Gimbal Head (Which One For You and Why - What Do You Look For In The Product)

Started Feb 8, 2015 | Discussions
William Curtindale
William Curtindale Veteran Member • Posts: 7,329
Gimbal Head (Which One For You and Why - What Do You Look For In The Product)

There are so many Gimbal Heads available and not a lot of data on what's different about them (some things are obvious but no data). The one big thing that is obvious is cost and maybe some functional characteristics. I'm not in any way an expert or even experienced with Gimbal Heads but wonder what helped others decide on a Gimbal Head. I have listed some things I think about when looking at a Gimbal Head.

I think it's also important to understand why you want a Gimbal how you plan to use it.  I plan to use a Gimbal on a tripod for when I am on location for many hours shooting action (i.e. BIF or air shows, etc.) with heavy equipment.  For me I would mount my A99 w/grip and 70-400mm G.

  1. Cost
  2. Solid build strength (w/bearings in pan and tilt head)
  3. Craftsmanship / quality of build
  4. Secure mounting of Gimbal on tripod (3/8 – 16)
  5. Mount plan (Pan / Swing Arm) square (90°) to each other
  6. Smooth Pan / Tilt movement
  7. Lock position of Pan and Tilt heads
  8. Adjustability (up and down of mounting Platform)
  9. Locking height position of Platform on Tilt Bar
  10. Compatibility with Arca-Swiss plates
  11. Locking of quick release plate and safety screws
  12. Weight
  13. Finish
  14. Rated to support weight of equipment

Below is a long list of available brands I found (no particular order). I wonder why so many? So many seem to be knock-off copies of each other (even low cost copy of Wimberley - so do you pay the high price or take a chance). So what do you think?

I do a lot of purchasing from B&H and generally would have a certain level of confidence in products they sell vs an internet special of a no-name brand.

  • Wimberley WH-200
  • Pro Master GH10
  • Movo GH700 Pro
  • Gepe SK-GH01
  • Jobu BWG-J3K
  • Jobo DMG-HD4
  • Jobu Pro2
  • Jobu Jr. 3
  • Induro GHB2
  • Sirui PH-20
  • Custom Brackets CB
  • Zenelli Carbonzx
  • Photo Clam
  • Kirk King KC-1
  • ProMediaGear Katana
  • Rob Pleas GH-13R
  • Opteka GH1 Pro
  • Neewer Pro
  • CowBoy Studio
  • Beike BK-45
  • Eteyo Pro BK-45
  • Koolerton BK-45
  • Nest NT-530H
  • Benro GH2
  • Benro GH3
  • Luxebell Q45
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A99, A900, A55, A700, R1, w/Zeiss + Sony G Glass, Samsung Galaxy Note III, PS CS6
My Picasa Albums: https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/109849611643818398019/albums My YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/TheWillybug

 William Curtindale's gear list:William Curtindale's gear list
Sony a6300 Sony FE 85mm F1.8
alanlinde
alanlinde Regular Member • Posts: 381
Re: Gimbal Head (Which One For You and Why - What Do You Look For In The Product)

Quite a full discussion in http://www.dpreview.com/forums/thread/3744435

Alan

William Curtindale
OP William Curtindale Veteran Member • Posts: 7,329
alanlinde: Gimbal Head (Which One For You and Why - What Do You Look For In The Product)

alanlinde wrote:

Quite a full discussion in http://www.dpreview.com/forums/thread/3744435

Alan

Thanks Alan, I read through all the post and found much to be interesting.

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A99, A900, A55, A700, R1, w/Zeiss + Sony G Glass, Samsung Galaxy Note III, PS CS6
My Picasa Albums: https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/109849611643818398019/albums My YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/TheWillybug

 William Curtindale's gear list:William Curtindale's gear list
Sony a6300 Sony FE 85mm F1.8
Wally626 Senior Member • Posts: 2,312
Re: Gimbal Head (Which One For You and Why - What Do You Look For In The Product)

William Curtindale wrote:

There are so many Gimbal Heads available and not a lot of data on what's different about them (some things are obvious but no data). The one big thing that is obvious is cost and maybe some functional characteristics. I'm not in any way an expert or even experienced with Gimbal Heads but wonder what helped others decide on a Gimbal Head. I have listed some things I think about when looking at a Gimbal Head.

I think it's also important to understand why you want a Gimbal how you plan to use it. I plan to use a Gimbal on a tripod for when I am on location for many hours shooting action (i.e. BIF or air shows, etc.) with heavy equipment. For me I would mount my A99 w/grip and 70-400mm G.

