Heavy Duty Tripod Heads (and Panorama Heads)

JJ_SOJJ_SO Posts: 1,158Member
edited June 2013 in Gear Reviews
As suggested by Msmoto, here's another tripod related thread about more expensive/heavy/clever made tripod heads, ball heads, panoramic heads, 2-5-way heads and gimbal heads.

I opened the subjects widely on purpose, because it will happen that for special tasks we could debate of Pro and Con without getting off-topic too soon. And on the other side, it's kind of "not of much common interest". I don't think it will become massive.

First, some links to already existing threads here and of the older forum:

Medium Use Good Quality Tripods
Those three legged friends, Tripods, Love or Hate
What is the BEST Tripod for a Pro style camera? Should I buy the Head separate?

Newer (and sometimes "branched") threads:

Beginners tripod (and lots of other information)
tripod collar of 80-400 lens

Quick release plates adapted on different heads:

Arca-Swiss style
Manfrotto 394

Post edited by JJ_SO on
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  • JJ_SOJJ_SO Posts: 1,158Member
    edited June 2013
    In the beginners tripod thread we discussed, amongst other subjects, about panoramic function of ball heads. I just jump in with quoting spraynpray:
    I really like the 2 control arrangement that you are talking about as my Slik has the three knobs which often has me fumbling. I cannot see any point in having a pan function that is below the ball though, I think life is waaay too short to fiddle endlessly with legs for level. For me, perfection would be no pan knob on my Slik so maybe I will modify it perhaps replace it with a flush screw or something. Oh goodie - a new project!
    My answer: "@spraynpray it has mechanical reasons. The shell of the ball with it's cut for portrait mode needs to be turnable. And if you like to fix the ballhead on a tripod, the ball head's thread needs to be clamped, otherwise you could not fix it. I don't get the point why most manufacturers put angle scales on it. The easiest way for panoramic turns is directly under the cam, not under the ball head. It's nearly impossible to bring ball head and tripod in alignment for panorama purposes. Some ball heads, like the expensive Arca-Swiss, come with this feature..."

    And parts of spraynpray's answer, already quoted:
    I don't think you get what I mean JJ - or if you do, that isn't clear to me from what you have written.
    I think I got you right, but now I'm asking which part I missed IYO? I see the slight possibility that you don't understand fully the function of your ball head's pan knob - no offense meant! It has a dual function. But maybe I miss a detail, because I don't know Slik ball heads. Is it that one?

    image

    What happens if you loosen the pan knob? you can turn the shell with the cut 360° horizontally. Can you still turn it, if you tighten the ball with the other knob?
    If no, you don't need the pan knob and I would realize I still didn't see each principle of ball heads. ;)
    If yes, then how do you prevent your camera from turning away or moving unwillingly? The "pan knob" is actually needed to fix the shell with the slit.
    Let's go again: If the QD (JJ_SO: you mean "QR", I guess?) plate is a circular plate, you just loosen the clamp and rotate as required after leveling the ball head. This removes completely the need to level the legs.
    100% agreed. That is a speciality of the Slik QR. Arca-Swiss, Induro and Novoflex offer a similar, bit much more expensive solution by turning the ball head upside down:

    Novoflex classic 3
    Arca p0
    Arca d4
    5D head by Induro but that's no ball head, they call it 5D head and you can level yourself into coma with it, I guess.

    And even Manfrotto has something to offer (in Russian tank style): image
    The ability to rotate the head for portrait/landscape still is present below the ball head.
    It is, but as you said, the better way (with your special Slik head) is turning the camera in the QR holder.
    I really don't get this whole 'Arca-Swiss' thing, it is like it is the best or only QD plate there is whereas it is just another solution among many. Like I said before, different strokes for different folks.
    Well, the plates and QR are only one thing Arca does nicely. And others do much cheaper or say, less expensive. The other thing is they have this Monoball p0 and the geared head/monoball d4, with what they offer nicely pricey heads with the pan function on the right place. Also "Arca" is more the name of the QR system, not the hooray to the manufacturer. As you said, "different strokes..."
    Post edited by JJ_SO on
  • spraynprayspraynpray Posts: 5,932Moderator
    @JJ: Yes, I posted in a hurry and what went on the screen didn't match up with what I was thinking. Of course I need the rotation under the ball head for switching format, but that is it. Maybe I will see about swapping the knob for a lever so it feel different - that way I will not change the friction setting when I need to switch format or vice versa.

