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Author Topic: What type of head (pan or ball) for a new tripod  (Read 6620 times)

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Beppe Grillo

« on: September 11, 2013, 04:51 »
I am about to buy a new tripod.

I have decided for the Vanguard Alta Pro 263AT

But my concern is about the head:
Vanguard proposes different types of heads

- The pan head type, for example:

- And the Ball head type, for example:

I have almost never use a ball head on my tripods (maybe 10 minutes in all my life).
I have always been told that it is very fast and easy to use.
But I am not sure that it is very precise, I mean very easy and fast to put the camera in an exact (millimetric)  wanted position.
And what about the stability with heavy lenses? Does this kind of head lock well?
The ball head has only one knob to lock a piece that can move in every position, when the pan head has two handles, each one controlling the movements on different axes. (I feel the second more secure.)

So, what is your experience about the different kind of heads. Pro and Con ?

« Reply #1 on: September 11, 2013, 05:24 »
I have this tripod with the ball head.  It was a good value.  The tripod has a lot of movements for lots of different situations.  But I am thinking of upgrading the head to a geared head for more precise movement.

When doing food or still life the ball seems to drift a little when you let go.

Vanguard is a good company.  I slipped on ice and fell on my tripod this winter.  Nearly cracked a rib and bent the tripod leg a bit. Ended up breaking a little plastic bit inside the leg when I tried to close it a bit too hard. Called them up and they had me ship the tripod back to them - a week later I had it back and they didn't charge me anything.

« Reply #2 on: September 11, 2013, 22:15 »
You don't say anything about the types of photography you do. That's very important in selecting a tripod.

I've owned many different tripods and used both types of heads. Mostly I shoot landscapes, nature & wildlife.

I currently use a Gitzo GT3531 with a Manfrotto 268 ballhead. (That head is no longer available and I'm thinking of switching to a Really Right Stuff BH55 http://reallyrightstuff.com/ProductDesc.aspx?code=BH-55-LR&type=3&eq=&desc=BH-55-LR%3a-Full-sized-ballhead-with-LR&key=it).

I shoot with a Canon 5D2 and lenses up to 400mm. I need a substantial tripod and head to support it and this combination does it for me.

I prefer using ballheads because I can move in multiple directions with only one control knob. I found panheads awkward to use particularly when shooting moving subjects like people or wildlife.

The tripod you linked to uses one of those horizontal arms. That puts the weight of your camera and tripod head out in space far away from the center of gravity and makes everything unstable. In other words, your camera will shake when you trip the shutter. The specification says it will support 11 pounds while the spec for the Gitzo is 40 pounds.

Really Right Stuff also makes an excellent carbon fibre tripod, the TVC-23, that competes directly with the Gitzo. http://reallyrightstuff.com/ProductDesc.aspx?code=TVC-23&type=4&eq=&desc=TVC-23-Versa-Series-2-Tripod&key=it This has become very popular with landscape photographers. The TVC-24 is similar but has 4 leg sections and extends a bit higher - I would recommend that if you travel a lot by air.

Another consideration is cost. I didn't check the cost of the items you are looking at. The RRS tripod and ballhead I recommended will run around $1500 depending on taxes. For me, that kind of investment in a tripod and head has certainly been worth it.

Beppe Grillo

« Reply #3 on: September 12, 2013, 01:35 »
Well, I own other tripods too (a Manfrotto, a Foba alfae, a Fatif column) but all are too much heavy for my microstock photos use.

For my job I make different kind of photos, mainly furniture/interior, food/drinks and fashion/people, in studio and outdoor, and I shot with Hasselblad and Sinar. I generally move with the assistant so I have no problem to carry heavy equipment (he is very strong :D )

Beside this I have started to do photos for microstocks, for myself, some months ago (it will be an occupation for the pension, and the income, if it will be, will go to my grandson for his studies ), and I shot these with Nikon, mainly at home in a very little studio (still-life and portrait) and outdoor (people, landscape and macro).
As I do this alone, I would prefer something lighter, but I need a polyvalent tripod.

By the way as I told in the OP I have already chosen the tripod, but I am not sure about the kind of head.

Yes the Gitzo is very nice, but it costs 900 $ (at me) without the head, and my budget is 200$ for tripod + head, so

Edit: I add here a link to a good review about the Vanguard Alta Pro 263AT
« Last Edit: September 12, 2013, 02:11 by Beppe Grillo »

« Reply #4 on: September 12, 2013, 01:44 »
« Last Edit: May 12, 2014, 10:40 by Audi 5000 »

« Reply #5 on: September 12, 2013, 14:25 »
I've been very impressed by Feisol's levelling head:


Makes consistent straight pictures much easier.

« Reply #6 on: September 12, 2013, 15:21 »
If you need accuracy (instead of quick adjustments) you might like geared heads. Example: http://www.manfrotto.com/405-geared-head
« Last Edit: September 12, 2013, 15:27 by Perry »

« Reply #7 on: September 12, 2013, 15:29 »
« Last Edit: May 12, 2014, 10:40 by Audi 5000 »

« Reply #8 on: September 12, 2013, 17:45 »
No I just have the one set of Feisol carbon fibre legs, the leveller and a Gitzo ball head on top. And a bad back.

« Reply #9 on: September 12, 2013, 21:26 »
The RRS tripod & ballhead I recommended is 5.1 pounds - about 2.4 kilograms. Very light. My Gitzo/Manfrotto combination is a bit heavier (6 or 7 pounds) but I have no problems carrying it in the field and I'm not particularly strong. The carbon fibre legs are very light and give very good support.

If you're committed to your $200 price range, this definitely is not for you.

« Reply #10 on: September 13, 2013, 02:40 »
I have a Vanguard tripod with Ball head it can be inclined to move a bit its OK but I wouldn't chose it again

Beppe Grillo

« Reply #11 on: September 13, 2013, 04:45 »
Thank you to all for your answers!

I have finally bought the Vanguard Alta Pro 263AT with the BBH-100 head.


« Reply #12 on: August 02, 2014, 18:57 »
balls to the wall..... ;D  I mean balls to the tripod for photography if you wanna do video pan is the better choice!


« Reply #13 on: August 03, 2014, 15:52 »
 I shot with Hasselblad and Sinar. I generally move with the assistant so I have no problem to carry heavy equipment (he is very strong :D )

With that kind of equipment do you need a me to drive your rolls royce corniche to your photo sessions?  8)


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« Reply #14 on: July 20, 2016, 23:09 »
If product photography is involved ... a geared head is a must ....


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