FLM CB43-FTR Review

FLM CB43 FTR (Head only) Review

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Over the last few months my photographic interests have changed somewhat, with more and more of my personal work involving landscapes and long exposures. For this change in subject matter I needed to adapt my kit to ensure the camera had a rock solid platform to sit on, as the shutter would quite often open for several minutes at a time.

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So after finally getting to the point where I no longer wanted to use the old heavy and cumbersome ball head which had sat atop the Gitzo carbon reporter legs for the last decade, I decided it was time to treat myself to nice new head. (New legs will have to wait for a few months) I spent a few weeks casually looking around the offerings from the various manufactures before placing FLM at the top of my shortlist.

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Now lets be clear here, these heads aren’t cheap so careful consideration is needed before purchase as it’s likely you’ll be using it for years to come.

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Once I had my preferred brand pinned down, it was time to decide which of their range would suit my needs best. I considered the features I felt were lacking in my current head, and concluded that the ability to rotate the camera without touching the ball head was a must in order to allow easier alignment of image frames when creating a panoramic image. Another bugbear with the old head I had was the way the ball head flopped around all over the place as soon as the locking wheel was even slightly released.

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With these in mind I checked out the range whilst also being mindful that I didn’t want a ball head that was going to be too small to support the weight of my gripped 5d mark 3 and a lens safely or too heavy to walk around with for miles at a time.

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So I settled on the FLM CB43-FTR …….Wow, that lot sounds like a real mouthful!!!

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It’s actually quite easy to decipher though

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FLM …………. Brand (clever eh!)
C ………….. Center
B …………… Ball Head
43 .………… This is the diameter of the ball in mm (the professional range runs from 38 to 58)
F ……………Friction adjustment
T ……………Tilt control
R ……………Rotating base

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I ordered the head from www.snapperstuff.co.uk who are FLM’s official UK distributor. Having used snapperstuff in the past for a number of “Think Tank” products, I’d always had fantastic service so had no worries about this purchase. Yet again they didn’t disappoint with the head arriving on my desk a couple of days after order. I can’t recommend the service from them enough.

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Sitting at the desk holding the head my first impressions were good, each of the control knobs were smooth to rotate and required minimal pressure to perform their duties and the overall build was everything you’d expect of top class German engineering. (The QR shoe is NOT included)

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The action of the ball head was silky smooth with the friction on it’s lowest setting, gradually becoming tighter as the friction knob was rotated to the point where the ball was locked solid. I was surprised though at just how fluid the tightening action was with seemingly little increase in rotational effort to bring about the locking of the ball head. The keen eyed out there in internet land will have no doubt noticed the black outer ring on the friction control knob. This is to me a real boon! It allows a return to the exact friction setting when the ball head is released from a locked state. Never again will the weight of the camera flop over when the ball head is released.

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flm-cb43ftr-web

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Setting it is really simple too, simply adjust the main silver friction knob until the desired force is required to move the ball head and then tighten the black outer ring until it stops and thats it! Tighten the silver knob more to lock the ball off and undo it again to return to the previously set friction.

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The other controls on the body look a bit daunting and compared to my old head it looks a bit busy, but I’m glad to say they all perform simple functions.

FLM CB43FTR rear

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The panning controls consist of 2 knobs, the first is labeled as 15 degrees stop on my unit (on other images around the web it shows PRS [panrastsystem] ). With the knob screwed all the way in, you get a nice positive detent action clicking off each 15 degrees of rotation, undo the knob a couple of turns and the detent is disengaged and the head will spin freely. The centre section of this knob is spring loaded and can be used to lock the body to the base (when aligned to the zero point) in order to allow the head to be firmly tightened to the tripod without the use of tools. The second part of the panning control is the PAN knob, tighten this and the head will lock in position, loosen it and your back to being able to pan (with or without the 15 degree detent as set by the other knob)

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The last control is really quite interesting, but it’s action isn’t something that can be easily captured in a still image, it basically controls TILT. With the control backed off you can move the ball head in any direction you choose but with the control tightened up you can only move the ball head forwards or backwards to tilt or lower the lens without affecting the left / right positioning. This is ideal if you’ve levelled the camera body but need to alter the position of a horizon within the frame or alter the amount of foreground.
Now, at this point I feel I should also point out again that the quick release shoe that lives on top of this tripod head isn’t included with the head, it’s delivered with a standard circular aluminium affair with a threaded stud to directly attach your camera to. My QR is a manfrotto unit, salvaged from the old head because I already had QR plates on each of my lenses / bodies and these same plates also fit on my monopod too so it saved me a few £££, FLM produce their own range of QR plates and shoes.

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How does it handle in the wild?

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Well, how shall I say this ? It’s rather good indeed actually!

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For the first outing I was shooting at a stately home in the south of England on a cold Autumnal day. The controls of the head required no more effort to perform their function than they did in the warmth of the house and the camera remained solid from image to image without a hint of creep during the long exposure images I was making. Using the pan and tilt controls to compose the scene was a breeze compared to previous outings with composition being made and secured much quicker than with the old head. After several other outings in the cold my opinion of this head hasn’t changed and I’m looking forward to using it for the next few years, which is more than can be said for the old Gitzo legs which have also been annoying me with their silly leg locks so I’ll be busy saving from now until the photography show uk so I can replace the legs, no doubt with the 30 series Carbon Legs from FLM if they are manufactured as well as this head.

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Tech specs

Max load 30Kg
Width 59mm
Height 96mm
Weight 523g

Weblinks

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FLM

Snapperstuff 

CB43-FTR Product page 

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