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11-06-2013, 09:13 PM   #1
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good cheap(?) tripod head

I know, "good" and "cheap" don't usually go in the same sentence unless you're talking about the dream you had last night. Still...

I would like to find a good tripod head that
• supports 7-8 lbs (6lbs in a pinch, I can always choose not to load it with more and buy a different head when I have a heavier setup)
•supports tilt/pan (for video) (ball head not necessary, video head is probably best)
•has the 1/4/20 screw size that new pentax cameras and most dslrs have

as you probably guessed I will be using it for both video and photography. I already found the perfect tripod for me, now I need the head.

What's cheap? $100 or under? I don't know, I don't want to compromise quality but I don't want to pay more than I have to. Suggest and I will see what to buy.

11-06-2013, 10:49 PM   #2
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I like my Kirk Photo BH-1 ball head, but looking back on that nearly $300 purchase, I can't help but wonder if I would have been fine with one of the brands like Vanguard, Benro, or Sirui. The Adorama-exclusive Flashpoint brand of tripod heads seem to get decent reviews (although there are a few complaints about pieces coming loose) and I suspect they are the same product as some of the myriad ball heads you'll find on 'Bay. Most of these brands quote maximum loads well above your specifications, and for no more than the $100 you're willing to spend. For what it's worth, however, I'll mention I went looking for a tripod and ball head that could handle much more weight than anything I ever planned on mounting. I look at it like I'm handing my camera over to another person. If they're holding my investment, they better be more than up to the task!

If you're looking for the video tilt/pan style head then Manfrotto is a good bet. If you live near a camera dealer which carries such products as video heads you can count on them carrying Manfrotto. At least that's what I see in my area. One thing I noticed, though, is that video heads seem have lower maximum weight loads for the price when compared to the ball head variety. A quick search on Adorama's site showed one Benro video head with a max load of 5.5lbs for about $75, and paying about twice that gets you 8.8lbs.

I hope some of this helps you. I was never fond of the video head style because the pivoting handles got in the way when I looked through the viewfinder. But if you need the controls for doing video, well, then you need the controls. Going back to Manfrotto, they have heads from under $100 up to and beyond $500. Although there are "video heads" to be found under that brand, don't ignore some of the other heads from the same company. The MH293D3-Q2 3-Way Photo Head has controls for panning and tilting (but are of a manageable size), can handle up to 8.8lbs, and is under $100. Good luck!
11-06-2013, 10:56 PM   #3
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check on ebay there is some good ones on their
11-07-2013, 10:15 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by LowVoltage Quote
I like my Kirk Photo BH-1 ball head, but looking back on that nearly $300 purchase, I can't help but wonder if I would have been fine with one of the brands like Vanguard, Benro, or Sirui. The Adorama-exclusive Flashpoint brand of tripod heads seem to get decent reviews (although there are a few complaints about pieces coming loose) and I suspect they are the same product as some of the myriad ball heads you'll find on 'Bay. Most of these brands quote maximum loads well above your specifications, and for no more than the $100 you're willing to spend. For what it's worth, however, I'll mention I went looking for a tripod and ball head that could handle much more weight than anything I ever planned on mounting. I look at it like I'm handing my camera over to another person. If they're holding my investment, they better be more than up to the task!

If you're looking for the video tilt/pan style head then Manfrotto is a good bet. If you live near a camera dealer which carries such products as video heads you can count on them carrying Manfrotto. At least that's what I see in my area. One thing I noticed, though, is that video heads seem have lower maximum weight loads for the price when compared to the ball head variety. A quick search on Adorama's site showed one Benro video head with a max load of 5.5lbs for about $75, and paying about twice that gets you 8.8lbs.

I hope some of this helps you. I was never fond of the video head style because the pivoting handles got in the way when I looked through the viewfinder. But if you need the controls for doing video, well, then you need the controls. Going back to Manfrotto, they have heads from under $100 up to and beyond $500. Although there are "video heads" to be found under that brand, don't ignore some of the other heads from the same company. The MH293D3-Q2 3-Way Photo Head has controls for panning and tilting (but are of a manageable size), can handle up to 8.8lbs, and is under $100. Good luck!
Thank you so much for your reply! I will check out the manfrotto heads. But I have heard some people say "don't buy manfrotto junk, buy professional gear" I wonder if there is anything to that? However price is also a consideration right now so some compromises have to be made. The video heads I have seen (though not near $100) usually support loads of about 20 lbs, because video gear is usually heavier, but I don't know? I haven't compared price/load ratios.

11-07-2013, 05:49 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by tripodquest Quote
"don't buy manfrotto junk, buy professional gear"
Sounds like gear snobs that have no glue what they are talking about, wonder what they consider "Professional".

