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Can you please recommend a ballhead?


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Can you please recommend a ballhead for my tripod (GT3541 Systematic)?  

The current heaviest combination of my gear would be the following. 

 

  • D800 (approx 1000g) + AF Nikorr 80-200mm ED f/2.8 (approx 1300g)
Currently I am using a Manfrotto 410 Junior Gearhead but it is now approaching the end of its life.
I like the Junior Gearhead for its precise control but it's a bit too heavy.  I would like to consider
ballhead this time.
 
Sung
 
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I have a few Giottos ball heads which are OK but the rubber grips have worn slack and some come off. Best one I've had was an Arca Swiss. I think the new Giottos heads are better, and they have some with fast lock plate systems (mine have sort of circular socket, works OK but does not guarantee perfect realignment). All ball heads are tricky with the weight and balance you are using, especially for verticals. So I would get the biggest you can :-)

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This is a bit off topic so I suppose I will get the red card but here goes --  I have a Really Right Stuff ball head and a Manfrotto tripod. I have managed to do what I often do with things that screw on. I have put it on so tightly that I cannot get it off. Any tricks? Ideas?

 

Paulette

 

PS. Just to add something on topic. I like the ball head and the professional wildlife photographers I take trips with recommend the Really Right Stuff ball heads.

Edited by NYCat
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I have a few Giottos ball heads which are OK but the rubber grips have worn slack and some come off. Best one I've had was an Arca Swiss. I think the new Giottos heads are better, and they have some with fast lock plate systems (mine have sort of circular socket, works OK but does not guarantee perfect realignment). All ball heads are tricky with the weight and balance you are using, especially for verticals. So I would get the biggest you can :-)

 

Thank you for your reply, David.  I am aware of the reputation of Arca's build quality.  Are they better than Gitzo's? 

 

Sung

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This is a bit off topic so I suppose I will get the red card but here goes --  I have a Really Right Stuff ball head and a Manfrotto tripod. I have managed to do what I often do with things that screw on. I have put it on so tightly that I cannot get it off. Any tricks? Ideas?

 

Paulette

 

PS. Just to add something on topic. I like the ball head and the professional wildlife photographers I take trips with recommend the Really Right Stuff ball heads.

 

You would have tried this but in case...  Put a loads of elastic bands around and try to twist.

 

Yes, I think I need to investigate Really Right Stuff, too.  Thank you.

 

Sung

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This is a bit off topic so I suppose I will get the red card but here goes --  I have a Really Right Stuff ball head and a Manfrotto tripod. I have managed to do what I often do with things that screw on. I have put it on so tightly that I cannot get it off. Any tricks? Ideas?

 

Paulette

 

PS. Just to add something on topic. I like the ball head and the professional wildlife photographers I take trips with recommend the Really Right Stuff ball heads.

 

Still off topic but only trying to help. Get someone to help you with this.

 

Wrap head (on tripod) with thin rubber so other person can get a grip.

Open legs (tripod) and gripping legs, hands about 24" apart both twist in opposite directions.

 

Failing this all I can suggest, but rather dramatic is the use of WD40, vice, wrench (spanner), and blowtorch.

 

The last bit was a joke.

 

Allan

 

SFL sort of beat me to it.

 

 

Edited by Allan Bell
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Arca versus Gitzo - smoother, slightly more stylish, but no better as Gitzo heads generally have slightly more overshoot for verticals etc. Gitzo and Manfrotto are the same overall company (Vitec). There's also a superb head from Novoflex but the money is silly.

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The RRS ball head is the best one I have used, by far.  Better than Arca-Swiss, which was inclined to seize up in humid conditions, but more expensive.  I also have an Arca, which is fine for a lightweight tripod and rig but not beefy enough for heavy gear.

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Thank you everyone.  I suppose it's not straight forward like everything in life.  Hope my gearhead lasts until I make my mind up.

 

Am I right that I can buy RRS only from US?  

 

Sung

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Thank you everyone.  I suppose it's not straight forward like everything in life.  Hope my gearhead lasts until I make my mind up.

 

Am I right that I can buy RRS only from US?  

 

Sung

 

No:

http://reallyrightstuff.com/WebsiteInfo.aspx?fc=9

There are local sellers also.

This is the one in the Netherlands:

Cameranu

 

wim

 

edit: the info RRS still has here seems incorrect.

