Desmond Flip Kit SCV-FK
The SCV Flip Kit is a set of parts that allows a large ballhead equipped with a panning base at its bottom, like the Sunwayfoto XB-52, to be converted into the equivalent of a leveling head with a panning base at its top. This arrangement is suitable for panoramic photography and other types of photography that require panning about a truly vertical axis.
This page was supposed to be a review of the Desmond Flip Kit SCV-FK. I ordered this kit from an eBay seller in the United States because I was unable to find a European source, and it was delivered to my address in Sweden reasonably quickly. It then sat on my table for a couple of weeks, waiting until I had time to test it. The kit came in a padded envelope containing a small cardboard box. Inside the box was a set of parts packaged in two ziplock bags. Up to this point, everything looked fine.
The surprise came when I opened the package and inspected the parts. The delivered kit is shown above. Unfortunately, the contents of this kit are partly different from the advertised product. In the following table, the left column shows the list of components advertised by the seller, the right column the components actually delivered.
The three sizes of stainless steel screws advertised with this kit are special items, with heads smaller than normal in order to fit through a 3/8" threaded hole in the aluminium base. The Sunwayfoto XB-52 requires the 6 mm special screw to attach the aluminium base of the kit to the neck of the ballhead. Without this screw, the kit cannot be used for its advertised purpose. Since it would have been too time-consuming to return the kit from Europe to the US seller to ask for a replacement, and the (in total) triple customs clearance was an additional likely problem, I just gave up on the idea.
The three 1/4" screws are general-purpose photographic items, but not usable with the kit. The four washers are of the rough quality one can buy from a hardware store, and also of no use with the kit.
On a web page dated October, 2013 (http://www.scvphotoideas.com/2013/10/create-economy-leveled-panoramic.html), the same kit is described as containing the special 1/4" and 6 mm screws, missing in my kit. This page also contains detailed instructions.
Another thing that attracted my attention is damage on the aluminium base of the kit. A 1/4" screw had apparently been forced through the slightly too tight central hole. This suggests to me that the kit was originally sold to a customer who damaged the part, removed a few parts of the kit and added a few others not related to the kit, and finally returned the kit to the seller, who simply restocked it without checking its condition. Alternatively, and more seriously, the kit may have been used as a store demo or to take advertising pictures, and some of its contents replaced in the process, but then sold as new to an unsuspecting customer. The missing printed instructions may be an intentional, finishing touch to make it more difficult for the store or final customer to immediately realize that something is amiss.
The missing instructions are not a serious problem, since quite enough information is easily available on the web. The missing special screw is a more serious problem, but it is possible to reduce the diameter of 1/4-20 and 6 mm steel screw heads to just under 8 mm by grinding them in a power drill chuck (Figure 3, top). With a makeshift 6 mm screw, the kit assembles correctly, albeit it is necessary to force the screw through the top of the aluminium base, with the results shown in Figure 2. Once assembled, the modified head works as advertised (Figure 3, bottom). The modified ballhead is almost 25 mm higher on the tripod than its original height, but can still be used as a ballhead in addition to panoramic head (if you don't mind the upside-down labels, which are unavoidable).
The aluminium base is carefully designed and manufactured, with a lightweight but rigid structure and a well-sized slot that matches a ridge on the end of the ball neck and prevents accidental twisting and unscrewing. The male-to-male 3/8" adapter is also well made. As a whole, the kit is well designed and machined to good tolerances, and does what it is intended to do. Some of the individual parts (especially the base and male-to-male 3/8" adapter) as far as I know are not available separately as tripod accessories, but can be very useful to solve problems when mixing and matching different tripods, tripod heads and clamps. It may be worth to purchase this kit even as a source of spare parts for experimenting with and adapting unrelated tripod gear. Just order it from a source in your country or continent, because it may otherwise be too expensive to return if defective.