixed counter spring would be both a plus and a minus IMO.
I keep uming and rring over the purchase of the uniqball head, but just can’t seem to pull the trigger so to speak.. I’ve read plenty reviews and spoken to several people how they get on with them, and for the most part all seem to say positive things about them. I think I need to try one before I buy.
Both are Hungarian:
There was some kind of split/differing opinions that seem to have lead to the formation of Flexline. Not sure exactly how or why but Andy Rouse did release a legal statement about it:
I've been using a Uniqball for 4 years now. I wrote about it for my website (https://spark.adobe.com/page/tv6wVNjRFK2en/) and again 3 years later (https://spark.adobe.com/page/QoWAd2dU8n0MQ/). I've been happy with the Uniqball, in 4 years I haven't researched or looked at another type of head as it meets my quite specific needs (a single head for both wildlife and landscapes with lenses between 24mm to 400mm). It won't meet everyone's needs but if it does its a good option.
I'm in the same position as @sk66 in that I don't see a need to upgrade for the cost (probably going to cost £200-250 extra if I sold the uniqball) just to add the balance at any angle benefit. It is one of the downsides of the uniqball in that it can't be left in any position but it's still workable if left horizontal and not something I find I often need (of course everyone is different).
If I was in the market for one of these type of ballheads I'm not sure if I would be going for the Uniqball UHB45 at £325 (https://www.speedgraphic.co.uk/ball__socket/uniqball_ubh45x_ball_head/24940_p.html) or paying for the premium Flexline at £475. That's currently £150 difference for not having the balance at any angle and the cross head plate. If you add a cross plate separately- https://www.speedgraphic.co.uk/quic...qball_x_crossclamp_quick_release/25070_p.html thats £385 so now only £90 difference. You can buy very similar pano plates to the Uniqball specific one on ebay at a cheaper price as a option to get the pano function and turn the top clamp 90 degrees without an allen key.
It will be interesting to see a non commercial review of the flex line.
That is very true. There is no perfect solution that does everything that everybody wants it to do, sometimes you just have to make sure the pro outweigh the cons and that it works for you (work arounds if needs be).
Okay, I have just spent this afternoon mostly shooting birds in flight on a Flexline Pro head mounted on my Gitzo GT2545 Traveller tripod and supporting my Canon 500mm F/4L II (with either 1.4x or 2x Extenders) + 1DX Mark 2. My lens has a Jobu replacement foot with integrated Arca-Swiss profile. Flexline's replacement lens foot, contrary to what Andy Rouse says, would be entirely unnecessary.
I usually use a Really Right Stuff ballhead on this Gitzo Traveller tripod and a Gitzo Fluid Gimbal plus RRS levelling base on my heavier Gitzo Systematic tripod. I only shoot wildlife.
I have never used a Uniqball which appears to be an identical structural design to the Flexline, but I can see that the Flexline's adjustment knobs are much better positioned and that is actually pretty important in the field!
Personally I find it extremely helpful and time saving to be able to hold a position or simply nudge it and so it remains fixed and is reliable. Ballheads usually are either on (tight) or off (loose) and never reliably inbetween and consistingly holding position < A feature which I need.
Think of the Flexline as a very advanced ballhead design which integrates a levelling base. It's not a gimbal but goes some way to mimic a gimbal's movements. Unexpectedly I find it easier to balance a rig on the Flexline than on either of my gimbals (I also have a compact Jobu Jr-3 Deluxe).
It is well built, sturdy but light and importantly, very practical to carry on walkabout in the field, much more so than any gimbal could be. Its integrated levelling base ball with built-in spirit bubble is invaluable and saves faffing about with tripod legs.
In summary I will not be replacing my gimbal with the Flexline but I will be replacing my RRS ballhead with it and so have ordered one. I rate the RRS ballhead very highly and so this is testament to how impressed I am with what the Flexline promises to enable me much more easily to achieve. It offers me everything which I have always wanted from a ballhead and which has always been missing until now. My camera gear purchases are never influenced by price but only by what I believe will enable me to achieve the pictures I want.
Think of the Flexline Pro as an awesome ballhead and not a gimbal - Anything else is a bonus. As always it's Horses-for-Courses.
Very interesting report Robin, I'll probably be making my purchase today. My wants are exactly mirrored by yours.
.... If you can, ALWAYS try before you buy.
Regarding the Uniqball vs Flexline, be very aware that the positioning of the 'tension/friction/drag/whatever-you-want-to-call-it' knob is very badly positioned forwardly on the Uniqball - Badly enough to stop me from buying one as I use telephoto lenses.
See Glenn Bartley's Uniqball review :
As I edited my previous post to say: Think of the Flexline Pro as an awesome ballhead and not a gimbal - Anything gimbalesque in behaviour is a bonus. As always it's Horses-for-Courses.
....Thanks Laurence. If you think of it as the best ballhead available and not as a gimbal, I doubt very much indeed if you will be disappointed. [I have absolutely no vested commercial interest in Flexline]
I did have to get used to how to first balance it up when swopping mounted camera+lens combos. I was impressed how easy it was even without fully locking it, to change Extenders (Converters if you are a Nikon shooter) on my prime 500mm and that is a very real-world need when shooting wildlife.
I don't care how it works technically but only that it does perform well for my particular needs. Knowing that I was going to be lent a Flexline Pro and in case I then decided to buy one, I shot a session in my 'BackYard' of Bumble Bees entering flower heads, using my Canon 100-400mm + 1DX2 on my Really Right Stuff ballhead on the Gitzo GT2545 Traveller tripod (much more stable than you would expect a 'traveller' tripod to be). I shall be able to shoot the same subject on exactly the same rig but with the Flexline Pro when it arrives and so I'll be able to directly compare ease-of-use and report here. I am of course expecting the Flexline to have some important advantages.
