Along with the new tripod (see other thread) I want to get a quick release ball head. I want to keep it in the $50 or under range, so I'm looking at the 3262 QR, the 3055, the 3055S or the 3413 "Pro Ball Head." Any comments on these heads would be welcome, especially the hex QR plates on the 3055 vs. the square plate on the other ones.
The main gripe I have about my current Stroboframe ball head (admittedly a cheapy) is that it has just enough play that it slides down a fraction on an inch after adjustment. I'd like the head to lock firmly in place, and not have to "aim a little high" when I set the lock.
I've seen the 3413QR at work with a N80 and 80-200mm f/2.8D ED mounted, at ease, no slipping at all. The rectangular plates 200PL-14 work very well and stay in place without any movement, i.e. no play. I almost bought one of these but decided instead to get another 3435QR (using the same plates as above) as I have heavier equipment (F5 + 80-200mm f/2.8D ED AF-S, for example).
I tried to make a go of it with the 3262QR. I found the square plate regularly slipped a bit in relation to the camera, particularly when I used it with my 80-400. (In that case it slipped from the tripod ring.) I also noticed that when I tightened the ball, there was always a small amount of slip. If you don't want to spend more than $50, you may have to live with this, but I finally got so frustrated that I bought an ARCA swiss B1 head and RRS plates, and I've been very happy with them.
I recently purchased the Manfrotto Proball 3413 QR to use with a light weight Gitzo 126 Reporter tripod that I like to use on when I am traveling light. I must say it locks up solid and does a geat job with my F5 and lenses up to 70-300ED Nikkor and even my 80-200/2.8 AF-S. I even use it with my Mamiya 6 medium format camera system and it works beautifully. It seems to be made very well for a ballhead in the $50.00 range, and has smooth action and a good size ball in it. The locking lever is the rachet type, so you can really lock it up good. Like JRP though, when I use my bigger, heavier glass like my 300/2.8 AF-S, I use a Manfrotto Proball 3436QR on a Gitzo G320 tripod, as the 3413 is only rated for up to an 8 lb load. Don't hesitate to buy the 3413QR, I think it's the best of the bunch in it's price range, hands down.
I just purchased a Manfrotto 308RC (Bogen 3413QR) and I'm really happy with it. Great build quality and quite solid with my lighter weight equipment (N65 + MB17 battery pack + 70-300 lens) Most mail order companies (Adorama, B&H, CameraWorld) are selling the Bogen version for $45-$50.
I'll say go for the Bogen/Manfrotto 168 Heavy duty ball head with the hex. plates. Pretty sturdy, although tightening the ball with a lever that moves sideways, as against 'tap' type levers, needs getting used to. The 168 ( or 3055) sells for less than 50 USD.