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05-03-2014, 09:18 PM   #1
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Tripod ball head

Any users have recommendations for a solid ball head? I am looking at the Manfrotto 055 to use with a pre 1985, #055/3021 tripod. Also if anyone has experience with the new Manfrotto Q6 quick release system I would be grateful. I have looked at the RRS and Markins heads but really don't think I need to spend so much for what I will be doing.

05-03-2014, 11:37 PM   #2
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Don't know about the current Manfrotto heads, but I never purchased them in the past because they were not Swiss Arca standard. Their tripods are excellent however.
Acratech Ultimate is what I use and recommend highly.

M
05-04-2014, 12:15 AM   #3
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Evening,

Are you planning on doing a fair amount of stitching? If so, then here is something to consider....

The problem is that with most ballheads, they have a panning capability built into their base (at the bottom). What this does is, if the tripod is not perfectly level, you will pan on an angle, and thus have a panorama going either up hill or down hill or in a upside down "U". What I like to do is to set the tripod down and level it using the ballhead - and this guarantees a non level panorama.

The solution is to have the panning "turntable" above the ball in the ballhead, and not below it. In this way, when you level the camera, you are leveling the panning base that the camera body is sitting on (and hopefully attached to).

So, the question is how to implement the solution without going broke. There are a couple of ballheads with the panning ability built in above the ball. The Acratech GP and the Arca-Swiss P0,along with the a model from RRS (which is also expen$ive). These run in the $400 range. There is a less expensive option and that is to add a panning clamp to your ballhead of choice. These run about $40 to $100+.But on the other hand, if you are looking to just do macro - you can forgo all the panning stuff and make life simple.

I do a lot of stitching for panoramas. There were not really any panning clamps when I went looking, so I went with an Arcatech GP. I spent several weeks not wanting to spend that much. Then I just ordered it. My wife saw the charge and stated - "for your sake, it had best be a jewel encrusted astronomical instrument".

05-04-2014, 10:11 AM   #4
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I have the Vanguard SBH-100, I'm a fan of it. The only reason I have it is because it came with my Vanguard tripod, otherwise I would have bought the BBH-100 model.

IMO, Manfrotto makes a great product (I have a monopod from them), but they are over-hyped. Not the best bang for the buck, but they get pushed hard by sales people and everyone seems to carry them.

05-04-2014, 03:36 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Mr. Ed Quote
Any users have recommendations for a solid ball head? I am looking at the Manfrotto 055 to use with a pre 1985, #055/3021 tripod. Also if anyone has experience with the new Manfrotto Q6 quick release system I would be grateful. I have looked at the RRS and Markins heads but really don't think I need to spend so much for what I will be doing.
You mean the MH055 with arca-compatible Q6 "top lock" platform... like this one?



I had it for about 3 months (as a review sample) and used it a lot in the winter weather. There are two things to note about this head with the Q6:
  1. As you can see, the Q6 "top lock" arca-compatible platform is HUGE and uses a screw-in knob only. Other heads at least offer a lever lock or panoramic rotator as an option.
  2. The entire head is already pretty big relative to other ballheads with comparably sized balls (54mm), mainly because all the fancy knobs stick out quite a bit (none of which are captive - they can all be unscrewed right off the head).

That said, it is a pretty smooth and capable head. You can dial in a precise amount of friction with the dedicated knob (not shown in the photo). The little red plastic "90 degree switch" for the drop slot is kind of nice, but most heads simply don't go any further than a 90 degree drop.

All told, it is a good looking and smooth 54mm ball head that finally has compatibility with the quick release plates that most pros use. The price of $275 is pretty good for what you get, as well. However, I'd look at the Sirui K-40x or Sunwayfoto FB-44 which are less expensive, and frankly perform better than the MH055Q6. See what I wrote about the Sirui in my review here.

Last edited by panoguy; 05-04-2014 at 03:48 PM.
05-04-2014, 05:49 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by panoguy Quote
You mean the MH055 with arca-compatible Q6 "top lock" platform... like this one?



I had it for about 3 months (as a review sample) and used it a lot in the winter weather. There are two things to note about this head with the Q6:
  1. As you can see, the Q6 "top lock" arca-compatible platform is HUGE and uses a screw-in knob only. Other heads at least offer a lever lock or panoramic rotator as an option.
  2. The entire head is already pretty big relative to other ballheads with comparably sized balls (54mm), mainly because all the fancy knobs stick out quite a bit (none of which are captive - they can all be unscrewed right off the head).

