Gitzo GT1542T Series 1 Traveler w/ Arca-Swiss P0 Monoball Fix

Hands on with the Arca-​Swiss P0 Tripod Head Panning System & SlideFix QS Quick Release

Overview

Street price
$295 USD

Manufacturer No.
 801-​213
Rating
4.0 out of 5 4.0

Since this arti­cle posted, Arca-​Swiss have addressed some of the com­pat­i­bil­ity issues we noted with the release of the Monoball P0 Ballhead with Classic Quick Release (MFR. No. 801-​214, $348.00 USD) and the Monoball P0 with Fliplock Quick Set Device (MFR. No. 801-​215, $372.00 USD). Our cur­rent rec­om­men­da­tion is for either of these mod­els in pref­er­ence to the model reviewed here.

The Arca-​Swiss Monoball P0 Tripod Head, retail­ing for $295 USD, fea­tures a kno­b­less tri­pod head with a three-​element geared lock­ing sys­tem. To tilt, rotate the knurled band counter-​clockwise (look­ing down) about a quar­ter turn: the more you loosen it, the less resis­tance the gears pro­vide, allow­ing a tilt range of about 30° from hor­i­zon­tal in any direc­tion. A slot on the side oppo­site the panoramic release lock allows a full 90° tilt from hor­i­zon­tal. The asym­met­ri­cal design of the gears pre­vents the head from flop­ping over by increas­ing resis­tance the far­ther the head trav­els from hor­i­zon­tal.

Size & Weight

Arca-Swiss Monoball P0 Tripod Head Panning System & SlideFix QS Quick Release
Arca-​Swiss Monoball P0 Tripod Head Panning System & SlideFix QS Quick Release

The Monoball P0 head is heav­ier than the doc­u­men­ta­tion claims; with the SlideFix Quickset (QS) clamp, it totals 12 oz or 340 g. Adding it to my Gitzo GT1542T Series 1 Traveler yields a com­bined weight of 2.95 lbs or 1.3381 kg, a respectably light kit for travel.

The Monoball P0 head and SlideFix clamp are com­pact, with a com­bined height of 3.15″ (80 mm) and a diam­e­ter of 2.36″ (60 mm).

The Monoball P0 head is rated at 44.1 lbs (20 kg) capac­ity.

Deployment

The Monoball P0 head attaches to a stan­dard 3/​8″ (.375″ or 9.525 mm) coarse thread (16 tpi) tri­pod screw. My tri­pod has a reversible stud with the 2 stan­dard sizes (.25″ and .375″), so mount­ing is as sim­ple as fit­ting the head over the stud and tight­en­ing clock­wise. A single-​bubble spirit level on top aids lev­el­ing; mount­ing a cam­era to the head par­tially blocks the the level’s vis­i­bil­ity, lim­it­ing its use­ful­ness.

Attaching a cam­era equipped with a com­pat­i­ble QS quick release (QR) plate is sim­ple. Assuming you’ve mounted the QR plate to the cam­era tri­pod socket with the dove­tails fac­ing the cam­era front and back,

  1. Pull the lock­ing lever all the way out (fig. 1) — it’s spring loaded, so releas­ing it will cause it to snap into the “slide” posi­tion (as shown in step 4)
  2. Insert the front plate edge against the SlideFix clamp’s front slot (oppo­site the lock­ing lever) while angling the rear edge up (fig. 1)
  3. Lower the rear edge into the slot & release the lock­ing lever (fig. 2)
  4. Gently adjust the cam­era by slid­ing it lat­er­ally until you are sat­is­fied with its posi­tion, e.g., cen­tered over the Monoball P0 head (fig. 2)
  5. Push the lock­ing lever in to secure the cam­era fully; you will feel & hear a gen­tle snap (fig. 3)

Arca-Swiss Monoball P0 tilted 90°; shown w/o QS clamp
Arca-​Swiss Monoball P0 tilted 90°; shown w/​o QS clamp

A small flip knob on the panoramic QS device unlocks it for pan­ning. Flip up (counter-​clockwise) to release, pan, then flip down to lock. Clearly marked indices aid set­ting a pre­cise pan­ning posi­tion. Because the pan­ning plate is on top and the ball is on the bot­tom, you don’t have to level the tri­pod legs when shoot­ing panora­mas: just level the head and pan.

To tilt the Monoball P0 head up to 30° in any direc­tion, loosen the knurled lock­ing ring (counter-​clockwise), adjust tilt, then tighten the ring. As the tilt angle increases, the plan­e­tary gears increase resis­tance to pre­vent acci­den­tal move­ment from grav­ity.

Tilting a full 90° is pos­si­ble only in the oppo­site direc­tion from the panoramic lock lever. While one may ori­ent the cam­era for por­traits this way, it’s far from ideal. The cam­era is not cen­tered over the tri­pod when ori­ented 90°, increas­ing the chance that the rig will tip over. Also, one can­not pan hor­i­zon­tally when ori­ented 90°, and the spirit level is ren­dered use­less in this posi­tion.

When fully col­lapsed, my Gitzo tri­pod with the Monoball P0 head attached barely fits in the tripod’s cloth bag. When trav­el­ling, the Monoball P0 head should be locked to pre­vent it flop­ping about; pro­tect­ing the Monoball P0 head with a padded lens pouch or a sock is a good idea. I like the Micro Lens Pouches by Cheaplights, avail­able at Amazon.

