The Arca-Swiss Cube C1, otherwise known as "The Cube" is a top of the line geared tripod head that I have had the pleasure of using now for the past two years. This head is capable of handling loads up to 85 lbs with ease. There are moments where I will cantilever my Arca Swiss 8x10 with a heavy lens, looking down at the ground and the Cube does not drift and can can be precisely tilted and pitched as if the load wasn't there.
Load Capacity: 85 lb (39 kg)
Pan Range: 360° (Top pan and bottom pan)
Height: 4.3" (110 mm) (folded position, Cube only)
Length: 4.3" (110 mm) (folded position, Cube only)
Width: 4.3" (110 mm) (folded position, excluding knobs, Cube only)
Spirit Level: Yes, x 2
Tension Control: Yes
Tripod Mount Thread Size: 3/8"-16
Weight: 2.19 lb (994 g)
I have to say that the build quality of this tripod head is exquisite. I am a product development and mechanical engineer (on the side of my photography gig) and I have to say that the engineering is impeccable. From the brass gearing to the hard anodized black body, everything was meticulously well thought out and it truly shines above any other head I've ever used.
One thing that concerned me when I first started using the Cube was the tension adjustments. I had come from ball head world, where everything needed to be tightly locked down in order to keep the camera from shifting during exposure or over long periods of time. I can say now, with confidence, that the tension adjustment knobs are more than sufficient. They provide enough friction on the mechanism that even my heaviest loads do not have the slightest creep over time.
The black control knobs have always seemed a bit small and uncomfortable to me, but under the limitations the engineers had to make the Cube work as well as it does, they are forgivable.
There is one additional knob on the bottom of the Cube that provides an additional feature that is unique to any other similar geared head on the market. When you loosen it, it allows for the cube to be positioned at completely 90 degrees. While I rarely point straight at the ground, it is useful to have the option to tilt the camera beyond 30 degree, specifically for subjects on the ground.
Another advantage of the Cube over its competitors is it has relatively fast adjustments. The worm drive component of the Linhof Micro 3D head is great for stability and strength, but is incredibly slow to use. The Cube is much faster, and for the loads I'm using, it is perfect.
The Cube also has a locking pan on the top and the bottom. Combined with the two bubble levels on the top of the head, I can level the top plate before ever putting a camera on, and can make smooth, level pans when composing. This is also great for those of you who may stitch images together for panoramas.
The weight of the Cube comes right in around 2 lbs, which is negligible compared to the weight of the rest of my kit. The average large ball head weighs around the same weight, so considering the Cube is nearly a big chunk of aluminum, Arca-Swiss did a great job weight relieving the internal components of the head.
Having spent years lusting over this tripod head, the past two years of using it in the field have been a dream come true. I can easily say that the Arca Swiss C1 Cube is the best tripod head I have ever used. With incredible engineering, this tripod head is a work of art and leagues above the competition. I've always said that if you can show me a piece of gear that is better than what I have, I'll buy it - and I just can't see this one being topped.
To those of you who may balk at the price of this head, look at the rest of the gear you've purchased. If you've spent over $10k on a camera setup (and you haven't read my blog Photographer's Anonymous), this should be in your bag, no questions asked.
If you'd like to purchase this head, I highly recommend contacting Rod Klukas at firstname.lastname@example.org. He is the USA representative for Arca Swiss and he can answer any questions you may have, as well as get you a Cube on his next shipment out! If you have any questions for me, don't hesitate to ask in the comments below.