FlexLine - flexline pro - anyone got and given review

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Steven
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#81
Friend Guy Edwardes, a very highly regarded professional wildlife and landscape photographer, has just published his review. It was his that I borrowed before deciding to buy one.

https://www.guyedwardes.com/articles/view/flexline-pro-review

:)
Fairly decent review, but a little bit too much "fantastic product/promotional" IMO.
A couple of things that struck me as a little odd... he was highly enthusiastic about the weight savings, yet he's using it on (and promotes) a tripod that weighs nearly 7lbs/3kg alone. He also noted that the "compact design transmits less vibration"... not sure what he's comparing it to here. If it's the video head, than I would say that's wrong; if it's compared to a tall gimbal head or something else, then maybe.
 
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#82
You, on the other hand, strike me as tending to be very keen on literally dismantling products physically if you can and then leaning towards being over critical, in my honest opinion :)
Maybe... I wouldn't have torn down the Gitzo head if mine didn't have an assembly issue when I got it (some of it just "came apart" when it shouldn't have).
I guess I prefer to note/communicate the potential negatives over the positives. The fact is most things can be done in a variety of ways with a variety of tools... and if you are going to be spending money (a lot in many cases) then the negatives should be pretty minor and the positives very significant IMO (at least for most).
 
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Rob
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#83
Friend Guy Edwardes, a very highly regarded professional wildlife and landscape photographer, has just published his review. It was his that I borrowed before deciding to buy one.

https://www.guyedwardes.com/articles/view/flexline-pro-review

:)
Interesting read. What I’ve taken from it is personally there isn’t much benefit swapping from a uniqball head to the flex line. Majority of the advantages of the flex line also apply to the uniqball and were the main reasons I swapped to the uniqball. There is the benefit of the balance spring on the flex line. That is a good improvement and evolution of the original product (it’s the same inventor isn’t it). Having used my uniqball with my 300 f2.8 extensively for the last few days I’ve found I probably wouldn’t benefit from that balancing as much as I thought. When I take my hands off the uniqball it balances ok when left straight/level. Ive noticed I don’t seem to need to leave it pointing up or down because most of the time I’m trying to shoot straight at the subjects eye level. It would be nice to not have to think about leaving it straight/balanced but it’s probably not worth the extra £200-300 for me to do that. If I did not already have the uniqball and I was at the point I was 4 years ago I would have looked at the flex line as it’s an evolvution of the original uniqball design and provides some good advantages.

I found the lock/tension operation knob an interesting point regarding its position using shorter tripod foot lenses. The pano clamp was another interesting point as I was lead to believe it wasn’t needed on the flex line because of the balance/tension spring. I got the pano clamp because of this reason on the uniqball. I have the pano clamp permanently fixed to my uniqball. I find it very useful, especially swapping between lens tripod foot mounted and camera L bracket mounted lenses. It has to be said the pano clamp does make things weigh a little more, the clamp adds about 150-200g (estimated as I don’t have any scales at present!!). For clarity it feels like that weight penalty should be added to the review as it takes it closer to the RRS head mentioned in the review. It’s not much but with it the flex line isn’t 680g any more.

Flex line and Uniqball users have a lot in common with each other because of the niche market they are aimed at and the benefits they give. For me the flexline is like the upgrade of a camera model, the latest model is of course better but that doesn’t mean the older version is now useless and needs replacing just because a new model is out
 
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Robin
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#84
Interesting read. What I’ve taken from it is personally there isn’t much benefit swapping from a uniqball head to the flex line. Majority of the advantages of the flex line also apply to the uniqball and were the main reasons I swapped to the uniqball. There is the benefit of the balance spring on the flex line. That is a good improvement and evolution of the original product (it’s the same inventor isn’t it). Having used my uniqball with my 300 f2.8 extensively for the last few days I’ve found I probably wouldn’t benefit from that balancing as much as I thought. When I take my hands off the uniqball it balances ok when left straight/level. Ive noticed I don’t seem to need to leave it pointing up or down because most of the time I’m trying to shoot straight at the subjects eye level. It would be nice to not have to think about leaving it straight/balanced but it’s probably not worth the extra £200-300 for me to do that. If I did not already have the uniqball and I was at the point I was 4 years ago I would have looked at the flex line as it’s an evolvution of the original uniqball design and provides some good advantages.

