need new head recommendations

Started Mar 28, 2013 | Discussions
sooflyfisher
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need new head recommendations
Mar 28, 2013

Well I'm looking at getting a new tripod head.  Primarily as I am finding the my current Mafrotto pan/tilt head, although its pretty solid, is still not adequate for use with my Sigma 120-300 F2.8 lens.  The tripod I have is decent, one of the heavier aluminum Manfrottos so dont plan on buying a new tripod.  Looking for recomendations on a new head. What would be the best most solid route for use with the big telephoto (6lbs +)  I primarily am looking at shooting wildlife and birds with this setup.

Any recomendations are greatly appreciated.  As per budget, I'm not completely sure what to say here. I probly shouldnt be spending anything lol! But oh well whats a lil smoking credit card lol!  So nothing outrageous for budget but I know I wont be getting away cheap on this one.

Thanks all

Mike

nkistrup
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Re: need new head recommendations
In reply to sooflyfisher, Mar 29, 2013

In a similar situation, and I can you what the consensus will be: Head that supports the Arca Swiss plates.  Didn't do it when I purchased heads for the monopod & tripod, and I'm regretting ... especially after so many on this site had pointed me in the proper direction.

Some brands that I get high marks are RRS, Markins, Kirk, and Arca Swiss.  Probably going for Acratech.  Have a Gitzo Safari ball head 1780FQR, and though it works great on my tripod with my P&S, will not push it on the tripod with a long zoom or telephoto lens.

Do not just go by the load ratings: Look the reviews.  Gitzo's 1780 magnesium heads are light, but get mixed ratings, even though they are rated for 10 kg.  Trust it with a heavy load on the monopod, but not the tripod.

Have a Manfrotto tilt head on my monopod rated at 2 kg.  Works great!  Double locking on the quick release plate.  QR plate uses a D-ring to attach to the camera; no complaints.

Have a tripod collar?  If not, get one.  Even if your lens has more than enough support, you don't want it wobbling.

Sounds like you have pricey, do not short change your support system.

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Enthusiast Photographer
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Re: need new head recommendations
In reply to sooflyfisher, Mar 29, 2013

I'm not a fan of Manfrotto's heads at all.  They are just terrible - fiddly, not all that stable and with no workable provision for an L-plate like you see on Arca-Swiss.

I'd look at Sunwayfoto's entry ball heads - they are reasonably priced (but not cheap), have great handling/features  and are built like tanks.

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sooflyfisher
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Re: need new head recommendations
In reply to Enthusiast Photographer, Mar 29, 2013

thanks for the replies so far.  I find the Manfrotto head to be decent,  the big problem with it is the quick release set up, not solid at all.  If the mounting method for the lens/camera to the head were solid, the Manfrotto head would be great.  Gonna have to look at the arca swiss options.  Lotsa research to do on this subject as I am pretty much lost! lol.

Thanks again.

Mike

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Wyville
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Re: Gimball
In reply to sooflyfisher, Mar 29, 2013

sooflyfisher wrote:

Well I'm looking at getting a new tripod head.  Primarily as I am finding the my current Mafrotto pan/tilt head, although its pretty solid, is still not adequate for use with my Sigma 120-300 F2.8 lens.  The tripod I have is decent, one of the heavier aluminum Manfrottos so dont plan on buying a new tripod.  Looking for recomendations on a new head. What would be the best most solid route for use with the big telephoto (6lbs +)  I primarily am looking at shooting wildlife and birds with this setup.

Any recomendations are greatly appreciated.  As per budget, I'm not completely sure what to say here. I probly shouldnt be spending anything lol! But oh well whats a lil smoking credit card lol!  So nothing outrageous for budget but I know I wont be getting away cheap on this one.

Thanks all

Mike

I think you might do best with a gimball head. There are many options ranging from the expensive Wimberley heads to the very affordable Lensmaster as well as a full gimball option, side mount gimball or sidekick (ball head with a side mount gimball conversion).

The three versions of the gimball are a matter of personal preference. The full gimball is probably the stongest option. A side mount is lighter (still very strong). The sidekick allows you to also use a ball head, but requires an expensive ball head to get the stability.

You can't really go wrong with Wimberley, but those are very expensive.

Jobu Design might be a bit less expensive and is still very good quality, surely enough to suit your needs. Their Jr.3 head is quite versatile and can be used as both a full gimball and side mount and has a load capacity of 5.5 kg (12 lbs). (Jobu Design seems to use conservative load capacity ratings. My monopod is rated for 5-7 kg (10-15 lbs), but will easily deal with double that.)

The Lensmaster is an option if you want to save a lot of money. There are two; the RH-1 (side mount) and RH-2 (full gimball) and are made by a British guy in his garage. They're really cheap, but also really smooth, strong and easy to maintain. If you can get passed their lack of a nice design (they're not really pretty to look at) and some compromises (that don't affect actual use), it might very well be a great option. Plus, Rob (the British guy) is really nice and offers great service unavailable anywhere else.