    That Manfrotto looks a beast!
    Always learning.
  • FlowtographyBerlinFlowtographyBerlin Posts: 477Member
    edited June 2013
    That Manfrotto 400 is the most expensive of the three geared heads (400, 405, 410) they have on offer, while it is actually the most in-flexible, too (can't be adjusted as much).

    I have the 410, which is the cheapest (don't know the prices in the US, but below 300 bucks), but still as heavy-duty quality and, more importantly, as sturdy and rock-solid as the 405.

    image

    The 410 is rated by Manfrotto to carry 5kg or 11lb, which I never use. (I'd need a 4 kg lens to reach that weight.)

    The 405 is rated to carry 7.5 kg / 16.5 lb and the 400 can carry an insane 10 kg/ 22 lb.

    The geared tripod head is such a cool construction. I never understood why not more people are using it.
    Post edited by FlowtographyBerlin on
  • JJ_SOJJ_SO Posts: 1,158Member
    It is a cool construction. And also bulky and limited in it's movements:
    While you can turn a ball head mounted cam from facing to the sky to facing to the ground, that's not possible with Manfrotto's system. My problem with the 410 was I never knew intuitively in which direction the "unlock" (or disclutch) ring of each knob works. After I felt the 405 moving much smoother in a shop, I exchanged them. But mine needs me to work more with it before it is as smooth.

    That was after I said goodbye to a pricey piece of gear to dream about:
    image

    I suspect, it's more a design for indoor work or for people who can carry their gear with a car right to the shooting. And Manfrotto stuff is not all good, but it can take tough treatment and still work.

    Is anybody using this precious device?

    image
  • Golf007sdGolf007sd Posts: 2,840Moderator
    @JJ_SO: The Arca Swiss C1 Cube is a very interesting head. Very pricy might I add. After watching this video and seeing what the procedure is in taking a vertical shot...I must admit, I would never use this head. I will take my RRS BH-40 and L-Plate any day of the week and have some cash left over. But, thanks for sharing.

    D4 & D7000 | Nikon Holy Trinity Set + 105 2.8 Mico + 200 F2 VR II | 300 2.8G VR II, 10.5 Fish-eye, 24 & 50 1.4G, 35 & 85 1.8G, 18-200 3.5-5.6 VR I SB-400 & 700 | TC 1.4E III, 1.7 & 2.0E III, 1.7 | Sigma 35 & 50 1.4 DG HSM | RRS Ballhead & Tripods Gear | Gitzo Monopod | Lowepro Gear | HDR via Promote Control System |
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,365Moderator
    I have a Benro C3580F Classic Tripod with Carbon Fiber Flip Lock Legs and an Induro Carbon 8x Tripod CT-213. Both do the job well, the gimbal is on the Benro and a ball-head on the Induro. The only real difference is the lock mechanism of the legs.

    My current experience suggest the clamp style locks on the Benro are much more difficult to loosen and tighten, do not allow the legs to be adjusted as easily, and can be accidentally released by catching ones shoe on the clamp.

    So, the only suggestion I am making is to purchase a heavy duty tripod with screw style leg locks and not the clamps.
    Msmoto, mod
  • JJ_SOJJ_SO Posts: 1,158Member
    :D

    This is the thread about heavy duty heads.

    Tripods are somewhere else. Hahahaha, could not resist.
  • FlowtographyBerlinFlowtographyBerlin Posts: 477Member
    edited June 2013
    Ah wow, @JJ_SO, you're also using a Manfrotto geared head, then? Good choice! :-)

    I'd need to check, but I think there aren't many positions that the 410 (or 405, respectively) can't be positioned to.

    Lastly, yeah I know, I can research that myself, but since you posted it: What's with those ARCA things? Also a variation of geared heads?
    Post edited by Msmoto on
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,365Moderator
    edited June 2013
    The definition of "very pricey" and the ARCA Swiss Cube...(an absolutely beautiful item) is....

