ball heads on tripods

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by pellicle, Feb 3, 2009.

  1. pellicle

    pellicle Member

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    Hi

    normally I've preferred a pan tilt head to a ball head. But folks just keep mentioning that if I'm not using a ball head then I'm somehow just not getting all the advantage and ease. I don't know if this may work better for cameras you normally hold in your hand, so that's why I'm posting this question here (assuming that most LF users don't hand hold their camera often ;-)

    Normally I use exactly this head:

    [​IMG]

    I work by separately adjusting the angle of horizontal and vertical. Actually it works well for me as I can hold the back of the camera with one hand and adjust and tighten each axis.

    I tried out the ball today and find that (out in the field) its just hard to orient and align the camera compared to the head I'm used to. The camera just rolls all over the joint. Not only left and right but even twists around.

    so ... is there a trick to this or are ball heads just more suited to folks using hand holdable cameras like SLR's and rangefinders.

    I dunno ... help?
     
  2. david b

    david b Member

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    I use a Kirk BH-3 with all of my cameras. If you keep the tension tight, and a hot shoe level handy, the camera will align just fine.
     
  3. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member

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    The main attraction of a ball head, as I see it, is high strength for the weight of the head. A pan-tilt head offers more control, because you can adjust each axis separately.

    The best of both worlds is the Arca-Swiss B2, which uses two balls, one for each axis, so it's a pan-tilt head with the strength of a ball head, but it's a large head (3.5 lbs) designed to hold big cameras and long lenses (capacity 150 lbs!). The Z2, which is scheduled to replace it someday, will be smaller and more compact.

    With a single ball head, like most ball heads other than the B2, I find it easiest to level using a round bullet level, rather than a single or double vial level, because the bullet level imitates the motion of the ball.
     
  4. Keith Pitman

    Keith Pitman Subscriber

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    In addition to David's comments, you need to keep tension on the ball. Tension helps to keep the ball from taking off in whatever direction it wants. Also, experience helps: you quickly get the feel of the mechanism and learn how to control it.
     
  5. archphoto

    archphoto Member

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    With a LF: why don't you gaet yourself a geared head ?
    What you probably want is to level the camera as easy as posible, a ball head is even worse than this 3 way head.

    I have a Manfrotto 410 for up to the RB 67, and will get a larger one for my Sinar.

    Peter
     
  6. David William White

    David William White Member

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    The head you've shown has three knobs to tighten. Arg!
     
  7. sanking

    sanking Restricted Access

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    I use ball heads because they take up less space, weigh less, and are easier to travel with than pan tilt heads. But I really hate trying to level ball heads and I much prefer the greater control possible with pan tilt heads, so I use one whenever possible, which is always when I am working out of my car.

    My advice, if you don't plan to travel a lot by air, get a nice pan tilt head and avoid the multiple irritations and lack of precision of a ball head.

    Having said all that, the pan tilt head you show is a very hard to work with, even harder than good ball heads. How do I know? Because I have one exactly like it. That is, IMHO, definitely not a good pan tilt head.

    Sandy King
     
  8. resummerfield

    resummerfield Subscriber

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    Exactly! For years I used the Arca B1 single ball head, and loved it. Then I found the B2, and there was no going back. My B2 works perfectly with an 8x10 and the heaviest portrait lenses.
     
  9. Greg Davis

    Greg Davis Subscriber

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    I use a Bogen/Manfrotto 405 geared head for 4x5 and smaller, and I love it. I couldn't get used to a ball head. I replaced the head you show with the geared one. Every control is separate and the gears are smooth and precise. Leveling is very fast. I would get a larger one for 8x10 if they were affordable.
     
  10. Mark Fisher

    Mark Fisher Subscriber

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    I have a kirk bh3 and love it. I had a geared 410 and hated it. Different people are different. If you like what you have, it is great :smile:
     
  11. pellicle

    pellicle Member

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    Sandy

    I have exactly that head too ... and I don't find it difficult to work with.

    I do find the ball frustrating. Its worse when I am out in temperatures below -10C as the 'lubrication' for the damped movemnt becomes very difficult to work with. Eg on this day it was -11C and the plasti handles (visible in the image above) made un-tigthening and tighetning a simple procedure.

