Ball head vs. Pan/Tilt head

Discussion in '35mm Cameras' started by Siddhartha Tambat, Aug 22, 2003.

  1. Hi,

    I've decided to buy a Manfrotto tripod but am unable to decide whether
    to buy a pan/tilt or a ball head. Comments on pros and cons from users
    of each type will be helpful in making my selection.

    Siddhartha Tambat, Aug 22, 2003
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  2. Siddhartha Tambat

    Mark M Guest

    Pan and tilt is very difficult to manipulate quickly, but can be useful for
    static subjects and close-ups where you may want to adjust one plane of
    movement at a time (up-down, left-right, etc.). For anything moving, or for
    subjects that require constant reframing, a ball head wins.

    If you select a ball head with a bubble level that also has a swivel lock,
    you've got some versatility that works well for typical pan-tilt subjects.

    I have both types, and reach for my ball head about 90% of the time.
    For macro/close-ups, the pan-tilt is great. For just about everything else,
    the ball is my choice.

    Quality ball heads can be very expensive. You could easily spend $250 for a
    decent smaller one, and $500 for a large one. Quality and size matters
    here, since smaller/weaker balls will let heavier lenses droop, or drift
    downward under the weight of your body/lens/flash(?) combo.
    Mark M, Aug 22, 2003
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  3. Siddhartha Tambat

    Alan Browne Guest

    What Mark M said.
    Alan Browne, Aug 22, 2003
  4. Siddhartha Tambat

    Greg Utz Guest

    I use a 3130 video head topped off with a 3229 swivel tilt head (usually for
    monpods) on a short 2.5" riser. I can pan and tilt easily and level with
    the swivel tilt head in an instant. It also allows the camera to go to
    vertical framing without it hanging way off center.

    Greg Utz, Aug 22, 2003
  5. Siddhartha Tambat

    Joewing53 Guest

    I use the #3047 head on my #3021 legs. this has worked well for me for years. I
    mainly shoot static images (flowers, antique automobles). I have a ball head on
    my "super clamp" but some times it becomes a little cumbersome. If you are
    shooting static things go for a good pan/tilt head. For things in motion you
    will probably be better off hand holding with fast film.
    Joewing53, Aug 22, 2003
  6. Siddhartha Tambat

    Dallas D Guest

    It does support them easily, but be warned, the 222 head is not for
    photography where the lens is to remain stationary. That's not the intended
    purpose because, surprise - surprise, as the name indicates, "action" is the
    name of the 222's game.

    An international sports photographer I know uses the 222 with a 400mm f/2.8L
    so I really don't think a 100-400mm IS will be a problem.

    "I smile mostly everywhere. Well, there's some people might disagree. But
    hey, I'm playin' with the Stones, man. You know, I mean why shouldn't I
    - Keith Richards
    Dallas D, Aug 22, 2003
  7. Siddhartha Tambat

    S. Cargo Guest

    I use a Velbon pan/tilt.. It has a single arm that locks both the pan and the
    tilt simultaneously in one action when you twist it tight. In some ways this
    mimics the features of a ball head.

    The mechanism is nice and smooth too (Which I find allows accurate panning at
    focal lengths of up to 400mm).
    S. Cargo, Aug 22, 2003
  8. Siddhartha Tambat

    Lourens Smak Guest

    Lourens Smak, Aug 22, 2003
  9. Siddhartha Tambat

    Bowser Guest

    I prefer the ball head for field work, since it's smaller and lighter, and
    the pan/tilt head when weight isn't an issue.

    I put a Kirk ball head on a Gitzo 1170 tripod for portability, and it's a
    nice combination.
    Bowser, Aug 22, 2003
  10. Siddhartha Tambat

    Andy Evans Guest

    I had a love-hate relationship with ball heads until I realised that you really
    have to go for overkill to eliminate sag. I got an old ARCA from
    Problem solved - gorgeous.