I found the lock/tension operation knob an interesting point regarding its position using shorter tripod foot lenses. The pano clamp was another interesting point as I was lead to believe it wasn’t needed on the flex line because of the balance/tension spring. I got the pano clamp because of this reason on the uniqball. I have the pano clamp permanently fixed to my uniqball. I find it very useful, especially swapping between lens tripod foot mounted and camera L bracket mounted lenses. It has to be said the pano clamp does make things weigh a little more, the clamp adds about 150-200g (estimated as I don’t have any scales at present!!). For clarity it feels like that weight penalty should be added to the review as it takes it closer to the RRS head mentioned in the review. It’s not much but with it the flex line isn’t 680g any more.

Flex line and Uniqball users have a lot in common with each other because of the niche market they are aimed at and the benefits they give. For me the flexline is like the upgrade of a camera model, the latest model is of course better but that doesn’t mean the older version is now useless and needs replacing just because a new model is out
....Hi Rob, I think that what you say is spot on and very helpful to all those who already own a UniqBall.

However, the reviewer Guy Edwardes is as much a landscape as a wildlife pro and so although he needs a pano clamp he is essentially reviewing the Flexline and only mentioning combos with other products to put the Flexline's use in the context of his particular use. As only a wildlife photographer, I personally don't need a pano clamp and want to keep my Gitzo Traveller tripod combo with the Flexline light (without compromising stability). So the specific combo weight need not be mentioned in reviewing the Flexline otherwise his review exclusively addresses landscape photographers.

This (above) also answers Steven's @sk66 comment about the weight :

A couple of things that struck me as a little odd... he was highly enthusiastic about the weight savings, yet he's using it on (and promotes) a tripod that weighs nearly 7lbs/3kg alone.
I know from our chats that Guy is enthusiastic about the overall weight savings which the Flexline brings for when he travels (which he does over 250 days a year). He accepts the relatively heavy weight of his all-singing-dancing Sachtler Flowtech 75 tripod because he wants the extra stability and likes its unique leg features - Having seen him in action with it it's very impressive although rather noisy! Worth reading his review if you are interested.
 
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#85
Flex line and Uniqball users have a lot in common with each other because of the niche market they are aimed at and the benefits they give. For me the flexline is like the upgrade of a camera model, the latest model is of course better but that doesn’t mean the older version is now useless and needs replacing just because a new model is out
IMO, the only significant difference is the balance spring. And that is certainly "better" for some, but it is also "worse" for others... I think it is important to keep that in perspective.

Someone who uses a Sachtler video head for wildlife knows something most wildlife photographers don't seem to these days. But there are so many options, each with their own pluses and minuses, that it can be hard to put things into relevant context. And I don't think there are many that have experience with most of them... I haven't seen a wildlife photographer using a dedicated pan/tilt head in many years (AcraTech/CB/etc), but they can also have their advantages (i.e. always level, small size, light weight, simplicity, etc).
 
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#86
The pano clamp was another interesting point as I was lead to believe it wasn’t needed on the flex line because of the balance/tension spring. I got the pano clamp because of this reason on the uniqball. I have the pano clamp permanently fixed to my uniqball. I find it very useful, especially swapping between lens tripod foot mounted and camera L bracket mounted lenses. It has to be said the pano clamp does make things weigh a little more, the clamp adds about 150-200g (estimated as I don’t have any scales at present!!). For clarity it feels like that weight penalty should be added to the review as it takes it closer to the RRS head mentioned in the review. It’s not much but with it the flex line isn’t 680g any more.
.... It has already been about 5 months since I bought my FlexLine (they are now called 'FlexShooter' but I have no idea why the name changed) and I have used it a lot, mostly with Canon EF 500mm F/4L II and EF 100-400mm L II with and without either 1.4x or 2x Extenders. I now have two or three strong criticisms of the Flexline which are as follows :

1) - I have published this criticism before and it remains an issue which has become less and less acceptable to my way of working. It is that the Flexline's Arca-Swiss clamp is both very awkward to slip a lensfoot into due to having only four short corner clamp points and, much worse, the knob is a Slooow-Release rather than a Quick-Release < So that's two criticisms already. Without going into long descriptions why, I do quite often need to shoot to and fro from handheld to tripod, especially with the 100-400mm lens and so for me I have an issue.

