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Thread: Assistance with selecting a ballhead please

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    Default Assistance with selecting a ballhead please

    I was looking to upgrade my tripod and ballhead.

    I'm currently using a Manfrotto 190XB tripod with a Manfrotto 322RC2 head.

    The tripod is heavy and the center column is problematic for getting low to the ground, otherwise I'm satisfied with it.

    The head is heavy, large, a challenge for shooting verticals depending on the angle and awkward as heck to pack.

    I'm suffering from sticker shock so I decided not to upgrade the tripod now and buy a good ballhead as the limitations of the 322RC2 are greater than those of the tripod - or I should say I bump up against the limitations of the head more often than the tripod.

    The heaviest combo I will use is an E-5 and the 50-200mm based on current gear. I may someday pick up the 150mm which would be heavier but I struggle to see me using any of the other SHG lens.

    After a good amount of research I've narrowed my choices to:
    Markins Q10
    Acratech Ultimate Ballhead
    RRS BH-55

    I know very little about ballheads, I don't do any panning, most of my tripod work tends to be landscapes, indoors and macros.

    I'm leaning towards the Markins based on price point as my uneducated review of the specs it seems to me the 3 are not materially different from each other.

    I'd very much value some input from the community about any shortcomings or benefits of one over the other from my short list.

    Thank you in advance.

    Carl

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    Default Re: Assistance with selecting a ballhead please

    Sticker shock?? Its all relative to price of camera and lens is usually what I tell students (Basic Digital DSLR).
    This IS the head I use with an E30, HDL grip plus 50-200 lens:
    http://www.amazon.com/Manfrotto-460MG-Magnesium-Camera-Head/dp/B001A1POK4/ref=sr_1_1?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1373122926&sr=1-1&keywords=manfrotto+460+MG+head


    And yes I did pay a little less when I bought it a few years back. You have 3 axis to move and it does not drift; rock steady.


    Ciao,
    Lou Cioccio

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    Default Re: Assistance with selecting a ballhead please

    Hi Carl,

    After years of hemming and hawing I settled on the Acratech GV2, in part because of the quasi-gimbal feature. It's certainly everything they promised--solid, smooth, positive locking, well built. I'm STILL accumulating mounting plates so am not truly "there" yet WRT fully incorporating it with my gear. Be sure to add a handful of those to your budget.

    Like a lot of folks I had to pick one on faith, because there are few ways to try before you buy.

    Good shopping!

    Rick

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    Default Re: Assistance with selecting a ballhead please

    It is hard to find good reviews of tripods and heads, just anecdotes from people who have purchased one or another. Me, I bought an Acratech GV2 and I am very pleased with its quality. I don't use the "gimbal" much because most of my use turned out to be with the 50-200 which has a rotating collar. If your landscape, indoor and macro work tends to be with shorter lenses without collars, you would probably be happier with an L-bracket and no gimbal.

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    Default Re: Assistance with selecting a ballhead please

    Since you say you're experiencing sticker shock (me too, often!), you might consider some of the Vanguard ball heads. I have several, the largest being the SBH-250:

    Vanguard SBH250 Fluid Ballhead with Quick Release 44lbs SBH-250

    They make a bunch more, but the SBH-250 is very popular and very sturdy. The SBH-300 is somewhat larger if you think you need it, but I find the 250 to be the most I require. You can read reviews to help you decide, of course.
    Rich
    Olympus E-M10; Panasonic GM5
    m4/3 lenses: Oly 75-300; Oly 14-42 f3.5-5.6 II R; Oly 17 f1.8; Oly 40-150 f4.0-5.6 R; Oly WCON-P01 adapter; Rokinon f7.5 fisheye; Sigma 19 f2.8; Pan 20 f1.7; Pan 12-35 f2.8; Pan 12-32

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    Default Re: Assistance with selecting a ballhead please

    Acratech user here...love it, hands down. I'm sure there are better ones out there, but it suits my setup nicely. Oh yeah, have the cx190pro3 Manfrotto.
    Clint
    Rockin' it Mirrorless Style
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    7.5, 12-32, 12-40, 14-42, 20, 25, 45, 75
    Asahi 35 2, SMC Super Tak 135 2.5, Super Tak 200 4
    HLD-7, FL-600r, FL-36r, FL-36, Cactus V5 Duo (x2)

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    Default Re: Assistance with selecting a ballhead please

    I hate to complicate things, but after handling a bunch of ballheads, I settled on the Sunwayfoto. It is beautifully built and has the fit, finish and feel of a RRS head. The dealer who sells them in the US (Old English China) is a fantastic guy, and the price is right at about $200 for a 52mm ball with clamp in the regular profile.