    [​IMG]

    I think I'll keep the ball head for the DSLR
     
  12. pellicle

    pellicle Member

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    Folks

    thanks for your inputs, I think that I'll follow the old advice of "when you're on a good thing, stick to it"

    Might try the geared pan tilt though ... but I'm worried about its cold weather ability. Here in Finland that's an issue.

    Thanks :smile:
     
  13. Ulrich Drolshagen

    Ulrich Drolshagen Subscriber

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    I have a FLM Centerball 58FT. It's this one: http://www.fotomayr.de/webkat98/homepage.php?/html/001906.HTM
    It has an adjustable friction as well as a tilt lock. If locked with the camera adjusted horizontally you then can only tilt the camera. This way you get the best of both worlds. The 58 in the name refers to the diameter of the ball. So it's pretty heavy.

    Ulrich
     
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  15. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member

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    I've been wondering about this head as a more compact alternative to my B2 for when I don't need quite so much support, and you're the first person I've encountered who actually owns one. What camera(s) are you using with it, and does it do what it's supposed to do?
     
  16. Ulrich Drolshagen

    Ulrich Drolshagen Subscriber

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    I use it with my SL66 and right now there is a Wista Field mounted on it. It definitely works well with the SL66 and lenses between 50mm and 250mm, as long as you do not get confused with the four controls (general lock, tilt lock pan lock and friction).
    The Wista is a loan. I did not have the chance to go out with it yet but it seems to be ok, at least with the 210mm attached.

    Ulrich
     
  17. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

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    I love it when people suggest that what you're using isn't "good enough" or you won't utilize your camera to the fullest etc.
    If the Bogen head works for you don't change. If you want more precision go to a gear or pan head. I don't think you would have any weight savings with a ball head because the head you illustrate is very light.
    I found the 3D head like yours difficult to align so I went to something else. As they say "different strokes" etc.
     
  18. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member

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    Thanks for the info. I'd be interested to hear how it works out with the Wista after a little field testing.
     
  19. sanking

    sanking Restricted Access

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    Pellicle,

    That is a nice image.

    The Bogen 3025 head is definitely not one of my favorites, but if you works for you, fine.

    In general I don't like ball heads because it is more complicated to level a camera with them than with a good pan and tilt head. The Bogen pan and tilt heads that I have include large levels and the movements operate independently of each other. Most ball heads have systems where adjustment in one direction affects the other orientation.

    Basically the only thing ball heads have going for them IMO is that they are more compact and offer some advantage in weight compared to pan heads.


    Sandy King[/QUOTE]



     
  20. pellicle

    pellicle Member

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    Sandy

    well, that's not to say its perfect, but it is easier than the ball.

    these are good points and I have a feeling (I haven't measured this) that its slightly more stable (I can't think why it could be).

    thanks for the information (and the positive comment on the image)
     
  21. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

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    I think there's a Novoflex ball head in the classified currently. It's a different configuration than commonly seen. More like the top section of a pan head mounted on a ball.
     
  22. cooltouch

    cooltouch Member

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    I used to use a head almost identical to the one in the first photo. Yes, it is sturdy, but it was bulky and often took quite a bit of tweaking to get the camera set just right. For years now, I've been using an old Bilora ball head on my tripod. It's rather large (but much smaller than the one I used before) and very sturdy. If I keep a slight tension on it, it's easy to position the camera exactly the way I want. A hot-shoe mounted spirit level helps, but if one just stays aware of the horizon and vertical tilt, it really isn't necessary.

    Best,

    Michael
     
  23. pellicle

    pellicle Member

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    and John (re your sig) you can always tell a happy motorcyclist as he has the most bug splatters on his teeth

    :smile:
     
  24. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    I have one of these Manfrotto Super Junior 3 way heads on my Manfrotto 055 legs, I like it fine for my Mamiya TLRs but prefer a Giotto ball head for 35mm http://www.giottos.com/MH-3.htm because it's quicker and and one can adjust the tension on the ball when you undo it to suite the camera.
     
  25. Ulrich Drolshagen

    Ulrich Drolshagen Subscriber

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    I had only time to take two pictures before I handed the camera back. For me there was no difference to the handling with my SL66 mounted. I realized that the SL66 has a more advantageous air drag coefficient though.

    Ulrich
     
  26. Vick Vickery

    Vick Vickery Member

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    I find a ball head difficult to use with my Cambo view camera, but use one with the Hasselblad or smaller cameras. As Mark said, "people are different" , use what is comfortable for your style of working.