The Feisol CB-50DC is unique in being the only head that is advertised to be made with carbon fiber. Given the material advantages carbon fiber provides over aluminum, this is an intriguing idea. In this case though, the carbon fiber is purely decorative. All of the structural components of the CB-50DC are still made out of the standard aluminum that we expect in a ball head.
As always, let’s start with the specifications:
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|Yaw Stiffness||5400 +/- 65 Nm/rad|
|Pitch Stiffness||4297 +/- 25 Nm/rad|
|Weight||1.24 lbs (0.562 kgs)|
|Manufacturer weight rating||41 lbs (0.25kgs)|
|Maximum Height||4.0 in (10.2 cm)|
|Base Diameter||2.5 in (6.4 cm)|
|Ball Diameter||50 mm|
|Quick Release||Arca Clamp|
The stiffness numbers for the CB-50DC are okay, but not class leading. Given the spectacular performance from the larger Feisol CB-70D, I had higher expectations for the CB-50DC. Clearly the basic design, which both share is strong. We naturally expect smaller diameter heads to be less stiff, but usually they perform more similarly from a stiffness/weight perspective. My best guess for the discrepancy is that the CB-50DC has a much smaller neck (the post the connects the ball and the clamp). This wouldn’t be the first time we have seen performance impacted by such a design choice.
Given the carbon fiber exterior, the CB-50DC isn’t particularly light. That’s not terribly surprising, since the carbon fiber is just that, an exterior. The head, like most others, is made entirely of aluminum with steel fittings. The carbon fiber surround simply looks kinda neat and feels nicer on the hands in cold weather. The carbon fiber here is mostly a gimmick, but hey, its original and people like gimmicks. If you are looking for a head that matches the aesthetic of the carbon fiber in your tripod legs, this is the only game in town.
The overall stiffness to weight ratio for the CB-50DC comes in a little above average. It certainly isn’t bad, but if you are really looking to optimize the stiffness/weight ratio of your setup, this isn’t the best head out there.
The CB-50DC has the basic functionality that we expect in a modern ballhead. There is a main lock knob for the ball, tension control, and a panning lock. These all work well. In an unusual arrangement, the tension control is placed opposite the main lock knob, clearly working on the same internal mechanism. It works well.
The smoothness of the ball on the Feisol is poor. There is no sugar coating this. When the head is completely unlocked, things are fine and the ball moves freely. Once a little bit of friction is applied though, things deteriorate. The motion is a little bit jerky, as the head encounters spots of more and less resistance. My guess is that this due to the presence of holes drilled into the ball to save weight. There is also asymmetry in the amount of friction depending on the direction of motion. This can cause the head to preferentially want to move along one axis, causing some frustration when composing. When using the CB-50DC, I would prefer to keep the tension very low which mitigated these issues.
The panning lock knob is often a weakness on these style ballheads. Often the knob is undersized and/or the locking mechanism isn’t strong enough to really lock down the panning base. I’m happy to report that this isn’t the case for the CB-50DC. The knob is large, easy to use, and it locks down the panning base without issue. The only downside is that the knob sticks out pretty far from the cylinder of the head, which both looks a little funny and can interfere with the overall compactness of the tripod when folded up. That’s and acceptable compromise in my book though for actually working well.
Aside from the odd friction behavior, the Feisol handles quite well with large, easy to operate knobs. It almost gets perfect marks in this section, but smoothness is a critical feature on ballheads, and so overall we end up with a problem here.
The CB-50DC comes with a screw type Arca clamp with a built-in safety stop mechanism. Overall the clamp is well made and works with every Arca dovetail plate I have tried with it. A hex bolt secures the clamp down into the neck. I cannot loosen the bolt while applying a respectable amount of torque with a hex wrench. I assume that it is glued in and thus replacing the clamp with a different one would likely be difficult. The safety stop consists of a pin that locks into one side of the included Arca plate. It works well, but has the downside of only working with Feisol’s plates. No other plates have the necessary grooves machined in for the pin to slot into.
The build quality is very good. Overall the head has a very solid feeling and I have no complaints. Everything is made of metal, except for the carbon fiber wrapping. The fit and finish isn’t quite the same as we expect from much more expensive ballheads, but this in no way seems to affect functionality.
Unique to the Feisol ballheads is the drilled out ball. As can be seen in the photo, the ball has been hollowed out and holed on the sides to save weight. This does indeed save a significant amount of weight and the Feisol is one of the lighter heads with a 50mm diameter ball. Unfortunately, the areas where additional ball diameter are helpful, stiffness and smoothness, are somewhat compromised by other design choices on the head.
Who is it for?
The CB-50DC is a totally solid ballhead that is best paired with all-purpose style tripods. It is a bit too big for travel setups, and users of systematic tripods will find it to be a bit small and poorly matched in terms of stiffness.