The really clever part of the design is the two-part control on the side of the body. This consists of a large rubber-coated knob which locks or releases the ball. It ha a very short travel, which means that the ball goes from moving freely to locked rigid in about a quarter turn, which is great for rapid adjustments. In the centre of this knob is an adjustable friction control, which determines how easily the ball moves when released. By careful adjustment of this control it is possible to set the tripod up in such a way that it will provide just enough movement to track your subject, but enough rigidity for a shake-free stable shot.
It is this precise hydraulic pressure adjustment that is the key feature of the 468MG, and it does work extremely well. The friction control has a stiff ratchet action, so once it's set up the way you like it it's not likely to be disturbed by accident. It is easy to use, extremely effective, and provides a combination of heavy-duty support, freedom of movement and total versatility that will be welcomed by wildlife, sports and action photographers.
As well as this you get Manfrotto's usual bomb-proof build quality, with all the metal parts coated in a tough scratch-resistant matt black powder finish. Like most of Manfrotto's range the 468MG is designed for professionals, and so naturally it isn't cheap. It costs around £170, more than the cost of complete tripods from some rival manufacturers, and I wouldn't expect that price to drop significantly. However it does come with a three year warranty, which as a long-time Manfrotto user I've never had occasion to use. The 468MG is a professional quality head that will provide years of reliable service.
The new Manfrotto 468MG ball head is a superb piece of kit for anyone using a larger DSLR or medium-format camera for wildlife, sports or action photography. Its impressive load capacity, rugged build quality and the ease of use of its unique hydraulic friction control give it immense versatility and will win over even those who wouldn't normally consider a ball head.