BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: New Questions

Photography Question 
Deb James
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/29/2006
 

Pan/Tilt head vs. Ball head


I'm finally going to invest in a good tripod. I know what features I'd like to have, but I'm still undecided about the head. I shoot mostly nature/landscapes.

I'd like your opinion as to which is better and why you think it's better.

Thanks in advance!


To love this question, log in above
9/20/2006 11:17:32 AM

 
Ariel Lepor
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/8/2005
  Isn't ball head like smoother and more for movies? I'm not really sure, but I use an Opteka tripod. It's I think it's pan/tilt and less than $30, but it's lightweight, strong, goes up real high, and I can control what position it's in.

Ariel
ScrattyPhotography.com
ScrattyPhotography Blog


To love this comment, log in above
9/20/2006 11:42:31 AM

 
Deb James
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/29/2006
  Thanks, Ariel!


To love this comment, log in above
9/20/2006 12:01:47 PM

 
Kerry L. Walker   Ariel, the head you are thinking about for movies is called a fluid head.

Deb, this is one where nobody can really make a recommendation for you. Uou just have to go and handle the merchandise. There are many different types of tripods and heads. Ball heads can be grip action or not, etc. Ball heads can be a lot quicker to pan and tilt but they can be a problem if you don't get it locked in. I imagine a grip action would be better in this respect.

Personally, I prefer a 3 way pan and tilt head. It is a matter of personal tastes. The tripod I use (Bogen-Manfrotto 3021 w/3029 head) is a relatively inexpensive one. OK, at around $200.00 it ain't exactly cheap but compared to some available it is Wal-Mart cheap! It isn't exactly light either but I need something that will hold a MF camera, lens, flash, etc., which can get a little heavy. You can get one that is both lighter and less expensive but you don't want to get one that is so light it can't remain solid in the wind.


To love this comment, log in above
9/20/2006 12:45:21 PM

 
Deb James
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/29/2006
  Thanks, Kerry. I realize no one can make a recommendation because it is a matter of personal taste. That's why I thought I'd ask for a variety of opinions which would hopefully help me make a decision. You provided exactly what I'm looking for - what you use and why. Thanks again!


To love this comment, log in above
9/20/2006 1:03:18 PM

 
Ariel Lepor
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/8/2005
  Thanks for clarifying that, Kerry. My tripod I have to turn a knob to lock it's position, but that has not been a problem for me. What kind of tripod would that be called? My tripod has liquid level indicators (as do most) and the top pops on and off for quick on-and-offs. It also tilts 90 deg for portraits, and it tilts and turns all different directions, but I guess all do. And for 30 bucks! And I've never had a problem with it. Here's the website: http://www.47stphoto.com/item.asp?invky=41480
They sell other tripods and tripod stuff, too, and my experiences with 47th Street have been great.


To love this comment, log in above
9/20/2006 1:35:20 PM

 
Kerry L. Walker   That's a pan head.


To love this comment, log in above
9/20/2006 1:47:02 PM

 
Deb James
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/29/2006
  I'm also concerned with the camera slipping when in the vertical position. I've heard pan/tilt heads have a problem with that. Have either of you experienced that?


To love this comment, log in above
9/20/2006 1:48:29 PM

 
Kerry L. Walker   I haven't. It locks tight in any position.


To love this comment, log in above
9/20/2006 1:50:01 PM

 
Ariel Lepor
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/8/2005
  My camera never slipped. The camera secures very well to the tripod which locks very securely in any position.


To love this comment, log in above
9/20/2006 1:58:17 PM

 
Deb James
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/29/2006
  Thanks, Kerry & Ariel!


To love this comment, log in above
9/20/2006 1:59:10 PM

 
Ariel Lepor
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/8/2005
  You're welcome! You know, the Opteka is the only tripod I've ever used, so I don't know if it would seem cheap to more professional users or not, but it really is solid, light, and sturdy!


