Arca Swiss Monoball Ballhead Cleaning and Repair
Published November 30, 2004
Updated January 11, 2010 (contact info for Precision Camera Works)
The Arca Swiss B1 Monoball (Ballhead) has long been my favorite tripod head. The tension is smoothly adjustable, it locks down completely when you tighten it, and it has a special feel and balance that other ballheads don't match. That's because of its patented "aspherical ball," which gradually increase tension as you tilt it away from level. This increase in tension nicely counteracts the tendency of heavier cameras and lenses to "flop" over, resulting in very smooth operation. Even with my Canon EF 500 mm f/4 lens, this is my preferred head.
My trusty B1 Monoball had lost some of it's smoothness over the years. I learned from another photographer that I could clean it with denatured alcohol -- this turned out to be bad advice.
What was worse, a couple workshop participants recently showed up with brand new B1 Monoballs that were very stiff, to the point of being defective.
Precision Camera Works to the rescue! Located outside Chicago, they are the sole authorized Arca Swiss repair center in the western hemisphere. And they are experts in the care of feeding of Arca Swiss ballheads.
Owner Bob Watkins explained to me that the problems in my participants' new ballheads were likely due to some recent material problems (since solved) at a new Arca Swiss manufacturing facility in France. These problems are covered under warranty and repairs are free. If you've recently purchased an Arca Swiss Monoball and find that it's quite stiff out of the box, be sure to contact them.
The unevenness I was feeling in my B1 was due to accumulated dirt over time, exacerbated by my ill-advised cleaning with alcohol soak (this removes necessary lubricants and is not advised). But for a fee of about $80, Precision Camera Works was able to refurbish my ballhead and return it to me in a few days.
If you're experiencing problems with your Arca Swiss ballhead (or other Arca Swiss gear), contact Precision Camera Works for an estimate.