2) - Once a lens is mounted on the Flexline's clamp it can become very tricky to see the rather small (too small in my opinion) bubble far below in the base ball for levelling. This becomes even more difficult when in a cramped hide with little headroom and in very low light - Something I discovered before dawn in Bulgaria recently.

A pano clamp such as Really Right Stuff's (RRS) PC-LR: Round Lever-Release Panning Clamp instantly solves both of my issues. Once I have sync'd and tightened the RRS to the flat levelled FlexShooter ball I can then use the far easier to see bubble on the top of the RRS clamp instead. And, of course, RRS release levers are among the very best and have a half-closed position enabling you to safely adjust front-to-back weight balance. The A-S profile clamp is also full length instead of four fiddly corners.

http://www.reallyrightstuff.com/PC-LR-Round-lever-release-panning-clamp

Nothing from RRS is cheap but their products are very high quality in manufacture and extremely well thought out in their design. They are a brand you can rely on.

The RRS PC clamp adds 336g to the FlexLine's 680g and just under 1.5 inches height but in practice in the real world this is simply not what I found to be a problem - It all still fits my tripod bag for travel and the weight is negligable. As well as having an Arca-Swiss dovetail on the underside, it also has a female standard size centre socket for other applications. A compact neoprene bag is also supplied.

An added bonus when adding the RRS, apart from extra panning options, is that without losing your precise level setup, you can swivel the RRS panning circle so that one of your tripod legs can be orientated forwards in line with your lens and you then don't have a tripod leg in your groin to contend with as well as better weight distribution and stability.

So as well as greatly improving the FlexLine/FlexShooter, the RRS Panning Clamp is a very usefull addition to your camera gear. What's not to like? Possibly the price but I say "She's worth it" :D

It so happens that I very recently spent 5 days with professional Guy Edwardes, who wrote the earlier posted review, but although I was literally sat beside him in a hide I didn't notice he had an RRS Panning Clamp on his FlexLine but with screw knob release rather than lever. Since getting back to the UK I contacted him saying hey I think I can solve my Flexline problems with a RRS PC to which he replied he was already using one and did I want to borrow it to try before buying. It's even in his review I read but he hadn't described the issues I was experiencing and so I missed it as the solution until finding it independently.

FlexShooter tell me that they are going to resolve the issues I have identified but as it's now at least 4 months later I am not holding my breath. I'll report here if/when they do.
 
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Richard
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#87
Rob, I wonder if this little clamp might help?
https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product..._mini_detail?ie=UTF8&psc=1&smid=ALTNKV98WAIJR

I have loads of A-S clamps and this is one of my favourites. Very well made, with a fast-threaded knob, under 70g and with handy strap lugs too. I think RRS cloned the design :D Also, and this is the point really, it has an Arca-Swiss rail cut into the base which is 48mm long and would, I'm guessing, drop neatly into the Flexline's quad-clamp thingy.

I'm not 100% clear what the best way to solve your problem is from just reading and looking at photos so this could be way off beam, but for £12 you can't go far wrong so I thought I'd mention it. I know that Steven sk66 also uses this clamp for some things.
 
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Robin
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#88
Rob, I wonder if this little clamp might help?
https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product..._mini_detail?ie=UTF8&psc=1&smid=ALTNKV98WAIJR

I have loads of A-S clamps and this is one of my favourites. Very well made, with a fast-threaded knob, under 70g and with handy strap lugs too. I think RRS cloned the design :D Also, and this is the point really, it has an Arca-Swiss rail cut into the base which is 48mm long and would, I'm guessing, drop neatly into the Flexline's quad-clamp thingy.

I'm not 100% clear what the best way to solve your problem is from just reading and looking at photos so this could be way off beam, but for £12 you can't go far wrong so I thought I'd mention it. I know that Steven sk66 also uses this clamp for some things.
.... Thanks for the suggestion but 48mm is too short to fit the FlexLine's quad-clamp thingy A-S bed securely and the whole Andoer clamp is as described "mini" and so personally I wouldn't trust my 500mm + Extender + 1DX on such a short clamp without more grip purchase. Also, I much prefer the speed and convenience of a lever quick release and I trust the RRS design as I already have several of their heads and all with their same quick release lever design. As said in my previous post, an added bonus is that the RRS clamp's half-closed position is perfect for securing the lens while adjusting the fore and aft balance which the FlexLine and any gimbal head needs. To be fair the RRS Panning Clamp and mini Andoer each do a different job.

