Hey Desert Rats, would you recommend a ball head for desert shooting?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous Equipment' started by Klainmeister, Apr 6, 2011.

  1. Klainmeister

    Klainmeister Member

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    Howdy,

    Well, I just bit the bullet on a new set of carbon legs and now need to figure out my head situation. I've only used pan-heads in the past and after searching this forum a few times for a good solid answer, I still don't know if a ball head is right for me.

    I will be using a Mamiya 7 II with lenses from 43mm to 210mm and the occasional 35mm rangefinder. I go hiking/backpacking lots and hence the need for a lightweight tripod and head.

    Have people had lots of problems with sand in their ball heads? It's awfully dusty and sandy down here.

    Thanks
     
  2. Ian C

    Ian C Member

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    How about placing a thin, flexible plastic bag upside-down over the head and piercing the bag with the screw before mounting the camera.

    Then you can gather the bag together and wrap it with an elastic cord below the ball swivel. That should prevent sand from getting into the ball-and-socket.
     
  3. Klainmeister

    Klainmeister Member

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    I actually have considered this, but I was just wondering if I need to go to that much trouble, why not just stick with a panhead?
     
  4. Ian C

    Ian C Member

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    The conditions dictate our equipment choice and any special precautions that we might have to take to protect the expensive gear.

    The ball head is a convenience, but it’s also prone to admitting abrasive grit, especially in the clearance slot cut into the body of the ball head.

    I’d feel more comfortable with the pan-tilt head in blowing sand. If all I had was a ball head on the tripod, I’d err on the side of caution and install the plastic bag as a sand barrier.
     
  5. degruyl

    degruyl Member

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    I have had surprisingly few issues with the Acratech Ultimate ballhead in deserts (or anywhere). Many more issues with cameras in those same conditions...
     
  6. Klainmeister

    Klainmeister Member

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    Interesting. I don't know which head yet, but I've heard the Arcas are practically bulletproof (or maybe they really are?!). Good to hear.
     
  7. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    I haven't had a problem with a ballhead in the desert, including in some pretty sandy/windy conditions. I can see where it's a theoretical possibility, but I'd worry about other things like camera mechanics and lenses first.

    It does seem like a good idea to have some kind of protective cover that you can use overnight. In my experience that's when the sand really gets into things.

    -NT
     
  8. Klainmeister

    Klainmeister Member

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    Thank you for the response. That helped answer my original question and subdue my fears. I've been leaning towards a ballhead due to the weight/weight supported ratio as well as it won't get caught on anything with my backpack like my others have.

    My concern is real right now since it's the windy season here and dust/sand gets into everything.
     
  9. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    For "desert shooting" I'd recommend you use a camera, you will encounter enormous problems trying to load the film in a ball head .:laugh:

    Sorry but I couldn't resist it.
     
  10. dpurdy

    dpurdy Subscriber

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    I was going to say to put a hat on your bald head. Sorry
     
  11. Klainmeister

    Klainmeister Member

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    Well, I don't want to get my camera dirty so I wanted a good tripod head so I can set the scene in my head and have a lovely experience.
     
  12. Robert Hall

    Robert Hall Subscriber

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    I've used a kirk on my 8x10 for a couple years now. I wish I could find one for my 12x20. lol

    It works quite well, even pointing straight down.
     
  13. Klainmeister

    Klainmeister Member

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    I was hoping you'd chime in Robert, seeing as though you are in the right area to have experience in such matters. Now I just need to justify spending over $200 on a head....hmmm
     
  14. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    I had a Gitzo Ballhead #2 for years -- held up my 4x5 and then my 5x7 out on the beaches, bottom of the Grand Canyon, Death Valley, Eureka Valley Sand Dunes, and so forth. It stayed on the pod out in the open as I fought high winds, etc, or just transporting the pod miles thru the desert. I had it on the back of a bicycle for a couple thousand miles in New Zealand (but the rain probably washed it for me). I am sure I have set the pod w/ ballhead on the ground many many times, sometimes even on purpose.

    Never crossed my mind to worry about dirt and certainly never heard any grinding away in it.

    Vaughn
     
  15. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    An unprotected ball head will be ruined after exposure to sand, particularly wind-blown sand. Likewise, sand entering the legs and locking mechanisms will cause similarly abrasive, accelerated wear. You could try cling-wrapping the assembly as much as you can but sand being as fine as it is will get through any barrier. Maybe invest in a second hand el-cheapo tripod that at least holds your rig firmly but the tripod's condition is not a concern now or after the desert shoot.
     
  16. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    Has anyone here ever have a ballhead ruined by sand?
     
  17. Klainmeister

    Klainmeister Member

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    I've had many bad experiences with other type of ball-like things and sand, hence my concern. I would also love to know if anyone actually has experience with that being an issue or if I am just being a worry-monkey.
     
  18. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    If you want to see what happens, drop your steady friend head-first into sand. You might be able to salvage it if you immediately use plain water to flush off sand, but it will still get into the tiniest of tiny entry points and grind, grind, grind... :pouty:
     
  19. patrickjames

    patrickjames Member

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    I have a Foba Superball that has been exposed to tons of sand and salt water. I haven't had any problems with it except every couple of years I need to take it apart and clean it when it starts to get a little sticky. I think after all of this time, I would prefer a geared head though. When shooting large format I find the ball head is a little inconvenient, even if it will hold an 8x10. You may want to look at the Acratek(sp?) head. It functions like a ball head, but isn't.
     
  20. r-brian

    r-brian Member

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    Klainmeister

    I've never had a problem with sand with my ball head here in NM, not up in the mountains, or in the ABQ foothills, or even down in White Sands (and that area can be brutal). Never had a problem with salt spray in it when I lived in SW FL. Just take care and don't throw the tripod down in the sand. If the wind is blowing hard enough to blow the sand around, you're not going to be out taking pictures unless you specialize in dust clouds (like the last 2 weekends)
     
  21. mark

    mark Member

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    Never had an issue with my ball head here is the desert southwest.
     
  22. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I've had no problems that regular cleaning and maintenance can't solve, including my gear head, wich might possibly be even worse. The thing to do is to keep things clean and dry. Normal lubrication (for parts that need it, many tripods can be run absolutely dry) is a grit magnet and tends not to lubricate, but rather form an abrasive paste. I keep my stuff dry lubed for the parts that need lube, like my gear head. It's for guns and stuff, works well. Blowing out sensitive areas with the air can is something I also do.
     
  23. Klainmeister

    Klainmeister Member

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    Thanks JBrunner, picking up a Gitzo ballhead this week or next so I suppose I'm committed.