Full Disclosure: I DID NOT receive this product as a tester in exchange for a review nor am I an affiliate. I purchased this ballhead with my own money. This review is as unbiased as I can make it.
Buying anything off of Kickstarter is a hit and a miss. When articles started popping up for a weird looking titanium ballhead from a an unknown tripod company, I sort of rolled my eyes. After the Yashica Y35 Camera, I sort of gave up on Kickstarter.
I have been using a 3 Legged Thing Travis travel tripod since I dropped my Manfotto and got the runaround from their customer service center. All I needed was a sturdy ballhead to replace the damaged one. When I saw that Colorado Tripod Company had a decent-looking aluminum ballhead for $79 on Kickstarter, I shrugged and ordered.
Jump to last Friday when the doorbell rang and there was a box waiting for me outside my door. Inside was a well-crafted ballhead and nice note thanking me for supporting their campaign. On first inspection, I was quite impressed. The Highline AL Ballhead just felt good.
The older that I get, the more I want things to last. It doesn’t matter if it is the latest and greatest, I just want it to work well and work for a long time. The Highline is exactly that. The whole thing is made out of aluminum (a titanium model is also available) from top to bottom. It is precision-made and does not feel like it was mass produced. Everything including the knobs, just feels well made. They even included a personally engraved camera plate! It is little touches like that which gave me a little more confidence in the company.
Everything is smooth and feels great. Granted, I haven’t punished it the way that I have poor old Travis, but I feel that this ballhead is up for the challenge. What I like is the grip and feel of the knobs (stop laughing) because they are of a decent size (really, stop laughing) and especially the extra long (you’re just being childish now…) tightening knob for the camera plate. This seems to be a well thought out detail and you never have to hunt around for it under your camera.
Overall, everything about this ballhead seems to show that this is a well-made product and not just a kickstarter cash grab. Outside of Peak Design, this is one best built pieces of equipment that I have bought off of Kickstarter. I do like my Arsenal Remote, I just get frustrated with it a lot of the time to really count on it.
Performance in the Field
Build Quality and looks aside, I have taken the Highline out for a number of early morning shoots where my brain is on autopilot. A good example of this was the other morning where I loosed the tightening knob for the camera thinking it was the panning knob. I can be an idiot sometimes.
With that in mind, I was looking to see if my tired brain would be hunting around for the right knob (jeez…. ) instead of focusing on the composition. I found that everything worked amazingly and everything was where it should be.
The Highline was able to hold my 70-200mm lens in place and with minimal torque on the knob. I use my tripod a lot and I hate having to really put power into locking them in place. This was something that I had an issue with my Manfrotto. There was always a little drop or dip when locked in place. The Highline held my DSLR with a large lens perfectly.
The enlarged drop window is something that I really enjoyed. I love my 3 Legged Thing but the ballhead has a tiny sweet spot that will only allow you to get a level vertical shot if you are not using an L-Bracket. With the enlarged drop window on the Highline, you can get the job done easily without a lot of fiddling around.
The only thing that I did notice was the fact that the locking plate seemed to be designed for a longer base plate like the engraved one that came with the ballhead. So it worked amazingly with my 3 legged thing QR-11 L-bracket but I had to be a little more careful with my peak designs standard plate that came with my capture clip.
The only other point that I could bring up for improvement would be the tension knob. As others have noted, some indicators or markings would be great to know how much tension your are adding. I found myself cranking it all the way in one direction then backing off to get it just right.
At the moment, I am quite pleased. The project had a number of delays but that is the nature of Kickstarter. I will say that this ballhead was worth the wait. I am still testing this and will continue to update this review if I encounter any issues. However, at the moment, I am quite impressed, even with my personalized tripod plate.
I will say that this is one of the better purchases that I have made off of Kickstarter. Despite the delays, the Highline AL Ballhead is well made and extremely well thought out. We shall see if it stands the test of time. I am also contemplating picking up the legs as well. I should have picked them up from their kickstarter campaign but again you never really know…. and now I know lol.