There is no real advantage buying in the EU. Being in the EU and buying from the US, if that's what you meant, just means you have to pay tax.

Being in the EU and  buying from the EU, means you pay taxes too. Plus you pay the local shop (who pays taxes too).

 

edit 2: I have Gitzo; Inka; Manfrotto; Sirui and RRS heads, and recommend the RRS: worth the money.

Edited by wiskerke
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edit: the info RRS still has here seems incorrect.

There is no real advantage buying in the EU. Being in the EU and buying from the US, if that's what you meant, just means you have to pay tax.

Being in the EU and  buying from the EU, means you pay taxes too. Plus you pay the local shop (who pays taxes too).

 

edit 2: I have Gitzo; Inka; Manfrotto; Sirui and RRS heads, and recommend the RRS: worth the money.

 

 

Thank you for the info, Wim.  You are correct re tax.  RRS seems to be a worthwhile investment.

 

By the way if you buy from EU and you are registered for VAT, you pay Website price minus local VAT.  Anyway I will have to compare the prices first.

 

Sung

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I use a Joy Stick Head and Carbon Fibre tripod, both from Manfrotto. Head: 322RC2/Tripod: 190CXPRO3 Price was around $500, so not cheap or overly expensive. A warning: though I love this set up and was a breeze to carry around Italy for a month, know that you will have your luggage searched. The head resembles a gun they say, so after checking it once, I then put it in my carryon to avoid them going through the checked luggage.

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edit: the info RRS still has here seems incorrect.

There is no real advantage buying in the EU. Being in the EU and buying from the US, if that's what you meant, just means you have to pay tax.

Being in the EU and  buying from the EU, means you pay taxes too. Plus you pay the local shop (who pays taxes too).

 

edit 2: I have Gitzo; Inka; Manfrotto; Sirui and RRS heads, and recommend the RRS: worth the money.

 

 

Thank you for the info, Wim.  You are correct re tax.  RRS seems to be a worthwhile investment.

 

By the way if you buy from EU and you are registered for VAT, you pay Website price minus local VAT.  Anyway I will have to compare the prices first.

 

Sung

 

True, but you do pay VAT in the end. There's no escape. In the US there is sales tax as well, be it lower.

 

Recently I tested my most minimal setup for travel, including the smallest RRS ballhead the BH-25. For one of the tests to find out what would reduce mirror slap or shutter vibration the most, I put small sandbags filled with lead pellets on top of my camera. The RRS would not sag; the Gitzo's sagged above a certain load; the Chinese ones just flopped over at a critical point. Frightening!

 

wim

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Recently I tested my most minimal setup for travel, including the smallest RRS ballhead the BH-25. For one of the tests to find out what would reduce mirror slap or shutter vibration the most, I put small sandbags filled with lead pellets on top of my camera. The RRS would not sag; the Gitzo's sagged above a certain load; the Chinese ones just flopped over at a critical point. Frightening!

 

wim

 

Hi Wim, 

 

As an experienced user of RRS, for my combination of gear as mentioned above, do you think BH-40 is adequate or do I really need BH-55?  It's really difficult to evaluate without actually seeing them.

 

Sung

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Sung,

 

In general it's always a compromise. Bigger = always better. Buy the biggest you are willing to carry. Bigger is also more forgiving. The BH-25 will hold your D800 and 2.8/80-200 as well, but you'll need a lot of careful shooting technique and occasionally an umbrella, to hold everything still.

For your tripod, which is about 2000g, a 450g ball head is perfect. The 820g BH-55 is overkill on that tripod. I would combine the BH-40 with the smallest screw-knob clamp the B2-mAS unless you prefer a lever operated one; those are bigger.

 

The Manfrotto plates you may have are incompatible with the Arca-Swiss style plates. The body plates that RRS makes are still the best in the industry and I would recommend buying at least one. I have both straight and L plates. The L-plate takes up a little bit more space in the bag, but I seldom swap it for a straight plate nowadays. I wished though that camera makers would incorporate the Arca Swiss grooves into the body design, both vertical and horizontal. Because the L-plate provides a square platform on the side, I use it to prop up the camera to tables, floors, walls, columns etc a lot. But it remains an awkward lump of metal to the left of the body (be it lite weight). The straight ones are much more unobtrusive.

