Tripod Ball Heads

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by Ara Ghajanian, Oct 13, 2005.

  1. Ara Ghajanian

    Ara Ghajanian Member

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    Good morning gang,
    I'm in the market for a ball head for my tripod. I'm going to be doing macro work and my present tripod head is too much of a hassle to adjust. I figured a ball head would allow me to very quickly position the camera precisely where I want it and then be able to lock it in place with a switch. Obviously, I'm using 35mm (Nikon F3) and the lens is a 55mm f2.8 Micro, so there's not a lot of weight.

    What experience do you people have with various ball heads? Are there any I should avoid? All input would be helpful.
    Thanks in advance,
    Ara
     
  2. Andy K

    Andy K Member

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    I bought a ballhead for my tripod back in the summer (Brand 'El Cheapo'). I use it with 35mm and some mf (Agfa Isolette). I bought it because I tend to cycle to most places and a ballhead is lighter and more compact for carriage. It is also a lot quicker to set up than my old pan and tilt head.

    If you do buy a ballhead, be sure to also buy a two axis spirit level for the hotshoe/accessory shoe of your camera(s). Makes levelling a lot easier! I have used both ball and P&T for macro, I found the ballhead was better.

    I don't think I will go back to pan and tilt. At least not for still photography. I still use pan and tilt for my video camera.

    Not a comprehensive review, but I hope this helped.

    Andy.
     
  3. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member

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    How macro is macro? I'd go the other way and use a geared head and a sliding macro rail rather than a ballhead for that, since it can be difficult to position the camera very precisely in the way that one needs to at high magnification with a ballhead, particularly if the magnification is going to be higher than about 1:3 on 35mm.
     
  4. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    I'm with David on this one. I'd use a geared head like the Bogen 410 (model 3275 in the US) and a macro rail like the Bogen 3419. I find that a ball & socket head is too hard to set exactly and has too many degrees of freedom for fine tuning composition at high magnifications. A geared head allows precise fine tuning of the composition. The rail then allows you some front-back movement without moving the tripod and messing up the composition. Not necessarily a cheap solution, but it's the best I've found, and there are probably cheaper macro rails used.

    Lee
     
  5. Peter De Smidt

    Peter De Smidt Member

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    I've used a few ball heads over the years. My favorite is the Arca Swiss. They're strong, smooth, and they have a very good quick release system. I use quick release plates from Really Right Stuff for it. These plates are specifically machined for your camera. Thus while strong, they are very unobtrusive; and the camera won't spin on the plate! The Arca's elliptical ball head is nice: As the camera moves away from the "home" position, the ball gives more resistence.
     
  6. Lee Shively

    Lee Shively Member

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    My current favorite ballhead is a large magnesium Gitzo whose model number I forget. It's very smooth, locks tight and didn't cost a fortune. I set it up to use the Bogen/Manfrotto big hex head quick releases.

    Bogen/Manfrotto makes a wide range of ball heads that are not expensive. So does Giotto. The main considerations for ballheads are that they move smoothly and lock up tightly. For serious macro use, a geared head may be preferable but you can also fit a focus rail to a ballhead that will enhance adjustability.
     
  7. Ara Ghajanian

    Ara Ghajanian Member

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    I should have mentioned that the subject matter I'm using for my macro work is people. I do agree that a geared head would be better for stationary objects, people tend to move slightly and I don't think anyone could hold still for that long. I was just going to use a higher shutter speed and hand hold it, but with a ball head I can get much more stable and use a shutter release cable.
    Ara
     
  8. brent8927

    brent8927 Subscriber

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    The Arca B1 sure is nice, but I find that the Bogen 488 works great too, and only costs about $80.
     