I have already bought and tested the RRS Panning Clamp on my FlexLine on a day out locally photographing Mallards and am very pleased with it. So my issues with the FlexLine are in fact solved and I was just sharing my findings and solutions.
 
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#90
Glad you're happy with it.

But there's no way I would be paying another $255 for that clamp...
.... I don't mind paying for something which better enables me to enjoy my photography to the full. Each to their own, eh.

Anyway, that RRS Panning Clamp is a useful addition to anyone's kit bag. Do you not think RRS design and manufacture high quality products which are worth their price?

I switch between tripod and handheld quite often and so I needed to resolve the FlexLine issues I described. Either that or sell the FlexLine but I find it has some valuable and very practical advantages. I use one of my two gimbal heads (a big Gitzo Fluid or a small Jobu Jr-3) more if I'm staying static for the day such as in a hide. Horses-for-Courses.
 
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Steven
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#91
SunwayFoto and others make very nice versions of panning clamps for way less money... AFAIK RRS is the only one with the lever lock option, but there's no way it's worth 3-4x as much to me. That's nearly a 50% price increase for the head, which isn't cheap to start with.

I have a SunwayFoto version of the accessory panning clamp, and I have heads that have them integrated (i.e. Arca Swiss Z1-DP). TBH, I don't really like them for use with long lenses. IME they are not sturdy enough to withstand the leverage a long lens can put on them. You will have to be careful that either the clamp is used loose for the panning motion, or that the head's panning adjustment is set well below the clamp's pan lock strength. Otherwise you are likely to damage/wear the clamp pretty quickly.

FWIW, the UniqBall UBH-45 doesn't have the cross clamp issue ;)
 
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Robin
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#92
SunwayFoto and others make very nice versions of panning clamps for way less money... AFAIK RRS is the only one with the lever lock option, but there's no way it's worth 3-4x as much to me. That's nearly a 50% price increase for the head, which isn't cheap to start with.

I have a SunwayFoto version of the accessory panning clamp, and I have heads that have them integrated (i.e. Arca Swiss Z1-DP). TBH, I don't really like them for use with long lenses. IME they are not sturdy enough to withstand the leverage a long lens can put on them. You will have to be careful that either the clamp is used loose for the panning motion, or that the head's panning adjustment is set well below the clamp's pan lock strength. Otherwise you are likely to damage/wear the clamp pretty quickly.

FWIW, the UniqBall UBH-45 doesn't have the cross clamp issue ;)
.... Apart from the fact that I have used various RRS clamps with lever locks for several years and have no criticisms of them or failures, I needed a lever lock (quick release lever) feature for the reasons I have already given. The extra cost you find unpalatable is absolutely worth it to me.

Regarding the Arca Swiss Z1-DP, it's a ballhead without a levelling feature and I already have the RRS equivalent (which I will probably sell soon because I no longer have a use for it). The structure of the Z1-DP and hence loads and stresses appear to be potentially worse than with a FlexLine.

The UniqBall may not have a cross clamp issue but I recall it has other issues which put me off buying one. In fact you were one of the people who pointed out issues in your video review, but others have done so as well. I respect that a UniqBall suits your purposes adequately.

Am I right in saying that you are a distributor/seller of the UniqBall?
 
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#93
The structure of the Z1-DP and hence loads and stresses appear to be potentially worse than with a FlexLine.
Nah. It's the torque/leverage a long lens places on the panning clamp's friction... because the camera is a long way from it. It's not static loads or anything that's an issue. I've found it to be an issue with all of them regardless of who made it... I have not tried the RRS version to say for certain, but I would be amazed if it doesn't have the same issue (the design is the same).

Am I right in saying that you are a distributor/seller of the UniqBall?
No. And I don't really advocate them as such... IMO they are a very good/versatile head, but not perfect for everything/everyone; nothing ever is.
It was just a jab/joke... did you miss the winking guy?
 
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#94
Nah. It's the torque/leverage a long lens places on the panning clamp's friction... because the camera is a long way from it. It's not static loads or anything that's an issue. I've found it to be an issue with all of them regardless of who made it... I have not tried the RRS version to say for certain, but I would be amazed if it doesn't have the same issue (the design is the same).
.... But in my setup in the FlexLine combo I have the RRS Panning Clamp sync'd level and locked down with the FlexLine clamp so that I am not reliant on any panning action from the RRS unit while any heavy lenses etc are mounted, so I do not expect the issue you describe. If I want to pan I can do so using the FlexLine in the normal way without having to unlock the panning circle on the RRS. I use the panning mechanism on the RRS only to adjust orientation with the tripod legs to achieve optimum stability.

