May 5th, 2019
The Benro ball head that I had been using regularly for the past few years started to develop a substantial drift when locked into place. I would have to compensate for the drift by aiming slightly above my composition and let the ball head settle into place. While the ball head is still functional that drift is only going to get worse with time so it was time to find a replacement. I first began my search with Manfrotto and Benro, whose ball heads I was familiar with, but after weighing all of my options I chose the Arcratech Nomad. A compliment to Acratech's flagship GP model, the Nomad ball head has surprisingly few reviews. For those of you who have considered, or are considering the Nomad, and are not convinced whether it's worth your money hopefully this brief review will help in your decision.
First, a quick overview. Designed and manufactured in Pomona, California the Nomad is functionally similar to Acratech's flagship GP model, but without the panoramic leveling base. The Nomad sports the same open ball head design that Acratech is known for along with the gimbal movement operation. It is incredibly lightweight (.95lbs) thanks to the aircraft grade aluminum and has a max capacity load of 25 pounds. The Nomad comes standard with a leveling quick release clamp utilizing a rubber locking knob as well as a detent pin for extra security in the event your quick release plate slides out of the clamp while attached. A locking lever clamp can be purchased separately if you prefer the locking lever over the locking knob. All clamps are Arca-Swiss compatible. So, the big question is how does it perform? In a word? Excellent.
A quality ball head should do two things well; be secure and move easily. Starting with the Nomad's quick release clamp, the angle of register of the clamp on an Arca-Swiss style adapter is solid. My current L-bracket is a Three Legged Thing QR11. As you can see below the Arca-Swiss notch of the Nomad clamp registers well with the Arca-Swiss notch of the L-bracket.
One minor complaint that I have seen from users is that the locking rubber knobs on the quick release clamp and ball head are too small. Requiring a little more effort to lock the clamp, and ball head, into place. I have seen this complaint with the GP series ball head as well. This complaint is a bit of a head scratcher. Admittedly, I am using a lighter camera setup with my Fuji XT3 and 55-200mm lens versus a full-sized DSLR but there is no reason to wrench down on the knob in order to achieve a secure hold. If you are, you are likely over tightening it or have a camera setup that demands a ball head with a higher weight of support. With the Nomad, the rubber knobs are sufficient to achieve a satisfying lock and with it the security of knowing that your camera will stay put. Speaking of, my previous issues with ball head drift on the Benro has been eliminated with the Nomad.
There is not much to be said for the ball head movement. It's great. Once the locking knob has been released the ball head moves freely and smoothly in all directions. Gimbal movements can be achieved by rotating the ball-head 90 degrees and adjusting the locking and drag knobs accordingly. The open design of the ball head is a smart move. This design completely eliminates potential issues that can be caused by fine debris and water. If the ball head does become dirty it's a simple matter of wiping it off. No need for any lubricating oil. Lastly, the 360 degree rotating base rotates smoothly across the entire range and is operated by another easily adjusted locking knob. All degree indicators and markings are laser etched into the aluminum, which is a nice touch.
Honestly, I have very little else to say about the Nomad. It's a quality piece of camera equipment. Acratech has distilled the purpose of a ball head down to its most basic functions and then ensured that those functions work well. The clamp is solid, the ball head moves freely and secures easily, and its open design greatly simplifies maintenance. All backed by a no questions asked 10 year warranty. At $329.00 the Nomad is expensive but it's surprising that it is not more expensive when you consider what you get for the money. The Nomad is built like a tank and offers a peace of mind for your camera equipment that is worth every penny of its asking price. If you've been on the fence, just buy one. I doubt you would regret it.