Last time I had a Bogen/Manfrotto fail was... when it got driven over by a forklift. They hold their own being used next to our QuickSet and Gitzo legs and heads.
Best thing to do is go to a store and have a hands on, see what you like and can afford.

Cheers.

Last edited by Ex Finn.; 11-07-2013 at 06:20 PM. Reason: Fixed spelling on QuickSet.
11-07-2013, 07:12 PM   #6
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I don't know why people would put Manfrotto down. I have used a bunch of their stuff over the years and have never had complaint. I still use my old #3021 tripod for my main one, its a little on the heavier side, but works like the horse is supposed to.
If I need a piece of gear and Manfrotto makes it, that is what I buy. I know my personal opinion does not mean much, just thought I would throw it out there.
Good luck in your search.
11-07-2013, 08:56 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ex Finn. Quote
Sounds like gear snobs that have no glue what they are talking about, wonder what they consider "Professional".

Last time I had a Bogen/Manfrotto fail was... when it got driven over by a forklift. They hold their own being used next to our QuickSet and Gitzo legs and heads.
Best thing to do is go to a store and have a hands on, see what you like and can afford.

Cheers.
I didn't know if I should take it seriously, that is why I asked. It was on dpreview forums I think? Anyway it was more than one comment from more than one person, that's why I thought there might be something to it.
QuoteOriginally posted by Old Man Quote
I don't know why people would put Manfrotto down. I have used a bunch of their stuff over the years and have never had complaint. I still use my old #3021 tripod for my main one, its a little on the heavier side, but works like the horse is supposed to.
If I need a piece of gear and Manfrotto makes it, that is what I buy. I know my personal opinion does not mean much, just thought I would throw it out there.
Good luck in your search.
Thank you. Thank you both, I feel better about Manfrotto now. I will keep looking. I read someone say that a good head is more important than a really good set of legs (though the legs are important too). I actually believe this is true. Since I haven't bought the legs yet I think I will prioritize the head and then decide on the legs once I have bought the head. People always say "go to a camera store to try them out." Good advice, but taking a train/bus to the next big city is a hassle in itself, unless I wait until the next time I have to go somewhere anyway. Maybe I will do that.

11-08-2013, 07:37 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by tripodquest Quote
But I have heard some people say "don't buy manfrotto junk, buy professional gear" I wonder if there is anything to that?
Those people are morons. If Manfrotto has made a piece of junk, I haven't seen it.
11-08-2013, 07:44 AM   #9
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I have a vanguard and it is pretty nice.
11-08-2013, 09:01 AM   #10
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I recently put this Benro BH0 ball head on mine-- really like it so far. Rated for 8.8lbs and sub-$50. For a bit more than 2x they have a very nice double action head but, like you, I was looking for high quality, low price.
11-08-2013, 10:30 AM   #11
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Take a look at the Redged RP-3 which you can get from Amazon or Adorama. $50.00 and it's simple and rock-solid. No quick release plates to fuss with either. I have one on my tripod legs as well as a monopod.
11-08-2013, 01:59 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by GibbyTheMole Quote
Those people are morons. If Manfrotto has made a piece of junk, I haven't seen it.
Thank you for your reply. I wasn't sure if those people were just gear snobs/full of hot air so I thought it's better to ask.
QuoteOriginally posted by StevePrime Quote
I recently put this Benro BH0 ball head on mine-- really like it so far. Rated for 8.8lbs and sub-$50. For a bit more than 2x they have a very nice double action head but, like you, I was looking for high quality, low price.
oh wow, thank you so much! That's exactly the kind I'm looking for, I think I will go with BH0 for now (if I don't find something better in the next couple of days), even if it's not perfect that's not a lot of money to invest! The double action one I couldn't find on fleabay.
QuoteOriginally posted by Prairie Dog Quote
Take a look at the Redged RP-3 which you can get from Amazon or Adorama. $50.00 and it's simple and rock-solid. No quick release plates to fuss with either. I have one on my tripod legs as well as a monopod.
I'll check it out and if the shipping costs are reasonable then great. I'm wary of ordering from abroad because of the shipping costs and taxes, but if they're reasonable then there's no problem.
11-08-2013, 02:52 PM   #13
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I purchased what I consider to be a very well made Chinese rip off of one of the major brands for less than $25 delivered. I can't remember which one. It has the larger ball, quick release, pan and tilt. I can't seem to find the transaction right now but if you like I can upload an image of the head
11-08-2013, 04:11 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Colbyt Quote
I purchased what I consider to be a very well made Chinese rip off of one of the major brands for less than $25 delivered. I can't remember which one. It has the larger ball, quick release, pan and tilt. I can't seem to find the transaction right now but if you like I can upload an image of the head
I'll keep looking, all your messages give me hope. Chinese/Taiwanese quality (=real quality) for non-rip-off prices is what I'm looking for.
11-08-2013, 08:43 PM   #15
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Hi tripodquest,

Just for grunts, I put myself in your position and searched B&H for ballheads that might meet my minimum standards with a price of under $100. I cannot vouch personally for any of these, but would give them a shot.

