"Burzynski"- Never heard of it?

By Bjørn Rørslett

Review Incepted 1 March, 2001

Nature photographers are always looking for new solutions to their old, recurring problems, getting adequate support to their heavy photographic equipment and long lenses being a typical example. Meet the exciting Burzynski ball head which sets a new performance standard.

Sometimes, you are in for a big surprise. Intuitively, I suspected this when I came across a small depiction of the Burzynski "Protec" ballhead on the web site of Isarfoto, a German dealer. So, I ordered it without hesitation, for an asking price slightly below that of the Arca B1 (a head which incidentally isn't a big favourite of mine). The Burzynski head arrived a couple of days later, and I knew immediately this had to be something special. And indeed, it was. It has that wonderful simplicity about it that I as a working professional just adore. So simple a design, so little that may cause problems when the unit is put to hard use.

The Burzynski "Protec" ball head mounted on my medium-sized Sachtler tripod (SP14/DA75). I've added a Foba quick-release clamp to the supporting platform of the Burzynski head. This clamp allows any Arca/Foba type plate to be attached to the Burzynski.

Basically, the Burzynski head solves a number of weak spots in the design and function of many ball heads. It is very short, thus keeping the centre of gravity as low as possible. It mounts directly into a 100 mm bowl video-type tripod, such as the Sachtler ENG 2 CF, or atop all standard-type tripods through its 3/8" thread. The weight is modest as far as ball heads go, slightly above 1 kg, and this keeps the tripod from being more top-heavy than necessary. My medium-sized Sachtler with the Burzynski weighs less than 3 kg thus allowing the tripod to be carried on long hikes. The stem rising from the ball itself is extremely broad-based and flares directly into the camera-supporting platform. So in efffect the Burzynski completely lacks the typical, and potentially vibration-prone, longish stem of most ball heads.

The Burzynski head consists of a truly massive metal sleeve within which an aluminium ball rides on a nylon bushing. The ball's tension is controlled by two protruding and separate handles. The lower section of the sleeve can be rotated into any convenient position as long as some slack is present on either handle. This allows the head to give a smooth panning capacity. The dreaded "ball head flop" is present when both controls are loose, but an ever so slight twist on either will prevent this from happening.

An unprecedented rigidity is the feature that sets the Burzynski head off from all others. It simply redefines what "dead solid" is all about. Even with my biggest glass mounted on it, there is neither slight creep nor residual vibration when the head is locked into position. The locking action is very fast and positive and in fact, there is no need to apply excessive tightening of the controls to lock the head firmly. The Burzynski head supports any lens with ease. Period. A 500 mm? No problem. A 1000 mm? Still no problem. It simply eliminates the tripod head as the weak link in any tripod-lens setup, thus allowing the photographer to concentrate on capturing the shot instead of worrying about camera shake. In this respect it is just about perfect.

After working with the Burzynski head under rough winter conditions (-15 ºC and wind), I can vouch it operates with the utmost ease at low temperatures, something many other heads (including that of the photographer) cannot properly take on. Its action is silky-smooth no matter the ambient temperature level. Presumably it will continue working submerged too, but I cannot stand the idea of going for a dive under the reigning harsh climate here in Norway, so testing this aspect has to wait a few months.

Discovering the Burzynski means I just have to reallocate my tripod resources. My Foba Superball head henceforth will go with my smallest Sachtler, to be pressed into service for mountain hikes, for on-the-ground close-up work with my 105 mm Micro-Nikkors, or put to the occasional use under cramped or confined shooting situations. It will no longer be my main tripod head. The Foba reigned supreme for 14 wonderful years, but it could not possibly resist the onslaught of the Burzynski. Memories are forever, but we need to move on. So let it be.

The current Burzynski head goes permanently attached to my medium-sized Sachtler, and I've ordered a second Burzynski unit for my biggest Sachtler tripod, the one supporting my large-format gear. This moving-around of items leaves my heavy Sachtler fluid-head detached from any particular tripod, and its future use is unclear. I'll think it over.

So, aren't there any caveats with this new wonderhead? Yes, there indeed are and for obvious reasons too. The Burzynski head clearly is conceived for using a long lens with its own rotating tripod collar. It will be awkward to use if a camera is mounted directly to it, unless of course the camera is equipped with an "L"-type bracket. Otherwise, there is no way you can do vertical shots because the Burzynski will flip over just to 45 degrees. For my own setup, in which all cameras have such brackets, no problem obviously occurs. Neither will using my bench-type Arca-Swiss view cameras (6x9, 4x5", and 8x10") pose any problem.

My Nikon F5 with the UV-Nikkor 105 mm f/4.5 lens. Because the camera has an "L" bracket attached, shooting verticals on the Burzynski head is a breeze. Without the "L", operating issues would occur when using lenses devoid of a separate (and rotating) tripod mount. Please pay attention to the massive neck of the supporting platform, this is what gives the Burzynski head its phenomenal rigidity.

The Burzynski head comes in a nice satin finish and I find its price level (330 Euro, approx. 300 $) a give-away considering the tremendous quality of this head. The Burzynski immediately became my new reference standard. I cannot give any item a higher recommendation than this. Hence I have purchased several of these items to replace my earlier tripod heads.

[Note added 28 July, 2004]

The latest version of the Burzynski ball head has a narrower lower platform, 70 mm in diameter vs the 85 mm of my first purchased head. This makes it less suitable for mounting directly on top of a Sachtler DA-75 type tripod without adding a levelling bowl to it, but on the other hand, no extra measures are needed to fit the "new" Burzynski to the 100 mm class of video tripods such as the Sachtler ENG 2 series.


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Last Update 28 July, 2004