To love this comment, log in above
9/20/2006 2:05:36 PM

 
Sharon  Day
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/27/2004
Contact Sharon
Sharon 's Gallery
  I have both the Slik U212 3 way pan and the Manfrotto 724b with a ballhead. The ballhead can not be swapped out on this particular model of Manfrotto. I prefer the ballhead because it's so much easier to adjust for just about everything, BUT you can't do a panorama with them very easily. I hate the handles on the Slik U212. They stick out too far and sometimes when I'm working I find them impossibly in the way. The Slik will adjust down to the ground for macro and you can use it as a copystand as well. It has it's uses so I'm glad I have it but I like my Manfrotto better. Both tripods sell for a little over $100.

Both of these tripods slip as does another Manfrotto tripod I have access to which is a more expensive model. I'd like to try out a very expensive tripod some time to see if they slip :o)!


To love this comment, log in above
9/20/2006 2:56:17 PM

 
Deb James
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/29/2006
  Thanks, Sharon for your input. I've decided on the Manfrotto 3001BPRO for several reasons. #1 - Price, #2 - it's a bit lighter than the 3021, #3 - It folds down to 22" which will make it easier to travel with, #4 min height of 8" which isn't the best, but should work well most of the time, #5 - the legs will each adjust to various angles independently, #6 - the center column can be used horizontally for straight down shots

I haven't completely decided yet on the head, but I believe I'm going to order the BH-25 from Really Right Stuff. It's not cheap, but it's not one of the most expensive either. Their site provides quite a bit of information about various heads and the good/bad qualities of each. Here's some really good information:

http://www.reallyrightstuff.com/tutorials/qr/index.html


To love this comment, log in above
9/22/2006 3:25:49 PM

 
Irene Troy
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/27/2004
  What a timely post – for me, anyway! I have been trying to figure out what tripod to purchase. I already own several – two Bogan and an older model Gitzo that is falling apart (when I say old, I mean old and not well cared for). I have always used a pan-tilt head and until recently I was satisfied with it. However, as my photography has progressed, I have become somewhat irritated by all the manipulation that this head needs and also the fact that it tends to “slip” at times in the field. I’m going to a ball head, but have yet to choose which one. I am really grateful for this discussion and the info others have offered! It helps to clarify some things for me and provides me with some good ideas. I have also looked at the “Really right stuff” website and read some of their articles and found them very helpful. If I could afford it I would love the Arca-Swiss or Wimberly gimbal head, but… After using a ball head for about a week (borrowed from a friend) I definitely like it better than the pan-tilt. It is so much quicker and easier to use than the other style. Of-course, this is only good for the way I work and I certainly don’t think that there is such a thing as “one style fits all”.


To love this comment, log in above
9/22/2006 4:18:20 PM

 
Irene Troy
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/27/2004
  What a timely post – for me, anyway! I have been trying to figure out what tripod to purchase. I already own several – two Bogan and an older model Gitzo that is falling apart (when I say old, I mean old and not well cared for). I have always used a pan-tilt head and until recently I was satisfied with it. However, as my photography has progressed, I have become somewhat irritated by all the manipulation that this head needs and also the fact that it tends to “slip” at times in the field. I’m going to a ball head, but have yet to choose which one. I am really grateful for this discussion and the info others have offered! It helps to clarify some things for me and provides me with some good ideas. I have also looked at the “Really right stuff” website and read some of their articles and found them very helpful. If I could afford it I would love the Arca-Swiss or Wimberly gimbal head, but… After using a ball head for about a week (borrowed from a friend) I definitely like it better than the pan-tilt. It is so much quicker and easier to use than the other style. Of-course, this is only good for the way I work and I certainly don’t think that there is such a thing as “one style fits all”.


To love this comment, log in above
9/22/2006 4:18:53 PM

 
Deb James
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/29/2006
  Another interesting thing I found on the Really Right Stuff site is the "L" bracket. With this bracket you can turn the entire camera vertical rather than changing the position of the tripod head so no need to worry about slippage because of the vertical format! And, because you didn't move the position of the head, you don't have to recompose the shot. The bracket is more expensive (of course), but I think I'm going with it. I think it's worth the extra money to alleviate those two issues.


To love this comment, log in above
9/23/2006 9:22:04 AM

 
Log in to respond or ask your own question.