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  1. #1
    Ara Ghajanian's Avatar
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    Tripod Ball Heads

    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
    Just because you're not paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you.

  2. #2
    Andy K's Avatar
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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.


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  3. #3
    David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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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.
    flickr--http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidagoldfarb/
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  4. #4
    Lee L's Avatar
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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. #5

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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. #6

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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. #7
    Ara Ghajanian's Avatar
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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
    Just because you're not paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you.

  8. #8
    brent8927's Avatar
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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. #9
    Paul Sorensen's Avatar
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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. )

  10. #10

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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.

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