I used to use a head almost identical to the one in the first photo. Yes, it is sturdy, but it was bulky and often took quite a bit of tweaking to get the camera set just right. For years now, I've been using an old Bilora ball head on my tripod. It's rather large (but much smaller than the one I used before) and very sturdy. If I keep a slight tension on it, it's easy to position the camera exactly the way I want. A hot-shoe mounted spirit level helps, but if one just stays aware of the horizon and vertical tilt, it really isn't necessary.

Best,

Michael