 

wim

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Hi Wim

 

Thank you very much for your detailed answer for my question.  I wasn't quite sure between BH55 and BH40.  I knew the bigger ball would be more rigid but without seeing and feeling the heads, it is quite difficult to see if BH40 is good enough (so your reply is really helpful).  I also was going to get a L plate and a L84 for 80-200mm if I go for RSS.

 

Sung 

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Sung, 

 

As Wim says, the bigger the better when it comes to the ball head.  With mirror-up lock and cable release when possible.  And as heavy and solid a tripod as possible.

 

I also use D800 and 80 - 200mm.  

 

Favourite tripod is an old original heavy duty large Benbo though I use a smaller Manfrotto for air travel.

 

On both tripods I use a large Linhof ball head with quick release plate permanently attached to the D800 camera base for shorter lens use and another quick release plate permanently attached to the foot of the 80 - 200mm.  Always attach to the tripod using the lens foot on larger lenses, never the camera. The Linhof ball head is very solid and very smooth. The Linhof quick release plates are excellent  -  runs flush with the base of the D800 and you soon forget it is even there. The big ball head and solid permanently attached quick release plates give me a lot of confidence when working in difficult terrain or fast moving situations.  That confidence and automatic way of working is vary valuable  -  well worth paying a bit extra.

 

http://www.linhof.com/accessories.html

 

I use the Profi Ballhead III Q.  Not cheap but worth the peace of mind.

 

But any ball head will be a waste of money on a lightweight tripod.

 

Regards,

 

David.

Edited by DavidLyons
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David,

 

I have tested lens plate vs camera plate with my Canon 70-200 and 1dsmk3. The result surprised me a lot: camera plate won with every technique: mirror up; live view; 2 sec; 10 sec delay. My guess: the system is too well balanced. Dampening vibration works best when there's a certain tension on the ball head. The zoom has a rubber gasket between the lens and the mount, so play there is probably not a factor.

So after years using the lens collars, I now leave them in the drawer.

 

Another interesting test was using a very light weight Gitzo with a Gigapan Epic Pro. The Gigapan was to be mounted directly to the center column. Why? We were not allowed in with a tripod, but there were no restrictions on photography (not telling you where, but in a country known for thoroughness). There was not enough time to go through the regular channels and ask for a permit (thoroughness). The subject was in a remote location on the property, so we figured that if we would make it past the gate we were more or less safe. The shortest tripod was my modded Sirui (weight: 689g - 38,5cm folded), but it failed every test. Next best was my Gitzo G1058 (710g - 45cm folded). My standard solution - hanging my bag with the sling over the body, just hooked over the prism, could not work with the rotating Gigapan. Initial idea: have something hang from the center column: at 20kg still not useful. A tripod apron filled with 10kg: slightly better but still useless. The solution was to make the center column longer, but very stiff. I used an adjustable Manfrotto pole, extended to just above the ground. With a 5kg sandbag strapped to it, the results were really good. We hooked up some triangles to the feet (alu rulers and gaffer) and it performed brilliantly.

So the lesson there was: the hook just doesn't do a thing. I knew it was inferior to the bag over the camera trick, but was unprepared for how bad it really was.

Extending the center column and making it heavy at the bottom made it behave like the diy glide cam devices for video.

 

The umbrella trick is familiar to old greybeards that learned to shoot with 4x5 or even 8x10's with bellows that flopped in the slightest breeze: take a big umbrella as a wind shield. (Of course umbrella's were verboten also.)

 

wim

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Useful information there Wim.

 

I think you are right about keeping a tension on the ball head via using the camera base mount instead of the lens collar. My concern though was not about vibration but about the stress exerted on the lens throat.  My guess would be that most photographers do not spend enough money on solid tripods and solid heads with adequate positive locks. This means it is almost inevitable that at some point a front heavy lens camera combo will drop forward and crash onto a tripod leg probably damaging the lens coupling and or warping the body throat (whether obviously visible or not).  And a long heavy lens hanging unsupported from the front of a camera base tripod is likely to slightly distort the light path hitting the sensor affecting critical edge sharpness at wide apertures.  None of this is likely to affect a 80 - 200 mm however.

 

I have a Sigma 300 - 800 which is very long and very heavy (and reassuringly sharp). If the camera lens combo was tripod mounted via the camera base plate the weight of the lens would rip the guts out of the camera.  If used with care, my lens mounted Linhof ball head will hold this combo steady enough in terms of vibration but it is very ungainly.  So I  use a heavy duty Jobu mark III Black Widow gimbal head which works like a dream.  But does this give me sharper pictures than using this lens / body combination on the heavy duty tripod and ball head?  No.  My tests show no difference in sharpness.  The difference is really in the ease of operation and the likelihood of an "accident" seriously damaging the gear.

