Full disclosure: Colorado Tripod Company sent me these products to review and the links in this post are affiliate links that I make a small profit from if you purchase through them. I can assure you that I keep my reviews unbiased, I honestly love these products and only support companies I believe in.
Over the years, I have tried many different brands of ballheads, the only brand I have been genuinely impressed with is Really Right Stuff. The problem with RRS is their prices are quite high as I will get into later, there are also some other issues with the company that I won’t get into. Then came along the Colorado Tripod Company who did a Kickstarter for their new Highline ballhead which was massively successful.
For the past six months, I have been using the Highline Ballhead (Aluminium version) exclusively. In short, I can honestly say that it has been a fantastic experience and I would highly recommend this ballhead.
Quality / Feel
For a ballhead at this price point, you would expect it to feel cheap and not fluid. Much to my surprise, it feels like a top of the line ballhead that you come to expect from Really Right Stuff, etc. The knobs have a fluid feel to them, and it does not require massive force to get the ballhead to lock down. When you crank the knob down, it is also easy to loosen even if you do apply lots of force. The knobs are deeply knurled to give you lots of grip even when wearing heavy gloves. The feel of the panning base and the ballhead itself are incredibly fluid; I would say even better than RRS. It’s easy to set it with a little bit of tension and be able to move smoothly while being able to let go and not have the camera flop over. The tension adjustment is easy to set, it could use a marking so you know which way has more/less tension, but it’s easy to test this and figure it out quickly by going to the extremes of the adjustment. The base of the head also has degree markings as you would expect on a high-end ballhead.
I have been using the Aluminum (Al) version of the Highline, and it weighs in at 1.1 lbs, which is an entirely reasonable weight for a ballhead of this caliber. It has a weight capacity of 54 lbs, which I wholeheartedly believe it is capable of. Let’s compare this to RRS because I feel they are in the same class. The Highline falls somewhere in between the BH-40 and the BH-55. The BH-40 weighs 1.07 lbs, only a tiny amount less than the Highline Al. The BH-40 only has a weight capacity of 18 lbs, but I will say that they under-rate their ballheads by a significant amount, the BH-40 could easily handle more than this. The BH-55 is RRS’s gold standard, it’s a fantastic ballhead, but it also weighs a whopping 2 lbs, nearly double the Highline! It has a weight capacity of 50 lbs, but could likely hold a lot more.
Up till now, we haven’t even talked about what the Colorado Tripod Company (CTC) has made a name for themselves for. Titanium. That amazing metal that is incredibly strong yet ridiculously lightweight. The Highline Ti only weighs .75 lbs and still supports 54 lbs, that’s impressive. But don’t get too excited yet unless you have deep pockets, titanium is pricey.
Let’s start by talking about the price of RRS ballheads for the sake of comparison. The BH-40 is $380 with a knob release (for a fair comparison), the BH-55 is $450. The Highline Al? $99. Once you try out the Highline, you will see why this is a no-brainer. It’s 1/4 of the price to have an incredibly high-quality ballhead that weighs the same and is close to the same quality.
Now let’s look at the Highline Titanium (Ti); $499. Ouch. But if you have the money and want a crazy lightweight ballhead that can handle just about anything, you need this ballhead.
I have put this poor ballhead through its paces in the time we have been together.
In Death Valley we love to go out into the sand dunes when the wind is blowing ferociously. The sand in the air creates incredibly dramatic, atmospheric conditions. Of course, the sand can be very tough on gear.
After our venture out into the dunes, I noticed some sand sticking to some spots that were greased at the factory, which brushed right off. Other than this, I didn’t see anything wrong with it. No sand got into the ballhead itself; it just worked great.
In February we visited Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park, deep in the winter season. The first test was in the Tetons where the temperature in the morning reached -24 F. It was brutally cold. The ballhead was sticking a little bit, which I think was from me breathing on it while composing, so the condensation was freezing on the ball. But, to be fair, our friends had RRS ballheads, and they were having minor sticking issues as well.
Yellowstone presented its own challenges. The thermal features are steaming, and sometimes I had to walk through the steam, which of course is warm water that covered my tripod. Once I walked out of the steam, the water instantly froze, but it never proved to be a problem for the ballhead.
I also used the ballhead in the ocean and was splashed with salt water several times, again no issues whatsoever.
There are very few negatives with this ballhead. One is that it is a bit bulky for smaller mirrorless cameras or for backpacking. I use a Fujifilm camera which is very small, but I appreciate the support of this ballhead despite it being a bit bigger, especially when using a large lens such as the Fujifilm 100-400 which the BH-30 I was using previously was not stable with this lens.
Another negative for some people will be the fact that it only comes with a screw knob for taking the camera on and off rather than a flip lock. I personally like the screw knob, but I know this will be a downfall for some.
The only other negative I could come up with is a feature that most people will probably like. This is their patented drop-window. The drop-window is the slot you can drop the ball into to either shoot in a vertical orientation or to shoot down low. In general, this is a very useful feature. My problem with it comes when shooting vertical panoramas. The slot that most companies use is extremely useful for keeping the camera straight when doing vertical panoramas, unfortunately, you cannot do that with this design. If you have no idea what I’m talking about then don’t worry about this, it is a very niche use case.
The Highline Aluminum ballhead is an absolute steal for $99, there is no better value for the quality on the market. The quality is exceptional. If you’re looking the perfect combo of stability while being lightweight, the Highline Titanium cannot be beat. It’s pricey, but not that much more than a BH-55.
Note: If you have a keen eye you will notice the tension adjustment knob is in different locations in some of the photos. I had a pre-production version which had tension adjustment on the main knob, which was cumbersome to adjust; after receiving feedback they moved the tension adjustment so it has a dedicated knob. The first image in this post is the latest version along with a 2-series Centennial Tripod.
CTC Tripod Review Coming Soon
Colorado Tripod Company is also working on a series of new tripods that also come in aluminum and titanium. I just received one and have been using it for a couple of weeks; my initial impressions are extremely impressive. I may dare to say that quality is better than RRS or Gitzo. It will be a little while before I put out the full review because I always like to spend at least a few months using a product before writing a review to give you the best information possible.