All the options I've mentioned use Arca Swiss type quick release systems. If you choose screw knob clamps instead of lever-type clamps, you will be able to use pretty much every brand out there. (Lever-type clamps are subject to variations in tolerances.)

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Enthusiast Photographer
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Re: need new head recommendations
In reply to sooflyfisher, Mar 29, 2013

sooflyfisher wrote:

thanks for the replies so far.  I find the Manfrotto head to be decent,  the big problem with it is the quick release set up, not solid at all.  If the mounting method for the lens/camera to the head were solid, the Manfrotto head would be great.  Gonna have to look at the arca swiss options.  Lotsa research to do on this subject as I am pretty much lost! lol.

Thanks again.

Mike

That is kinda like saying "It would be a great race car if it were actually fast!" 

Seriously - the job of a ball head is to be utterly stable and being very flexible is a huge bonus to the photographer.  There are some terrific Arca-Swiss heads for reasonable money (Sunwayfoto is my favorite among brands with entry prices, Sirui is decent, too), and you have lots of flexibility for plates for your camera and lenses, not to mention L-plates which are an awesome thing when you want to go to portrait orientation.  Drop notches suck and make the tripod less stable where the L-plate keeps your camera centered atop the tripod.

This one is under $200, and I think you'll find it to be extremely capable, easy to use and far more stable than anything Manfrotto makes: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/899235-REG/Sunwayfoto_fb_36dl_FB_36_Head_With_Duo_Lever.html

(By the way, I have owned a couple of their heads, and handled almost all of them.  I go to CES every year for work and always make a point to hit the Photo pavilion.)

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Wyville
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Re: need new head recommendations
In reply to Enthusiast Photographer, Mar 29, 2013

Enthusiast Photographer wrote:

(By the way, I have owned a couple of their heads, and handled almost all of them.  I go to CES every year for work and always make a point to hit the Photo pavilion.)

Didn't you write a review of the Sunwayfoto DT-01 tilt head?

I just got one based in part on that review. It's a really nice head! I combined it with the DDC-60 clamp which, mounted on my Jobu Design carbon monopod makes for a light and strong combo. Haven't been able to test it extensively yet, but my first impressions are really good.

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Enthusiast Photographer
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Re: need new head recommendations
In reply to Wyville, Mar 30, 2013

Wyville wrote:

Enthusiast Photographer wrote:

(By the way, I have owned a couple of their heads, and handled almost all of them.  I go to CES every year for work and always make a point to hit the Photo pavilion.)

Didn't you write a review of the Sunwayfoto DT-01 tilt head?

I just got one based in part on that review. It's a really nice head! I combined it with the DDC-60 clamp which, mounted on my Jobu Design carbon monopod makes for a light and strong combo. Haven't been able to test it extensively yet, but my first impressions are really good.

I did. I also reviewed their XB-44 ball head, and gave up my RRS BH-40 for it.  I've sent it to a couple pros who have been enthusiastic about it as well.  It is a premium head though, so I thought their entry line was a better fit.

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Hank3152
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Re: need new head recommendations
In reply to sooflyfisher, Mar 30, 2013

The Manfrotto heads will all tend to creep over time.......they're just not made well enough to last, including their tripods. Although I use a Markins Q20LR and it's rock solid with my 70-200/2.8IS II and excellent up to the 300f/2.8II, I'd suggest the RRS BH-55 which should handle the gear mentioned. I wouldn't go with anything less.....

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fpessolano
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Gimbal or acratech gp
In reply to Wyville, Mar 30, 2013

acratech go can take 10kg and can function as a gimbal as well.

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NancyP
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Re: need new head recommendations
In reply to sooflyfisher, Apr 4, 2013

Get a gimbal head if you are shooting sports or birds in flight on a tripod. Get a tilt (one axis) head if you use a monopod.

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bravozulu
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Re: need new head recommendations
In reply to NancyP, Apr 10, 2013

I walked into a huge camera store in Hollywood with my 40 year-old Gitzo tripod. Bogen 2-handle head. I asked the guy in the pro section if I should trade up. First he wanted to know if I was a hiker or wilderness guy. Nope. Not at age 70.

He said keep what I got and forget about Carbon Fiber. He advised me to dump the Bogen head and go for a ball head. My biggest lens is an 80-200 with a tripod foot, so a ball with a 10Kg capacity is ample. He suggested the Giottos medium ball. Sells for $135. Looks and feels Italian, but it's made in China. What isn't, these days.

All this is just opinion. And really only has meaning if you're an amateur, like me. I sure am glad I got that Gitzo back in 1987. It would cost nearly $900 today. My wife worked at Warner Brothers Studios for 27 years, and on visits I saw a lot of the cameramen using Gitzo. Giottos is a new brand. But real economical, with an emphasis on function.

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