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04-14-2015, 10:01 AM   #1
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ball head or pistol grip.

Hey guys. I am searching for a budget friendly tripod. Which is better,ball head or pistol grip?

04-14-2015, 10:21 AM - 3 Likes   #2
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Neither. They are just tools for a job. Both will work depending on your use and no one can say what works better for you.

There must be a zillion threads that start with the words "budget friendly tripod" and generally the answers are the same, a budget friendly tripod is an oxymoron. Of course not everyone wants, needs or can afford a $1,000 tripod and head but the principles are the same.

So here is my advice:
  • Add up the weight of your heaviest gear, either owned now or anticipated. Double that, because manufacturers tend to be optimistic. That is the weight capacity your tripod needs.
  • Go to a store and try out the leg locks. Decide of you like flip locks or twist locks
  • Also try out the different kinds of heads. Most common are ball heads because they are flexible but some like video heads or pistol grips.
  • Remember that the legs have a weight rating and so does the head. Buying good sticks and putting a light weight head on it is not going to work out well. Pistol grips in particular do not usually have the weight rating for larger gear
  • A good ball head (or any other head) is a joy to use and will help you. A cheap, or under weighted one is not just not as good, it is a complete pain in the rear and waste of money
  • Think about the quick release plates. Some manufacturers use proprietary ones that lock you in to them. Arca Swiss is the industry standard and you can buy almost any kind of plate or clamp that will work with it
  • For anything except a small travel tripod get separate sticks and head. That way you can upgrade either portion in the future without replacing both
  • Do you feel comfortable putting $1,000 worth of camera gear onto a $50 tripod? I don't.
  • A cheap tripod will get replaced in a year or so. A good tripod and head will last 20 years or more, maybe a lifetime.
  • Consider going used at KEH or elsewhere. Often a high end used one will not cost much more than a new cheap one
04-14-2015, 10:38 AM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by cotty Quote
ball head or pistol grip.
IMHO invest in a decent ball head and this will last you a life time and as already mentioned get one that vastly exceeds your current weight requirements.
04-14-2015, 10:52 AM   #4
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Having gone thru 4 tripods myself before finding one I really like, I'll second everything Jatrax wrote. I'll add that, knowing what I know now, I wouldn't go with less than 17 lb capacity. A camera and decent lens can easily weigh 5 lbs, and 17 lb capacity gives you plenty of room to hang a bag, or weight, to improve stability and kill vibration when it's windy. I'd also recommend sticking with Arca-Swiss plate compatible heads, as that will leave more mounting options open, and leaves many upgrade paths without having to replace plates.

04-14-2015, 11:24 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Kerrowdown Quote
IMHO invest in a decent ball head and this will last you a life time and as already mentioned get one that vastly exceeds your current weight requirements.
I'll second this. I went through MANY different pistol grips because I'd never been exposed to a quality ball-head with adjustable friction. Once I finally got one I realized that it was what I had been looking for all along. Allows you to simply move the camera to the desired position and let go. The camera stays there and won't move until you move it. No need to squeeze a trigger.

Also, don't cheap out on your legs. This forum is chock-full of folks that will tell you that you'll end up spending far less if you get a decent set-up now rather than trying to find something that you can "get by" with. You'll end up replacing that budget set up several times and have a much less favorable experience in the mean time.

I am personally partial to Feisol legs. Best bang for the buck I have found.
04-14-2015, 11:47 AM   #6
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I had a pistol grip head for a while. It's nice but with heavier equipment a ball head is more stable. And it felt like the pistol grip got loose over time and lost its friction.
04-14-2015, 12:49 PM   #7
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I have a pistol grip - and it is pretty much a nightmare if you need any kind of accuracy.

Now a geared head.... that is just delicious.

Own the manfrotto 410 junior. Have it on a Ravelli tripod. Good combination.
04-14-2015, 03:55 PM   #8
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Here are two recent threads on the subject with excellent discussions and additional links to some extensive reviews.Good mechanical support does cost some, but buying used from KEH or craigslist or Marketplace, can provide some excellent equipment. Best Buy is not the best photo equipment store - but in a pinch, you can go there and see the difference between twist and flip leg locks and touch some things. There are also lots of YouTube videos out there on individual equipment options, that can answer questions if there is not a store near by....



04-14-2015, 10:00 PM   #9
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I am mostly photographing birds when I am using my tripod and this is usually on it


Manfrotto 327RC2 Grip action ball head


and my ball head stays in the cupboard at home. I am usually shooting with the 300mm F4 and find the whole set-up nicely balanced.


When shooting portraits with a tripod, I usually find the pistol grip head most convenient too.


For landscapes, the moon, stars etc, the ball head wins.
04-14-2015, 11:11 PM   #10
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I prefer something like the Manfrotto 391RC2. Reason is that you only affect one axis when changing; e.g. if you need to tilt the camera a bit up or down, the other axis stays as is. With a ballhead, there is always the risk that you affect the other axis.

But that's a personal preference.
04-15-2015, 08:59 AM   #11
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you need to try both and see which you prefer. I only use a 3-way head anymore, for landscapes because it offers me the best control of 3 axes. However, i have owned a traditional ballhead as well as a pistol grip ballhead and found the pistol grip to be great for objects that are moving unpredictably in the frame, such as wildlife, kids, macro, etc because it is fast to reframe, let go and fire the shot without any loosening and tightening of a lock screw. Agree with others that one should buy gear rated well above your heaviest gear. My legs support 55lbs which sounds like overkill until i am shooting in wind and want to hang my 35lb bag from the center column for stability or place a sand bag over the camera, etc.

try them and even try some other types of heads. good luck!
04-18-2015, 02:45 PM   #12
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A pistol grip is only useful if you can't have a monopod or tripod. It's better than nothing but mine sits on the shelf unused pretty much all the time. With long lenses, getting one with a trigger on it is kinda cool. Then you can mount it to the lens and turn the thing into a bazooka.
04-18-2015, 06:37 PM   #13
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I have a Vanguard pistol grip ballhead, it has a corded trigger too, which even controls the autofocus. Very nice. I don't think I'd put anything too front-heavy on it, but for general use it's great. It seems very well-built and very flexible.

Vanguard GH-300T Pistol Grip Ball Head GH-300T B&H Photo Video
04-26-2015, 08:03 PM   #14
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I have 2 of these 1 for the K-r and the other for the K-50......suits my needs and a bit more than I would like to spend but worth it.....rock solid
http://www.amazon.com/AmazonBasics-70-Inch-Pistol-Grip-Tripod/dp/B00CF1LS94/...ol+grip+tripod
04-27-2015, 08:26 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Aaron28 Quote
I have 2 of these 1 for the K-r and the other for the K-50......suits my needs and a bit more than I would like to spend but worth it.....rock solid
Amazon.com : AmazonBasics 70-Inch Pistol Grip Tripod : Camera Tripods : Camera & Photo
or you buy the same thing from Ravelli for less. I bought it. The tripod is good. The head... not so much.

The head is so great, I finally bought the geared head I love so much.
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