Professional wildlife and landscape photographer Guy Edwardes is planning to publish his review by the end of this month (August).
So far, although very impressed how quickly Andy Rouse answered my questions about it before ordering, I am not impressed that I haven't been sent a follow-up email yet about shipping details. Most suppliers get onto that within an hour or two. <<< EDIT: He has just emailed me.
Wow, it has been over 4yrs now for me as well... I still use my UniqBall heads even though I have also purchased the Gitzo Fluid Gimbal... the gimbal stays on my big tripod for dedicated use. I use the UniqBall on my ground tripod and for "single head" situations.
I don't find that to be the case. Yes, it is under the lens foot and that does make it hard to get to with heavy gloves. But other than that I find it to be a non-issue.
Yep seen this video..
There is no way I will be giving Mr Rouse any of my hard earned..!!
....That is very emphatic, Jason! Do you have a personal issue with Mr Rouse which stops you buying what MIGHT actually be a superior product to the Uniqball?
The video review of the Uniqball by Glenn Bartley, which you have seen, and also another I have watched by 'sharpshooter' (link below) demonstrates to me that Flexline have addressed some of the issues and limitations of the Uniqball - Described issues/limitations which stopped me buying a Uniqball some time ago. It's definitely not for me and the basic design structure has been further developed and legitimately patented by Flexline to create what seems to me to be a superior alternative.
Yes..!! hence why I haven’t bought either product
....Well, the Flexline knob position appears to be different and the issue regardless of wearing gloves or not, consequently makes it a non-issue.
Of course, after many years of use in your case, you have successfully adapted and there is probably no need nor desire to upgrade.
....Fair enough. I have heard that he is unpopular but personally I have yet to be given any reason to think similarly and furthermore so strongly. I only care about the suitability and quality of a product for myself.
Now we know what you really look like!
BTW, do you know anything more about the counterbalance spring (other than it's polyurethane)? Is it different for the different models?
Normally, a fixed counterbalance is set at approximately 1/2 the load rating of the head. I.e. a head designed for up to 10kg would have a 5kg counterbalance in order to support 10kg at 45* off axis. It should be obvious why that would be a little problematic if you put significantly more/less weight on such a head. FWIW, most such counterbalances are progressive in their compression/extension resistance; I would expect a polyurethane version to be as well.
Edit: the patent is on the counterbalance spring addition.
Or did 4yrs ago...
Like @sk66 ive found the positioning of the ‘tension’ knob fine. It’s beneath the lens foot but my lens foot doesn’t protrude that far at the front so it doesn’t foul the ‘tension’ knob operation. Being at the front I can hold the camera with the right hand and use the left hand to reach around no problem. From the videos I’ve seen the flexline is probably better positioned for long lenses but not so much that it’s a massive issue.
Let’s be honest the flexline is the creators model update to the uniqball original and solves some of the down sides of the uniqball. I always saw this occurring as it’s evolvolution of a product. I’ve just looked at the flexline options and there is currently the pro at £475 and the extreme at £710. I wonder if the tensioning/balancing spring means there is a derating factor due to the spring mechanicism.
Being an uniqball user the decision to upgrade to the flexline or not is mostly made for me. If I wasn’t an uniqball user the flexline would definitely be of interest and more of a difficult decision which would probably go down to cost versus benefit.
I think he kinda says it like it is and makes no apologies for what or how he say it. Seems to have made a name through both tropical as well as arctic conservation photography as a method of endorsement (ie actually been out in the "field" with kit) so can provide pretty rigorous testing of equipment.
....It's an issue for me because I use long Arca-Swiss profile replacement lensfeet. A longer plate gives essential balance range to accommodate a 2x Extender (Converter in Nikon-speak). The long 'plate' also suits my handling of a telephoto lens both on and off a 'pod. It all goes to show that we each evolve our own individual handling preferences.
....That's exactly how I view the Flexline over the Uniqball. I have no idea about "derating factors" though but I do have an open contact line with the designer Csaba Karai and could ask - Do you mean that the Pro and Extreme versions may have differing spring tensions etc?
....I seriously considered the Uniqball once upon a time (I find it easy to be a gearslut!) but as a wildlife photographer I preferred to buy a gimbal. I see both the Uniqball and Flexline as superior ballheads and not gimbal replacements - They merely have some gimbalesque behaviours.
Fortunately I didn't buy a Uniqball and so the Flexline decision is easy for me.
This is interesting review (not by Andy Rouse!), doesn't add an awful lot to the mix but I like the bird shots and he seems to be using it in the way I intend to. Just had confirmation that mine arrives tomorrow.
....That is an excellent review < Thanks for posting it, Laurence @footman.
Although I have only spent an afternoon with the Pro (until mine arrives), what he has to say totally matches my very short experience of using it. I am now feeling very impatient to receive mine!!
It's an unusual review in that he criticises gimbals for not holding the lens in a static position - which is the thing they're really good at (when the lens is properly balanced) because the pivot point is below the centre of gravity. Then he says the Flexline does it better (though he's using the big and pricey Extreme model) which is the one area where traditional ball heads are not as good - because the centre of gravity is above the pivot point
The other thing he mentions is the size and weight advantage over a gimbal and that's mostly a given, though the Jobo Jnr linked by Robin previously is the same weight at 680g as the Flexline Pro and it packs flat for travel. The Flexline Extreme is close to many gimbals at 1150g.
Maybe Flexline has done something really effective with its counter-balance mechansism. More independent reviews needed... Rob?