    $1700.00..... just FYI

    The kind of toy I love....but, I would suspect more useful with a medium format camera... and indeed the fellow in the video was from The View Camera Store.

    Anybody have the Induro PHQ3 PHQ Series 5-Way Panhead? Good for 35 lbs. and if like the other Induro products...first class IMO. About $400.

    Induro 06.08.13
    Post edited by Msmoto on
    Msmoto, mod
  • BesoBeso Posts: 462Member
    I actually appreciate all the viewpoints, and the addition of pictures is both thoughtful and time saving. But ... I am getting gear envy!
    Occasionally a decent image ...
  • JJ_SOJJ_SO Posts: 1,158Member
    edited June 2013
    For 1700$ it's already a special offer. Here and in Germany the price is higher. This and the fact it comes without a plate at that price helps me to stay away from Arca heads. But there's one situation only this head can help: When doing product shots and they always need to be in the very same angle, height
    and distance, this head will accurately reproduce the parameters. Otherwise, I don't see much of a use except for camera systems heavier than medium format.
    Post edited by JJ_SO on
  • FlowtographyBerlinFlowtographyBerlin Posts: 477Member
    FWhen doing product shots and they always need to be in the very same angle, height
    and distance, this head will accurately reproduce the parameters.
    But this can also be achieved with other geared heads as well, maybe not with the precision of .5° but the scales work pretty well, I think. Apart from that, if you have really critical shots (where you have to get the exact same framing, you can do tethered shooting with Live View and an overlay image.

  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,365Moderator
    @JJ_SO

    LOL....yep, this is about the heads.....sorry, :))
    Msmoto, mod
  • JJ_SOJJ_SO Posts: 1,158Member
    edited June 2013
    @FlowtographyBerlin I'd say, if I get the angle in ± 2°, I'd call it a very good day :-S The scale of the Manfrotto 405 is, just like the bubble levels only placebo: Nobody could say there's no scale and nobody could use it. The mark is too far away from the scales.

    image

    And of course, tethered shooting is a possibilty, but even then, the Manfrotto is lacking two axes. My experiences with trying to get the exact angle a second time were disappointing - a lot of timewaste and at the end it still was not the same. The customer complained and he was right. Sometimes you don't get the whole series of products for shooting, some shots have to be done again. A very precise head is then a time saver.

    Post edited by JJ_SO on
  • JJ_SOJJ_SO Posts: 1,158Member
    edited June 2013
    As there was the question of different angles possible with various heads and because it's interesting for me as well, I went on and compared Gitzo GH3780 - Manfrotto 405 - Manfrotto M055. Conclusion just at the beginning: I like my ball head very much :) The yellow lines show the Gitzo's range, the red lines the difference of the other head. I just copied the yellow lines into each composing, so it is comparable and reasonable precise.
    From the side:
    image
    image
    image

    Front view - how is portrait mode working?
    image
    image
    image

    So, when using special heads, I have to deal with special restrictions as well. And of course, I also have to carrry the various weights:
    Gitzo GH3780: 0.7 kg (698grams)
    Manfrotto 405: 1.6 kg (1596grams)
    Manfrotto M055: 1.3 kg (1273grams)

    Post edited by JJ_SO on
  • PhotobugPhotobug Posts: 4,387Member
    Thanks JJ_SO. The pictures are very helpful. Nice job.
    D750 & D7100 | 24-70 F2.8 G AF-S ED, 70-200 F2.8 AF VR, TC-14E III, TC-1.7EII, 35 F2 AF D, 50mm F1.8G, 105mm G AF-S VR | Backup & Wife's Gear: D5500 & Sony HX50V | 18-140 AF-S ED VR DX, 55-300 AF-S G VR DX |
    |SB-800, Amaran Halo LED Ring light | MB-D16 grip| Gitzo GT3541 + RRS BH-55LR, Gitzo GM2942 + Sirui L-10 | RRS gear | Lowepro, ThinkTank, & Hoodman gear | BosStrap | Vello Freewave Plus wireless Remote, Leica Lens Cleaning Cloth |
  • FlowtographyBerlinFlowtographyBerlin Posts: 477Member
    edited June 2013
    I'd say, if I get the angle in ± 2°, I'd call it a very good day :-S […] Nobody could say there's no scale and nobody could use it. The mark is too far away from the scales.

