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05-05-2021, 12:16 PM   #1
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Ball head as a leveling base

I got tired of using tripod legs to level it, and want to go with a leveling base. However, there are a lot more ball heads out there than leveling bases. Is there any advantage/disadvantage to using a ball head to level the camera? I have not used either. The advantage I can see is more room for adjustment. Could the ball head be used for smooth tilt in place of a tilt head?

(this was inspired by the great suggestions in another thread on my next tripod)

P.S. Now, I can see that the ball head would not allow for horizontal panning (as the panning base is always below the ball), so I guess it is a no go.

05-05-2021, 12:30 PM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by Pentaxxoid Quote
P.S. Now, I can see that the ball head would not allow for horizontal panning (as the panning base is always below the ball), so I guess it is a no go.
One ball head doesn't work for leveling. But it is possible to combine two ball heads (head to head mounted, locked via a dual side arca plate) to do the leveling function. One ball head serve as leveling base and the other ball head serves as ball head to tilt the camera. I had spare ball heads so I used that combination but the stability wasn't as good as a leveling base. Now I use a leveling base and a smooth rotating base on top, works great.
05-05-2021, 12:50 PM   #3
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You can level the camera with the ball head for sure. But you cannot then pan the camera because it will go out of level as the ball head rotates on its base.

What does work is using the ball head to level the camera and then using a panning base attached to the top of the ball head to do the actual panning. Since the ball head itself is level and locked the panning base can rotate and stay level.

A small panning base with arca-swiss plates on top and bottom allows it to be attached to the ball head and then to secure the camera to the panning base. The panning base is not big or heavy so its not a burden to add to the kit bag.
05-05-2021, 12:58 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by jatrax Quote
The panning base is not big or heavy so its not a burden to add to the kit bag.
They do alter the load point on the ball which could be a burden on some smaller or lesser models.

05-05-2021, 01:00 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Pentaxxoid Quote
I got tired of using tripod legs to level it, and want to go with a leveling base. However, there are a lot more ball heads out there than leveling bases. Is there any advantage/disadvantage to using a ball head to level the camera? I have not used either. The advantage I can see is more room for adjustment. Could the ball head be used for smooth tilt in place of a tilt head?

(this was inspired by the great suggestions in another thread on my next tripod)

P.S. Now, I can see that the ball head would not allow for horizontal pannin
If what you’re after, for example, is to level your camera so that you can make a horizontal panorama by panning from left to right, you need a leveling base below your head so that the camera can be positioned parallel to the horizon (of course you need to adjust the head to aim your camera as well). Once the base has been levelled, the panning axis will be perpendicular to the ground.

With the leveling base, the possibly-tilted tripod is all below the base.

With just the ball head, you can make adjustments to get a straight horizon through your view finder, but if the tripod is tilted, the panning axis of the ball head will NOT be perpendicular to the ground, and frames taken left/right in a pano will be higher/lower than the middle frame.

Hope that makes sense.
05-05-2021, 01:32 PM   #6
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Have you looked at a UniqBall Ball head?

Ballheads – UBPhotoVideo.com
05-05-2021, 01:39 PM   #7
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Check out Acratech heads. The GP (possibly discontinued, but there should be some for sale new...) and GXP(newer) models allow for both leveling and pano panning while leveled. Great heads, I have 2 (different models), and they will support extremely heavy cameras with no drift---DPR ran tests on them some years ago and it won.
Pricey, but very much worth it---and I have had and used a bunch of ball heads.

05-05-2021, 01:44 PM - 1 Like   #8
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My Arcratech GXP may be inverted for use as a pano head, but a leveling base is a more robust solution.



Photo (actually of GP model) lifted from an excellent review of the head: Acratech GXP Ball Head Review - The New King?


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05-05-2021, 04:23 PM   #9
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Arca Swiss double pan ball head Z1+ and Z1g+ can do leveled panning. The pan base is on top of the ball.
https://www.adorama.com/awmbz1dpc.html?
05-05-2021, 06:13 PM   #10
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A ball head will allow for easy leveling of the camera, but it won't maintain that level as soon as you change the camera position.
05-05-2021, 06:22 PM   #11
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If only pan the camera, the double pan ball head will keep the level. The top panning control is for this purpose.
But, I'm not sure if this was OP asked for.
05-05-2021, 06:32 PM   #12
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This is what I use.
https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1085247-REG/LH-2510_Leveling_Base_Head
05-05-2021, 11:01 PM   #13
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Make sure the ball heads are strong enough. If there is any slop or wiggle, you might as well hand hold.
05-06-2021, 02:04 AM   #14
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There are tripods with a leveling base built in. No need for exact leveling with the legs.
Or a tripod/head with an built in circular level, that works on the tripod and not on the head. There is one in my SLIK tripod, which makes leveling with the legs very easy.
05-06-2021, 04:22 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Papa_Joe Quote
There are tripods with a leveling base built in. No need for exact leveling with the legs.
Or a tripod/head with an built in circular level, that works on the tripod and not on the head. There is one in my SLIK tripod, which makes leveling with the legs very easy.
+1

My 50 year old vivitar professional tripod has a bubble level, making leveling by the legs easy also, the original pan and tilt head also had levels embedded, but I have swapped that out for a gimbal head
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