Tripod Heads – Arty Bart Photo

Tripod Heads

One important thing to remember when choosing a tripod head is that, as with tripod legs they have a maximum load capacity. You should therefore check whether the kit you are going to use it with falls within that capacity. Again we recommend Manfrotto as it is the brand we know best. That said when it comes to Gimbal heads Manfrotto may not be the best brand to turn to - see below. Generally speaking a good old ball head should be great for your first foray into the world of tripods, albeit a 3 way head may be more stable for heavier kit.

Ball Heads

A ball head works on the same principal as the ball and socket joint in your shoulder, giving you a fluid movement in all directions. You can adjust the amount of friction applied to the joint, allowing you easier movement v stability.

Manfrotto do a range of ball heads with different maximum load capacities, for example the Manfrotto MH057MO-Q5057 Magnesium ball head which carries a load of up to 15KG.

A ball head is a great piece of kit to start with - as it is probably the easiest to use. If you have particularly heavy kit you might want to look at a 3 way or gimbal head.

Choose a head which has the right load capacity for your kit. The sturdier they get the heavier they will get, so we don't recommend going over the top.

3 Way/Pan Tilt Heads

 A 3 way head allows a bit more stability than a comparable ball head, but it is more complicated to use. You can lock the head in one direction e.g. up/down, and use it to pan sideways - or vice versa. That functionality gives you more options and more control, once you have mastered how to use it (which really isn't that difficult). We really like the stability and control these heads offer.

We don't recommend buying these type of heads without the levers that stick out to the sides. This is because it's really hard to get your hands in to tighten the mechanism unless you're twistng a lever rather tha a small cap. Also the lever is really handy for moving yout kit around when it's mounted.

These are great pieces of kit, and we prefer them to ball heads.

Gimbal Heads

While we love our Manfrotto, their range of traditional gimbal heads is... well... we haven't found one!

We invested in Manfrotto's heavy Telephoto Lens Support, pictured above left. It is (we believe) misleadingly marketed as a monopod support. We use it on a tripod (albeit never in the position shown). It does basically the same as a gimbal and has worked fantastically. We would never hang the lens from the top of the support (why on earth would you want to do that?) - it is far more stable if you fold the support into a U shape and mount the lens on top (like a u shape gimbal - rather than the traditional L shape). This piece of kit is a great first foray into heavy duty lens kit. You may however find a traditional gimbal will give you better access to the controls on your lens (we haven't found this a problem).

Alternatively there is the more traditional gimbal head (see above right Opteka GH1). A traditional gimbal allows you to move the camera easily and fluidly in any direction. The go to brand here is generally Wimberley, but they are quite high end.

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