Hiking/Traveling with E-M5 - Recommended Ball Head?

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RossN
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Hiking/Traveling with E-M5 - Recommended Ball Head?
8 months ago

I'm looking for some advice regarding selecting a respectably lightweight ball head oriented for hiking and travel. Something that is pretty high quality, but it doesn't have to be the 'ultimate' or 'best ever', per-se.

I'm shooting with an E-M5, using a variety of lenses... the Panasonic 12-35 is the heaviest/longest lens I have now is, though I could look at something like the Panasonic 100-300 in the future.

Feature-wise, I think I'm headed towards something that uses a Arca Swiss type mount. I'm also, not sure if there are implications, but panoramas and night photography (star trails/image stacking) may be some of the uses.

Any specific or general recommendations for ball heads and mounting plates that meet my needs would be appreciated.

Cheers!
Ross

Bob Tullis
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RSS BH-25 or BH-30
In reply to RossN, 8 months ago

RossN wrote:

I'm looking for some advice regarding selecting a respectably lightweight ball head oriented for hiking and travel. Something that is pretty high quality, but it doesn't have to be the 'ultimate' or 'best ever', per-se.

I'm shooting with an E-M5, using a variety of lenses... the Panasonic 12-35 is the heaviest/longest lens I have now is, though I could look at something like the Panasonic 100-300 in the future.

Feature-wise, I think I'm headed towards something that uses a Arca Swiss type mount. I'm also, not sure if there are implications, but panoramas and night photography (star trails/image stacking) may be some of the uses.

Any specific or general recommendations for ball heads and mounting plates that meet my needs would be appreciated.

I've mainly been using a Really Right Stuff BH-25 ultra light (with small Pro clamp) ball head for the past 2-3 years, though I also have a BH-40 and BH-30 for a longer period. The RRS heads are compact and light, and have not degraded at all over time (despite my handling of them).

I use it for everything from feeder bird studies to panoramics. For the latter, a RRS panning clamp is attached to the ball head clamp for a single row horizontal sweep (makes for a quick setup and execution). I'd use a larger head with a more elaborate rig for multi-row panos (but I haven't done those in years).

The BH-30 is a little larger, and has a panning feature that the BH-20 doesn't have, if that matters to you. I dismissed that, as the tripod has to be perfectly leveled, then the head clamp has to be perfectly leveled, and getting them precisely set I personally found to be too bothersome. Using a panning clamp all that has to be leveled is the panning clamp itself. YMMV on this. The trade off for the ease of set up is having to carry a bit more weight (in the form of the panning clamp). Not all that significant, but in a heavy bag every ounce counts.

This shows the E-PL3 mounted.   I'm still using it with the E-M5 and E-M1 with satisfaction.

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sbruno
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Re: Hiking/Traveling with E-M5 - Recommended Ball Head?
In reply to RossN, 8 months ago

When I initially switched to m43 last year I offloaded my heavy duty FX-equiped tripod and ball head for an Arcatech Ultimate and a nice set of CF legs. I couldn't be happier with the Archatech. It's lightweight - somewhat minimalist - and super strong. I'm actually now back with FX as my primary set up and it still works fine (I don't use super-tele's on it anymore, though).

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/327811-REG/Acratech_1115_Ultimate_Ballhead_w_Quick.html

Steve

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Florida Nature Photographer
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Re: RSS BH-25 or BH-30
In reply to Bob Tullis, 8 months ago

Bob Tullis wrote:

The BH-30 is a little larger, and has a panning feature that the BH-20 doesn't have, if that matters to you. I dismissed that, as the tripod has to be perfectly leveled, then the head clamp has to be perfectly leveled, and getting them precisely set I personally found to be too bothersome. Using a panning clamp all that has to be leveled is the panning clamp itself. YMMV on this. The trade off for the ease of set up is having to carry a bit more weight (in the form of the panning clamp). Not all that significant, but in a heavy bag every ounce counts.