  1. Cost
  2. Solid build strength (w/bearings in pan and tilt head)
  3. Craftsmanship / quality of build
  4. Secure mounting of Gimbal on tripod (3/8 – 16)
  5. Mount plan (Pan / Swing Arm) square (90°) to each other
  6. Smooth Pan / Tilt movement
  7. Lock position of Pan and Tilt heads
  8. Adjustability (up and down of mounting Platform)
  9. Locking height position of Platform on Tilt Bar
  10. Compatibility with Arca-Swiss plates
  11. Locking of quick release plate and safety screws
  12. Weight
  13. Finish
  14. Rated to support weight of equipment

Below is a long list of available brands I found (no particular order). I wonder why so many? So many seem to be knock-off copies of each other (even low cost copy of Wimberley - so do you pay the high price or take a chance). So what do you think?

I do a lot of purchasing from B&H and generally would have a certain level of confidence in products they sell vs an internet special of a no-name brand.

  • Wimberley WH-200
  • Pro Master GH10
  • Movo GH700 Pro
  • Gepe SK-GH01
  • Jobu BWG-J3K
  • Jobo DMG-HD4
  • Jobu Pro2
  • Jobu Jr. 3
  • Induro GHB2
  • Sirui PH-20
  • Custom Brackets CB
  • Zenelli Carbonzx
  • Photo Clam
  • Kirk King KC-1
  • ProMediaGear Katana
  • Rob Pleas GH-13R
  • Opteka GH1 Pro
  • Neewer Pro
  • CowBoy Studio
  • Beike BK-45
  • Eteyo Pro BK-45
  • Koolerton BK-45
  • Nest NT-530H
  • Benro GH2
  • Benro GH3
  • Luxebell Q45
-- hide signature --

Left off the Manfrotto Heavy Telephoto Lens Support with Quick Release which is also a gimbal head.

I bought the Manfrotto because it was the cheapest and looked sturdy. I use it with my 300mm and 1000mm lenses and it work fine for the typical gimbal type tasks, the 1000mm still has a bit of vibration when it is windy, but then it is a over 20 lb lens and really long. Biggest issue is that when using camera mounted lenses the arms of the swing tend to get in the way. Could switch out another head that is better for short lenses but I am too lazy.

William Curtindale
OP William Curtindale Veteran Member • Posts: 7,329
Wally626: Gimbal Head (Which One For You and Why - What Do You Look For In The Product)

Thanks Wally, it's sounds like you understood your needs and found the product to meet your requirements.  Sounds like your requirements are some what special with a 20 lb lens (I don't think I have ever seen a 20 lb lens).

Wally626 wrote:

-- hide signature --

Left off the Manfrotto Heavy Telephoto Lens Support with Quick Release which is also a gimbal head.

I bought the Manfrotto because it was the cheapest and looked sturdy. I use it with my 300mm and 1000mm lenses and it work fine for the typical gimbal type tasks, the 1000mm still has a bit of vibration when it is windy, but then it is a over 20 lb lens and really long. Biggest issue is that when using camera mounted lenses the arms of the swing tend to get in the way. Could switch out another head that is better for short lenses but I am too lazy.

-- hide signature --

A99, A900, A55, A700, R1, w/Zeiss + Sony G Glass, Samsung Galaxy Note III, PS CS6
My Picasa Albums: https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/109849611643818398019/albums My YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/TheWillybug

 William Curtindale's gear list:William Curtindale's gear list
Sony a6300 Sony FE 85mm F1.8
Mike Fewster Veteran Member • Posts: 6,216
You might find this review useful.

William Curtindale wrote:

There are so many Gimbal Heads available and not a lot of data on what's different about them (some things are obvious but no data). The one big thing that is obvious is cost and maybe some functional characteristics. I'm not in any way an expert or even experienced with Gimbal Heads but wonder what helped others decide on a Gimbal Head. I have listed some things I think about when looking at a Gimbal Head.

I think it's also important to understand why you want a Gimbal how you plan to use it. I plan to use a Gimbal on a tripod for when I am on location for many hours shooting action (i.e. BIF or air shows, etc.) with heavy equipment. For me I would mount my A99 w/grip and 70-400mm G.

  1. Cost
  2. Solid build strength (w/bearings in pan and tilt head)
  3. Craftsmanship / quality of build
  4. Secure mounting of Gimbal on tripod (3/8 – 16)
  5. Mount plan (Pan / Swing Arm) square (90°) to each other
  6. Smooth Pan / Tilt movement
  7. Lock position of Pan and Tilt heads
  8. Adjustability (up and down of mounting Platform)
  9. Locking height position of Platform on Tilt Bar
  10. Compatibility with Arca-Swiss plates
  11. Locking of quick release plate and safety screws
  12. Weight
  13. Finish
  14. Rated to support weight of equipment

Below is a long list of available brands I found (no particular order). I wonder why so many? So many seem to be knock-off copies of each other (even low cost copy of Wimberley - so do you pay the high price or take a chance). So what do you think?