    This is one case where actually touching the item helps immensely.

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    Default Re: Assistance with selecting a ballhead please

    Thanks for the feedback.

    In drilling down further on the tripod question I've found what I think is a good solution for me, I wanted lighter and more compact but didn't have the budget. In my ballhead searching I found an open box Gitzo 1541T at a decent price but then it lead me to a Feisol tripod CT-3441T which is about half the weight of my Manfrotto and collapses to just 19" but more importantly it is suitable for someone of my height 6'2" which the Gitzo is not and it doesn't break the bank.

    So now my ballhead decision needs to take the traveler tripod into account - the most obvious one seems to be the Markins Q3T but of course now another option enters the picture - Photo Clam 36NS (what a horrid name) which seems to be a knockoff of the Markins but with a level you can actually see when the camera is mounted...more searching...

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    Default Re: Assistance with selecting a ballhead please

    You have made an excellent choice. One problem that taller photographers have with tripods is the dependence of many of them on a tall center column, which essentially turns your tripod into a glorified monopod. The Feisol center column is only 12". I have a friend who is 6'2" and she spent a fortune on an appropriate Gitzo with no center column.

    If you are looking for a 36mm class ball (for a travel tripod, a good choice, given the fact that mounting a 2 lber defeats the purpose of a lightweight tripod and destabilizes it), again I would recommend looking at the Sunwayfoto, which is $30 less than the Photo Clam and top notch.

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    Default Re: Assistance with selecting a ballhead please

    Getting hard to find a head without a "quick release" plate. They may have their uses but I don't want 'em. Why buy a nice light weight camera and hang a clunky chunk of metal on it? How hard is it to use a thumb screw??
    February Photos
    March photos

    Comments/criticisms are just my personal opinion and are meant to be constructive. Please feel free to do the same for me.


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    Default Re: Assistance with selecting a ballhead please

    Pretty sure most of the higher-end balls can be had without a top so that you can use the one of your preference.

    My issue with the traditional screw+locknut is flipped 90 degrees the camera always pivots regardless of the camera's weight or quality of the head. Plates (mostly) don't pivot.

    Cheers,

    Rick

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    Default Re: Assistance with selecting a ballhead please

    I've used that exact setup ... E-5 + 50-200, often with the EC14 extender too ... on both Acratech Ultimate Ball Head and Markins Q3 Emiliť heads fitted to either a set of Manfrotto 190CXpro3 carbon fiber legs or Feisol CT3442 Tournament legs (with adjustable center column, or just the flat triple bridge) legs. It's a relatively light camera and lens as things go, no need for the bigger, heavier ball heads. The Acratech quasi gimbal heads are even a bit sturdier, but not really needed for this light a camera setup.

    But good ball heads start in the $250-300 range, and good, light legs that are sturdy also start in the same range. They're expensive, but buy good ones and they'll last for decades, and stay precise and easy to use. Buy cheap and they'll wear out quickly, or be imprecise, or both.

    A good tip from an older photographer who went through all of it: spending a good bit for excellent tripod and head the first time is much cheaper than buying two or three cheaper tripods and heads, and having to replace them. I wish I'd listened too.

    G

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    Default Re: Assistance with selecting a ballhead please

    Perfect, thank you!

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    Default Re: Assistance with selecting a ballhead please

    Doesn't seem like anyone builds an L plate for the E-5 any more. RRS stopped producing the one they made. The rest are all universal with no specific discussion of E-5.

    I did find Sunwayfoto has an L they say fits the E-5 but they aren't specific about the camera or lens plates - did you by chance purchase plates? And if so would you mind telling me which ones?


    Quote Originally Posted by PhillyBill View Post
    I settled on the Sunwayfoto.

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    Default Re: Assistance with selecting a ballhead please

    I bought a Vanguard tripod which came with the SBH50 head.
    with the E5/50-200 combination it is no problem as the lens collar balances the weight nicely.
    but with the 14-35 things get too front end heavy and I have to tighten as hard as I can, so like you I will be looking for a replacement later on this year.

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    Default Re: Assistance with selecting a ballhead please

    Arca-Swiss Z-1
    Markins Q20 (a quality knock off of the Arca Swiss)
    RRS BH-55
    from my research and hands on, these are the top of the line. I chose the Arca-Swiss Z-1 as it is the head that all others try to equal or beat, and will work no matter how long a lens I get.