RossN

I have the BH-30, as well. Keep in mind that I'm fairly new to all this... I have experienced occaisonal difficulty when clamping it down. It needs to be in a position when it doesn't get stopped by the part where the camera rests. When this happens I find that the panning feature of the BH-30 allows me to move the assembly to a position where it is no longer restricted.

I don't really use the panning feature for panning and for all I know I wouldn't experience the problem I described if I had the BH-25.

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alan49
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Re: Hiking/Traveling with E-M5 - Recommended Ball Head?
In reply to sbruno, 8 months ago

One the few piece of equipment i bought only once: an arcaswiss P0.

100% happy with it .

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2manydjs
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Re: Hiking/Traveling with E-M5 - Recommended Ball Head?
In reply to RossN, 8 months ago

A few years back I attended a presentation by David H. Wells and he recommended this little table tripod for travel photography. On this recommendation I bought one and am very pleased with it for my smaller cameras.  Obviously for travel photography I don't actually use it on top of a table, instead I try to find any object, and the ball head allows me to frame easily.

It might not be the kind of ball head you had in mind when asking the question, but I still wanted to share it with you as I really appreciated David Well's recommendation.  It's small enough to bring anywhere and not even notice you are carrying it in your bag.  On top, it gave me the ability to think of some less-likely angles for my shots.

Manfrotto 709B Table Tripod

http://www.amazon.com/Manfrotto-709B-Table-Tripod-Black/dp/B0000YD2JC

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Buzz_A
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Re: Hiking/Traveling with E-M5 - Recommended Ball Head?
In reply to 2manydjs, 8 months ago

2manydjs wrote:

A few years back I attended a presentation by David H. Wells and he recommended this little table tripod for travel photography. On this recommendation I bought one and am very pleased with it for my smaller cameras. Obviously for travel photography I don't actually use it on top of a table, instead I try to find any object, and the ball head allows me to frame easily.

It might not be the kind of ball head you had in mind when asking the question, but I still wanted to share it with you as I really appreciated David Well's recommendation. It's small enough to bring anywhere and not even notice you are carrying it in your bag. On top, it gave me the ability to think of some less-likely angles for my shots.

Manfrotto 709B Table Tripod

http://www.amazon.com/Manfrotto-709B-Table-Tripod-Black/dp/B0000YD2JC

I use the Pedco UltraPod II for similar reasons, and think it's a major upgrade over the style Manfrotto uses. It can be strapped to all sorts of things with the included velcro strap, a tree, a guard rail, etc. It is also a bit more robust. Mine travels everywhere with me.

When hiking it can strap to my walking stick to become a monopod, or if more stability is required I can normally find a tree branch.

http://www.amazon.com/Pedco-UltraPod-Lightweight-Camera-Tripod/dp/B000ANCPNM/ref=pd_cp_p_0

Buzz

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uberzone
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Acratech GPS Ballhead
In reply to RossN, 8 months ago

I have the Acratech GPS ballhead. It is insanely versatile and I got it specifically with hiking/traveling in mind. It is built like a tank and has so many functions. Not only is it a ballhead, but it can function as a gimble head with the cutout on the side. Also you can remove the top clamp and mount the whole ball head upside down (reattaching the clamp to the bottom) and it acts like a panorama head. Also with the open design of the ball you never have to worry about sand or dirt jamming it up.

The only drawback (and this is very minor) is that when you tighten it down it will shift very slightly horizontally. Other than that, this thing is perfect. I will never give it up.

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Bob Tullis
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Re: RSS BH-25 or BH-30
In reply to Florida Nature Photographer, 8 months ago

Florida Nature Photographer wrote:

Bob Tullis wrote:

The BH-30 is a little larger, and has a panning feature that the BH-20 doesn't have, if that matters to you. I dismissed that, as the tripod has to be perfectly leveled, then the head clamp has to be perfectly leveled, and getting them precisely set I personally found to be too bothersome. Using a panning clamp all that has to be leveled is the panning clamp itself. YMMV on this. The trade off for the ease of set up is having to carry a bit more weight (in the form of the panning clamp). Not all that significant, but in a heavy bag every ounce counts.