 

And even with mirror lock, the result of any vibration will appear greater or lesser depending on shutter speed.  e.g. shutter vibration dies down rapidly and disappears in probably just over one second.  So if you use a shutter speed of half a second then all of the exposure is made during shutter vibration.  If you use a shutter speed of 8 seconds then most of the exposure is made without shutter vibration.

 

I think what it comes down to is that there is really no substitute for spending sometimes considerably more money on a quality, robust head and tripod combination.  This can not be emphasized enough. Much of the tripod development in my lifetime has been toward lightweight.  This is almost a contradiction in terms.  My old heavy original Benbo is a much, much better tripod than any of the current lighter models  -  and virtually indestructible  -  I've tried!  A photographer will spend a small fortune on quality bodies and lenses and then throw that quality away on either a cheap or a flimsy tripod / head.  And even some of the VERY expensive, high tech, carbon hybrid pods are still far too flimsy.  Better a cheap heavy one than a pricey fancy name all singing and dancing flimsy one.  

 

Of course nobody wants to carry a big heavy tripod / head combination.  But if you want sharp shots ..........

 

Do we get paid more for sharp shots these days ............

 

D.

 

 

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David,

 

been there; done that ;-)

You're probably right about the distortion, but the longer the lens, the less problematic that is. Two tripods will solve some problems, but introduce a whole bunch of others ;-)

My solution for any vibration: heap on weight. Small bags filled with lead pellets. This is how I found out the sudden flop. Good balls just sag under overload, they do not flop.

(What did I just write there?)

 

C0JA37.jpg
 
1200mm; 2 tripods - 10kg & 3kg; ball 1.9kg - lead approx 10 kg.
Camera to windmill: 740 meter
Windmill to church: 500 meter
 
Similar, but only 400mm: C48F7J
 
wim
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The RRS ball head is the best one I have used, by far.  Better than Arca-Swiss, which was inclined to seize up in humid conditions, but more expensive.  I also have an Arca, which is fine for a lightweight tripod and rig but not beefy enough for heavy gear.

 

 

The new Arca-Swiss heads, built in the last 10 years or so, have a revised tension control and no longer have a problem seizing up if misused.  They are lighter and less expensive than the comparable RRS heads, and will easily handle about double the weight the RRS heads do.  Arca-Swiss have a patented aspherical ball design which helps them support and control heavier loads more smoothly.

 

I replaced my RRS BH-55 with an Arca-Swiss Z1 DP, and am very happy using it with lenses up to a 500mm f4.  For a lighter application like the OP is considering, the Arca-Swiss P0 is a surprisingly good head once you get used to its slightly quirky design.  I use RRS lever-release clamps on all of my Arca-Swiss heads, since I use RRS plates on all of my cameras and larger lenses.

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Thank you everyone for the info.  So many choices in the market, which often makes the decision difficult.  As I said at the beginning, I have been using a Manfrotto Junior Gearhead 410 for years and years.  It's slow, bulky and heavy, but it's locked in position all the time which I like very much.  When I first thinking about changing it to a ballhead, my main concern was sagging, however it seems there is a few models with rigidity.  Another difficulty is that you can't pop into a retailer to have a feel of products, in particular, Novoflex, RSS, Linhof and Markins, etc, 

 

Sung

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I have managed to do what I often do with things that screw on. I have put it on so tightly that I cannot get it off. Any tricks? Ideas?

 

Paulette

 

  • Attach your longest lens (must have a sturdy tripod collar!!).
  • Tighten the screw to block the horizontal motion on your ballhead as hard as you can.
  • Give the lens a good ....... euh....... twirl (?) (is that the right word? Or is it a "yank"?)
  • Anyway, now your ballhead should be loose enough to unscrew .......................... or you might have broken something very expensive in which case - as
    would say - "I know nothing" :rolleyes:

Cheers,

Philippe

 

Thank you, Philiippe. That sounds like a great idea. Before I try it, however, I think I'll wait until I get to Alaska (tomorrow)!!!!! and see if some nice guy with strong hands might be able to get it off. Sorry you don't live around the corner.

 

Paulette

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