    === Andy Evans ===
    Visit our Website:-
    Audio, music and health pages and interesting links.
    Andy Evans, Aug 22, 2003
  11. I own a 222/3265 Action Grip head, attached to a 3205G tripod; when I
    was still shooting with SLRs this setup regularly supporteda Minolta 9x1
    body with an 80-200 f/2.8 APO zoom without protest - not sure how the
    Canon 100-400 weighs in by comparison, but the combo I had was no
    Barrett Benton, Aug 23, 2003
  12. Siddhartha Tambat

    Pierre L Guest

    I have one of those Velbon pan heads with the one-handle control too, along
    with my Manfrotto and ballhead. As I said before, the problem is horizontal
    tilt adjustment. You can tilt horizontally only on one side. If the ground
    isn't level and you need to level the camera going the other way, there's no
    choice but to shorten one or two legs on that side, so as to give some room
    for levelling the camera horizontally the other way. It's very inconvenient.
    A good ball head eliminates that problem completely. It's much more
    versatile for a 35mm camera, and unless you use big, expensive pro zooms or
    huge heavy telephotos, you don't need the largest ones available. A
    Manfrotto (Bogen in the U.S.) with a Manfrotto 486 ball head is ideal and
    not too expensive. That's what I ended up with after much wasted money and
    Pierre L, Aug 23, 2003
  13. Siddhartha Tambat

    Bowser Guest

    Same experience here. I tried cheaper ball heads, and hated them, but the
    Kirk unit was a revelation. Not as big as the Arca, or as stable, but enough
    for what I was planting on it. I believe I'll wind up with an Arca someday,
    though. Great units.
    Bowser, Aug 23, 2003
  14. Siddhartha Tambat

    Bandicoot Guest

    I use both, and have more than one of each. The short version is: out and
    about, 'in the field', and travelling - the ball heads get much more use; in
    the studio, for macro, some pre-planned garden work, and architecture - the
    P&Ts get used most.

    A ball-head is almost always more compact than a P&T, and often lighter, so
    is an easier choice in the field. It is also faster to use once you are
    familiar with it. A P&T gives more precise control if framing has to be
    millimetre perfect or levelling in one plane without affecting another is
    critical - hence a P&T is often faster for architectural work.

    Both have to be well made if they are to be rock steady, but it tends to be
    the case that to make a really solid ball head is more demanding - therefore
    expensive - than with a P&T.

    My most used heads are: Gitzo P&Ts - a rationelle 2B and whatever number the
    largest of the low profile ones is; and a Kirk BH-3 and an Arca Swiss B1
    ball head. All these are really fine.

    Of these, the big Gitzo is overkill for 35mm, I use it for medium format and
    up to 5x7" (and just very occasionally with very big glass on 35mm.) The
    Kirk (this is the smaller of two models they make) is an excellent travel
    head for 35mm, and I use it with medium format too when travelling light.
    It is a bit small for really big glass on 35mm, but is fine up to say a
    300mm f4 or 400mm f5.6 (I've used it with a 300mm 2.8 and even a 600mm f4
    when it was all that was to hand, but I really don't recommend this usage.)
    The Arca is superb, and though I don't use it with my 5x7" monorail, it
    would probably cope if I did. It works OK with the Wimberley side-kick for
    my 600mm f4, even though neither Arca nor Wimberley recommend this: if bird
    photography was my bread and butter maybe I'd get something heavier, but for
    the use I give the really big lenses, it copes just fine.

    The Kirk lives on a Manfrotto carbon fibre tripod, and the smaller Gitzo P&T
    mostly on an aluminium Gitzo series 2. The two big heads get swapped about
    on a Gitzo series 5 (fairly recent change, previously I used a Manfrotto 075
    in this role). The Kirk/Manfrotto combination has travelled a lot and works
    really well. I use a Benbo ocassionally, and can't imagine using anything
    other than a ball-head on this.

    Bottom line is - what sort of photography interests you, and what do you
    want to spend? If you do relatively little macro or architecture, I'd
    suggest a ball-head, but be aware of how far you can economise in terms of
    cost - if you want to save money a relatively cheap P&T is still useful at
    the price level at which a cheap ball-head is just junk.


    Bandicoot, Aug 24, 2003
  15. Siddhartha Tambat

    RDKirk Guest

    I prefer the precise framing available in a pan/tilt, but as others have
    mentioned, they have their problems.

    If speed is the primary issue, I've found the Manfrotto 3265 Grip Action
    Ball Head the fastest solution, although it's limited in the amount of
    weight it can handle. My favorite head, though is the Manfrotto 3437 3D
    (Magnesium) head. It is just as compact, and when one needs to be able
    to move the camera in one axis (but *any* axis), it is unsurpassed.

    "To announce that there must be no criticism of the President,
    or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong,
    is not only unpatriotic and servile,
    but is morally treasonable to the American public."

    Theodore Roosevelt
    RDKirk, Aug 24, 2003
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