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Thread: Which tripod head for sports photography?

  1. #1
    Ausphotography Regular Brian500au's Avatar
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    Which tripod head for sports photography?

    Hi Guys

    I have been lucky enough to pick up at a bargain price a Canon 300mm F2.8 IS II lens. I have looking for this focal length for a few years now, and one happen to become available at a price I could not pass up.

    I plan to use it mostly to photograph rowing and soccer (and at times wildlife) but I am not sure of the head set up I should use. My current set up is a Manfrotto 055 Pro tripod and a sturdy but old manfrotto 134B monopod. The only ball head type of mount i own is a Mafrotto 222 joystick, which I used to use with a 100 - 400 lens i had a few years ago.

    I have seen pics of the lens coupled directly to the monopod - is this the best set up or should i be looking at getting a heavy duty ball head (or will the joystick I have do the job). I don't want to break the bank on this - but the price of heads range so much from the Benro $30 job up to the $500+ recognized name brands. I don't care it is a name brand ball head, as long as it does the job. There seem to be plates and brackets to do everything - but to tell you the truth it is rather overwhelming.

    I have been looking at a Markins Q3T - they seem a high quality head and priced somewhere in the middle. I would also think most of the shooting I need to do would be in the portrait mode, but I am sure I will want to swap fairly quickly.

    The alternative to all the above is hand held - but I would think an hour or two of this might start to get quite tiring.

    Any recommendations?
    Last edited by Brian500au; 22-01-2013 at 10:25pm.
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  2. #2
    The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday
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    Brian,
    Sports generally require fast shutter speeds to capture the action plus you want to be mobile, a monopod is best, mainly just to help support weight of lens for longer periods. If you want portrait shots you just rotate camera/lens in the tripod ring. Have a look at my suggestions here - http://www.ausphotography.net.au/for...or-TripodmMono you probably just need a monopod head - it only pivots as you can rotate the pod, simpler & lighter.

    Cheers
    John


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    I agree with Wobbles, Brian. In a fast moving sport like soccer you need to be able to swing the gear around like a shot gun while rabbit shooting, so if assistance is necessary because of weight, you need as little handicap as possible. Even a monopod requires the user to move behind the camera rather than just swing the lens in all directions with your body being the axis.
    Cricket is a different matter with the majority of shots at either end of the wicket. There's plenty of heads for mono pods available without the need to spend big dollars.

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    Kel,

    I went through this about 2 weeks back, and this is what was recommended for me, chasing Rugby and Cricket.

    It arrived in no time, ordered whilst at work this swing, and the wife advised it's already at home. And couldn't beat the price. I also grabed two lens plates, one for the 300 and one for the 70 - 200 mm F 2.8.

    Thanks again John (Wobbles)
    Last edited by Roosta; 23-01-2013 at 9:10am.
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    Account Closed Wayne's Avatar
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    In my mind there are 3 options, 2 quite viable and 1 workable, but depending on exactly what you are shooting.

    1) It's only a 300/2.8 shoot it handheld and have the most mobility, least gear to carry.
    2) Shoot on a mono, it will alleviate the weight, and still be quite stable with good technique. Mono heads can be good, and the MH-01/2 from RRS about the best (I have one), but they are expensive and certainly not necessary.
    3) Tripod and full gimbal head like Wimberley WH-200II. These will offer the lens/body the utmost support and make them weightless to move them around quickly, but it is the least mobile and most expensive of the 3 options and a pain if you are not shooting from the one position.

    My preference for a 300/2.8 or similar is to hand-hold, the 400/2.8 on a pro-body is a bit much, and for that I prefer the Wimberley if I'm shooting from a stationary position.

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    Ausphotography Veteran Speedway's Avatar
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    Shooting faster sports (Motor sport & Football etc.) I find handheld best (necessary for panning), for slower sports, birds & wildlife I use a cheap $40-50 monopod with a simple ballhead mainly to help with the weight and some steadying.
    Cheers
    Keith.
    Keith

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    Account Closed Wayne's Avatar
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    I should have added above, that it may be worth considering how cheap and nasty you are prepared to accept, because I wouldn't recommend hanging several thousand $ worth of body and glass from a cheap Chinese ballhead.

