ballhead vs panhead

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous Equipment' started by MFstooges, Jun 24, 2010.

  1. MFstooges

    MFstooges Member

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    Hi all,
    So sorry to ask another ballhead vs panhead question. I searched this forum but so far can only found discussion on features. What I want to know is the weight/support ability comparison on both type. I used to have small ballhead for my Nikon N90S. It was so wobbly I never get sharp result when used with long lens. This result improved when I switched to pan/tilt head of similar weight. I suspect it's because pan/tilt head construction which uses long axis for each movement results in more stable set up.
    Soon I'll be out hiking and am looking for light head with adequate support.
    Anybody can give information or link?
     
  2. dpurdy

    dpurdy Member

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  3. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 24, 2010
  4. SMBooth

    SMBooth Member

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  5. fotch

    fotch Member

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    If you want to buy something that is really good, look for something like a Arca Swiss B or a Graft Studio Ball. I purchase each, on eBay used, for around $100 and they are well worth the investment. Have had several Bogen, still have 2, junk by comparison.

    Avoid Chinese ball heads.

    JMHO
     
  6. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    It would be great if we could avoid a lot of things made in China. Perhaps somebody can prove otherwise, but I think ACRATECH for all its innovation, is apparently made in China even though it is advertised as Made in USA. Among other notable marques (e.g. ArcaSwiss), GITZO, Manfrotto are still made in Italy and there is a big difference in quality between Italy and China. I am very biased and ferociously so because I have had nasty experiences with early Chinese ballheads — then right down to nasty cable releases. But really, anything being used to support your camera needs careful scrutinising. Don't cut corners and invest wisely.
     
  7. fschifano

    fschifano Member

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    Tilt and pan heads are ok, but are slow to operate. Ball heads are quicker, but need a little more attention. They can easily flop over if you aren't supporting the camera while you adjust them. For small camera work, I definitely prefer a ballhead. All the items mentioned so far are good, the Bogen/Manfrotto line representing very good value for the money. You will not like screwing and unscrewing the camera from the ballhead in very short order. I'd look for something with a quick release plate that will hold more than the weight of your current rig.
     
  8. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    This is exactly what happened 3 days ago in a moment of tired madness when I released the ball lock and <---flop!---> the camera was suddenly staring at my feet. I really do not know why I released the lock precipitating that incident, so I cannot reinforce enough the priority to hold the camera at all times and, where it is provided, ensure the friction stop/adjustment is tightened such that any accidental fall is slow and gradual rather than abrubt. The head now requires conscious force to adjust when unlocked but it is slow and very smooth. No damage to the camera or lens but it was certainly a wake up call! :rolleyes:

    Quick release plates are an essential include: this business of screwing a camera on and off several times in a session is maddening.
     
  9. SMBooth

    SMBooth Member

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    All this rubbish about if its made in China then its suddenly no good. Quality comes from reputable companies and quality control, the Italians might made Manfrotto, but they also made Fiat, the Australians had a car called the Leyland P76, never heard of it...there's a reason. CNC machines are CNC machines if the controlling company is any good then the product they sell, whatever its made will be OK. It the companies that cut cost that make rubbish. You get what you pay for in general.
     
  10. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

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    I've used the older version of the 468 & it wasn't too smooth.
    Gitzo is very good but currently I use a Cambo CBH-5 with Linhof QR plates and absolutely the BEST is an
    EMO, it's a combination ball & pan/tilt head. It does both, there's a pivot through the ball section & by removing it it is a ball
    head with the pivot installed it has fore & aft tilt, rotation and sideways tilt. Two ball bearing races with 6 bearing in each, two quick releases,
    one at the top, one at the bottom, two sets of handles, the long set for pan & tilt & short for ball head.
    The long handles are also used as a wrench to remove/install the reversible 3/8&1/4" attachment points.
    They were made in Wetzlar & have the same sort of quality the the Leica ball heads had.
    Have I mentioned it's the best?
     
  11. wclark5179

    wclark5179 Member

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  12. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    For a strong lightweight ballhead, I also like the Acratech. To use a 35mm camera with a ballhead, I highly recommend using a bullseye level that mounts in the flash shoe.
     