  9. Paul Sorensen

    Paul Sorensen Subscriber

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    I was happy with my Giotto's MH1000 ballhead. It is relatively cheap and has a nice sturdy metal ball that locks very effectively. I also had a Bogen/Manfrotto (I forget the number) with a plastic ball and it did not lock well enough for my taste. I have found the same to be the case with the grip action ball heads from Bogen. You do have a lighter rig than the Mamiya 645 I was using on it, however, so you might do better. I know that a lot of folks swear by their grip action bogen. (Sounds like a GI Joe doll. :smile:)
     
  10. LeonardT

    LeonardT Member

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    All of the Bogen/Manfrottos are good. I have the 486, 484RC2 and the little 482 for my monopod. What I like and use the most though is the Velbon PH-273GL. It's a quick release and has 2 bubble levels. It's nice and smooth and not nearly as pricey as an Arca. It's also sturdy enough for medium format.
     
  11. Robert Budding

    Robert Budding Member

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    Really Right Stuff makes fantastic ball heads in various sizes. They are not cheap, but they will last a lifetime.

    Robert
     
  12. Claire Senft

    Claire Senft Member

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    I hate ball heads.
     
  13. LeonardT

    LeonardT Member

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    I guess it's what your used to. I've used only pan heads for almost 40 years until I got my first ball head. Now thats all I'll use on my lighter equipment except when it comes to macro work. Then I trust the pan more. The nicest setup Ive seen is a Wimberly Sidekick mounted on an Arca B1. For really long lenses I use the Wimberly Head only.

    Len
     
  14. Peter De Smidt

    Peter De Smidt Member

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    I do too: for some things that is. For any large format work I prefer a regular pan/tilt head. (My favorite is the Sinar head, but only for use with a Sinar camera, as you can adjust the by rotating the rail in the rail holder.) But ball heads work well with 35mm and medium format cameras, at least in instances where speed and ease of operation is more important critical film plane alignment. So for action pictures of toddlers, I prefer a medium format camera on an Arca Swiss ballhead. I don't lock down the ball. Rather, I set the drag to give enough resistence to hold the camera steady when I'm not moving it. The variable drag system on the Arca works better than on any other ball head that I've tried. The same technique works well for sports and wildlife photogrphy.
     
  15. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member

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    I use a big Uniloc ball head for everything up to and including 8x10". I need something even stronger for the 30x40cm camera - maybe an oak table?
     
  16. Elox

    Elox Member

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    I find them handy on monopods. I use a Slik 800 mounted on a Bogen 3018 for handheld shots in 35mm or medium format.
     
  17. Claire Senft

    Claire Senft Member

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    I own a Manfrotto Large Ball head. Having or 4 or pounds of camera on the head and then over loosening it when repositiioning the camera and pinching your fingers will cause one to use language of the type Blansky saves for describing Republicans.

    I use a great deal of care in making the camera plumb and squaring it up to the plane desired ad I find it personally more agreeable to use a pan tilt head.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 31, 2005
  18. Tom Hoskinson

    Tom Hoskinson Member

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    Quickly and easily getting my 8x10 field camera square and plumb is precisely why I use a Arca Swiss Ball Head with its variable drag. BTW, it will support 65 pounds.
     
  19. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

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    Ara,
    If you can find one Emo made a head that would convert from pan head to ball head by removing one screw and replacing the "long" handles with "short" ones. It's got ball bearings in both the top and bottom quick releases(plural) and has conversion threads in both top and bottom plates.
    I believe they were imported by Bromwell. They look like a Leica ball head on steroids.
     
  20. Changeling1

    Changeling1 Member

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    You could purchase a Berlebach tripod with a ball in the adjustable center column. You could actually mount a camera to the center column if you wanted to but most people I assume would put a Bogen 3047 type head on it. You could get the Berlebach 2042 Report tripod new with a Bogen head for about $100 less than what an Arca-Swisse B1 ball-head alone would cost. The Report 2042 is rated at 26 pounds but I personally would use it only with MF or smaller cameras.
     
  21. Robert Budding

    Robert Budding Member

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    Cheap ball heads can be awful - don't be tempted. Also avoid the trigger-style heads.

    Robert