Tripod heads: Ball or 3-way?

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by Kate Mocak, Feb 27, 2004.

  1. Kate Mocak

    Kate Mocak Member

    Messages:
    86
    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2003
    Location:
    Slovakia
    I'm going to buy Manfrotto 055PRO tripod (without head). What kind of head would you recommend: ball or 3-way? What are the pros and cons of each? Do you have any preferred type?

    Thanks for advice.
    Kate
     
  2. jrong

    jrong Member

    Messages:
    125
    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2003
    Location:
    London, Engl
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I personally prefer ballheads for speed and convenience. I had a cheap pan-and-tilt head once and struggled with it, and never got used to it, although many say its a matter of getting used to it. I've heard that pan-and-tilt heads are better for macro photography and the like, but since I almost never do that, life has become cheerier since the purchase of my ballhead. :smile:

    If you do decide to go with a ballhead, do find one that is the appropriate size and weight for your equipment, particularly if you have heavy lenses. It's usually a compromise between ballhead weight (some weigh a tonne) and the weight of gear it can support. I use a Markins ballhead after reading rave reviews about it on the Nikonians website, and I certainly have nothing but good things to say about it. It is fully compatible with the Swiss-Arca system and its plates. Check out the Nikonians website for more extensive reviews on this ballhead, but I have no complaints! I used a cheaper Manfrotto 438RC ballhead before but got rid of it after I found it a little clumsy with vertical compositions.

    Your mileage may vary, good luck.
    Jin
     
  3. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    Messages:
    17,946
    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2002
    Location:
    Honolulu, Ha
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    It's one of those things that's a personal choice, and you really need to try them out for yourself.

    I prefer three-way pan heads, because I like things to be square and straight and it's easier to do that when you can control the three rotation axes separately.

    Ball heads, though, are more compact and quick to adjust, particularly for moving subjects. I have a small Linhof ballhead on my little travel tripod, which I use for my smaller rangefinder cameras or even my ultralight 4x5" Gowland.
     
  4. dr bob

    dr bob Member

    Messages:
    871
    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2002
    Location:
    Annapolis, M
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    After more than fifty years of trudging about with all kinds of equipment, I have yet to find the need for a ball-head tripod. Caveat: I don't do nature (or children on the loose) for which one might be preferable.
     
  5. Adrian Twiss

    Adrian Twiss Member

    Messages:
    623
    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2004
    Location:
    Wigan (oop N
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    As a landscape and architecture fan I find the 3 way head more convenient. I always had trouble squaring everything up with a ball head. It's really horses for courses.

    Adrian
     
  6. paul ron

    paul ron Member

    Messages:
    1,864
    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2004
    Location:
    NYC
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I have 2 Bogen tilt/pan tripod heads for sale. e-mail me if you are interested, I have a 3126-$35 and a 3047-$45

    automax1@juno.com
     
  7. ThomHarrop

    ThomHarrop Member

    Messages:
    172
    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2003
    Location:
    Denver, CO
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    I have used both types and find the ballhead much more convenient. I first started using it when I was on staff at Outdoor Photographer magazine on the recommendation of one of the contributors. A good ballhead is fast and smooth and I can level mine faster then I can level a 3 handle model. I have a heavy duty Bogen (Manfrotto) and love it.
     
  8. Thomassauerwein

    Thomassauerwein Member

    Messages:
    1,627
    Joined:
    Apr 20, 2003
    Location:
    Southern Cal
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    I have each for different sized cameras, The only extra thought I have, with the larger cameras, 5x7 and up it is easier with the 3 way because you can adjust one direction at a time. Personally I prefer the ball heads for speed and flexibility. You do need to keeep the ball lubricated though.
     
  9. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

    Messages:
    2,512
    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2002
    Location:
    Omaha, Nebra
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I have always found a three way much easier to square and level the camera, which for LF is essential before you apply movements. For 35mm or MF a ball head is probably quicker to use.
     
  10. pierre

    pierre Member

    Messages:
    97
    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2003
    Location:
    Ottawa
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I had a pan head before, and I let myself be seduced by everyone recommending a ball head a year ago. My conclusion: I much prefer a pan head. I find it gives a more precise control, plus, you don't need a mega-bucks panhead for it to work well, while I'm not sure I would say the same about ballheads.
     
  11. david b

    david b Member

    Messages:
    4,031
    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2003
    Location:
    None of your
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I am using a bogen carbon fiber 3443 with Kirk BH-3 and love it. Light weight and very easy to use for landscapes and portraits.
     
  12. Kate Mocak

    Kate Mocak Member

    Messages:
    86
    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2003
    Location:
    Slovakia
    Thank you all for your insightful comments. Preferences seem to be roughly 50/50 but it's easier for me to make a decision now when I know your arguments.

    Best regards,
    Kate
     
  13. AllanD

    AllanD Member

    Messages:
    120
    Joined:
    Apr 13, 2003
    Location:
    Wiltshire,UK
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Sorry if this reply is late. I started out using a ball head with 35mm and medium format and they are indeed quick and easy to setup. I just wish I'd bought the bigger ball; the one with the friction control.

    I now use a pan and tilt. No sudden changes of camera position = no sudden changes of center of gravity = no sudden contact between camera and ground !
     
  14. skahde

    skahde Member

    Messages:
    427
    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2004
    Location:
    Germany
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    FLM makes a ballhead which will not tilt sideways if an additional clamp is locked. Once tripod and camera are level and this clamp has been fixed adjusting the camera becomes more like working with a two-way pan-tilt head. All in all it is a nice head which replaced my Linhof Pro III.

    Here is a description/praise of this head (Workshop- 2 -> "An exceptional ballhead"): http://www.poelking.de/index_e.htm

    best

    Stefan
     
  15. Eric Rose

    Eric Rose Subscriber

    Messages:
    4,421
    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2002
    Location:
    Calgary AB,
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    I've got both and I hate the ball head for LF. Works great for MF.
     
  16. haris

    haris Guest

    Well, if you will do panning with your camera(following subject while it moves) it is easier to do with 3-way than ball head. You can, for example, have fixed vertical movement and have free only horizontal movement fot taking photo of moving car while follow its moving. With ball head you will have horizontal and vertical movements free at same time which can be problem if you need vertical or horizontal strictly fixed...
     
  17. glbeas

    glbeas Member

    Messages:
    3,307
    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2002
    Location:
    Roswell, Ga.
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Some ball heads have a separate pan swivel with a lock lever at the bottom. I had one for a while but it annoyed me because I was always grabbing the wrong lever to adjust the thing. I sold it and got the simpler version.