I recently upgraded from my Targus tripod which has a crappy 3-way pan/tilt head on it to a Manfrotto 055xb and a Manfrotto 486rc2. What a world of difference. The Manfrotto 486rc2 is a ball head with Manfrotto’s rc2 rapid connect system. According to Manfrotto the 486rc2 can support up to 13.2lbs, is 3.75″ tall, weighs 1lb and uses 3/8″-16 threaded connection (will mate with all Bogen/Manfrotto tripods to the best of my knowledge).
Once attached to a tripod or monopod the 486rc2 has a single lever to release the ball to rotate. You can vary the tension on the ball somewhat with the lever, but it isn’t very precise, closer to an on/off then anything. You can however loosen the lever slightly and the head will rotate freely at the base (panning only), a little looser and the ball will rotate freely allowing full axis movement. The ball head has two detents to allow vertical framing.
The quick release system is pretty easy to operate. The light grey lever on the side has a small brass saftey lever below it that is flipped out and then the main lever can be opened releasing the plate. This helps to prevent accidental releasing of the quick release plate and your expensive camera and lens falling to the ground. Reattaching is as simple as pressing the quick release plate back in to the mounting and the lever will snap back. It doesn’t hurt to give it an extra little push just to make sure it is very firmly seated.
Manfrotto makes seperate quick release plates for the rc2 system. At the moment I only have the one, so it will probably live on the tripod most of the time unless I am going to be actively using it. I do plan to get at least 3 extra plates. That way, at least until I get any other long lenses, I can have one mounted to my OM-1n, OM-1, 70-210mm f/2.8 and 400mm f/5.6 all the time. For an inexpensive (ony $60 at time of purchase) the 486rc2 is an excellent, excellent ballhead. It deffinitely provides sufficient support for my 70-210mm f/2.8 + OM-1n + winder 2 which is my heaviest combination at around 4.5-5lbs.