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Manfrotto has introduced a line of magnesium-alloy ball heads that feature the Q6 Top Lock Quick-Release. The company that has made myriad quick releases and plates has decided to put its own spin on the classic Arca Swiss format. The beauty of the design is its simplicity, making it a blank slate for a multitude of refinements and special features. Like any recipe that starts with a great ingredient, this one has produced some outstanding results.
There are two basic elements in an Arca Swiss quick-release system: a plate and a clamp. The plate, which is a standard 38- to 40mm in width on its underside, is screwed into the 1/4"-20 female threaded tripod receiver of a camera or large lens. The clamp is attached to the tripod head and your camera is mounted or removed by sliding the plate in and out of the clamp, which is oversized in width to make mounting easy. Once tightened down, the two channeled sides of the plate are gripped, vise-like, in the dovetail clamp, for a secure mount that does not shimmy, rock, or slip.
In Manfrotto's refinement of the design, instead of sliding and positioning it, the plate is lowered into the open jaws from above, where the pressure triggers a pin that keeps the plate from sliding out even before it's tightened down. This gives you about 1-1/4" of lateral movement within the jaws without fear of disengaging, which can only happen when its red release button is pressed. Three built-in bubble levels ensure accurate framing and composition.
There are currently four series of ball heads that are compatible with the Q6 system: the MH054, MH055, MH057, and the 468. The MH054M0-Q6, MH055M0-Q6, MH057M0-Q6, and 468MGQ6 are supplied with the Q6 pre-installed, as their names indicate. The heads come in versions with a standard 1/4"-20 camera mount as well as the Q2, Q5, and Q6, depending on the head, and the 468 also comes with RC0, RC2, RC3, RC4, and RC5 quick-release versions. All of these versions can be upgraded to the Q6 quick release, which is also sold separately. See the compatibility section at the end of this review.
Features common to the MH054M0-Q6, MH055M0-Q6, and MH057M0-Q6 are magnesium-alloy construction, 3/8"-16 tripod attachment, 360-degree panning with a dedicated panning lever, and 3 bubble levels on their Q6 quick releases. Friction control is an important feature of all of these heads, allowing you to tighten the action on the movement of the ball to match the weight of your gear, to avoid flopping when setting up your shot. All three heads have minus 100-degree/plus 40-degree lateral tilt, but they also have a red switch that automatically selects a 90- to 105-degree range for vertical shots or portraits. The MH054M0-Q6, MH055M0-Q6, and MH057M0-Q6 weigh only 1.54 lb, 2.2 lb, and 2.87 lb respectively, yet support impressively disproportionate loads of 22.05, 26.46, and 33.07 lb.
The 468MGQ6 Hydrostatic Ball Head deserves special mention. The head has all of the features of the others minus the portrait selector, plus a 5 cm PTFE coated-aluminum ball for silky-smooth action, and a patent-pending locking mechanism. The head has a +/- 90-degree tilt range and a large rubberized locking knob for quick action. This is serious, heavy-duty support for those who need to move quickly with maximum security when working with gear weighing up to 35.27 lb. We challenged several brawny staff members to break its lock and the head simply would not budge. The Q6 system's camera plate measures 2.75 x 2.2" (70 x 55mm) on its top side—perfect for a full-sized DSLR or medium format camera. The Q6 clamp will accept Arca Swiss brand plates from approximately 1.5 to 6".
If you're looking for a ball head with silky action, minimal weight, the maximum load capacity, ergonomic controls, and style with Arca universality, Manfrotto's Q6 line is a savvy choice.
|MH054M0: Fixed base with retractable 1/4"- 20 and 3/8"-16 screws||MH054M0-Q2 (Q2 QR)|
|MH054M0-Q5 (Q5 QR)|
|MH054M0-Q6 (Q6 QR already installed)|
|MH055M0 Fixed base with retractable 1/4"- 20 and 3/8"-16 screws||MH055M0-Q2 (Q2 base)|
|MH055M0-Q5 (Q5 QR)|
|MH055M0-Q6 (Q6 QR already installed)|
|MH055M0-RC4 (RC4 QR)|
|MH057M0: Fixed base with retractable 1/4"- 20 and 3/8"-16 screws||MH057M0-Q5 (Q5 base)|
|MH057MO-Q6 (Q6 already installed)|
|MH057M0-RC4 (RC4 QR)|
|468MG: Fixed base with retractable 1/4"- 20 and 3/8"-16 screws||468MGRC0 (RC0 QR)|
|468MGRC2 (RC2 QR)|
|468MGRC3 (RC-3 QR)|
|468MGRC4 (RC-4 QR)|
|468MGRC5 (RC5 QR)|
|468MGQ6 (Q6 QR already installed)|
For more information, stop by the B&H SuperStore in New York, speak with a sales professional on the telephone at 1-800-606-6969 or contact us online via Live Chat.