Surprisingly Great Ball Head From Germany
Review by Fernando Santos
This new little ball head from German-based company, Rollei, deserves your attention. If you know the iconic and outstanding BH-55 by Really Right Stuff, you probably have seen many similar products from other companies. I tested a few and none compared to the BH-55; but this Rollei Ball Head T5S Mark III does look and feel like a BH-55, with a smaller size, less weight, and at a much lower price. Interestingly,
it proved to be very solid, with great performance. Let me tell you about it.
The T5S Mark III is an arca-style panoramic ball head with three control knobs: a large one that controls the locking on the 40mm diameter ball head; a smaller one that controls the tension; and a third knob that controls the panoramic movement. The arca clamp is 50mm long and uses a screw knob. (Personally, I prefer the lever-release type.) It also includes a good-looking 50mm arca plate, but you probably already have enough arca plates, don’t you? I do. The ball head attaches to your tripod with the standard 3/8″ mount.
While the BH-55 is incredibly good, many times when I’m traveling, I reach for a smaller ball head mainly because of weight and size restrictions. The T5S Mark III, weighing just 0.9 lbs/409g, seems to be a great compromise between size, weight, and performance, and it supports up to 48.5 lbs/22Kg. The ball head base diameter is 50mm (roughly 2″). Even when you use a Platypod Ultra, it doesn’t obstruct any of the threaded holes or the strap slots. Same applies to the larger Platypod Max and the new Platypod Extreme. Its size is also helpful if you need to mount the ball head on the popular Manfrotto 131 Arms.
Apart from its good looks, small size, and light weight, how does the Rollei T5S Mark III perform with camera gear attached? Here’s how:
I grabbed my Canon EOS R6, the corresponding battery grip with two batteries inserted, the L-bracket sized for the grip configuration, my always-attached Peak Design Clutch, and then I added the Canon RF 2X Extender and one of my heaviest RF lenses, the RF 100–500mm f/4.5–7.1 L IS USM with a dedicated arca type lens foot. That totaled, in all, around 7.7 lbs/3.5Kg. If you exclude the RF high-end, super telephoto lens and gimbal heads, it’s difficult to load more on a ball head, considering the equipment most people use on a regular basis. Initially, I attached this whole setup to the lens foot, for proper weight distribution. The Rollei T5S Mark III handled the whole load without any problems, even with the lens extended to 500mm and the lens hood attached! So, I decided to take it up a notch: I mounted the whole setup using the camera L-bracket, which changed the gravity center way outside the ball head. To my surprise, the T5S Mark III was still able to handle the load, and did not move at all. Even though the specifications say it could handle up to 48.5 lbs./22Kg, I really wasn’t expecting that it could handle such a load.
So, I tried another heavy setup, where I replaced the RF 100–500mm with the RF 800mm F11, while keeping all the rest about the same, except for the lens foot, which, of course, was different. The new setup weighed about 7.3 lbs/3.3Kg and, again, it was no problem whatsoever for the Rollei T5S Mark III. Unfortunately, I don’t have any heavier lenses that I could try, but I suspect this ball head would still be able to handle them; at least if properly mounted on the lens foot.
The Rollei Ball Head T5S Mark III is a very impressive ball head. I will have no fear taking it with me on assignment, because I know it will be able to handle my gear without any issues. The only problem for readers in the U.S. may be finding one locally, while readers in Europe will have no problem. The easiest way to get one in the U.S. seems to be via online ordering at Amazon Germany. Hopefully, that will change soon.