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12-23-2009, 04:05 AM   #1
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What tripod head to use?

I bought me a Pentax 6x7, as most of you will be aware of since I posted some pics of it in this sub-forum. Awaiting some film to arrive, I am struggling with a question: what kind of head would be best to use on my tripod. (Leaving alone my tripod is steady enough, a thing I have to try....) I've got a robust ball head (Manfrotto 488RC2), and a standard 2-way head (Manfrotto 128LP). What kind of head do you use with your medium format cameras, and why???


Last edited by Rense; 12-23-2009 at 04:21 AM.
12-23-2009, 07:31 AM   #2
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More important than type of head is the weight they can support.

Take a good margin as the maker are often fairly optimistic and a ball head that can support 4kg don't mean that it can work with it. But the more it can hold, the more it will be stable.

I have exactly the same issue as I just bought a Pentax 6x7 and 105/2.4 and 200/4 lenses. I have a Gitzo Traveller (carbon) with a Gitzo ballhead. I'm unsure that it is enough of a tripod for 6x7 (it is a very good trip and ballhead, I took shots crisp to the pixel with a K20D + 43ldt @ 5,6 with several seconds of duration) .

What I'm doing at the moment is taking shots (non critical) and I'm looking for the output of it to judge if I need or not to update my setup. Anyway I would never take critical shots with equipments that I never used. So I consider this is part of the learning curve.

Regarding replacement equipment, The luminous landscape put in its article discussing of the merits of the Pentax 6x7 system a video tripod from Manfrotto that is still available. But it's a bit of an overkill if you don't intend to use tele, especially since it is extremely heavy.

For head, I looked at Arcaswiss, they're the reference of the market and they provide models adapted to medium format. For around 300€, I've seen that I get something work for similar gear than Pentax 6x7.

So at the end of day try the gear you have and want to use (it your camera is not too heavy for it) If the result is OK for your eye, why change ?

12-23-2009, 07:56 AM   #3
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I use ball heads all the time, totally abandoned my 3D-heads. Mostly now a Manfrotto 468 (hydrostatic) ProBall and sometimes the Benro KS-1 and also my old Linhof.

These heads can basically carry all my gear, whether DSLR or MF or even LF. I keep QR plates on all cameras and have the matching system (the Manfrotto hexagons) on all heads.

12-23-2009, 08:13 AM   #4
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I like the popular style of ball-heads, too. The pan-tilt type are a lot less convenient if everything isn't all leveled up.

A nice plate that doesn't want to rotate on the body is nice, too. An L-plate if you want to do portraits and verticals, perhaps (I don't want to contemplate how massive/pricey one might be for a 6x7, though: you might be better off with one of those curved rails that lets you rotate the camera in place.)

12-23-2009, 12:58 PM   #5
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I use a Manfrotto 322RC2 ( tripods, heads, monopods, light stands, camera supports, lighting supports, professional tripod 322RC2 - HEAVY DUTY GRIP BALL HEAD ), which is a ball head with a grip (see picture). I like it because it's easier to handle (once you are used to it) than fiddling with the smaller knobs on a more traditional ball head. If you are interested in this type of head, I would suggest that you try it out first. I use it with my Pentax K10D, a Mamiya 645 with lenses up to 210mm and a Mamiya RZ67.
12-23-2009, 05:17 PM   #6
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I also use the Manfrotto 322RC2 head. It's great. I also use a Majestic geared head & tripod. It's mainly for my large format & will support 40 pounds. It's too bad not alot of people know about Majestic. US made & makes Manfrotto look like toys.
>>> Jim
12-23-2009, 08:06 PM   #7

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Though big and heavy is better, you'd be surprised what you can get away with. I have several tripods but because I use a the folding hood (waist level finder) a lot, I use my small Manfrotto 7301YB with a simple head ( don't know the model) the most and it works just fine.

It is small enough to carry around on the trails and in the city all day. You may think it's too small but its not. With a cable release, my pictures come out fine. Of course I'm not using any of my lenses larger than a 165mm on it.

Just a data point.
12-24-2009, 01:45 PM   #8
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Thank you all for your elaborate answers!

Today I got some first film for my camera.
The next days I will make the first photos with my 6x7...

12-31-2009, 09:25 AM   #9
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I just picked up a used Kirk BH-3 ballhead Kirk Enterprises : BH-3 Ball Head. It is rated for 15 pounds (about 6.5 kg) for all my gear. I am amazed at how incredibly smooth this head is and with the ability to independently tighten the ball or adjust the tension on the ball. Very versatile.

I used a Manfrotto ballhead (the same one with some new parts a few years ago) for almost 25 years, but got tired of the hexagonal plates and their one size fits all philosophy. The custom plates for the Arca style quick release system might be a little pricey, but they fit very well, are less obtrusive than the Manfrotto hexagonal plates.
12-31-2009, 12:55 PM   #10
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Another head to consider is the Manfrotto 410 3 way adjustable head which give you great positioning accuracy at the expense of being slower than a ball head to use.
01-03-2010, 10:13 PM   #11
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I bit the bullet, and found an good used Swiss Arca B1 ball head. I did a fair amount of research, and if you have large lenses, or heavy set up - then this is the one they all seemed to talk about. It has some features not found on other ball heads. The odd shaped ball is different, in that as you back off the tension, and say the camera starts to droop to one side. The B1 will actually allow it to go over to a point, then start to slow down the drooping due to this shaped ball. The outfit comes to a gentle stop, instead of a clunk. The long and short is - excellent product but expensive.

The other item I'm very pleased with is the Berlebach tripod. Yes, they are wood. They are no heavier than comparable carbon fibre model made to support the same weight. They are cheap compared to CF models. My model will hold 26 lbs - but it is not max'd out. You cannot buy that kind of performance from a CF tripod for under $300.
02-11-2010, 09:07 PM   #12
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I use a Gitzo Systematic 5 head with quick release (GH5380SQR) on a Gitzo G1500 Aluminium tripod. Either Gitzo or Arca Swiss plates can be used. It is rated to 30 kg capacity, and tripod plus head weigh about 5.5 kg. The head has a very low profile with a large stiff neck. It is hadraulic locking and is locked into position by turning a single locking collar. Resistence to movement can be easily adjusted.

I have used this rig with the 67NII, the 67 400/4 Takumar, and either the 1.4 or 2.0 rear converter. The stability is outstanding even for long exposures, provided I use MLU. I have tried it with additional weight slung over the lens, but found this to be really inconvenient, so now I just press down on the lens above the tripod mount with my hand - it seems to work just as well.

Some may view the weight of the tripod/head assembly to be excessive, but mass as well as stiffness are important in controlling vibration. Admittedly, it is not the combination for a long hike, but for many situations, it gets the job done very nicely.

Best, Alan

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