Here's what I looked for:

1. Separate controls for tension, ball lock, and panning.

2. Arca Swiss compatible clamp/plate

3. Weight capacity of at least 12 lbs.

4. User reviews are taken with a grain of salt, with those mentioning what I'd consider relevant details in the use of the head given additional weight. . . call me a snob, but user reviews from beginners aren't usually worth very much, but if they're positive, then obviously nothing catastrophic occurred, and adds to a positive impression overall.

Heres what I found. . .in no particular order

1. Smith-Victor BH5 -- $49.95 -- At 1.2 lbs, it's a little heavy, but it's a medium sized head with a weight capacity rating of 29 lbs. User "cons" are mostly details that don't alter the functionality, and most seem easily correctable with some imagination. It has a 3/8' mounting hole to the tripod, so if you legs need 1/4-20, you need to get a 3/8 to 1/4 bushing in addition.

Smith-Victor BH5 Metal Alloy Ball Head 700346 B&H Photo Video

2. Giottos MH-1302 w/ MH-655 Quick Release -- $99.48 -- A lot lighter 12.5 oz, but also has a lighter weight capacity (13 lbs). This is a very lightweight head, but would probably work for you. . . just from specs, it's possibly marginal. Giottos is an established mfg, and is probably the oldest of the Chinese photo gear mfgs, so support in the US is probably better than most of the newer companies. I've had a brief play with one of the 13xx series heads in a store and found it felt good. this one apparently includes the 3/8-1/2 bushing

Giottos MH-1302 Pro Series II Medium Ballhead MH1302-655 B&H

3. Smith-Victor BH8 -- $59.00. This is apparently the BH5's big brother. Weighs 1.6 lbs but supports 40 lbs. Heavier duty alternative. Again, you need the bushing to mount to a 1/4- 20 tripod stud.

Smith-Victor BH8 Metal Alloy Ball Head 700355 B&H Photo Video

4. Sirui G-10X -- $99.00 -- This one I have reservation about -- the description says 3 control knobs, but I only see two. . . in the specs, it says that there is a tension control though. This is a very lightweight head at a bit over 9 oz, but the weight capacity is over 39 lbs. This might be exaggerated, but even if you cut the capacity in half, it should be more than enough. Sirui is gaining a good reputation among the Chinese mfgs

Sirui G-10X Ball Head BSRG10X B&H Photo Video

With the Smith Victors, at least a few reviewers say that the panning base is a bit stiff, but this is easily cured by removing the bottom plate and replacing the very thick waxy grease with something like wheel bearing grease -- I've done this on some cheap heads in the past. Also, reports say that the clamps won't allow you to mount a plate from the top. This is inconvenient, but it's easy to see that Arca Dovetails can be filed down a bit at the widest part and retain enough surface to lock the plate very securely. I'd only file enough to allow the plate to drop into the clamp. The one user that said that in cold weather, the clamp would not tighten, but warmed up, it was okay --

This was probably a slightly undersized plate, and the metal contracted enough when very cold that the clamp wouldn't tighten. This may or may not be a single defective clamp, but a slightly longer screw in the clamp or a shim (feeler gauge would be perfect) cut and epoxied to the plate dovetail would cure this. With the low cost of the SV heads, some slight mods could be justified. . . or you could just replace the clamp (and still be @ $100) try some other plates -- the dimensions can vary between mfgs.
One mod I always do is to remove the safety device on the clamps. This allows the clamp to accept a greater variation in plates. I can't recommend that anyone do this, but it's made my life easier -- I use quite a few different brand plates and I've developed the habit of constantly checking my clamps to make sure they're locked down. For Arca compatible clamps, The screw types are usually more universal and will fit any plate, but some of the 3rd party lever plates are adjustable, so can be made to fit any Arca compatible plate, but it's a bit of a PIA to adjust the clamp to fit a lot of different plates, making QR much less so. . .

Two good sources for accessory plates/stuff are OEC Camera and Heijnar Photo

Neutral Density, Filters items in OEC Camera Accessories store on eBay!

3/8 Thick Rails : Hejnar Photo Store, Serving Your Professional Photography Needs

Again, no recommendations come with these -- they're just search results. . .I'm sure there are more on ebay and Amazon. . .and different ones will probably appear every day

Scott

Last edited by snostorm; 11-08-2013 at 08:48 PM.
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