That said, it is a pretty smooth and capable head. You can dial in a precise amount of friction with the dedicated knob (not shown in the photo). The little red plastic "90 degree switch" for the drop slot is kind of nice, but most heads simply don't go any further than a 90 degree drop.

All told, it is a good looking and smooth 54mm ball head that finally has compatibility with the quick release plates that most pros use. The price of $275 is pretty good for what you get, as well. However, I'd look at the Sirui K-40x or Sunwayfoto FB-44 which are less expensive, and frankly perform better than the MH055Q6. See what I wrote about the Sirui in my review here.
Thanks for the information. That is exactly the head I was looking at. I did read the DP reviews of the Sirui head which were quiet good. It is currently on back order at B&H and I have asked to be informed when it is available. The Sirui head reviewed better than many more expensive and highly regarded brands. I will read your reveiw now. Thanks again.
05-04-2014, 06:37 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Mr. Ed Quote
Thanks for the information. That is exactly the head I was looking at. I did read the DP reviews of the Sirui head which were quiet good.
No problem at all. Just to be clear, I'm the same guy who wrote the DPReview article on 52-58mm ball heads, so my link goes to the same article!

The Manfrotto "top lock" heads were not available last summer when I started the whole process, even though it took until January of this year to get it all published. Since then, obviously Manfrotto has started shipping them out, so I am preparing a follow-up review of the MH055Q6 with the same amount of detail as the Sirui and other head reviews.

I've also had a chance to use the Gitzo version of the "top lock" (called a "D profile" release), and it's even bigger! The bonus is that the Gitzo has a very nice click-to-lock system with a lever release that can be adjusted. Of course, being a Gitzo, it's $200 for the quick release alone!


Last edited by panoguy; 05-04-2014 at 06:42 PM.
05-04-2014, 08:56 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by panoguy Quote
No problem at all. Just to be clear, I'm the same guy who wrote the DPReview article on 52-58mm ball heads, so my link goes to the same article!

The Manfrotto "top lock" heads were not available last summer when I started the whole process, even though it took until January of this year to get it all published. Since then, obviously Manfrotto has started shipping them out, so I am preparing a follow-up review of the MH055Q6 with the same amount of detail as the Sirui and other head reviews.

I've also had a chance to use the Gitzo version of the "top lock" (called a "D profile" release), and it's even bigger! The bonus is that the Gitzo has a very nice click-to-lock system with a lever release that can be adjusted. Of course, being a Gitzo, it's $200 for the quick release alone!
I realized you had done the review as soon as I followed the link. I have also been looking at the Sunwayfoto heads and they seem really nice. I was not familiar with them at all prior to you providing the information. More decisions to make but thats OK. Options are a good thing.
05-05-2014, 06:27 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Miguel Quote
Don't know about the current Manfrotto heads, but I never purchased them in the past because they were not Swiss Arca standard.
I would not pick a ballhead that is not arca-swiss, I fully agree with you here.

QuoteOriginally posted by Mr. Ed Quote
Any users have recommendations for a solid ball head?
The best suggestion will vary depending on your gear, its weight, and your intended use.

As for me, I've tested quite a few. The best bang for the buck 've had for quite some time is with a Vanguard head, they are extremely well made, well-featured, and not too expensive.

Recently I got a Sirui T-025X tripod with its head, and I'm surprised at the quality of the Sirui products. I'd take a good look at their varous heads. The G line has three knobs (pan/ball/tension), the K line is similarly featured but the tension control is included in the ball knob. a good idea, my Vanguard does something similar.

Paying a good price for a good head makes sense, but I'm not one for paying several hundred dollars when you can get a great product for between 100 and 150$.
05-05-2014, 10:04 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by bdery Quote
Paying a good price for a good head makes sense, but I'm not one for paying several hundred dollars when you can get a great product for between 100 and 150$.
An adequate ballhead for between $100-150, but great? Not quite in my book. I think the Chinese knockoffs are OK for lightweight shooting needs, but for long-term (I'm talking five years plus) support of medium weight bodies and lenses (4-8 pounds) I would not trust them. Of course I've only been shooting for 43 years and haven't seen a lot, but I have seen cheesy ballhead failure from knockoffs who utilize cheap internal parts.

