Deep Green Photography

GEAR REVIEW -- Oben CC-2320 L Tripod & BB-1 Ballhead

Blog, Gear ReviewsGreg Basco5 Comments
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Introduction

I'm always on the lookout for new gear options and, being in Costa Rica where it's tough to come by photo gear, having a second tripod and head is not at all a bad idea. If something were to happen to my Induro CT313 tripod and BHL2 ballhead, I'd be in trouble until I could get some new gear down from the US. In addition, it's nice to have a lighter tripod and head for those times when I want to go a little smaller, which I'm doing often for my current coffee table book project focusing on artistic images of Costa Rica's natural wonders. And finally, my son Chris Basco, a budding photographer himself, needed a quality tripod to support his Canon 5D Mark I and the lenses I lend him.

While searching for an option to fill these needs, I received word from my contact at B and H Photo Video that the owners of Oben tripods were interested in helping to sponsor my coffee table book project by sending down gear that interested me. Oben is making some interesting products, and they are part of the parent company The Gradus Group. I’m going to be reviewing a number of different items in the months to come but to start off, they sent me down a new tripod and head from their Oben division. The products we decided on are the Oben CC-2320L carbon fiber tripod and the Oben BB-1 ballhead. Overall, I think the Oben products reviewed here offer a good value for the money and compare favorably to similarly priced alternatives.

A Brief Business Interlude

As always, if you enjoy this review and the Deep Green site in general, please consider making your next gear purchase through the affiliate links in the text of this review or at the bottom of this page. You pay exactly the same, and I make a little commission to keep things running.

Please note that though I do earn a commission if you buy a product at B and H Photo Video through this review and though I do enjoy a sponsorship arrangement with the Gradus Group and their line of Oben tripods and heads, I do not slant my reviews in favor of a particular piece of gear. If I don't like something, you can be sure I'll note that in the review. I'd like to thank B and H and the Gradus Group for sponsoring my coffee table book project by supplying me with the Oben CC-2320L carbon fiber tripod and the Oben BB-1 ballhead. That said, the source of the equipment has no bearing on the content or tone of this review.

The pictures in this review were taken by my son and budding photographer, Chris Basco -- check him out here!

Chris used the following equipment after setting up a little makeshift studio in our house with a white sheet and used the same equipment out in a cloud forest near our house one day for the other shots.

Canon 5D Mark II camera body

Canon 17-40 mm f4 L wide angle zoom lens

Sigma 150 mm f2.8 macro lens

Canon 430 EX Speedlite Flashes

Phottix Radio Transmitter/Receivers

Pictured of course are the following Oben products:

Oben CC-2320L carbon fiber tripod

Oben BB-1 ballhead

The Oben CC-2320 L Tripod - General Impressions

The Oben CC-2320 L tripod is a slick and professional looking piece of gear. Upon removal from the included heavy-duty nylon tripod bag (a very nice addition), the tripod surprised me with the look and feel of the parts. I go back and forth on flip locks, but the Oben's flip locks have a nice feel and lock securely. The tripod feels plenty sturdy, and I would have no problem using it to support a pro body with my Canon 300 mm f2.8 lens in a pinch, though I would prefer my beefier Induro CT313 for this purpose. That's not a knock on the Oben, however. The Oben 2320 is a small lighter weight tripod, and for the purposes I have in mind for it -- general landscape and macro photography -- it's absolutely fine.

The Oben CC-2320 L has all of the features one would want in a tripod (see chart below), and it comes with a nicely made tripod bag and the necessary allen wrenches. It also comes with retractable spiked feet, which are a nice addition for different types of terrain. In the field, the Oben CC-2320 L was quick and efficent to use. It did exactly what a tripod should do -- support our gear so that we can concentrate on photography. I used it with confidence with a pro body (the Canon 1D Mark IV) and a pretty substantial lens (the Canon 70-300 mm f4-f5.6 L IS zoom).

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The Oben CC-2320 L with the Oben BB-1 ballhead.

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A good looking package for sure.

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A general view emphasizing the flip locks and retractable spiked feet.

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The center column can be switched to lateral mount easily and quickly.

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The finished carbon fiber is very nice looking.

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Independent leg spread to 90 degrees.

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The sturdy flip locks.

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Bubble level on the tripod base, very handy for panoramic shooting.

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Looking good in the rain forest!

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The finish and styling are really nice.

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We got this thing plenty wet but didn't have any problems.

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Retractable spiked feet are nice for those doing winter shooting, not such a big deal for Costa Rica!

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The tripod held up just fine in the humid muddy conditions of the rainforest.

The Oben CC-2320 L Tripod - The Competition

The real question is how any tripod fares when compared to the competition. I chose offerings from two brands with which I'm familiar, Induro and Manfrotto, and that had similar price points to the Oben CC-2320 L. I previously had used the precursor to the listed Manfrotto, and my main tripod is one of the big brothers to the Induro listed below. So, I feel comfortable comparing them in a general sense.