  13. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    This is a later variation on Manfrotto's 222 trigger grip, designed to be matched with the 055 series tripods with the horizontal/vertical switching centre column, adding a lot more clever variations to tripod-head set ups. I used the 222 trigger grip for 8 years before moving to ball heads (it was a very cold grip to use in winter). The benefit of the 322RC2 grip, in common with the 222 grip, is in there being no danger of the camera falling unintentionally unless explicitly directed to, so it has a very strong selling point. Some people may be able to get away with using long lenses on these grips (and other ballheads mentioned here), but generally I think a low profile, heavy duty ball head with a large plate interface is what's needed for long-lens use.
     
  14. fotch

    fotch Member

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    I might also add that the quick release plates made be Really Right Stuff and Kirk are way better than the Bogen plates, especially the L plates.
     
  15. MFstooges

    MFstooges Member

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    Guys, thanks for the feedback but what I actually seek for is a comparison between these two types of head, not by the features (ease of set up, level etc.) but by the weight/support stability ratio.
    For example : given the same 0.46kgs and same material which one will give more stability?
    I suspect pan/tilt is slightly better due to shaft type axis for each movement, hence good contact and better rigidity. But that is my stupid guessing...
     
  16. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    True, David. I actually used two bullseyes: one on the previous grip, and the other in the camera hotshoe and the design of the hotshoe means that the level there will not quite agree with the level in the grip, and thus the hotshoe level had priority. It's now spot-on with visual (viewfinder) referencing.
     
  17. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    Is it?
    Well, it's best that you take you equipment along to a retailer and try it out in the real world. We are only telling you what is in common use and may be applied, but in the end you need to get your equipment set up in-store to determine what is best beyond doubt. I don't rely on guesswork when selecting heads, neither should you.
     
  18. MFstooges

    MFstooges Member

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    Exactly Gary, that's why I was hoping someone can give technical information. Too many bias in the store so I'd like to do my homework before heading there.
     
  19. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

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    I guess we need to know what a "small" ball head is.
    I think any brand head of similar size will give ~equal results. Upgrade to a larger ball head or pan head & you'll be better off. Depends how you like to control the camera., individual tilt/yaw/pan or single knob for all three. IMO larger weights are more easily controlled with individual levers=pan head. Smaller devices with a single knob=ball head.
     
  20. fotch

    fotch Member

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    For technical info, contact the mfg. I think most users will give you user terms, like smooth operation, solid when locked, safe for camera and lens.

    I don't find things like Alloy M59 to mean anything. When looking for a ball head and the different brands, I found Google gave links to those who compared the low cost look alike to the well know brand names. All reported poor quality construction, materiel's, and basically said not worth anything, with details and photos to make their points.

    That to me, was a big help. Good luck in your search.
     
  21. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Generally, ball heads have more strength for weight, but there are a lot of factors that may make one ballhead better than others for certain purposes.

    Arca-Swiss ballheads, for instance, are slightly eccentric, so as the tilt angle increases, the tension increases in the joint, so it's less likely to flop, and it will actually be able to hold the camera at a more extreme angle more easily than other ballheads.

    Linhof ballheads are made to very tight tolerances and are designed not to move when tightened. With some other ballheads you might adjust the position of the camera, tighten the knob, and find that the camera moves slightly when tightened.

    Some ballheads have very smooth panning like a fluid head, which can be attractive if you do any motion picture photography.

    The Arca-Swiss B2 has two balls, so it has the strength of a large ballhead to support up to 150 lbs (sounds like overkill, but with a heavy long lens or a lot of bellows extension on a view camera, you'll need it), but is relatively compact and weighs less than a typical pan-tilt head that can support 50+ lbs, and yet it has the control of a pan-tilt head, since the two balls control different axes independently.

    I had a large Gitzo low-profile head for several years (among various others)--good support but not as solid or as easy to control as the B2, and it was too stiff to use with a lightweight camera, so it was only suitable for large cameras.

    The Majestic head is quite solid and very affordable, but impractically heavy for the field, and as sturdy as it looks, it's not as solid as the B2.
     
  22. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    The Manfrotto 322RC2 linked to above and others like it have one advantage that may not occur to everyone - they combine a reasonable amount of leverage and excellent, one-handed operation.

    For those of us who need one-handed operation, that is really useful!

    My main tripod head is a "joystick" head like the following:

    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/554077-REG/Manfrotto_222.html

    It is good for one-handed use, and it has other strengths, but due to the distance between the camera mount and it's pivot point, in hindsight I think I would be better off with something like the Manfrotto 322RC2.