RossN

I have the BH-30, as well. Keep in mind that I'm fairly new to all this... I have experienced occaisonal difficulty when clamping it down. It needs to be in a position when it doesn't get stopped by the part where the camera rests. When this happens I find that the panning feature of the BH-30 allows me to move the assembly to a position where it is no longer restricted.

Can you take a quick shot of what you mean?  I can't picture what you're describing (I'm thinking it's related to the lever release style clamp, but still not sure).

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lnikj
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Re: Hiking/Traveling with E-M5 - Recommended Ball Head?
In reply to RossN, 8 months ago

I've had a Markins Q3 Emille on a Gitzo 1530 for about 7 years now. Heavily used including a six month trip across Asia with a D80 at the time.

Although it seemed very solid, I never wholly trusted it with my D300+ Sigma 100-300/4 +TC on it, a very heavy combo, but it will be rock solid for my E-M1 and forthcoming 75-300 once I get my hands on an arca-swiss plate for it.

You could probably go slightly lighter but I cannot recommend more highly the Markins - it is as smooth moving but firm when locked down as the day I bought it.

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boxerman
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Re: Hiking/Traveling with E-M5 - Recommended Ball Head?
In reply to RossN, 8 months ago

Here's one way to go. It's a magnetic mount (rather than plate mounted), so it's very quick to mount/unmount and quite secure, even if you don't use the (optional) mechanical lock. Nothing fancy about it in terms of the ball action. If you need smooth panning, this is not it.

Trek-tech ball head

I've been using it with my E-M5 (w/ 75-300) very successfully, mostly on safari. I originally became acquainted with this ball head on a convertible tripod/monopod that I took on our first safari.

Trek-tech Go Pro

The tripod form is not hugely stable, but oh so convenient, in a pinch. I've used it for night photography (time lapse, star trails) just fine. I do panoramas by hand, so I can't comment on that. It also breaks down to a size that'll fit official regulations for those small bush planes. Very handy case. It's rugged, so serves as a walking stick on hikes--better than stashing it away in a case or backpack.

On our most recent safari, I used a nice, light Gitzo monopod with the Trek-tech ball head. Served wonderfully. We kept the small magnet mount on each of our two cameras, so could switch on/off monopod or mono/tripod instantly, with no fuss.

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The BoxerMan

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Skeeterbytes
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Re: Hiking/Traveling with E-M5 - Recommended Ball Head?
In reply to RossN, 8 months ago

Hi Ross,

There are myriad options, as the E-M5 is a fairly small camera, at least with the smaller system lenses. Get into the larger lenses and there are balance issues that imply the need for more-robust support. I have a Linhof 01 and an Acratech GV2. The GV2 is more versatile and quicker to use, but a little less compact and portable than the Linhof. The Linhof and a tabletop-height tripod are a good backpacking combination--compact, strong and relatively light.

Cheers,

Rick

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Florida Nature Photographer
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Re: RSS BH-25 or BH-30
In reply to Bob Tullis, 8 months ago

Bob Tullis wrote:

Florida Nature Photographer wrote:

Bob Tullis wrote:

The BH-30 is a little larger, and has a panning feature that the BH-20 doesn't have, if that matters to you. I dismissed that, as the tripod has to be perfectly leveled, then the head clamp has to be perfectly leveled, and getting them precisely set I personally found to be too bothersome. Using a panning clamp all that has to be leveled is the panning clamp itself. YMMV on this. The trade off for the ease of set up is having to carry a bit more weight (in the form of the panning clamp). Not all that significant, but in a heavy bag every ounce counts.