I do a lot of purchasing from B&H and generally would have a certain level of confidence in products they sell vs an internet special of a no-name brand.

  • Wimberley WH-200
  • Pro Master GH10
  • Movo GH700 Pro
  • Gepe SK-GH01
  • Jobu BWG-J3K
  • Jobo DMG-HD4
  • Jobu Pro2
  • Jobu Jr. 3
  • Induro GHB2
  • Sirui PH-20
  • Custom Brackets CB
  • Zenelli Carbonzx
  • Photo Clam
  • Kirk King KC-1
  • ProMediaGear Katana
  • Rob Pleas GH-13R
  • Opteka GH1 Pro
  • Neewer Pro
  • CowBoy Studio
  • Beike BK-45
  • Eteyo Pro BK-45
  • Koolerton BK-45
  • Nest NT-530H
  • Benro GH2
  • Benro GH3
  • Luxebell Q45
-- hide signature --

A99, A900, A55, A700, R1, w/Zeiss + Sony G Glass, Samsung Galaxy Note III, PS CS6
My Picasa Albums: https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/109849611643818398019/albums My YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/TheWillybug

http://www.luminous-landscape.com/techniques/gimbal___monopod.shtml

I think it can be used with regular or monopod base.

-- hide signature --

Mike Fewster
Adelaide Australia

 Mike Fewster's gear list:Mike Fewster's gear list
Sony RX1 Sony Alpha 7R II
RobMPleas New Member • Posts: 1
Re: Gimbal Head (Which One For You and Why - What Do You Look For In The Product)

Hi William, I'm glad you took the time to write your article. I found it during a routine search of my own gimbal, the Rob Pleas Photography GH-13R. I would like to respond to several of the questions you posed starting with your last question, "...why so many [gimbal heads]?". Your observation is correct. Each year that passes seems to bring us more and more of the same gimbal. My opinion is that many of them, imports or not, are merely copies of the Wimberley gimbal that offer little difference in design or functionality. Cost seems to be the variable. Some have introduced options that seem great in advertising but in usage, don't matter.

Without trying to sabotage your post to advertise my product, I would like to tell you a little about why I designed my GH-13r. It centered around two things-- As gimbals were new to me, I was not happy spending the amount required for the high-end gimbals. Due to lingering problems from a car accident, weight was a major factor. My wife carried the 600mm lens. I could barely lift it out of the car. I decided to design my own gimbal. As the design was refined, I eliminated half of the weight of the other "name brand" gimbals but as with any major redesign, concessions were made. I had much better luck with a 500mm lens, so the gimbal was designed around a Nikkor 500mm f/4. Really, one could say the reason my gimbal was designed was for personal reasons.

I used it for awhile and then wondered if it had any market value. It was lightweight to carry and the bearings made it very fast and smooth to use. A local camera store was willing to offer some advise which I took into consideration. One suggestion was to target a different audience. My gimbal was then scaled down in size and price to appeal to photographers with smaller lenses. Fewer photographers own the big f/2.8 -f/4 sized lenses. You even mention using a 70-400 sized lens so I made the gimbal physically smaller, making it much easier to carry. I still make it out of solid aluminum yet it will fit in many small backpacks. Not long after we spoke, my contact suggested I try selling the gimbals through their store.

As to why someone would want a gimbal head for photography, let me reference your sentence, "...many hours of shooting action with heavy equipment." You have summed it up nicely. One of the main reasons for choosing a gimbal tripod head over a ballhead is how weight is distributed. If you put a lens on a ballhead, you will be holding much more of the weight of the lens and camera body. As you move the lens off center, it will tend to "flop" to that side. You will have to counter the weight of the lens and body to prevent that from happening. If you want to switch from a landscape orientation to a portrait orientation, you will need to rotate the lens through the lens collar. On a ballhead, not only will the camera try to flop off center, but now you are adding a lens rotation, a "flop", and the possibility that the ballhead will move into the notch for a true portrait position. This can get very cumbersome during action shots.

The biggest benefit of the gimbal is that the gimbal is holding the weight of the lens and camera body. Instead of pulling the camera towards you to shoot a bird nest, you now push the camera up. If you happen to let go, the camera will smoothly come back to a neutral position on the gimbal with no risk to the equipment. If you let go of the camera on a ballhead, it will flop to the side. If using a heavy lens, the flop can be enough to loosen the lens on the QR plate or worse, tip everything over.

