MATTHEW NORDHAGEN :: PHOTOGRAPHY

ARCA-SWISS MONOBALL p0 BALL HEAD REVIEW

February 12, 2024

Despite how much I enjoy using my ARCA-SWISS D4, weight is its one disadvantage. At roughly 2 pounds (977 grams) it adds a noticeable heft to my overall camera kit and since upgrading to the X-H2 last summer I've added an additional quarter pound. An extra quarter pound may not sound like a lot, but the difference is surprisingly noticeable. While I could replace my tripod with something lighter, the stability that my Gitzo offers is still worth the additional weight, so the D4 was the natural choice for replacement. Finding a lightweight tripod head that could replicate the D4 wouldn't be possible but the replacement, at the very least, had to provide a similar degree of stability. While there are plenty of compelling options on the market today, the ARCA-SWISS Monoball p0 piqued my interest for one reason: its minimalist functionality via a single locking ring. No independent controls for movement and drag, just a ring that you twist to unlock then twist again to lock. It's a novel design and the simplicity was hard to ignore. I purchased the p0 (with Classic Quick Release) last summer and after regular use it has proven to be an excellent replacement.

While the p0 is not the lightest tripod head available its weight-to-capacity ratio is impressive. Weighing one pound (435g) with a load capacity of 44 pounds it should handle most combinations of a mirrorless camera and long lens without experiencing much, if any, movement creep. Between my X-H2 and Fujifilm 100-400mm lens, the p0 stays solidly locked in place regardless of the angle. Overall, it strikes a nice balance of being lightweight enough without sacrificing performance with heavier camera gear.

Like my D4, the build quality is excellent. Tolerances are precise, the panning head is smooth, and the locking ring adjusts easily with knurling for a secure grip with or without gloves. There have been comments in other reviews about how the locking ring has some vertical play and that it feels out of place in an otherwise well-built ball head. While the vertical play does exist, ARCA SWISS addresses this in the manual with the following note, “Please note that the knurled ring to lock the Monoball does need some vertical play to function properly.” So, while it may initially give the impression that something is defective, it's intentionally designed that way to accommodate the three-way locking mechanism for the aspherical ball.

In practice, using the locking ring to adjust the p0 works very well. I've been conditioned from using the D4 and other ball heads to mentally map the actions of unlocking and adjusting movement using separate knobs and flip locks. Since the p0 has none of those it took a moment to forget those years of muscle memory but after a short stint of use you quickly adapt to the minimalist functionality. The locking ring requires little effort to secure it into place and the ring responds nicely to additional torque if you want that extra security while walking with a camera attached, for example. Given the flexibility that the locking ring offers, the tension can be easily set to dial in precise movements without having to rely on any additional controls. This minimalism makes the p0 wonderful to use.

I do have one minor complaint, the location of the leveling bubble. Unless there is a legitimate reason that I have not yet thought of, the level sits at the bottom of the dovetail plate. With a camera attached it's almost completely obscured. Using an L-Bracket you can't see it at all. While you can rely on the leveling guides in-camera, I do like being able to see them on the ball head. My D4 had these smartly located around the panning head and I wish ARCA-SWISS would have integrated that design in to the p0. It appears that the p0 with the Slidefix QS Quick Release System has the bubble level in a more convenient location, but if you prefer the knob style quick release system like I do, the bubble level is only marginally useful.

I expected this review to run longer but, honestly, there's very little else to say about the p0. It's superb. It's light, well-built, handles a lot of weight with a unique locking/adjustment mechanism that does exactly what ARCA-SWISS says it will do and is relatively affordable when considering the spec-to-price ratio. If you're in the market for a new ball head, the p0 is an easy recommendation.