RossN

I have the BH-30, as well. Keep in mind that I'm fairly new to all this... I have experienced occaisonal difficulty when clamping it down. It needs to be in a position when it doesn't get stopped by the part where the camera rests. When this happens I find that the panning feature of the BH-30 allows me to move the assembly to a position where it is no longer restricted.

Can you take a quick shot of what you mean? I can't picture what you're describing (I'm thinking it's related to the lever release style clamp, but still not sure).

I run into the situation below somewhat regularly. The E-M1 is pointed slightly up and the Ball Head is not really locked because I can't tighten it far enough. Therefore, I have to lower it and loosen the panning knob and turn it so that when I try to lock it this interference does not exist. Then I have to recompose.

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Bob Tullis
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Re: RSS BH-25 or BH-30
In reply to Florida Nature Photographer, 8 months ago

Florida Nature Photographer wrote:

I run into the situation below somewhat regularly. The E-M1 is pointed slightly up and the Ball Head is not really locked because I can't tighten it far enough. Therefore, I have to lower it and loosen the panning knob and turn it so that when I try to lock it this interference does not exist. Then I have to recompose.

You can pull the locking lever out (away from base) and reposition it so it can lock w/o the clamp interfering (before or during the process of setting the composition and locking it in place).   But knowing your equipment, in due time you'll open and orient the tripod as to avoid this potential (using the groove on the column as a guide).   I have a habit to do this, but when I get lazy (forgetting for the moment why I have that habit). . . it's just operator error, as operators will err.

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Florida Nature Photographer
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Re: RSS BH-25 or BH-30
In reply to Bob Tullis, 8 months ago

Bob Tullis wrote:

Florida Nature Photographer wrote:

I run into the situation below somewhat regularly. The E-M1 is pointed slightly up and the Ball Head is not really locked because I can't tighten it far enough. Therefore, I have to lower it and loosen the panning knob and turn it so that when I try to lock it this interference does not exist. Then I have to recompose.

You can pull the locking lever out (away from base) and reposition it so it can lock w/o the clamp interfering

So you can! Thanks. The will eliminate considerable aggravation.

But knowing your equipment, in due time you'll open and orient the tripod as to avoid this potential

I've gotten better. It happens most often when I change from my original composition or when my original composition moves.

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nevada5
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Slik SBH-280
In reply to RossN, 8 months ago

I've had mine for over 10 years and it's never failed to work like it should.  Slik SBH-280

Slik makes several others, some cheaper with a lesser maximum load. Slik Ballheads  I use 3 different sets of Slik tripod legs and I've been very pleased with them.

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maljo@inreach.com
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Acratech
In reply to RossN, 8 months ago

Light and excellent

maljo

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nickthetasmaniac
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Surui K-10x
In reply to RossN, 8 months ago

I've been using this with a lightweight Gitzo tripod for a couple of years now, doing a lot of landscape and hiking, and found it very good, especially when considering the price difference between the big-name euro/us alternatives.

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2manydjs
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Re: Hiking/Traveling with E-M5 - Recommended Ball Head?
In reply to Buzz_A, 8 months ago

Buzz_A wrote:

I use the Pedco UltraPod II for similar reasons, and think it's a major upgrade over the style Manfrotto uses. It can be strapped to all sorts of things with the included velcro strap, a tree, a guard rail, etc. It is also a bit more robust. Mine travels everywhere with me.

When hiking it can strap to my walking stick to become a monopod, or if more stability is required I can normally find a tree branch.

http://www.amazon.com/Pedco-UltraPod-Lightweight-Camera-Tripod/dp/B000ANCPNM/ref=pd_cp_p_0

Buzz

At those prices I will definitely try one!

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JulesGo
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Re: Hiking/Traveling with E-M5 - Recommended Ball Head?
In reply to lnikj, 8 months ago

The Markins Q3 Emille is great.  It is well made, light and ultra strong.  It can handle your gear easily and more...  Get an ultra light tripod like the Benro Travel Angel to go with it and you will have the optimum setup for travelling and trekking.

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