Lastly, I'd like to respond to your last sentence. I am pleased to hear that you purchase from B&H. B&H is a company with strict requirements for the products they sell. I am absolutely honored that they allow me to sell through them.

I hope I helped answer some of your questions. Thank you for taking the time to write your article. It helps other people with similar questions and helps those of us in the manufacturing industry understand the needs of our customers and potential customers better!

Rob Pleaswww.robpleasphotography.com

William Curtindale
OP William Curtindale Veteran Member • Posts: 7,329
RobMPleas: Gimbal Head (Which One For You and Why - What Do You Look For In The Product)

Rob, I definitely enjoyed reading your response. As I started reading I had to stop and go review the GH-13r first so I would better understand your comments. I definitely have an appreciation for your materials selection and efforts to make the gimbal light weight.

I will be short here because I have not been following the forum for several weeks because of buying new home selling my current home and moving (too much to deal with right now).

Although I hope others will benefit from the dialog of our post.

Yes, I like what you have done with the GH-13r.

Thanks

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A99, A900, A55, A700, R1, w/Zeiss + Sony G Glass, Samsung Galaxy Note III, PS CS6
My Picasa Albums: https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/109849611643818398019/albums My YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/TheWillybug

 William Curtindale's gear list:William Curtindale's gear list
Sony a6300 Sony FE 85mm F1.8
WaltKnapp Forum Pro • Posts: 13,857
Re: Gimbal Head (Which One For You and Why - What Do You Look For In The Product)

William Curtindale wrote:

There are so many Gimbal Heads available and not a lot of data on what's different about them (some things are obvious but no data). The one big thing that is obvious is cost and maybe some functional characteristics. I'm not in any way an expert or even experienced with Gimbal Heads but wonder what helped others decide on a Gimbal Head. I have listed some things I think about when looking at a Gimbal Head.

I have used several different Gimbal Heads. Yes you are right an awful lot are just copies of the Wimberley or sometimes other designs.

First was the Manfrotto.  Very poor, I'd hardly call it in the same class as Gimbal heads, at least it taught me something about the critical parts of gimbal design.  The smoothness of the bearing surfaces is a critical functional characteristic of a quality gimbal.  So is the friction adjustment and balance capabilities. That's the biggest strike against the Manfrotto.

Next was the Kirk King Cobra head, bought used along with Kirk's excellent window mount.  This does have pretty good bearings and friction adjustment for using with the window mount where really smooth motion is not that critical.  In my case this also would fit in the window space well which was not true of the two versions of the Wimberley which could not clear the window well.

But the Wimberley is otherwise a smoother gimbal that works well mounted on a heavy tripod. I have used both Wimberley versions. Wimberley is not too useful with small lenses but I used it with the Tamron 200-500 and Sony 70-400G, about the smallest lenses I found the Wimberley useful.

In Recent years I've switched to the CB Gimbal. More variety of lenses though still not the really big primes, largest now is the 150-600 Tamron. It has some advantages over the Wimberley, a more modern design.  It's more modular and disassembles into easily stored components for your carry in a bag, the savings in room is very significant. The components can be assembled in several ways which helps to match a wider range of lenses and tripod heads including mounting on large ball heads.  The Wimberley uses plastic sleeve bearings and the CB Gimbal uses very high quality roller bearings so the adjustment range of friction and smoothness is greater for the CB gimbal and it can be adjusted to a much lighter feel. The CB Gimbal includes in it's design stops that make it easier and safer when mounting lenses or other adjustments. Once I started using the CB Gimbal I've not used my Wimberley and it can even be used on the Kirk Window Mount.

It is important to properly match your tripod setup to your gimbal. Otherwise you can compromise the functionality of the gimbal.  I use the Gitzo Systemic series GT3541XLS or GT5541LS CF tripods with the Gitzo leveling mount on the tripod. No central column in that setup increases the stability.  The entire setup can be carried over the shoulder all ready to go from tripod through lens and camera.  Setup time is extremely quick going like that.

I think it's also important to understand why you want a Gimbal how you plan to use it. I plan to use a Gimbal on a tripod for when I am on location for many hours shooting action (i.e. BIF or air shows, etc.) with heavy equipment. For me I would mount my A99 w/grip and 70-400mm G.

Note that Gimbals can be used portable too, or like in my window mount. Yes, I've sat for a whole day in death valley heat with the gimbal equipped window mount photographing hawk nest activity. But I've also wandered around with the setup over my shoulder shooting here and there. And with a variety of weights of lenses.

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I'm Only Responsible For What I Say, Not For What You Understand.
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