Care & Maintenance

The Arca-​Swiss Monoball P0 head should be cleaned only with a soft cloth damp­ened with pure alco­hol. The man­u­fac­turer rec­om­mends you pro­tect it from sand and dust, and warns against employ­ing lubri­cants.

Accessories

Arca-​Swiss offers sev­eral “L” brack­ets to solve the prob­lems asso­ci­ated with 90° ori­en­ta­tion, albeit at a stiff price: the gen­eral pur­pose bracket, No. 802-​308, retails for $229 USD and fits most cam­eras, while the Mini “L” Bracket, No. 802-​304, sells for $239 USD and fits smaller cam­eras, includ­ing many point-​and-​shoots and rangefind­ers (includ­ing Leica’s M range). A bracket specif­i­cally tai­lored to fit Sony NEX3 and NEX5 cam­eras sells for $200 USD.

QR plates are offered in a range of sizes, includ­ing No. 802-​262, designed espe­cially for Leica mod­els M3M7, which have their tri­pod mount sock­ets located on the far right end. This plate is incom­pat­i­ble with the M8 and the M9; their sock­ets are located near the cam­era base plate’s cen­ter.

Also incom­pat­i­ble (with the SlideFix clamp, not the Leica cam­eras) are Arca-Swiss’s “Classic” QR plates; only those plates with the des­ig­na­tion “Fix” or “SlideFix” fit the QS  QR clamp, a seri­ous bum­mer for pho­tog­ra­phers who already own older Arca-​Swiss gear. The smaller Fix QS  plates are back­ward com­pat­i­ble with some “Classic” Arca-​Swiss QR  clamps with a “stepped” slot to accept the wider “Classic” plates as well as the nar­rower QR  plates.

Adding to the con­fu­sion is a lack of con­sis­tent nomen­cla­ture. The names “Fix” and “SlideFix” are used inter­change­ably by the man­u­fac­turer and retail­ers.

Also avail­able are bench rails and car­ri­ers for macro work, an angled con­nec­tion for build­ing your own cus­tom bracket, and var­i­ous acces­sory clamps.

Since it’s a ball head, the Monoball P0 head is not the best choice for a mono­pod; stick to a tilt head in that case. Really Right Stuff rec­om­mends the inex­pen­sive Manfrotto 234 Tilt Head ($24 USD) for mount­ing gear up to 5.5 lbs. to their monopods; the RRS BH-​30 gets high marks from users for heav­ier loads.

Build

The Arca-​Swiss Monoball P0 Tripod Head Panning System with SlideFix QS Quick Release is solidly machined from all metal parts, with the supe­rior pre­ci­sion you’d expect from Arca. Slight “play” in the knurled lock­ing ring is, accord­ing the the man­u­fac­turer, needed for proper func­tion, and is not a defect.

Ergonomics, apart from the incon­ve­nient place­ment of the spirit level and the afore­men­tioned short­com­ings when ori­ent­ing the cam­era for por­traits, are spot on, with the few con­trols thought­fully placed and easy to oper­ate. Positioning accu­racy is lim­ited by the fact that it is a ball head; for very pre­cise work, a fully geared head, such as Arca’s top-​of-​the-​line C1 Cube or any of the Manfrotto geared heads, might be more appro­pri­ate.

Summary

Pros
Lightweight & com­pact; per­fect for travel
Relatively inex­pen­sive for Arca-​Swiss; com­pet­i­tively priced to com­pa­ra­ble prod­ucts from other man­u­fac­tur­ers
Anti-​drop design of plan­e­tary gears could save expen­sive acci­dents
No pro­trud­ing knobs or han­dles (except for very small panoramic release lock)
Monoball P0 Head stays level dur­ing pan­ning
Easy to oper­ate
Precision build & top-​quality mate­ri­als
Large ecosys­tem of com­pat­i­ble acces­sories
Cons
Not com­pat­i­ble with older Arca-​Swiss plates
Not com­pat­i­ble with most third-​party plates & acces­sories, includ­ing RRS, Kirk & Benro (but you can replace the clamp w/​ a com­pat­i­ble alter­na­tive, e.g., a Quickset Device Classic) It turns out you can­not replace the clamp, because it is per­ma­nently affixed.
Spirit level hard to see when cam­era mounted; use­less at 90° tilt
Requires expen­sive “L” bracket for hassle-​free por­trait mode
Not appro­pri­ate for heavy kits
Not appro­pri­ate for monopods
Care must be taken not to dam­age the Monoball P0 head; it is pre­ci­sion equip­ment!

The Monoball P0 head is well built and designed, attrac­tively priced, and ver­sa­tile. I highly rec­om­mend it for pho­tog­ra­phers look­ing for a light, com­pact, gen­eral pur­pose head to mount to a tri­pod (but not a mono­pod). Budget in the “L” bracket, too, as the head’s per­for­mance is ham­pered with­out it.

— Chris J. Zähller

About Chris J. Zähller

International Man of Mystery. Cocktail Nerd. Occasionally designs websites. Sometimes snaps a picture or two.

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