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    Ausphotography Veteran Speedway's Avatar
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    When using my monopod I have the neck strap on with the 150-500 but only use a wrist strap with other lenses, as I am always holding onto the camera the monopod doesn't need to be all that strong. My cheap Ebay ones have been carted through the bush for over 4 years now with no problems.
    Cheers
    Keith.

  9. #9
    Account Closed Wayne's Avatar
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    It would have to be a pretty crap monopod to just fall apart, hence why I noted ballhead. Ballheads dont work on mono's very well in any case..

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    Ausphotography Veteran Speedway's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wayne View Post
    Ballheads dont work on mono's very well in any case..
    Why?
    I've never had a problem.
    Keith.

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    Thank you for all the advice guys - I might try this hand held the first time, and then look around for something suitable. I think I might invest in the RRS head and some plates for the monopod and also a benro ball head for my tripod.

    Cheers
    kel

  12. #12
    Account Closed Wayne's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Speedway View Post
    Why?
    I've never had a problem.
    Keith.
    Keith, do you use the ballhead locked up tight or loose?
    If you you it loose so you can manoeuvre the lens about, you are far better than me because it just goes everywhere. If you use it locked up tight, why bother, because it adds nothing but more weight..
    I say this with the experience of using both a 200/2VR and 400/2.8VR, being 3.1kg and 5.5kg (+ body) respectively. For use with a 70-200/2.8 for example, it may not be an issue, but then again you don't really need a mono for such a small lens.

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    Ausphotography Veteran Speedway's Avatar
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    Wayne I use it tightened enough to still allow movement but also retain control. I use for birding and wildlife with my 150-500 or the 70-200 F2.8L is with the 2X lll canon extender.

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    As an owner of a 300/2.8, here's my viewpoint.

    Firstly, I mostly shoot mine hand-held. The weight is easily manageable. If the light is good and you're on solid ground, hand-holding is a viable approach.

    However, during our recent African wildlife safari, I used my monopod 100% of the time. I screwed the top of my my monopod directly into the base of the lens's tripod collar. I would not have landed the shots I captured had I not used a monopod. I was often shooting at 600mm (with a 2x TC), and when the light was low, I was using insanely slow-for-focal length shutter speeds.

    I wouldn't bother with a head if you're shooting sports; a monopod will be more than sufficient.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Xenedis View Post
    As an owner of a 300/2.8, here's my viewpoint.

    Firstly, I mostly shoot mine hand-held. The weight is easily manageable. If the light is good and you're on solid ground, hand-holding is a viable approach.

    However, during our recent African wildlife safari, I used my monopod 100% of the time. I screwed the top of my my monopod directly into the base of the lens's tripod collar. I would not have landed the shots I captured had I not used a monopod. I was often shooting at 600mm (with a 2x TC), and when the light was low, I was using insanely slow-for-focal length shutter speeds.

    I wouldn't bother with a head if you're shooting sports; a monopod will be more than sufficient.

    I will try hand held this weekend and then try directly on the monopod. I am a bit shaky by hand, and think I will get tired easily. Not a young bloke anymore!!!!

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    Member Babu's Avatar
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    Hi Brian
    I agree that handholding a 300/2.8 for longer periods would be counter-productive, especially as you say you're a bit shaky by hand.
    For shorter periods and in certain scenarios, you might elect to shoot handheld.
    I use a Gitzo 5541 CF monopod with the RRS monopod head suggested above by Roosta when shooting with my 500/4 II & TCs.
    For safari work, I can change to a gimbal head and use RRS safari clamps to attach the monopod to the safari vehicle.

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    My Nikon 300mmf/2.8 works fine with an Arcatech GV2.
    ....and got no issues with sand geting in the ball-hinge
    Last edited by richardb; 28-01-2013 at 12:29am.

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    I did try my existing set up on the weekend - heavy duty manfrotto monopod with my existing 222 ball head. The weight was fine but I just do not trust the smaller plate connecting the lens to the head.

    I shot for about 1.5 hours - was very comfortable but I am glad I did not try hand held.

    Will try directly to the monopod next week and if all else fails I will look for a RRS head as suggested.

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