Oben CC-2320L Induro Carbon 8X CT114 Manfrotto 055CXPRO3
Max. Height w/column
68.3″
59.3″
68.9″
Max. Height w/o column
55.7″
50.1″
55.1″
Folded Length
25.4″
19.7″
25.6″
Load Capacity
26.4 lbs.
17.6 lbs.
17.6 lbs.
Weight
3.85 lbs.
2.8 lbs.
3.6 lbs.
Leg Sections
3
4
3
Lock Type
flip
twist
flip
Material
6x carbon fiber
carbon fiber
carbon fiber
Leg Spread to 90
yes
yes
yes
Center Column
reversible/lateral
reversible
reversible/lateral
Carrying Case
included
included
not included
Feet Type
normal/spiked
spiked included
normal only
Price
$329.95
$339.00
$349.90
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The lateral mount for the center column, while not the perfect low angle shooting solution in my opinion, is quick and easy to do on the Oben and will get the job done.

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The simple touch of a button will allow you to make the center column a lateral arm for low angle shooting.

The Oben BB-1 Ballhead

The Oben BB-1 ballhead is quite nicely made and is a good competitor for its price range. It worked well in the field and was easy and quick to use. The one complaint I have is that there is a bit of creep when using this ballhead with a substantial body and lens if the tension knob is not tightened. It's not a big deal as the creep disappears once the tension is increased but the idea of the main knob is that it should lock movement regardless of the tension setting. This is not uncommon for more budget-priced ballheads (and even some higher-end heads!) but it's the one way that I think Oben could improve the BB-1 ballhead. Complaint aside, one gets to know one's gear, and I'll have no problem using the head for my shooting in the future.

The Oben features compare favorably to similar offerings from Induro in this price range, and I think the performance compares pretty favorably as well (I've never noticed any creep in my Induro ballhead but it's one of the bigger models, not the smaller models that compare to the Oben BB-1). The inclusion of an Arca-Swiss style camera plate by Oben is nice as it matches this Induro bonus. The new Induro line features the tension knob incorporated into the main knob. I use the Induro BHL2 ballhead for much of my shooting, and I've come to like the feature. Nonetheless, it's not a huge deal, and if you prefer a separate tension knob, then the Oben BB-1 or the Induro BHD0 may be better choices for you.

Oben BB-1 Ballhead Induro BHD0 Ballhead Induro BHL1 Ballhead
Quick Release
yes, Arca-Swiss type
yes, Arca-Swiss type
yes, Arca-Swiss type
Plate Included
yes
yes
yes
Bubble Level
yes
no
yes
Load Capacity
22 lbs.
17.6 lbs.
44 lbs.
Weight
0.88 lbs.
0.9 lbs.
0.9 lbs.
Panning Knob
yes, separate knob
yes, separate knob
yes, separate knob
Tension Control
yes, separate knob
yes, separate knob
incorporated into main knob
Price
$149.95
$135.00
$180.00
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The Oben BB-1 in the rain forest.

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Looking good mounted on the Oben CC-2320 L tripod. Note the degree markings for pano shooting.

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Including a bubble level is nice but the location doesn't make any sense because you can't see it once you've mounted your camera or lens. My Induro ballhead has the bubble level on one of the side rails on the mounting area, which makes more sense. To be honest though, I never use it because I use a bubble level in the hotshoe when doing landscape photography. And many newer DSLRs have an electronic bubble level feature in the rear LCD screen. So, inclusion of a bubble level in the head is probably not that much of a necessity any more but if Oben were to include one, it would make more sense not to have it under the camera plate.

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Closeup view of the quick release mechanism, which works just fine.

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The controls on the BB-1 are well-thought out and easy to use.

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A final view of the Oben BB-1 ballhead.

Final Considerations

After some time on humid rain forest trails, in muddy mangrove swamps, and the blazing hot, rocky, and salty Pacific Coast in Costa Rica, I can say that I've been pleased with the performance of both the Oben CC-2320 L tripod and the Oben BB-1 ballhead. They both stood up to some tough conditions and allowed me to concentrate on photography, which is what good support equipment should do. As noted above, there a couple of things that I think Oben can improve upon in future models but overall, I consider them to be good products that are competitive with similarly priced offerings from more familiar brands such as Manfrotto and Induro. I'm looking forward to seeing more gear from Oben, and you'll be seeing reviews of other new gear from the Gradus Group in the coming months here on the Deep Green Photography blog.

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I hope you've enjoyed this review. Please feel free to shoot me a comment below if you have any questions at all!

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Gregory Basco

Greg Basco is a resident Costa Rican professional photographer and environmentalist. He is a BBC/Veolia Wildlife Photographer of the Year and Nature's Best Windland Smith Rice prizewinner, and his photos have been published by National Geographic, Outdoor Photographer, and Newsweek.