I guess it is a matter of how much you value your equipment combined with how valuable your equipment truly is and how valuable you expect it to be within the coming 3-5 years. I see a lot of reruns of newer photographers cycling through cheapo tripods and heads until they spend the money on something better than adequate.

Acratech, RRS, Kirk, and Markins will serve one for decades. While they are generally intended for medium weight loads, they certainly can be used for lighter stuff.

M
05-06-2014, 05:44 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Miguel Quote
An adequate ballhead for between $100-150, but great? Not quite in my book. I think the Chinese knockoffs are OK for lightweight shooting needs, but for long-term (I'm talking five years plus) support of medium weight bodies and lenses (4-8 pounds) I would not trust them. Of course I've only been shooting for 43 years and haven't seen a lot, but I have seen cheesy ballhead failure from knockoffs who utilize cheap internal parts.

I guess it is a matter of how much you value your equipment combined with how valuable your equipment truly is and how valuable you expect it to be within the coming 3-5 years. I see a lot of reruns of newer photographers cycling through cheapo tripods and heads until they spend the money on something better than adequate.

Acratech, RRS, Kirk, and Markins will serve one for decades. While they are generally intended for medium weight loads, they certainly can be used for lighter stuff.
Do you actually have any experience with products like Vanguard or Sirui which I refer to?

Following your reasoning, one should refuse to purchase a car that's not a Rolls Royce...

I have used cheap tripds and heads. While I will agree that they lack in features, stability, resistance to sag, etc, I have yet to see a tripod or head that will actually put the gear at risk. I have never seen a tripod buckle under the weight of the equipment. My father had a cheap tripod that he bought in the 70's and it's still standing straight. Of course you have to work within the limits of the equipment, that goes without saying. Don't put too much weight on the legs, etc. But within that bit of common sense, I believe it is a mistake to claim that only people spending hundreds of dollars will get good equipment.
05-06-2014, 06:57 AM   #12
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Well said, bdery.

The other thing to consider is that Acratech, RRS, Kirk and Markins weren't even making ball heads decades ago. They all started about 15 years ago or less, and Markins in particular was considered a "cheap Korean knockoff" for the first few years until people took a chance on them (and coincidentally the internet exploded with gear reviews).
05-09-2014, 04:54 PM   #13
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Ballhead Search.

Many thanks to all for the valuable input. I have done much research over the last week. I have looked at many different heads and really like the Sunwayfoto, Markins and RRS. My use will not be extreme and my biggest problem is trying to contain my desires. I have an oldder Manfrotto 3265 along with a pre 1985 Bogen/Manfrotto tripod that continue to function as new. I will move the 3265 to my monopod and maintain the ballhead on the tripod. Next problem I have encountered is that there doesn't appear to be a camera plate for the K3 with battery grip that I have been able to locate. I am wondering if most remove the battery grip when using on the ballhead. I am sure that is probably not really needed in this application, but I was of the opinion that I would like to leave it attached. Again, thanks for all the input, has really been helpful.
05-10-2014, 04:31 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Mr. Ed Quote
Next problem I have encountered is that there doesn't appear to be a camera plate for the K3 with battery grip that I have been able to locate. I am wondering if most remove the battery grip when using on the ballhead. I am sure that is probably not really needed in this application, but I was of the opinion that I would like to leave it attached. Again, thanks for all the input, has really been helpful.
Custom-designed arca-compatible plate for the K-3 with battery grip?

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Mestos-PD-K3HL-Camera-L-Plate-for-Pentax-K3-Vertical-Grip-NEW-/251504990633

Lucky you! Lots of money to be spent...
05-11-2014, 06:40 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by panoguy Quote
Custom-designed arca-compatible plate for the K-3 with battery grip?

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Mestos-PD-K3HL-Camera-L-Plate-for-Pentax-K3-Vertical-Grip-NEW-/251504990633

Lucky you! Lots of money to be spent...
Thanks for the link on the L bracket. I did order and I believe there is one remaining. I would not have found this without your help panoguy so big thanks to you. I have not yet ordered a ballhead but I am making progress.
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