    The difference from those listed above to others, comes in operating finesses and feeling of quality (like comparing a Rolls Royce to a Mercedes). Having a ball head that you do not have to fidget with or work around some nuance is simply great. In my research I noticed many who had purchased Markins Q10 or RRS BH-40 have ended up later moving to the top of the line model, just food for thought.

    The ArcaTechs and Kirks have good reputations but not equal to Arca-Swiss, Markins or RRS. From here are you start to loose quality, finish, longevitivity, etc.

    I recently had a chance to use an Arca-Swiss P0 ball head. A different design and functions as well as the Z-1 in every respect. I used it for a day with a 400mm lens and it is impressive. If I had tried it along with all the others I tried, I would have bought it to save $100.

    As for portability - you could go with a smaller ball head, but will you be loosing what you wanted to gain for a majority of your work? I use the Z-1 on my Gitzo that folds to 21.5" and is still very portable, I have no regrets nor doubts about taking it with me.

    Arca-Swiss compatible clamps are a very smart way to go. Whether lever or traditional screw lock is a personal choice, but with lever clamps you may want to consider plates from the same manufacture to eliminate any possibility of non-compatibility.
    Clint
    OM-D EM-1 | 7-14mm | 12-40mm | 12-60mm | 35-100mm | 50-200mm | 100-400mm | 12mm | 25mm f/1.4 | 45mm f/1.8 | 75mm f/1.8 | FL-600R | FL-50R |

    Shooting since 1964

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    Default Re: Assistance with selecting a ballhead please

    I have bought a great brand name tripod a few years back so I could retire my 30 year old one with something lighter. And I am back to using my original 30 year old tripod because the leg locks keep cracking on my "new and improved" brand name tripod.

    Sometimes the older stuff was just made a little better. And when I start putting an E-30 with 70 - 300 lens on a tripod I want to make sure the tripod is going to hold the weight and the legs stay extended.

    If I could find another tripod like my old one I would scoop it up.


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    Default Re: Assistance with selecting a ballhead please

    What brand name tripod and model are you talking about that keeps cracking leg locks?

    G

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    Default Re: Assistance with selecting a ballhead please

    I had one of the less expensive Manfrotto tripods, a "consumer-level" one (728B) with the head built-in. The clamps that hold the leg sections are plastic and MUCH smaller than the ones on their regular legs (like say on my old 3001BPRO or the newer 055 or 190 legs). The clamps on this 728 did develop cracks in them fairly quickly (within about a year). I still use the center-column and the attached head, because it actually fits into the more expensive Manfrotto legs that I have, but the 728 was a total bust. Very disappointed in Manfrotto on that front!

    Edit: I meant to add that I have never had such trouble with the more expensive Manfrotto legs I have had, nor any other moderate-priced legs (e.g. Vanguard) that I have. There seems to be a minimum price which you have to spend to get acceptable quality, I guess about $125 for the legs only.

    Also, I have an old Vivitar tripod a lot like the one shown above. Its clamps don't crack, being metal, but they are much less secure than regular Manfrotto leg clamps, IMHO.
    Last edited by RAH; 07-25-2013 at 07:49 AM.
    Rich
    Olympus E-M10; Panasonic GM5
    m4/3 lenses: Oly 75-300; Oly 14-42 f3.5-5.6 II R; Oly 17 f1.8; Oly 40-150 f4.0-5.6 R; Oly WCON-P01 adapter; Rokinon f7.5 fisheye; Sigma 19 f2.8; Pan 20 f1.7; Pan 12-35 f2.8; Pan 12-32

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    Default Re: Assistance with selecting a ballhead please

    Exactly. I long ago gave up buying consumer-grade tripods. $125 for legs alone is a bit low for quality. Spend $200-300 for legs, minimum, and they'll last nearly forever.

    A cheap tripod is a huge waste of money.

    G

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    Default Re: Assistance with selecting a ballhead please

    Everything is relative, of course, and folks on this forum tend toward the high-end, I think. I picked an admittedly low $125 because the least expensive Manfrotto full-size legs-only set is about $125 and is very popular with birders. The set has a different type of leg clamp that is unique to that model. I know several people who have used them for years and they do hold up. In my own case, my aluminum Manfrotto models would cost about $170 I guess (older models, so hard to tell), so we are in the same ballpark, more or less.
    Rich
    Olympus E-M10; Panasonic GM5
    m4/3 lenses: Oly 75-300; Oly 14-42 f3.5-5.6 II R; Oly 17 f1.8; Oly 40-150 f4.0-5.6 R; Oly WCON-P01 adapter; Rokinon f7.5 fisheye; Sigma 19 f2.8; Pan 20 f1.7; Pan 12-35 f2.8; Pan 12-32

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