No. And I don't really advocate them as such... IMO they are a very good/versatile head, but not perfect for everything/everyone; nothing ever is.
It was just a jab/joke... did you miss the winking guy?
.... I interpreted your winking smilie as meaning "I would say such words about the UniqBall because I sell them and it's in my interests to do so". Your video review implied you were a distributor if I recall correctly and therefore probably might have a vested interest.

True - Nothing ever is perfect! We just do our best to get as close as we can to perfection.
 
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Steven
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#95
But in my setup in the FlexLine combo I have the RRS Panning Clamp sync'd level and locked down with the FlexLine clamp so that I am not reliant on any panning action from the RRS unit while any heavy lenses etc are mounted, so I do not expect the issue you describe.
IDT you're understanding the issue... that probably means you haven't encountered it yet which is good. The issue is when the clamp's panning axis is locked down and the heads panning axis is also locked down, or it has more resistance applied than the clamp can exert. In that case, if you put lateral pressure on the camera/lens the clamp will rotate while locked. And that will damage/wear the locking interface.
I often have friction applied to the head so that it is very stable, but slightly loosened so that the camera can still be repositioned without adjusting anything. If the head's friction is set too high the clamp turns first. Not only is it bad for the clamp, it messes up the function/alignment with these heads (any pan-tilt type).
If you always use the head with the friction set quite low, then it may never be an issue for you.
I use the panning mechanism on the RRS only to adjust orientation with the tripod legs to achieve optimum stability.
There is only one orientation that works with the head if you want pan-tilt functionality, and one if you want pan-roll functionality (ok, there's a second @ 180*). I have no idea what you mean in regards to legs/stability... unless maybe if you're also leaning it way out over one leg.

I think panning clamps are a great accessory, especially if you want to do level pano stitching with these heads (and ballheads). But it's not something I generally want when using long lenses/heavy kit.
 
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Robin
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#96
IDT you're understanding the issue... that probably means you haven't encountered it yet which is good. The issue is when the clamp's panning axis is locked down and the heads panning axis is also locked down, or it has more resistance applied than the clamp can exert. In that case, if you put lateral pressure on the camera/lens the clamp will rotate while locked. And that will damage/wear the locking interface.
I often have friction applied to the head so that it is very stable, but slightly loosened so that the camera can still be repositioned without adjusting anything. If the head's friction is set too high the clamp turns first. Not only is it bad for the clamp, it messes up the function/alignment with these heads (any pan-tilt type).
If you always use the head with the friction set quite low, then it may never be an issue for you.
.... I always use the FlexLine's inner ballhead tension loose (now with RSS clamp mounted locked down on it). So that whenever I move the camera+lens, which is of course locked down into the RRS clamp, it's all acting freely/loosely as only one piece on the FlexLine's larger outer ball which has already been preset as level. If you have a good tactile sense of touch (as I do from fast driving and other pastimes involving my hands) then you can feel resistances and can adjust to avoid them.

I don't do any panning-stitching photography but track a bird in flight in the normal way and prefer if I can to do it handheld on the 100-400mm at 14fps.

Thanks for the heads-up :)
 
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Steven
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#97
I always use the FlexLine's inner ballhead tension loose
That is the one advantage of the FlexLine; it can be set to hold position (when well matched) w/o friction, and my UniqBall can't. IDT I would typically use it completely loose because I like some resistance/dampening, but certainly with less friction than I typically need to use.
 
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Robin
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#98
That is the one advantage of the FlexLine; it can be set to hold position (when well matched) w/o friction, and my UniqBall can't. IDT I would typically use it completely loose because I like some resistance/dampening, but certainly with less friction than I typically need to use.
.... I don't use it completely loose either but just enough not to feel too much resistance when a target suddenly presents itself for aiming at. It's a 'feel' setup and difficult to describe. Balancing the camera+lens (telephoto lenses) fore and aft like done on a gimbal, also helps achieve a 'free' but not 'floppy-loose' feel < Which is also what you are saying I think.
 
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