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11-02-2008, 01:24 AM   #1
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pan-tilt head vs ball head

I am looking to get a manfrotto 190CX3 carbon fibre tripod but it needs a head. I have in mind a 486RC2 ball head or a 804RC2 pan tilt head. Both heads have quick release mechanism.

I have the k100D now but would like to upgrade to k30D (??) when i am ready. I forsee the heaviest lens i will ever get is the tamron 70-200 but if i strike the jackpot i might get a bigma

Appreciate if anyone could give me some feedbacks which head is better?

11-02-2008, 04:58 AM   #2
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Oh man, I don't know where to start here.
There are guys who like the pan tilt heads and guys who like the ballheads, it's really up to your personal preferences.
I'm certainly no expert here but for the last couple of weeks I've been doing a LOT of research on these questions. First off, I would say the 804RC2 is a better pan tilt head than the 486RC2 is a ballhead. The 486 has no tension control on the ball which means if you're not very careful you will at some point flop the camera and it doesn't have a panning base. If you want a Manfrotto ballhead take a look at the 468MG.
Amazon.com: Manfrotto 468MGRC2 Hydrostatic Ball Head with RC2 Rapid Connect System (3157N): Camera & Photo
Yes, it's much more expensive but I would not go below this level for a ballhead.
The RC2 QR system is ok for lighter weight work, I used it on the Brunton pistol grip ballhead I just happily replaced. But you're not going to want to use it much on bigger lenses. You can mount an Arca Swiss type clamp on the 468MG, which, believe me, will dig deep into your wallet.
You have to be honest with yourself now. If you think I'm just into this a little bit, the 486RC2 will be all I need and then you upgrade to the K30D or whatever and get a older heavy K-300 lens to get into some wildlife photography or a Vivitar 105/2.5 macro lens you'll then find you will need to upgrade your 486 and it will then be sitting on your living room table like my Brunton pistrol grip thingy and you'll be wondering what the hell to do with it. From the products you're asking about I understand the price range you're looking in and if you're serious about this range I would not recommend a ballhead. I just think it'd drive you crazy having to support the camera with one hand, composing, and locking the head with the other hand and THEN be able to take the picture. I had a cheap pan tilt head on my Slik U212 tripod and it drove me crazy having to adjust all the handles for the different axis to compose a picture, it's slow but the pan tilt head you're looking at would do a good job, I believe. Now I realize on the 486 you could just release the locking knob a teeny bit and get some movement but without a minimum tension control I think you're looking at trouble. At least that's my take on the situation.

I just looked at your post, again, after posting my reply.
A Bigma? Now you're looking at the 468MG AT LEAST for a ballhead and the RC2 quick release system will not cut it, disaster in the making. I hate to say it but the leg set you're looking at might not be the best for a Bigma either. It only supports 11 lbs and the max diameter of the legs is only 25mm, if I'm correct, a series 2 tripod has 28mm legs and I think a series 2 tripod would be the minimum to use for the Bigma and I bet most people would recommend at least a series 3.

Last edited by Eaglerapids; 11-02-2008 at 05:13 AM.
11-02-2008, 05:19 AM   #3
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Thanks for your feedback. Much appreciated.

Previously I have a Victory brand tripod which is actually a manfrotto clone with a ball head. I find that the ball head is not very precise in fixing the position of the camera. for instance, i would be composing using my right hand and and wish to lock in that position using my left hand on the ball head. Somehow, the camera will tilt a little after i remove my right hand from the camera. I will almost always make the camera tilt higher so that it will "fall" a little at its rest position.

This is the reason i am looking into the Pan tilt head. But then again, i have no experience using a pan tilt head so i am looking for more feedbacks here.

Oh...the pan tilt head is also more heavy. The 804RC2 is 0.75kg whereas the 486RC2 is 0.46kg. Not a lot though.

In terms of price, the 486RC2 is A$107 and the 804RC2 is A$119. Negligible price difference. The 468 hydrostatic ball head is very much beyond my budget unfortunately.

Any thoughts?
11-02-2008, 05:36 AM   #4
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I don't think you will get the precision you're looking for in a ballhead with the 486 but I've never used one and don't know for sure.
One other thought. Don't get either yet until you get your legset and try your present ballhead with the new legset.
My old Slik U212 is not very rigid at all, I'm not familiar with yours but if it's as loose as mine some of that play may very well be coming from the tripod. That's why I've had to upgrade my tripod after I got my ballhead. Set up your tripod and grab two of the legs and twist, does it feel like a noodle? :-) The manfrotto 190CX3 carbon fibre tripod, I bet, will be much more rigid. If the play is indeed in your present ballhead then I think the pan tilt would be better for you but you can always Google the 486 ballhead and see what guys are saying about it and how precise it is. That's what I'd do, it seems you're already used to working with that type of ballhead and maybe the 486 would be a worthwhile upgrade.

11-02-2008, 05:43 AM   #5
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I no longer have my old tripod with me so i am unable to do the test. But i remember it is the ball head that is playing up rather than the centre column or the legs.
11-02-2008, 05:55 AM   #6
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Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: Manfrotto 486RC2 Compact Ball Head with RC2 Rapid Connect System
http://www.ephotozine.com/article/Manfrotto-190CX-Pro4--486RC2-head
"While shooting this image I discovered that the ball & socket of the 486 RC2 head can hold the weight of the body and lens even at an angle. However, it does have a tendency to sink when tightened. It means that I had to frame the image slightly higher than what I wanted to allow for it dropping when I let go. Bear in mind that this is because the equipment exceeded the maximum weight that the head could take and I was pleased that it still held."

http://photo.net/filters-bags-tripods-accessories-forum/00ESCn

Last edited by Eaglerapids; 11-02-2008 at 06:04 AM.
11-02-2008, 07:14 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by raider Quote
I am looking to get a manfrotto 190CX3 carbon fibre tripod but it needs a head. I have in mind a 486RC2 ball head or a 804RC2 pan tilt head. Both heads have quick release mechanism.

I have the k100D now but would like to upgrade to k30D (??) when i am ready. I forsee the heaviest lens i will ever get is the tamron 70-200 but if i strike the jackpot i might get a bigma

Appreciate if anyone could give me some feedbacks which head is better?
It all depends on what kind of photography you want to do. For most photography, including macro work, I use a Manfrotto 322RC2 which, with its positive lock, works extremely well with lenses up to around 70-300 mm zoom. Where I want to follow something in macro, e.g. a bee moving on a flower, the 322 is no good and I have a friction controlled ball head by FLM. For longer heavier lenses maybe you need to look at a gimbal type head. I found my previous pan and tilt head was often inconvenient since the controlling handle was always in the way!

John

11-02-2008, 07:27 AM   #8
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I think it all depends on your tastes. I had used panning heads for many years, and have replaced them now with ball heads. the 468RC2 to be exact.
It does have some drag as a function of how tight the lever is but it can flop, just as a pan and tilt head can.

As for panning, that is a function also of tripod not just the head. One of my 2 tripods has a unique post arrangement, the post can slide and down, and the collar can allow the post to turn. there are 2 different clamps.
11-02-2008, 09:04 PM   #9
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Thanks for all your feedbacks.

In terms of user friendliness, is a ball head more superior than a pan tilt head then?
11-02-2008, 09:13 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by raider Quote
Thanks for all your feedbacks.

In terms of user friendliness, is a ball head more superior than a pan tilt head then?
I would say yes because you can fully release it with one knob, that is the real difference. I also find many pan and tilt heads do not hold position when clamping, the mechanism causes slight rotation or change in elevation, which can be annoying. (drove me crazy when using a C90 spotting scope
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