    And of course, tethered shooting is a possibilty, but even then, the Manfrotto is lacking two axes. My experiences with trying to get the exact angle a second time were disappointing - a lot of timewaste and at the end it still was not the same.
    You're right. On the other hand, I'd say if you need more precision then can be realized from the Manfrotto gear, I'm asking myself how that goes in line with a 10-kg studio tripod with no scales. To be able to actually make use of the precision of a scale like that ARCA one you will need to be on a 100kg (220 lbs) monopod that you can set up with the same precision.

    Nice pictures there, @JJ_SO! BTW: viewed from the side, the 410 does more than the 90° tilt over that the 405 be capable of – approximately the angle of the Gitzo, I'd say. Very handy, just in case you want to take a picture of the legs of the tripod. ;-)
    Post edited by FlowtographyBerlin on
  • FlowtographyBerlinFlowtographyBerlin Posts: 477Member
    just like the bubble levels only placebo
    I hear that quite often, but I've always used it blindly with no problems. I just measured mine with a (real/tool) water level, and it's exactly on track. Am I just lucky? Is yours off?
  • JJ_SOJJ_SO Posts: 1,158Member
    I wasn't able to find a single bubble level from Manfrotto which was accurate. I once took a picture of a group of Manfrotto heads. But I don't mind. I know, I can't trust them: The levels you can get for the hot shoe are doing usually a better job. It's just a shame, they are costing money and somebody needs to design a place for them - just for being decoration in the end :) A very old Linhof 2D-head was way better.

    Yeah, I guess the 410 has a bit more range, is also more compact. Don't think the 405 will get a lot of fresh air.
    /:)
  • FlowtographyBerlinFlowtographyBerlin Posts: 477Member
    edited June 2013
    I wasn't able to find a single bubble level from Manfrotto which was accurate.
    Wow. Good to know. If I sell mine, I can make more than the price I paid new :-)
    Yeah, I guess the 410 has a bit more range, is also more compact. Don't think the 405 will get a lot of fresh air.
    /:)
    Be nice to it and open your studio windows when the sun is out.
    Post edited by FlowtographyBerlin on
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,365Moderator
    edited June 2013
    Related to the issue of having the tripod head level....or at a specific angle for reproducing a series of shots, i.e., product photography, there are apps for smart phones which have very finely tuned levels and once calibrated these can be used to level a camera. On my D4, setting the phone on the flash shoe gets it level within 1˚. This eliminates the need to carry a separate level in your kit.
    Post edited by Msmoto on
    Msmoto, mod
  • JJ_SOJJ_SO Posts: 1,158Member
    :)

    I'm careful with apps for levelling. Just because the display gives a number with 4 digits after comma, it's not necessarily true as the iPhone or other Smartphone sensors have a certain range and tolerances as well. Meaning: I'm a fan of unpowered, analogue precision scales. They are already calibrated while the apps need to be cailbrated before.

    Anyway, better than nothing. Also, of course, the angles are 3 parameters, the coordinates another 3. But that all is now very theoretically

    And secondly, I don't own an iPhone :((

    But these apps work in an iPod as well
    #:-S
  • spraynprayspraynpray Posts: 5,932Moderator
    @Msmoto: You mean to tell me your D4 doesn't have a level built in? :O My lowly D7000 does - I have in on a Fn button because I use it nearly every time I shoot. >:D<
    Always learning.
  • JJ_SOJJ_SO Posts: 1,158Member
    Yes, but the camera's level don't show 15.75° ;)
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,365Moderator
    edited June 2013
    @spraynpray

    Yes, i use virtual horizon all the time. But, if I want to accurately shoot some product shots from three feet at 38º camera angle, and reproduce the set up repeatedly, the use of the iPhone makes ti a no brainer.

    @JJ_SO

    I don't have a landline......
    Post edited by Msmoto on
    Msmoto, mod
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