Review: Xit 404 Quad Ball adapter.
Whether the convergence of still and video photography currently manifesting in SLR cameras with HD video capabilities actually results in a demise of the video specific camera and housing is not yet determined. The consensus still seems that the results produced by “dedicated” video set-ups is superior enough to suggest that they will be around for a long time. Nevertheless, more and more previously dedicated still shooters are now trying their hand at video, using the capabilities that now seem standard in each new SLR. This brings with it a raft of ancillary problems for housing designers and users.
Not least of these is the fact that we typically now need two different light sources if we are to switch modes during a dive. Still photography requires a strobe, whereas video typically needs a continuous light. Most housings only have attachment points for one set of lights, and even on those that offer multiple points, the secondary attachments are often in a less favorable position. Californian accessory manufacturer Xit 404 has launched a product to help provide additional stable attachment points: The Quad Ball adapter.
The adapters are machined from aluminum and hard anodized. Each adapter can take up to four balls, three radially and one vertically. They engage onto any standard T groove plate which allows them to be fitted to the primary strobe attachment point on many still housings. T groove plates are also the standard fitting on many video housings as well, allowing the option of adding multiple attachment points to these too.
Each unit is supplied with two balls as standard, and these are attached into the adapter via an Allen screw. Additional balls are available if required. An innovative feature is the use of a stainless steel pin, which keys into a recess on the ball arms and stops the ball from rotating.
Each adaptor is supplied with an Allen key, which allows the balls to be fitted, but also crucially is used to tighten an Allen screw down which holds the base onto the T groove plate.
Whilst this ensures a snug fit with minimum movement, it also means that removing or replacing the adapter cannot be accomplished without a tool. If, like me, you strip your housing down for travel, it is important to either take the correct size Allen key with you, or ensure that one will be available upon arrival.
For the review, which I carried out on my trip to Nuweiba I added two video/focus lights and two strobes to my camera. The lights were a Light and Motion SOLA 600 and an iTorch Video Pro, whilst the strobes were Inon Z240’s. The two lights performances will be featured in a review shortly as well.
I was shooting both macro and wide-angle. With macro ports, two strobes and lights, the camera becomes very negative. I would suggest that some form of buoyancy arm or collar becomes necessary to prevent the rig getting very hard to handle. I used the foam floats made by Stix, well-known to many Wetpixel members, and they proved excellent.
In use, the Quad Ball adapters provided a very secure mount. Once the clamps were tightened to the correct degree, the balls would hold both lights and strobes in any required position at the surface and underwater. There was quite literally no movement or vibration once everything was locked down. This is crucial, as it is very frustrating to be needing to constantly re-position arms and strobes and is to my mind the single most crucial criteria. With my configuration, two balls were sufficient, but knowing that the adaptors can have another two added will future-proof them. The machining and engineering on the adaptors seems perfect, and there have been no functional problems with them.
I am a fan of having a lanyard handle, which I typically rig using cord and P-clips between my strobe attachment points. Whilst there is no problem doing this with the Xit adaptors, I did feel that some form of attachment eye could possibly be incorporated into the design.
The XIT Quad Ball adapters are priced at $50 each with two ball arms as noted above and are an elegant and excellent solution to the increasing plethora of ancillary equipment that we seem to be adding to our underwater camera rigs.
Many thanks to Backscatter who supplied the test units for this review. For more information on Xit 404, please visit their website.